16 Going On 16 | Teen Ink

16 Going On 16

August 26, 2009
By Josephine Liu BRONZE, Walnut, California
Josephine Liu BRONZE, Walnut, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I bought my first tube of lipstick at six, with a picture of Barbie wrapped around it, but nevertheless, bright, red, and shiny, which was the epitome of lipstick for me.

I started reading my mother’s Vogue when I was ten. I couldn’t pronounce half the words I read, but it was enough to stare at the glossy pages filled with larger-than-life women who led glamourous lives and wore beautiful Hermes scarves (which I pronounced her-mees) and carried around Gucci bags (gus-sy) that cost more than all my clothes combined.

At twelve, I subscribed to Seventeen magazine behind my mother’s back, who took the title literally and said that I should be at least seventeen to read it, and waited impatiently every first week of the month by the mailbox to receive the next issue that seemed to hold all the answers about boys, hair care and the latest trends, which together combined the meaning of life for the middle-school me.

All my life, all I ever wanted to do was grow up. I wanted to be extraordinary and mature beyond my years. I couldn’t wait for the day that I could wear six inch heels, shop at forbidden stores like Bebe and Guess, and cake my eyes with eyeliner. My dad of course freaked out when he realized that suddenly boys were calling and my boobs were growing and put restrictions on everything, and when I mean everything, I mean everything. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with boys, even if they were just friends, unless he was present. Every morning, he would examine every inch of my body to make sure not even a shadow of cleavage was showing and my shorts went past my fingers before I left for school. I wasn’t allowed to have my ears pierced until I was thirteen, wear nail polish until I was fifteen, or wear makeup until I was sixteen. But of course, me being me, I rebelled. Starting from sixth grade, I would layer hoodies (very acceptable) over my low-cut tops from Express (go to your room and change) and take off the hoodies once I got dropped off at school. I would sneak makeup in my backpack and put it on in the school bathroom right before the bell rang and wash it off before I got picked up. I said yes to the first guy who asked me out in seventh grade just to say that I could, and “broke up” with him two weeks later when I realized I didn’t even like him that much.

But like everything else in life, it came with a price. The boys I liked never respected me, and the boys that did like me, I could never respect, because they weren’t the “men” that I read about so many times in Seventeen. I had ridiculously high expectations for my boyfriends, because the magazine had taught me to expect them to take me out on romantic dates and treat me like a princess, which they never did of course (we were only in eighth grade). I had my first kiss with a guy who was moving across the country the next week, because I thought it would be the perfect way to say goodbye. It wasn’t. It was wet, and gross, and sloppy, and it definitely lacked the fireworks that the movies always portray. And now it’s one of my biggest regrets that i didn’t save my first kiss for someone I am in love with.

With time, everyone else caught up with me. By high school, every other girl was wearing makeup and curling their hair and wearing high heels. And suddenly, being grown up wasn’t so great anymore. With adolescence came superficiality, and the rat race to be popular, to be beautiful, to be desired. I poured into the magazines for answers and my passion for fashion became a true addiction. Seventeen expanded to Teen Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, Fitness Magazine, none of which had enough solutions to make me happy. I was always on some diet and subconsciously squeezing the fat around my stomach that would never go away no matter how many crunches I did. And after years of looking at supermodels and celebrities, what I saw in the mirror wasn’t good enough. I could never be skinny enough, pretty enough, anything enough to be extraordinary, and I became what I always feared: just another high school girl. And with my decrease in self-esteem came an increase in heartbreaks from guys who could never respect me if I didn’t respect myself. And with that sad conclusion, the makeup came off, along with the heels and the short skirts, until I became a girl who just wore t-shirts, jeans and flats to school.

But all that I have shed are the layers on the outside, and the same insecurities on the inside remain. I still have the unquenchable desire to be different and to understand what the meaning of life is. And at the same time, I want to go back to the days when people didn’t judge you on what you wore or how you looked. I wish I could still be that little girl who dreamed that being grown up would make her extraordinary and thought that she could find all the answers in the pages of a magazine. I’m still trying to find the middle ground between being six and twenty-six. Just sixteen. My five magazines have dwindled to two, and when they run out, I won’t be renewing them, even with the promise of a free handbag with a two year subscription. I go to the gym regularly, but ever since I started, my little belly hasn’t gotten any smaller, and I’m okay with that because I’m healthy enough to be what I like to call “well-fed.” (move over phat with a p-h). I still have days when I need to slip on a little eyeliner to feel beautiful, but for the most part, I’ve learned to live my life one step at a time and that I’m extraordinary, just because I’m me.

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This article has 97 comments.

on Apr. 19 at 10:00 am
LavenderJade BRONZE, Fairfax, Virginia
3 articles 8 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Share with someone who wants to listen or listen to someone who wants to share."
-James Clear


on Jan. 11 2022 at 12:56 pm
ILiveToRead PLATINUM, Wailuku, Hawaii
24 articles 3 photos 150 comments
I was literally on the verge of an emotional breakdown reading this, don't we teens all wish we could go back to the days where the biggest problem was a ice cream cone that accidently dropped. Where boys (or girls) approval and opinion of ourselves wasn't on everyone's mind. Where drama didn't happen every 5 minutes and we could go outside in pretty much anything mitch-matched and all and not give a care?? All I can say is thank you for this. We need it, and you are already different and unique and beautiful remember that.

AliceCullen said...
on Nov. 9 2020 at 12:41 pm
AliceCullen, Sarasota, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
Live each day as if it were your last.

I went through the same thing and still going through some of it. Just remember the soul/ heart is what matters most when it comes to beauty.

howellna said...
on Jul. 10 2020 at 11:51 am
howellna, Oceanside, California
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Wow this is an amazing story. Thank you for writing this, I myself struggle with self confidence now I have a new perspective.

on Mar. 8 2018 at 5:12 pm
thefanfictionwritingsidekick02 GOLD, Holly Springs, North Carolina
14 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Just because something works doesn't mean it can't be improved."

I personally agree with this... Excellent job!

on Mar. 8 2018 at 4:52 pm
thefanfictionwritingsidekick02 GOLD, Holly Springs, North Carolina
14 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Just because something works doesn't mean it can't be improved."

A kick-butt piece from the heart! Brilliant, missy, just brilliant!

on Mar. 16 2017 at 5:00 pm
Jillybean BRONZE, Ypsilanti, Michigan
4 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Wow! I think there's always been pressure on teens to look attractive, to fall in love, ect., especially on teen girls. This story illustrates this perfectly. You go on wearing those t-shirts and jeans, girl!

on Oct. 3 2016 at 4:34 pm
0 articles 0 photos 4 comments
lol thats what i get for typing fast

on Oct. 3 2016 at 4:33 pm
0 articles 0 photos 4 comments
what is the anwser?

on Jul. 19 2016 at 7:17 pm
Elizabeth25 GOLD, Ardsley, New York
12 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice" - Lorraine Peterson

Thank you so much for this. It's so inspirational, and I can really relate to it. It's a reminder to me that beauty comes from within.

Hailey said...
on Jan. 12 2016 at 2:47 pm
It is so true about the beauty. I am in ninth grade and I don't wear makeup because I realized I don't want to be like everybody else (craving attention). The right guy will come sooner or later and he will love me for me.

on Oct. 26 2015 at 2:00 pm
ThisEmilyDa1 SILVER, BF, New Mexico
6 articles 0 photos 99 comments

Favorite Quote:
only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile
-Albert Instien
the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.

Great job, watch the run on sentences though. Other than that it was practically perfect with such a beautiful message and meaning. It was sad, but also a harsh reminder of what social media can affects girls(even guys too). Thank you for writing.

on Jan. 7 2015 at 12:57 am
Amanda Tonks BRONZE, Draper, Utah
1 article 5 photos 8 comments
It's so terrible how media can twist our perceptions of what beauty is. I'm so glad that you love who you are now instead of what you were trying to be.I grew up the almost exact same way , just as many other girls have. Thank you for sharing this.

melissaxo said...
on Jan. 6 2015 at 9:02 pm
melissaxo, New York, New York
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I really loved this piece due to the fact that I could really relate to it. Great job!

Larkin SILVER said...
on Nov. 15 2014 at 11:46 am
Larkin SILVER, Santa Rosa, California
9 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Our remedies oft in ourself do lie, which we ascribe to heaven."
-William Shakespeare

Beautiful. Such smooth transitions from your different outlooks on life. I love it. 

on Sep. 3 2014 at 12:02 pm
taylorcrowley19, Northborough, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Do not let a moment go by that doesn't remind you that your hearts beats 900 times a day and that there are enough gallons of blood to make you and ocean"
- Anis Mojgani (Shake The Dust)

i really appreciate you writing this. I think a lot of teen (and pre-teen) girls need to hear this. I too did dream and still do, about being extraordinary. I wish to be a singer or an author amd im stuck with al these pretencious judgmental high school kids who have so much influence on my life when they shouldnt. I am 16 years old and all my life ive been told im wise beyond my years, and because of that i just want to GROW UP ALREADY. but strangely at the same time i want to go back to when it didnt matter who you were, what you looked like, or who your friends were, you were extraordinary no matter what. <3

_mmeggg said...
on Aug. 20 2014 at 10:49 am
What a great piece!! I couldn't stop reading! Such great detail!

. said...
on Aug. 14 2014 at 5:29 pm
That is a beautifully written piece! Great job!!!

on Aug. 11 2014 at 2:04 pm
Musicluv45 BRONZE, Belll Gardens, California
1 article 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
I know nothing with any certainty, put the sight of the stars makes me dream- Van Gough

O my god. I couldnt stop reading this. Its so beautiful and so incredibly written, i was on the verge of tears. More girls have to see this and relate. Amazing job.

Hzim said...
on Jul. 7 2014 at 4:30 am
Already your writing differentiates you from all the glamor and gloss of the world and of High School. Use it to take you above and beyond.