You Had Me at Hello

**The Ayla mentioned in this post has her own blog, The Awkward Adventures of Ayla. Check out Ayla and her antics here!**

 

“Hi, I’m Ayla,” she said, smiling at a group of boys sitting on the sand.

“Hi,” they replied, admiring her.

They turned to me. I froze. What was I going to say? What is my own name? How did I get so drunk?

“Uh–hi…she’s Ayla,” I managed to say.

“Hi,” they said again.

Full of rum punch, we sashayed to the clear blue waters of Nassau beach. Or rather, she sashayed. I have no recollection of how my inebriated body made it from point A to point B.

That was last summer. A few weeks ago, Ayla and I told this story to her family during our week-long vacation in Avon, NC, resulting in a round of raucous laughter.

After their guffaws and giggles faded away, something inside me clicked–Ayla had shared with me her secret to breaking the ice, and it was so simple.

“Hi, I’m Ayla.”

So freaking simple.

No crazy pickup lines.

Just an introduction.

Wow. If I only knew that when I was younger…

When I was eleven years old, I had a crush on this boy in my class…and so did a bunch of other girls. Every day, I tortured myself admiring him from afar and watching this one girl effortlessly approach him.

Her eyes twinkled. His eyes twinkled. They exchanged smiles.

“How does she do that?” I thought to myself. “How does she flirt?”

I filled my diary with my preadolescent frustration and longing.

During those middle school years, a rumor went around that I was mute because few people could see past my shyness. Anxiously, I decided that it was better to be silent than say something stupid. After all, I couldn’t speak to a guy (let alone make eye contact with him) without stammering and blushing and beating myself up later for being so awkward because goshdangit, Jackie, all he was asking for was a pencil.

Le sigh.

It wasn’t until right before I graduated the eighth grade that I had my first victory. It was the last dance of my middle school career, and I still had not danced with anyone. I resigned myself (for the millionth time) to being a wallflower and watched from the sidelines as my classmates smiled at each other and swayed to the music.

I would have looked back at this night with disappointment and regret if my best friend hadn’t literally pushed me if front of this guy I had been feeling all sorts of tension with since the beginning of the first semester. The force of her push made me almost collide into him. We stared into each other’s eyes for a second. It was now or never. Breathlessly, I asked him if he wanted to dance with me. He put his arms around me, and all at once I understood the feelings I had denied all year.

But still, that didn’t happen on my own. That moment was sponsored by my friend’s uncanny arm strength, God’s impeccable timing, and my brand new Charlotte Russe skirt (which still had the ink tag, as I discovered later).

Without that combination, I was still the clueless girl who had no dramatic entrance, no opening lines, and no game.

Fast forward to my first year of high school. I was crushing so hard on this guy who eventually became our class valedictorian, and I was so awkward it was pathetic.

In my diary, I scribbled a poem.

I know that you avoid me

And I avoid you too

Because of fear I cannot

Bring myself to talk to you

I pined after him and his coke-bottle glasses all Freshman year. The year after, at Homecoming, I asked him to dance with me, and I told him how I felt. He let me down gently, but it was awfully ironic that DHT’s version of “Listen to Your Heart” was playing in the background.

Damn that song.

Junior year, I finally got my first boyfriend. That was the beginning of my winning streak for the next few years of my life. I finally grew into my features, and boys started noticing me. No one knew that I still got tongue-tied or shy because I didn’t have to approach the boys. At last, they were coming to me.

But even so, to this very day, I am still mystified by the art of flirting. How does one do it? How does one approach a man?

Just the thought of putting myself out there paralyzes me with fear.

But here, in the present, while sipping pineapple juice and vodka, Ayla made it all so simple for me.

Flirting is not complicated. Neither is approaching a man.

All I have to do is say, “Hi, I’m Jackie.”

Fate will take care of the rest.

 

Womanhood

This post was featured by Lauren Hope on her blog The Good Girl Chronicles. Check out Lauren and her adventures when you have a chance!

Disclaimer: The author was not paid to endorse any particular brands for feminine hygiene products. However, if you would like to film her in a tampon commercial, please reach out to her agent. Thank you.

My first period was anticlimactic. I went to the bathroom on Christmas Eve, looked down, and thought, “This is exactly how the video in P.E. class said it would be.”

No big deal.

My mom’s first period was something else.

No one told her what it would be like. When she looked down one day and saw all the red, she screamed bloody murder. She thought she was dying.

Her mother and her aunts gathered around her and calmed her down.

Then, they proceeded to steep an array of herbs in water and bathe her gently.

Afterwards, they told her to lie down and rest, and they would not let her lift a finger.

She was treated like a queen for the rest of the day.

Wow.

I’m not sure if other families in the Philippines do this, but when she told me this, I got so jealous.

Why wasn’t I bathed with herbs? Why was I unceremoniously given a Kotex pad instead of a day of relaxation?

Once my envy died down, I realized something crucial about our society: how we approach our first period is how we approach womanhood. Although I wish someone warned my mom about her period, I could see that this moment of her life was treated as a celebration of her coming of age.

I’m not saying we need to lather our bodies in herbs or throw a themed party, but we need to discuss this moment in our lives with excitement, not dread.

As my grandma and her sisters tended to my mother, they were silently saying, “Welcome to womanhood. You have your whole life ahead of you. Soon, you will realize how much you’re capable of.” My mom and the mother figures in her life looked forward to her growing up. It was something positive.

I’m not sure what happened to my mother in the years between her first period and when she had me, but something must have scared her. From the moment I came into the world, I imagine she was not only filled with joy but fear.

Even though my mom made sure I was prepared for this moment, she made sure to treat it with as much nonchalance as possible. Yes, she was trying to make sure I wasn’t freaking out, but that also communicated to me her reluctance to see her little girl grow up. My development fed her fears of not being able to protect me from the world.  My inability to at first accept the womanly parts developing before my eyes fed my fears as well. My new hips. My new breasts. Would people look at me differently? Must I now enter that dance between women and men? I did not feel ready for all this adult stuff. The fact that my period started so early at age 11 did not help us cope either.

It’s been over a decade since my first period, and eventually we both accepted that I had to one day grow up. Over time, I realized that I was capable of protecting myself, and that being an adult can be as fun, if not more fun, than childhood.

Now I have cousins who look up to me, and one day I might have a daughter. What I want to communicate to them is that they can approach their womanhood with courage and excitement. Being a woman isn’t easy, but womanhood is full of so many wonderful things, like having choices and being in charge of myself. I just want young ladies everywhere to realize that yes, the blood ain’t pretty, but all that red is a bright, blaring signal that there is so much for them to look forward to.

Romeo & Juliet

A big shout out to Lauren Hope for featuring this on her blog The Good Girl Chronicles. Check out Lauren and her adventures here!

Can you really fall in love in one day? YES.

90% of the world is probably quoting Elsa from Frozen saying that you can’t marry someone you just met, but…well…

(Whoops spoiler alert, but the story of Romeo & Juliet is public domain, right?)

Think about it. Romeo and Juliet are teenagers. Remember when you were a teenager and fell in love for the first time? Remember how it felt so good being with this person and you felt like this feeling would last forever? Left to your own devices, you probably WOULD have eloped (thanks to different state laws, there is an age of consent nowadays that prevents young, impulsive souls from eloping).

Now, some of you are saying, “Well, remember when that feeling went away? Remember how the divorce rate in the US has risen to roughly 50%?”

YES. I DO. I remember my first love. I was 16. We fell hard, and we fell fast. Within a couple of weeks, we professed our love to each other and proclaimed we wanted to be with each other forever.

We felt like we were Romeo and Juliet. Our love was forbidden. My parents thought I was too young to have a boyfriend, and his parents were afraid having a girlfriend would ruin his grades.

Love conquers all, we told ourselves. Our love is too strong, we told each other. “Why don’t we run away?” we joked with each other. Too bad we didn’t have our own cars. Or enough money to be on our own. Or common sense. I fantasized about a day when we would be together with nobody to tell us no. Or where to go. Or say we’re only dreaming.

Ok I’m done with the Aladdin reference.

Anyway, it wasn’t too long before we fell out of love with each other. Well, actually, he fell out of love with me,and I was heartbroken and inconsolable, and THEN, in typical teenager fashion, he asked me to take him back three days afterwards and I told him no. We’ve moved on to falling truly, madly, deeply for other significant others since then.

So yeah, as much as I do remember the giddiness and impulsiveness of my teenage romance, I also remember how quickly it all ended, which also made me wonder if Romeo and Juliet would have eventually fallen out of love if they lived longer. Or lived, period.

I like to think that they would have loved each other forever. Let’s put our cynicism aside and remember that in real life, there are couples who are in love until their dying day. They do exist. They’re not unicorns or anomalies.

And I’m not going to go into a speech about choosing love above all, putting love first, love is hard work, blah blah blah because we’ve heard it all.

Instead, I’m going to be honest and say that I tried to stop myself from crying when I saw the opera version of this play. I knew the story so I didn’t expect tears to run down my face, but I couldn’t help it.

“Why was I crying?” I asked myself. Because I remembered the feeling of falling in love, being in love. I wondered if I could ever love someone so much that I’d rather die than be without them. My cynical heart had taught itself to move on and get on with functioning in life. I had taught myself not to need anyone that badly lest I get hurt–and THAT was the real tragedy…that my heart hasn’t been as open as Romeo’s or Juliet’s since my teenage years.

I remember arguing with my parents. “Why can’t you approve of him? Don’t you remember what it’s like to be in love?”

Have we become too bitter? Too wise?

How about we just let people be in love? Love on, world. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, stop you from letting your heart be open. Perhaps if we allow ourselves to believe again in how magical love can be, we can find the kind of love, faithfulness and devotion that Romeo and Juliet had…except without the poison and daggers.

Yeah, ain’t nobody got time for that.