Three days ago, my whole family (cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, siblings) made a shopping trip to the Grapevine mall here in Texas. I was so excited, there's a huge Forever 21 in that mall and I was ready to shop 'til I dropped. My cousins and I went into the store and grabbed basically everything in our sizes and rushed to the dressing rooms. The girl working in the dressing rooms was a short, skinny African American girl. She had SO much spunk, and she was so sweet to my cousins and me. She showed us to rooms and there was a cricket in one of them. She grimaced, apologized and led us to different rooms. I laughed, as I was reminded that Texas is infested with bugs everywhere- even in the malls.
I tried on a few things that were really cute. I went out to the store again and got some pants and shirts that I could possibly buy for my upcoming audition on Saturday. This audition is really important to me, I've been dreaming of this since I can remember. I've always imagined me auditioning looking absolutely beautiful with the cutest clothes, perfect hair, top notch make up. But as I tried on those clothes, I looked in the mirror and I didn't see that. I didn't see any of it.
I didn't panic quite yet. I went out to the store, yet again, and got the dress my mom wanted me to try on. It was something I would wear all the time. Knee length in the front and floor length in the back. It was yellow, red, orange, and brown tones which usually make my skin stand out really well. I was optimistic. I was going to look beautiful. That's what I'd always imagined and I wasn't going to settle for anything less than absolutely stunning.
I put the dress on and walked out into the dressing room. I looked to the right of me. Down the runway-like hall was a big mirror. I didn't like it. I realized that I didn't want to see any part of me at that moment. So I looked to my left. Down that side of the hallway was of course another mirror. I looked back at my dressing room, hesitating to go back in and face that mirror for even one second as I undressed. The short African American girl working the dressing rooms looked at me for a moment, we made eye contact. Tears welled up in my dark brown eyes. As soon as it registered that we were making direct eye contact, I moved my eyes as quickly as I could- to the ground of course. I like my feet, and they're really the only things I have complete confidence in. They're not fat or stubby or weird. They're just feet, and I can honestly say my feet do not bother me. So I watched my two little feet walk themselves back into my dressing room. I looked into the mirror I was standing 2 feet from, and again I turned my eyes back to my feet. My vision started to blur, but cleared up again as I watched tears fall to my toes.
At this moment, I was becoming what I used to be. The want to perform old habits was coming back. I wanted so badly to get rid of this feeling of vulnerability and worthlessness. I felt like that cricket in the dressing room down the hall. Nobody wanted that cricket around- it was just a big, brown bug that didn't have any purpose at all. There was no sense of beauty in that cricket. It was bland, nothing special. In fact, it was far from special. It meant nothing to anybody. If anything, people wanted it dead.
I took the dress off and put my normal clothes on. I didn't like looking at the Aly in her own clothes, either. I turned away from the mirror, put my head in my hands and rested them on the door. It took every fiber in my being not to make any noise as I sobbed in that dressing room. A loud knock on the other side of the door made me jump. "Hey girly, you let me know if you need me to grab you anything!" It was the girl working the dressing rooms. "Thanks." I said, forcing bubbly happiness through my voice. After what seemed like the longest 10 minutes of my life, I finally managed to hold in my tears. I circled the small dressing room a number of times, talking myself through how I was going to stop crying. I felt my tears on the wood floor beneath my feet. I wiped the mascara from under my eyes and smacked my face a couple of times. I walked out of the dressing room pretending to yawn, just so there would be an obvious reason that my eyes were still a little bit watery.
I set my items on the table for the girl to fold and put back out in stock. That short, little Forever 21 employee said, "None of those worked for ya?" "Nope," I said forcing a smile, trying to be as perky as possible. She must have seen my jaw quivering. I blinked just in time to save a tear from welling up in my right eye. I looked down at my feet, then at her, and she winked at me. "You're beautiful, honey, and don't let anything make you think different." she said. Then she walked away and left me standing there, in the middle of a Forever 21 in Dallas, Texas, emotions running wild.
I've always been the girl that younger girls go to for advice. I've always been the one telling girls that beauty is inside, beauty is imperfection, beauty cannot be bottled or captured in a still photo. So why am I always the one avoiding looking at mirrors, but grabbing at every inch of fat every time I do? I'm so good at helping other girls, but for some reason I cannot take my own advice.
Maybe this is just aimless bogging. There's really no point to anyone reading this, no one can go back and change that moment or how I ]feel. But I do think it's important to share how thankful I am for people who have the remarkable ability to see through plastered emotions of complete strangers. That girl who I have never associated with in my life, and most likely never again will, had the confidence and kindness to tell me that I was beautiful. She had the ability to make me feel like someone cared for that split second. I'm so grateful for people who see beauty in the way I blog about, the way I think it should be seen, and not for the way I can't help but see it in myself.
I guess it's a lot easier to advise others than to take your own advice. That's something I should start working on, because that feeling of vulnerability I felt in that dressing room was painful. And even though my tears only lasted 10 minutes, it felt like decades that I hid in that unfamiliar room on my own.
Girls, I am going to take this stranger's act as an example, and so should all of you. You never know what people are enduring behind closed doors. Encourage people, tell them they are beautiful, tell them they are worth it. Because they are, and YOU are.