24x30 acrylic/ canvas/ glitter/ epoxy art resin coated. Ready to hang.
I thought I was in love when I was seventeen but I was really just in love with thinking what it might feel like if somebody thought I was worthy of their attention. The particular somebody was a specific person that now, all these years later when I think back to the day I met him every single detail of that instant is still sharply in tact. It was that nightmare of a relationship that taught me how to write, how to run, where to hide from all the wrong people, and how high the cost of obsessive compulsion is.
“The truth is he never liked me and never wanted me. I can’t blame him for that. I was relentless.” I told my daughter with a laugh a few summers ago. She put her hand on my arm and looked into my eyes she said softly “Jesus that is so sad.” And I said no let's just pretend it’s funny so she laughed with me and we didn’t bring him up again that visit.
Because these days it is a little funny. I’m about to be 40 and I’m still beautiful. Successful. Cool. Brilliant. Happy. And in love with the right one. I’m sure my life looks pretty damn together and sparkly from the outside looking in - not like it would matter if it didn’t. But I know it does because it’s still hard to believe it’s my life. I talk to seventeen-year-old me all of the time. I’m like girl you have a place here with us in this house and a voice just don’t start convincing me that self-destruction is a good option and we can coexist just fine.
I thought I was boring and ugly and dumb when I was seventeen so I liked to wear thick lines of glitter on my eyelids. It was this liquid kind from Hot Topic that I’ve never been able to find since. Which like what the hell like I’d wear an inch-thick line of glitter on my eyelid or any sort of makeup these days but it’s fun to imagine. I wore square cheetah print glasses with plastic lenses and sparkly butterfly clips in my bleached hair. I shopped mostly at a thrift store called Unique but the day I met my social worker I went to DeLiAs and bought a $22 T-shirt (a lot at the time.)
It was pale yellow with a sea foam green, baby pink, and a purple glittery unicorn on a cloud stamped onto the front. It said Dawls under the cloud. I always wanted to be cute and shop at Delias or Gadzooks which was right next door in the mall. I wanted my social worker to think I was cute or had style - or some sort of good quality. When we met that day walking into that room was one of the scariest moments of my life up to that point. She hugged me, introduced herself, and then told me how much she loved my shirt.
I still love glitter and unicorns. I have no idea what happened to that T-shirt. I’ve tried to buy it on Poshmark but it’s considered vintage and there's only one, a size small, for sixty dollars available. When I was writing my novel about meeting my social worker I was so struck by that shirt and what it meant to me. How my social worker seemed to recognize that instantly and express to me that she could see me. I do not think I would be alive today if it weren’t for her. I wanted to recreate it in a painting and give seventeen-year-old me- the hope and faith and comfort that t-shirt brought - a bigger space. So I made this painting.
Sometimes I am meeting myself over and over again in versions of myself I am writing as characters in my memoir. It leads me to ask myself how am I making space for that version of myself in my life today.
Who were you?
Where does that version of you fit into your everyday life now?
What would they say?