Freshman year in high school presents everyone with new and varied challenges. For me, appearance was the Achilles heel. I was so concerned with how I looked to other people. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it vanity, because at that time I didn’t see myself as much to look at. Yet, even in my naïveté, I realized that some girls had IT. What is IT? Oh, you know what I’m talking about. IT is that thing that makes the boys smile when you walk in the room. IT did not have to try to get the attention – IT was automatically received. IT was this appeal that made the other girls wonder how they could be like you. IT seemed to be unadulterated admiration.
Well, upon entering high school, I’d personally decided that this enigma I called IT was tied to one’s outer appearance. Likewise, I assumed that selecting the cutest outfits from “5-7-9” and wearing make-up provided by “Wet n’ Wild” (2 for $1) was the shortest route to IT. Unfortunately, much of the attention that I spent on my outer appearance would have been put to better use in Algebra 1. Nevertheless, I was always well dressed, well groomed, and, well, overlooked. Especially compared to Tiffany.
Tiffany, whose last name I will withhold, was a girl in my freshman class. We were both in the same homeroom and saw each other every day. Therefore, on a daily basis, I got to see the boys react to Tiffany. And I also heard them talk about her when she wasn’t around. For weeks, I sat dumbfounded as to why she was Miss IT. On the surface, she was about 5’5, with an athletic build and not a curve yet to be found. On most days she wore (and I’m not kidding) navy blue jogging pants, a pink oxford shirt, and gray running shoes. In the face, she looked like a cute version of Bugs Bunny – mainly because of the large, round, purple and black eyeglasses that she couldn’t see without. To add insult to injury, she wore her ash-black shoulder-length hair pulled back in a plain ponytail with her bangs held back from her face with a bobby pin. The Lord knew not to give me hair like that back then because I would have given myself a severe case of whiplash…
Got the picture? Good.
Even on my best day – dressed in my black Guess jeans circa Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle” and a red and black hound’s-tooth cropped blazer (hey, it was the 80’s), Tiffany beat me out as Miss IT. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in a hater-like competition with her. She was one of my closest friends that year and as sweet as pie. I just wanted to know what IT was that she had that I didn’t, and how I could get IT.
Well, let me tell you what IT wasn’t. IT wasn’t a new shade of lipstick (Tiffany wore nothing on her face except Vaseline on her lips). IT was not a risqué outfit or four-inch heels. IT’s wasn’t the “Halle Berry Haircut” – circa 1990 or 2009. Clearly, IT wasn’t even a smokin’ figure because, back then, I was built like a “brick house” compared to her more “surf board” – like physique.
I never found out what IT was that year. And not even the year after that. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I resorted to asking a male classmate, in confidence, “What is IT about her that drives everyone wild?”
For a few moments, he sat there in quiet contemplation. During this time, the hater in me was waiting for him to say that she was running a secret brothel out of her basement, or something equally salacious. But he said nothing of the sort. Instead, he said with a smile, “I don’t know. I mean, she’s smart, and she’s athletic, and she takes what she does seriously. She’s not like one of those stuck-up young girls who is all caught up in boys, makeup, and clothes. It almost seems like she doesn’t even care about any of that stuff. It’s like she has her own thang, her own personality, you know? To us (guys) that makes her seem interesting and kinda mysterious. I think that’s why all the boys like her – she has stuff to talk about and stuff to do. I mean, she’s not gonna try to tell you not to play basketball with your friends because she’s got her own stuff to do. And the fact that she’s not a sweater (pest) or easy makes guys step to her different…”
That conversation has stuck in my head for nearly 20 years. Back then, I called it “IT” because I had no other words for it. But now, I know that IT is simply more than self acceptance, true confidence, and humble self- love. That’s what being a Renaissance Woman is all about.
Soror Arnitria Karen Shaw
About the Author
Arnitria Karen Shaw is a mother, author, teacher, mentor and artist. She writes from her own life experiences with both honesty and humor while encouraging other women to find their “inner writer.” Arnitria is most notably the publisher and editor-in-chief of AfraVictoria Magazine ~ The Magazine for the Renaissance Woman of Color, founded in 2008.
Arnitria’s first fiction novel, Drexel House, is a gothic horror story of a young girl’s fight for the courage and confidence to break a century-old family curse. It is written under the pseudonym Trinity Trotter. It is available in limited release and was the 2008 Arts and Letters Book Club Choice for Delta Sigma Theta, Peoria Alumnae Chapter. The next book in the series, titled The Diary of Aster Blake, will be released in February 2010.
Visit Arnitria online:
Official Website: www.VisoPress.com
About the book
“A person running away from something can never clearly see what they are running into.”
Being of African descent comes with its own preternatural superstitions, traditions, and understood truths.
Every saga has a beginning and this tale of love, legacy, murder, life and death is no exception. After losing her freedom, her family, and the love of her life, Aster took her life and the destiny of her descendants into her own hands. DREXEL HOUSE picks up one century later with Aster’s ill-pronounced namesake – Astrid Newchurch – as the faltering leading lady. Unlike Aster, Astrid is a fragile young woman torn between accepting life as a victim and fighting to break a curse laid down a hundred years earlier. But to do so, Astrid must draw both natural and preternatural strength from the scattered clan of women from the bloodline of Aster Blake.
Edna Brown Coleman – Hailed from our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., Ms. Brown was considered to be the most brilliant girl in the 1913 class at Howard University where her father led a prestigious career for thirty-one years as a professor of religion. She graduated as the president and valedictorian and held many of the first meetings of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in the living room of her home. After graduation from Howard, Ms. Edna Brown wed Mr. Frank Coleman, who was the co-founder of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. This astounding woman played a crucial role in the development of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.