One of the things I most remember about being sixteen and pregnant was how the growing slant of my belly had a way of eliciting sideways glances and passed whispers between complete strangers. How they looked on me with eyes that spoke volumes. How even their silent, pursed lips let me know–in no uncertain terms–precisely my worth.
Not that I ever took such things to heart. I’m a touch stronger than that.
More than once, in fact, I stared right back through ferocious eyes. With a rebellious tilt of my head I dared them to say to my face what I knew they had no trouble saying behind my back. Do you have something to say? I’d ask, hoping that just once someone would have the balls to.
They never did.
Those nine months marked a lonely transition. There was a repetitive pull and release, pull and release as the taut threads of my woven friendships gave way one by one, beneath the weight of something I had to carry alone.
I don’t blame them. Where they were planning what to wear on the first day of senior year I was hopefully tending to stretch marks with enough Vitamin E oil to drown a rat. Not nearly as glamorous an undertaking.
In the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was invited to “stop by” a sleepover populated with the girls who had been my very best friends. I sat awkwardly in the middle of a familiar bedroom fielding questions about baby names. My bulging abdomen served as a vacuum that sucked the life–the girlish chatter–from a room that otherwise would have been spinning with it.
Everyone wanted to see the baby when she came. I took her to the school one afternoon–a show and tell wrong on so many levels. There were oohs and ahhs but then the bell rang and everyone scattered and I lugged the heavy seat back out to my car and strapped her in. There may very well have been tears. I don’t remember.
With the exception of two friends, I walked alone. The first friend, Monica, had been my bestie since freshman year. There was nothing we didn’t share. The second friend, Michael, was actually my first official boyfriend. We’d “gone out” in sixth grade for a junior high record of two months. Over time our relationship evolved into a deep friendship. He and Monica remained my true friends when the others faded. It’s no coincidence that Monica is Torri’s godmother and Michael, her godfather.
One afternoon–after a particularly wakeful night–I was napping on my couch/bed with a newborn Torri curled up on my chest. I opened my eyes to a familiar voice and saw Michael standing above me. He’d stopped by after school to ask me something I most certainly didn’t see coming. He wanted to know if I’d go to homecoming with him.
I couldn’t understand why he’d want such a thing. After all, how many high school guys would “waste” homecoming on a platonic date? He would, apparently.
I, of course, accepted, though not without asking him a million times if he was sure he wanted to take me. We went to the dance with Monica and her then date (now husband). I don’t remember much about the evening which actually is a good sign because it was the first time in a long time that I didn’t feel like the hot topic. Granted, I was probably the only girl sneaking into the restroom to change her nursing pads, but still. I was just another teenager on a homecoming date.
Limited maturity stopped me then from telling him just how awesome a thing it was he did for me. How awesome it was for me just to be normal after so long of being anything but.
I watch Teen Mom on MTV. Every week, during the closing scenes–when they play those hopeful, longing tracks–I get the heaviest feeling in my chest. Heavy for those poor young girls who flail and revolt and just have no earthly idea of what’s to come. I know from experience that in those moments–in those lost and lonely moments–there’s nobody. Just nobody. And then–poof!–just like that, along comes somebody who makes a world of difference.
Without even realizing it.