early adolescence in the mid-2000s

Photo of Sage as a teenager standing on the grass in front of some trees. They are wearing a pink baseball hat sideways, a black tank top, jean shorts, and blue flip-flops with a white sweater tied around their waist. They're smiling at the camera, with one arm crossed over their midsection holding the other.

Content Note: this piece includes mention of abuse, disordered eating, and self-harm.

early adolescence in the mid-2000s
gloss that gives my lips bee stings
identity reduced to the nail polish relatives buy me every birthday
holding on to stuffed animals
until a big bag of them gets thrown away
mean girls, misogynistic boys, mini skirts
learning what calories are and counting them
marking every bad thing I eat on a calendar with a frowny face
diet books that aren’t like other diet books, they swear
being thin but needing to be skinny
like the magazines we still read want us to be
being told I’m not to go out dressed like that by a dad
pretending to be a father for five minutes
being called fat
that weird homeschooled kid
the freak, the loser
needing to prove them wrong
with yoga pants, crop top hoodies, silver eye glitter
asking for too much back-to-school money
trying to cover up my acne
ending up with orange spots on my face and snickering classmates
plastic bracelets with colour-coded meanings
worn all the way up our forearms
finding a snapped black bracelet behind the school
a flurry of rumours resulting
kissing girls to prepare for “the real thing”
kissing girls but in a straight way
whispers on the schoolyard about who is having sex
perfume and eyeshadow overwhelming
breasts too small, butt too big, skin too weird
teacher saying I used to be one of the good ones
parents disappointed in the turn I’m taking
dad so fucking scary
knowing there’s something wrong with the way he treats me
but not knowing what to say
asking my friends what they think is wrong with me
and being mocked ruthlessly
wanting to cut myself
to be like everyone else
not being able to, feeling ashamed of my weakness
and deciding to eat less
surviving adolescence
applying mascara every morning, can’t leave the house without it
needing to look like anyone, anyone else
bleeding through my underwear and acid-washed jeans
no help from the gym teacher who likes to scream
leaving puddles of blood on green plastic seats
until another kid comes along to rescue me
dropping out of school to escape all the crazy
ex-friends on msn threatening to hurt me
saying they hate my whole family
spreading rumours that will follow me
asking who I had become
to have friends such as these
finally getting away from the bullies
except for the one that lived with me
learning that weird isn’t the worst thing a person can be
that early adolescence and the mid-2000s wouldn’t kill me
that I’d come out the other side
still kicking
and a lot more free

Published by Sage Pantony

Sage Pantony is a writer, poet, and zinester. They write about gender, sexuality, mental health, trauma, creativity, and the best ways to cook eggs. They are the author of several zines, including a trilogy about transitioning as a non-binary person. Sage’s work has appeared in publications such as Coven Poetry, Idle Ink, and The Varsity. They currently reside in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with their pet dinosaur, Peter.

3 thoughts on “early adolescence in the mid-2000s

  1. I had a very different “You shouldn’t be wearing that” when I was younger. I wore sweats, (boy) jeans, hoodies, sports bras, no makeup. Never wore anything “skimpy” from halter tops to crop tops. (I had to argue with my high school about WIDE-STRAP tank tops and camisoles/sport-bras I wore underneath—and they said I “shouldn’t be exposing my bra” when it was GODDAMN FUCKING SWEATY AND MUGGY OUTSIDE when I wore the same goddamn tank tops the guys were wearing at the time.) My issue wasn’t that what I was wearing was “too sexy”—it’s because what I was wearing “wasn’t attracting the boys”. 😑😵‍💫🤷‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The message: “You should dress yourself to attract boys BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Conform to your assigned gender but don’t get slutty about it!” 😩 It’d be cool if adults just backed off trying to police what kids/teens wore. Tbh, it gets kinda creepy sometimes…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Honestly it was women at school or the women in my maternal family who tried to feminize me or control how I dressed. My dad and male cousins couldn’t care less that I wasn’t chasing people. They loved I was focused on school and career, and encouraged it!


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