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On Formative Girlhood: BUST True Story

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I started my sophomore year of college at age nineteen — the only one in my family to make it that far. At nineteen, I got a C in biology class and a classmate told me that girls generally don’t do as well in STEM classes. I was nineteen when I changed my major to English. At nineteen, I was selected to write for the college newspaper. I was nineteen when the editor of the newspaper tried to kiss me at a party. At nineteen, I had my first story published in the campus newspaper. I went to eating disorder treatment for the fifth time at age nineteen.

I was eighteen when I moved to New York City and had a roommate I found on Craigslist who happened to be a sex worker. I was eighteen when my Craigslist roommate got me drunk and tried to get me to have a threesome with her and her client. I got a job tutoring students in chemistry when I was eighteen. Each of my chemistry students passed the Regents when I was at eighteen. I was eighteen when a man at a bar put drugs in my drink. I was eighteen when my friend noticed that the man at the bar put drugs in my drink. I was eighteen when my friend took me back to his apartment and had sex with me after noticing that the man at the bar put drugs in my drink. I was eighteen when I graduated high school with honors.

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I went to the hospital for an eating disorder for the third time at seventeen years old. I was seventeen when I tried to kill myself. At seventeen, I was the first in my family to be accepted to college. At seventeen, I was the first in my grade to be accepted to college. When I was seventeen, my high school boyfriend joked to our friends that I was a bad driver because I was a girl. I was seventeen when I had the highest grades in my physics class. At seventeen, I passed the last math class I ever took because I wore a short skirt. I vowed to never take another math class when I was seventeen.

I bought my first thong when I was fifteen. I took the SAT for the first time at fifteen and my guidance counselor jokingly asked if I cheated because I scored so well. I was fifteen when my teacher asked me to come over while his wife was still at work. The boy who called me stupid in the third grade for losing the spelling bee held me down and forced himself inside of me in the parking lot after school when I was fifteen. At age fifteen, I qualified for the statewide Brain Bee but didn’t show up on the day of the competition because I was too nervous. When I was fifteen, my seventeen-year-old boyfriend told me that it was time for me to have sex with him and I did, but I cried, and then he told me I didn’t make him horny. I was fifteen when I thought I was pregnant and my boyfriend broke up with me. I was fifteen when my mom found out I had sex and kicked me out. I was fifteen when I got a math tutor.

I had my first girlfriend when I was thirteen, but I learned that lesbianism was only okay if we were both hot. At thirteen, a boy asked if I had ever been fingered before — I lied and told him yes. At thirteen, I let that same boy finger me and he told the whole school. The boys in my eighth-grade class said I was a “slut with a loose pussy” at age thirteen. I was thirteen when my mom caught me masturbating and called me a slut. I was thirteen when my math teacher called me dumb. I was thirteen when I got my first C on a math test.

I was ten when my fifth-grade teacher told me that I raise my hand too much. I learned that every other girl at my fifth grade lunch table had been on a diet at least once when I was ten. I was ten years old when I made the cheerleading team and noticed that the pretty girls pretended not to know the answers in class. At age ten, I competed in the third-grade spelling bee and a boy called me stupid for losing on the word “graffiti.” My mom taught me to shave my legs when I was ten years old. At age ten, I noticed hair between my legs and started to shave that too. I was ten when I stopped raising my hand and started eating salads for lunch and started twirling my hair when I talked to boys.

I was seven years old when my mom bought me a bikini. At age seven, I competed in the statewide math competition because I got the highest math scores in the second grade. A boy in my class pulled my hair and called me sexy and kissed me on the mouth during recess when I was seven. I was seven when a man at the park touched me through my cotton shorts and told me that “this is what happens” to girls who wear short dresses. I was seven when the police officers never showed up to investigate. I was seven years old when my elementary school principal called my mom and made her bring me a change of pants because my shorts were too short on my long-legged second grade body. At age seven, I asked for a scientist’s experiment kit for my birthday. At age seven, I asked my mom if I could buy a belly shirt like the one Christina Aguilera wore on the cover of CosmoGIRL.

I was four years old when my mom taught me how to put on her makeup. I was the best player on the co-ed community soccer team, The Seahorses, at age four. The boys on the soccer team called me “bossy” because I was the captain of The Seahorses. I was four years old when an adult man undressed me in his bedroom and touched me and took photos of me. I was four years old when the police officer told me he didn’t believe me. I was four years old and I wanted to be the first girl president. My dad played dress-up with me when I was four years old. I was four years old when my mom refused to cut my hair short because she didn’t want me to look like a boy. I read my first chapter books at age four — Amelia Bedelia Helps Out and Amelia Bedelia and the Baby.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

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Chelsea Dillin is a New York-based reader, writer, runner, and lover of alliterations. She currently studies English and education at Columbia University. Chelsea also serves as co-founder and executive director of FLIP National, a national non-profit dedicated to making higher education equally accessible to first-generation and low-income students. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Medium.

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