I can remember the first time a boy that I wanted to tell me I was beautiful told me I was beautiful. He was too afraid to tell me and I was too afraid to hear him. I was a senior in high school and he was only a sophomore. I had denied myself having a crush on him for months because he was younger than me and I had been told that was just weird by my friends.
American Sign Language had been introduced into the foreign language department that year for the first time at our school. I was incredibly interested in it but was already far too invested in French to switch at that time. I knew some basic sign from doing a show freshman year with a deaf character and having a deaf guy in the theater department for two years.
We had been to a football game that night, or at least that is what I think we had
been doing. I remember it was late at night on a Friday or Saturday and we were sitting in the
dining room of a McDonalds with another one of our friends. As we were sitting there chatting about nothing over milkshakes and fries I asked the boys to show me some sign language as I was honestly interested in the subject. I was expecting something basic like 'please' or 'thank you' maybe some finger spelling, nothing fancy.
What I got was nothing fancy but it was completely unexpected. My pretty sophomore boy looked me in the eye and without thinking pointed to me and then brushed his hand fluidly across his face in the sign for beautiful, a sign I actually knew. I am not sure which one of us was more shocked; me for him having said it, or him for saying it in the first place.
A painfully quiet moment passed between the three of us sitting at the table. I remember our friend looking between the two of us trying to repress a look of surprise. They were both waiting for me to react to what he had signed.
I could have easily admitted I knew what he had said. I could have said thank you I suppose. I could have simply said what the sign meant. I could have asked him if he was being serious. I could have done a lot of things. I probably should have done something different than what I did.
I ended up just cocking my head to the side and ask him what the sign meant. I don't know if I was hoping he would tell me and have to admit it or I was hoping he would lie about the sign so I wouldn't know. I think I was sort of hoping he would lie so I wouldn't have to admit that I was happy he thought I was beautiful.
He lied. I can't even remember what he told me it meant, but he lied. Our friend just nodded and went along with the lie and so did I. The moment passed and we all just pretended that it had not even happened. He told me I was beautiful and I didn't even say thank you. I just wasn't brave enough.
Looking back on it now I don't think I believed him. I mean I believed that he thought I was beautiful but I don't think I believed I was. I am not certain any teenage girl really truly believes they are beautiful even if they say they do. Insecurity is like oxygen at that age.
I wish I could go back to that moment and tell that girl to say thank you, to acknowledge the compliment. I wish I could tell her that he was right and she always has been beautiful. I wish I could tell her to call him on it and see what would happen if she would just be brave and believe in herself and see what others see in her.
I am not sure I am any better at taking compliments now but at least I acknowledge them when they come. That is at least progress.