You Said It

The Perfect Girl

I’m supposed to be pretty, skinny, smart (but not too smart), cool, funny, and flawless. All without trying.

Illustration by Emma D.

You Said It is a section devoted to writing, photos, drawings, etc. from our readers. This rant came to us from Lexi Harder, who lives in Philadelphia and describes herself as a 17-year-old part-time mermaid, part-time hibernating bear who spends her free time watching British period dramas on the internet and cleaning her room.


Embarrassing fact about me: I started keeping a food diary last week.

I feel OK admitting this secret of mine, because it’s not really a secret anymore. Last night a few of my friends found my food diary, and at this point I really couldn’t be any more embarrassed than I already am. They passed it around, reading it out loud to one another, raucously laughing. One of them pulled me aside and said, “You have a food diary? That makes you seem really…insecure.” In the face of their teasing I tried to pretend I didn’t remember writing it, but the entries were dated, so that plan backfired. In the end I laughed it off and even went so far as to make fun of myself, which finally got them to drop the subject, leaving me, my ego, and my self-worth shriveled into a ball of humiliation. It was all I could do not to curl up into the fetal position and turn into a scrap of bellybutton fluff.

There are several things I find wrong with the entire situation:

1. Who in the hell goes through other people’s things and seeks out OBVIOUSLY PRIVATE CONTENT and then proceeds to read it to an entire room? Maybe I’m crazy but I am filing that action under Very Rude, Inexcusably Impolite, and Immature behavior.

2. At first the friend who found the journal didn’t notice it was dated, so I thought I was saved, but the next person who read it noticed and pointed it out. Ouch. Also immature, but I guess embarrassing me is that amusing—don’t let me keep you from your fun!

3. Society in General. This point needs significantly more elaboration, but for now let’s just say that sometimes people are assholes. (See above.)

I won’t pretend I’m anything special. In fact, I’m an almost depressingly normal girl. I get OK grades, I have a pretty awesome family and a friggin’ sweet boyfriend, I know a lot of cool people I can call my friends, the whole shebang. Normal Girl material. Along with being a Normal Girl I am supposed to be pretty (without trying), skinny (without trying), smart but not too smart (without trying), cool (without trying), funny (without trying), and perfect (without trying). The minute it looks as if I’m trying to be any of those things I am alternately pitied or ridiculed.

Now, I’m not saying that I think I should be pretty and skinny, etc. The GIRL POWER part of me is screaming that at the top of her lungs, believe me. At the same time, I see how easy it is for me to slip into that overly critical, probably insecure mode, where I make fun of girls who are overweight, on a diet, failing class, and almost any other insignificant point you can think of. Dumb things that certainly don’t determine a person’s ultimate value. Which makes me think that other people are saying the exact same things about me. Which leads me to record what I’m eating, which leads to shame when my friends find out I have feelings.

Still, if the worst thing I can be mocked for is the fact that I am occasionally depressed and worry about my weight and how others see me, then I congratulate myself. Congratulate myself for being human, because I secretly believe that everyone else is just as insecure. This doesn’t mean I’m not angry at how unjust everything is. Why does contemporary society condemn an (oh, I might as well say it) overweight girl who one day decides to eat a salad, but celebrate a “hot” girl who decides to eat a cheeseburger? (Never mind if it’s the only thing she’s eaten in three days. Or she may have a balanced diet and love cheeseburgers and was just born with a conventionally attractive body. Or…WHY AM I EVEN THINKING ABOUT THIS? See what happens?)

It doesn’t help that if I tried to voice these frustrations in public I’d probably also get made fun of. (You might be making fun of me right now.) People might just say I’m overreacting. I’m not. Which is why I’m wary of calling myself a feminist in public. My male friends, ill educated as to what a feminist actually is, would laugh, cease to take me seriously, and tell me to get back in the kitchen. No, seriously, sexism still exists. I have friends who think rape is funny.

What my point is: society sucks. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation. I’m not allowed to be fat, but I’m not allowed to go on a diet either (or keep a food diary, for that matter). I’m not allowed to be dumb, but I’m not allowed to be smarter than a boy. I’m not allowed to do drugs or drink, but I’m considered boring if I don’t. I’m supposed to be an empowered woman, but if I ask for respect dudes will just call me an annoying bitch. Heck, if I wait to have sex I’m labeled a prude, but if I lost my virginity today there would be a lot of people thinking that slut.

I’m still angry, but I choose to look at it this way: since I can’t win, why not do what I want? I have a right to eat salad or eat an entire chocolate cake, answer questions and ask questions in class, keep a food diary or throw it away, have sex when I feel like it. And I think everyone should, because one day I want to meet people who like my ideas and won’t laugh at me because they’re afraid of other people laughing at them. Who cares, anyway? I do, I can’t help it, but it doesn’t mean I have to let caring rule who I am and what I do with my life.

End rant. ♦

If you want to submit your own work to Rookie, please send it to submissions@rookiemag.com.

69 Comments

  • Mags November 16th, 2011 3:20 PM

    I love, love, love this! I’m not making fun of you; I totally admire you for writing this. I especially love your paragraph on how society sucks. I think I may print that out and just hand it out to random people. Brilliant.

  • Laney November 16th, 2011 3:28 PM

    I LOVE YOU

  • Pelle November 16th, 2011 3:29 PM

    Maybe this is sort of off the subject, but I noticed People Magazine picked Bradley Cooper as the Sexiest Man Alive. Nothing wrong with that – Bradley’s plenty hot & SMART – but why People’s proclivity for picking men who show up regularly at public functions like they just washed up on the beach? Can you honestly imagine GQ, Maxim, etc. picking Megan Fox or whomever if she regularly was seen without make up, or worse yet, unshaven arm pits? Why do we always give men a pass when it comes to public hygiene? Also noticed People’s sexy men list had the inclusion of fat, fiftiesh Alec Baldwin – doubt that Kirstie Alley makes any most desirable female lists, pre or post weight loss. Gals, we need to demand the same perfection in men that they do us – hence, we must cease with this “Jack Black is sexy” shit!!!

    • MrPhoenix November 16th, 2011 3:56 PM

      Pelle I disagree; I believe we need to stop demanding and expecting unrealistic standards of ‘perfection’ of all PEOPLE. Period.

      • Pelle November 16th, 2011 7:44 PM

        I must say you are correct – I just get so tired of men getting a pass while we girls must be oh so perfect. I guess I should look at it more from the perspective of perhaps we females have better standards since looks aren’t necessarily the most important thing to us. But it still bums me out…oh, well. Thanks for the reality check. :)

  • Hazel November 16th, 2011 3:45 PM

    Woah I love this!

  • maggiemadge November 16th, 2011 3:45 PM

    This was awesome! Thank you for writing this. I remember when I was younger and my so- called friends had go into my room and started looking through my things. They even went so far as to reading my dairy and making fun of what I wrote. There is this unbalance in society, but the best thing we can do is just live our lives and not give a damn what people think. Thanks again for this essay!

    • WinterX27 November 16th, 2011 7:03 PM

      Fantastic article Lexi, you hit the nail on the head with every point you made. May have to start a diary myself to get out all these little rants I have hanging around in my head!

      On a more selfish note…

      maggiemadge QUITE RIGHTLY said “There is this unbalance in society, but the best thing we can do is just live our lives and not give a damn what people think.”

      This is so true and only just yesterday my boyfriend spelt this out for me “You have to stop caring what people think about you”. That is true and I think quite a lot of the time a lot of my insecurities stem from this but how do I do this??? I’ve spent … a lot … of years trying to figure this out & as I’m almost out of my teens I’d love to know the answer/solution so I can head into my 20s feeling a bit better about this conundrum!

  • Ruby B. November 16th, 2011 3:50 PM

    I LOVE THIS! It’s completely true and I’m so glad this article exists!

    Ruby
    therubylotus.wordpress.com

  • Juniper November 16th, 2011 4:08 PM

    “Since I can’t win, why not do what I want?”
    I like that advice, and I think I’m going to follow it!

    marieljuniperberry.blogspot.com

  • Marguerite November 16th, 2011 4:10 PM

    I loved the end! I really wanted to stand up and scream HELL YA! WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK! … but i remembered my grandmother was sitting in the room, she would have been very scared…

  • mangachic November 16th, 2011 4:11 PM

    fantastic piece! You should call your friends out on what they did, that was mean. Or just show them the article and let them realize how obnoxious they were being. And the guy friends sound completely despicable. go work in the kitchen??? ***k off!!!

  • emilyelizabeth November 16th, 2011 4:17 PM

    this exactly!!!

  • FFAF November 16th, 2011 4:19 PM

    Honey, the minute you decide to give ‘em the finger and do what YOU want is the very definition of winning.

    You do you.

  • Abby November 16th, 2011 4:19 PM

    This is AHHHHMAAAZZZZIIIINNNGGG!!!!!!!!! I love it! I started keeping a journal recently, and although it makes me feel like a 12-year-old (I’m seventeen) girl writing about her crush on that cute boy, it really helps me deal with things I don’t want to actually talk to anyone about. And it helps me sleep! So don’t feel bad about doing whatever the hell you want!!!!

  • mand November 16th, 2011 4:32 PM

    Woah you have a much better grasp on things than I did when I was 17.

    I guess the reason you can never win and society will never let you win, is because when you do you are happy and can stop buying pointless crap in order to ‘improve’ yourself. I’m 21 and I still fall for every body scrub, lip plumping gloss and magic facial mist that’s going to turn me into Natalie Portman. It hasn’t happened yet but that doesn’t mean it won’t!

  • Lizzi November 16th, 2011 4:33 PM

    “without trying”

    THE most frustrating part of being a teenager, I remember. Ridiculous, what are we if not “trying” every day since we are plopped out of our mom’s vajajay?

    Keep trying. Don’t ever stop trying :)Great post!

  • lluisa November 16th, 2011 4:45 PM

    I HEART THIS ARTICLE! you expressed something in words, that a lot of people struggle with (and most of them not even aware of what it is they struggle with).

  • Molly Blues November 16th, 2011 5:16 PM

    This is B E A U T I F U L, and so are you.

  • Sphinx November 16th, 2011 5:22 PM

    As a “normal girl” I think you just voiced all the problems and pressures a “normal girl” faces.
    We’re all on the same boat.

  • back2thepast November 16th, 2011 5:27 PM

    I want your girl power

  • lizzy heinie November 16th, 2011 5:36 PM

    I keep a food diary, not to shame myself but to keep track of what I’m eating. Often I mindlessly pick up junk that I KNOW I don’t want to eat (think week-old fortune cookies) so just writing that down makes me think twice about putting it in my mouth.

    Don’t EVER let anyone shame you <3

  • broguishrogue November 16th, 2011 5:38 PM

    perfect.

  • Kathryn November 16th, 2011 5:43 PM

    This was perfect! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it.
    You sum up everything perfectly.

  • Kaetlebugg November 16th, 2011 6:40 PM

    “Dumb things that certainly don’t determine a person’s ultimate value. ” OK so I really like/appreciate this article, I think it rings true for 99.9% of girls everywhere, and people in general, but especially girls. However I have one point of contention, not to be totally nitpicky (this is sort of an unrelated philosophical question about all societies ever) why do people have to have an intrinsic value or worth? I think the author might mean, essentially, “morality” instead of value – many people would probably equate these two, which I think is a pretty fair equation. BUT then that begs the question, is there such thing as an objective moral truth? Boy, I wish I knew the answer to that.

  • moonchild November 16th, 2011 6:58 PM

    This is amazing. I feel this every day. Thank you for thinking your wonderful thoughts.

  • hmmowl November 16th, 2011 7:40 PM

    I don’t think you know how much I LOVE THIS!!! It seems that few people truly believe this, or perhaps like what was said, those people are just too scared to say anything. Hell, sometimes I am. I LOVE LOVE how well you demonstrate the contradiction and catch 22′s that exist in the role of being that “interesting, perfect girl”. I think you’re the only one that has covered everything so beautifully. THANK YOU!!!

  • Dominic November 16th, 2011 7:58 PM

    Oh, sweetie, those girls aren’t your friends if they make fun of you… And you need to hang out with different guys! If they can’t respect you, don’t hang out with them!

  • ferguson November 16th, 2011 9:06 PM

    the classic double bind (you’re a prude or a slut). in our gendered society, women can’t win. don’t satisfy the gendered role that society has created for you! rise up!

  • Amy Rose November 16th, 2011 9:19 PM

    love you, lexi. do whatever makes you feel good.

  • Microbyte1 November 16th, 2011 9:57 PM

    you fucking rock !

  • kiki November 16th, 2011 10:50 PM

    I love this so much. Your asides are fabulous. God, this is great <3

  • Chandler November 17th, 2011 12:02 AM

    I really, honestly loved this story. It’s so true, society is confusing, your supposed to do one thing, but you can’t do the next, and then you get called off for doing the right thing which is also the wrong thing! (See how confusing it is?) I completley agree with you on this story. I also keep a food diary sometimes (and I am at an average good weight–for what I want myself to be at) I just keep it for fun and to keep myself healthy. :)
    Thank you for writing this story! And to Rookie for picking this story!
    xoxo Chandler

  • Ella November 17th, 2011 12:45 AM

    YOU GO GIRL!! I was having a pretty bad day and you just voiced all my frustrations and anger! Your rant was so perfect.

  • heybabyitwasalright November 17th, 2011 4:19 AM

    You’re great. Trust yourself and don’t let them placate you. You know what’s going on and your right, you shouldn’t have to pretend to be blind about it.

  • samhatt November 17th, 2011 5:06 AM

    amazing article <3

  • Alice s November 17th, 2011 6:44 AM

    This article is amazing. This is so so true.

  • Johanna November 17th, 2011 10:53 AM

    You’re talking about the exact same thing I’ve been thinking about the last year.
    It’s so strange to hear someone else talking about it and writing it down so perfectly.
    You really gave me hope for humanity. Thanks!

  • Pashupati November 17th, 2011 11:52 AM

    I feel that way sometimes, there was one sentence that was especially the way I felt except now I don’t do that anymore but I’m still scared others will do that to me and then say that I did that too.
    Then, I somehow didn’t come to your conclusion as a personal conclusion. Sometimes I think I should just do what the fuck I want, but somehow it isn’t a personal conclusion that I feel in my guts. My conclusion is more along the line of “I should not talk to these people anymore, and find more flexible/compatible folks”, though I don’t really see or talk to a lot of people IRL. I still believe, when I see people acting some way in some “field” (let’s say, a virtual or real place where we discuss/do an hobby or interest of mine), that I should flee from the field, but I learned there can be safe spaces in different fields.
    I’m sorry that it happened to you, like they say “I feel ya!” :/
    I’ll try to live more by your conclusion.

  • Muiccia P November 17th, 2011 12:22 PM

    Thank you xx

  • riotsnotdiets November 17th, 2011 1:15 PM

    I agree with everything you said in this, I don’t think you’re over-reacting at all, thank you for writing this!

  • julalondon November 17th, 2011 2:12 PM

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Thank you so much for that! Wish there were more girls like you; that was beautiful.

  • TheAwesomePossum November 17th, 2011 2:16 PM

    To all of the people inquiring about how to not care, the simple answer is…. you just don’t. You can never completely eliminate thinking about what other people think about you, but you just don’t take it into serious consideration where you would limit yourself because of other people who honestly could care less about you.

    It’s a lot easier once you get to the other side (so to speak). Initially people will be wondering what you’re doing, and there might be some resistance, but after a while they’ll just stop caring. Also, you’ll stop thinking about doing everything “without trying”, and other such trivialities. it’s very freeing.

    As far as the not being able to be smarter than a boy problem, I’ve honestly never faced that in my life; that’s a bit of an odd concept to hear. I’ve always been top of my class and have never had anyone imply that I should “tone it down”.

  • ichewmylips November 17th, 2011 3:29 PM

    This was awesome! Showcases the struggles that girls have to go through! I think you should tell your friends how you feel. Especially if they hurt your feelings. If they still don’t care, well you better ditch those so called friends.

  • Livy November 17th, 2011 8:32 PM

    “Why does contemporary society condemn an (oh, I might as well say it) overweight girl who one day decides to eat a salad, but celebrate a “hot” girl who decides to eat a cheeseburger?”

    I see this all the time! And it makes me so mad, because the skinny popular girls get called “down to earth” when they do something like eat a steak, and then not so skinny girls become targets when they try to make healthy choices. Not hating on either group. Stereotypes just anger me.

  • Kristinini November 18th, 2011 12:17 AM

    Wow, I completely love this and I have to agree with every single thing that you said. I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks this way.

  • hannahh November 18th, 2011 1:05 AM

    This is a super important issue you raise. It seems like it’s become socially acceptable for women to eat cheeseburgers all the time as long as they don’t show it (“look skinny without trying”, as you said). There’s a new kind of sexism that says sure, women are allowed to just be who they are, be free to eat whatever they want and look how they naturally look, as long as natural means being conventionally pretty and thin. In my opinion, this is even more dangerous because it makes just mentioning that you’re struggling with weight taboo, so that you can’t even talk it through with your friends. But I don’t know what the answer is either, let’s find one?

  • Lizarama November 18th, 2011 2:05 AM

    YES! Thank you! I have been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of weeks. I’m a freshman girl in college and hello…. Freshman 15? It’s the sort of thing that everybody (read: both girls AND boys) can deal with their first year. But uh, girls aren’t allowed to get it. And if we look like we’re trying too hard to keep the weight off, then we’re self absorbed and weight obsessed. And worst of all? The guys will openly admit that they notice when us girls gain weight, as if it is some sort of sin.

    I think we all just need to realize that these expectations of perfection without effort are terribly stressful at some points! Especially when you feel like you can’t even talk to your female friends about it. Love this so much, and I totally needed to hear from another girl who is sick of this and thinks it’s unfair.

  • Renatotherescue November 18th, 2011 3:25 PM

    i remember about a year ago, me, my brother and his friend were downstairs, my mum was already sleeping. then my brother got to steal my phone, and he started reading my boyfriends texts out loud. his friend was holding my arms on my back, so i could really do anything but scream. he was reading some super personall stuff, and i was so mad, that was just so rude of him. that guy is my ex now, but i still feel sorry for him, and im still mad at my brother for that.

    i totally agree with you, and you kind of helped me, i never looked at this situation this way, but it sounds very obvious
    so thanks for this blog and this great story :3
    XX

  • MariH November 18th, 2011 4:19 PM

    Woah, I have to comment aswell:
    This is just like reading about myself! (except the fact that I don’t have a boyfriend)
    Anyhow, people have always considered me “perfect without trying”
    They sort of expect me to be. And that also led me to keep a “food diary” …..
    Glad someone finally write about this!

  • timi November 18th, 2011 9:14 PM

    ok just on a side note, guys get raped too (there are many guys who got molested as children, more than you think and you certainly know some, you just don’t know who, which is a good thing, sometimes knowing too much…well curiosity did kill the cat) anyway that’s just a pointer for the comment about “some people still think rape is funny” well those people are just insensitive, not necessarily sexist…but I completely agree with you on that topic, there are still too many sexist bastards out there (girls included) lol bravo for everything you wrote though, it’s really honest and true

  • HP November 20th, 2011 12:42 AM

    I love you. Stay amazing. xx

  • minook November 20th, 2011 5:04 PM

    People are gonna talk shit no matter what you do, so you may as well not care. Society enforces the idea that women are and should be concerned with their appearances, i.e. the skinniest girls on TV worry about being fat. I never understood this stereotype ’cause I got made fun of in junior high for being too skinny- all bones- at a time when “all the other girls” were growing breasts. As soon as I stopped caring, people stopped making fun of me, or I stopped hearing them and I met people who specifically liked my androgynous body. Then just when I forget I ever had an insecurity and am absolutely in love with myself, my body type gets ridiculed on TV or in real life, and it’s always by a guy. This is only how a part of society thinks, though it’s called the “mainstream”, I know more people who are intrigued by the variety and quirks of body types and personalities. But these people talk shit too, partly because taste varies from person to person, and which is why your taste is the most important. We’ve all done and said things we’re not proud of (i.e., read someone else’s diary). Friends make mistakes, or don’t always understand, but they should make you feel comfortable more often than not.

  • prillamon November 21st, 2011 9:18 AM

    Loved the article!

    You need to edjumacate your friends that think rape is funny. I know it’s hard, but keep working on it – for the world’s sake! I mean, how would they feel if they had something unwillingly shoved up their arsehole repeatedly? I doubt they would feel like laughing.

  • youreatulle November 21st, 2011 8:36 PM

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. I actually could not agree with you more. I’m a teenage girl too, so I totally get it. Thank you for writing this!

    Odelia Kaly

  • Majel November 22nd, 2011 9:39 AM

    I keep a food diary, too…dated and all, and when friends see it, maybe even joke about ist I tell them the truth: I monitor what I eat because I’d like to eat more healthily, a balanced diet with more variaty. When saying this in a convinced tone like i do, people tend to be impressed and decide to do so, too.
    Hope you guys never get imbarrassed by this sort of thing (again).
    Love, Majel

  • Gretchyn November 23rd, 2011 7:10 PM

    I support you grrrl + I love your ideas. This is great.

  • Rivkah November 24th, 2011 12:32 PM

    yes.

  • saranev November 24th, 2011 1:46 PM

    Every girl needs to read this.

  • hazeleyedgirl November 25th, 2011 2:24 PM

    I agree with almost everything written, except for the point about girls being ‘not allowed to be smarter than a guy’. Since when? Where I’m from, GIRLS are expected to be the smart ones and BOYS the dumb ones.

  • thatgirlnicole November 25th, 2011 7:42 PM

    You are an amazing human being, and this piece is everything I’ve wanted to say but had no idea how. Thank you.

  • Wondergirl November 27th, 2011 7:12 AM

    I LOVE THIS… I LOVE YOU. Literally the best thing I’ve ever read!

  • SunshineJilly November 27th, 2011 6:50 PM

    You are a wonderful writer. Every point you made was exceptionally poignant and honest.

    As a 23 year-old lass, I can say first hand that there doesn’t seem to be one ultimate answer or moment of catharsis that eases our insecurity and loneliness upon entering adulthood, but there is evolution of oneself.

    The best any of us can do is to accept our imperfections and understand those of others. At least, this is what I’ve figured out so far.
    Of course, the bad news remains that the fat/skinny thing never goes away.

  • KayKay November 30th, 2011 1:30 PM

    Yes! Thank you! I agree with you 100%!
    People are so judgmental and expect so much of you and then then label you like you’re a can of soup.
    I refuse to let others determine who I am. I’ve gotten over the fact that I’m short and that I’ll never be 6 foot tall. I don’t care that I’m a little pudgy around the middle. I don’t care if people don’t like what I wear, because what’s important is that I like it. I take pride in being smart and getting good grades.
    And what exactly do people define as “cool” anyways? If it means having to be one of those annoying people who label other people as losers due to their insecurities, I’ll pass, thank you very much.
    Can we all just please get over ourselves and actually be ourselves? People need to get real.
    I like myself and that’s who I’m going to be.

  • Anne Pie December 4th, 2011 11:06 AM

    NOT MAKING FUN OF YOU — LOVING YOU!

  • Boomerang December 4th, 2011 2:22 PM

    wow! this was amazing! i love you so much for writing this.

  • siimonek April 21st, 2012 11:05 AM

    Hey Lexi, when I saw the link to the article as ‘sexism rant’ I was like oh, jesus here we go again but I was pleasantly surprised that there was at no point an attack on men, proceeding to tell me all men are evil like many rants Ive read/heard. My favorite line was at the end, “Since I can’t win, why not do what I want?” which made me think back to Easy A, in which Emma Stone is thought of as being a whore, so she then thinks, ok you think Im a whore, fine Ill show you a whore (then dressed in corsets with a red A sewn on, and heels) And for me, thinking back to my high school experience, many people assumed or thought I was a ‘bitch’ and in high school I also had a similar thought process, you think Im a bitch, ok then I will be a bitch to you. And I think it was with people’s DISapproval of me that lead me to do “what I want” since I had realized “I wasnt going to win” And I think that now at 21, looking back on it, the labeling and disapproval in fact was a blessing because once I realized I wasnt going to please people (or at least not please everyone) it lead me to do what ever I wanted to! Cheers!

  • Zoe June 14th, 2013 11:43 PM

    I love how you said “I want to meet people who like my ideas and won’t laugh at me because they’re afraid of other people laughing at them” because i can totally relate. Thanks for an inspiring article!