You are probably in the eighth grade, and feel lodged in a crevice between childhood and adulthood — you feel deeply understood by Britney Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
You have only recently stopped identifying with ‘tween’ culture, and vehemently swear that you don’t shop at Limited Too. You very frequently shop at Limited Too.
Your morning makeup routine consists of emptying your desk drawer of products onto your bathroom counter, and then applying every product to your face. “Moderation” is a word foreign to your vocabulary.
The black pencil is your favorite because it is said to define your eyes; you draw multiple circles around their entire circumference in a motion not unlike a toddler scribbling on paper. You think maybe this makes you look like a vampire from your favorite book, “Twilight.” “Perfect,” you think, and throw yourself a little wink in the mirror.
This should sound familiar if you ever suffered from what is popularly known as: The Awkward Stage (here on out referred to as TAS). TAS is basically an insidious virus that attacks not only your body, but your brain. You’re either too lanky with arms that come to your knees or too chubby with cheeks that touch your neck. Even worse, your brain tells you to do ridiculous things like dress yourself in magenta leggings and cobalt blue dresses— at the same time.
It’s a period of time, usually a couple of years, in every human’s life that occurs somewhere between late elementary school and early high school. If genetics are as kind to you as they were to me, it can also last all of those years!
There are really no hard and fast rules. There are only two constants: 1) While you are in the midst of your awkward stage, you will not realize it, and 2) Years later when you look back at pictures of what you thought were charming memories and are instead confronted with the girl-raccoon hybrid that was your adolescent self, you will realize you have fallen victim to TAS. It is an unfortunate rite of passage, but one that everyone must suffer through.
Until now. I’ve noticed a chilling trend that honestly concerns me for the future of the world. Kids these days (I am a grandmother) aren’t having awkward stages.
“How??!” You may be asking yourself. And how, indeed. Current TAS-aged teens actually look like elegant, fashionable, beautiful people. How have they achieved this impossible feat? The answer is, as always, the internet. The incredible rise of social media over the past decade has helped to create a culture where our physical image is the number one way we portray ourselves in our online lives, which is to say, a massive part of our lives.
With the even more recent phenomenon of mobile computing, we are encouraged to engage in social media while we brush our teeth, as we sit in class with our phones tucked under the table or while we stand in line for our coffees. There’s now no excuse not to have access to the Internet, and therefore no excuse not to have access to limitless information.
Included in the internet’s repertoire of answers to all the questions you’ve ever had (and all the ones you haven’t) is a plethora of TAS-fighting sources. You can learn to dress like your favorite celebrities by following their Instagrams or alternatively get some pin-spiration from other fashion followers. In 15 seconds or less, you can watch an Instagram beauty tutorial that finally demystifies contouring or lip lining.
For anything more in-depth, you can head over to YouTube for a 15 minute walk-through on anything from beach waves and strobing to victory rolls and baking. And once you feel you’ve mastered it all, mouse over to WikiHow and begin your career as a beauty vlogger.
As incredible as this variety of information may be, the expectations it generates are a little exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I love makeup. And I think beauty vloggers and makeup artists are aptly named— applying makeup is an indisputable art form, and they’ve got a more extensive brush collection than Van Gogh to prove it. I just don’t think TAS-aged girls need to be worrying about correcting every imperfection; call me crazy but I believe there is some merit in embracing (or at least enduring) The Awkward Stage.
Living through a period of time where you constantly feel a little awkward is a weirdly good thing. It forces you to develop a sense of humor (because before the age of makeup tutorials, what other defense mechanism did we have??), a fully rounded personality and most importantly a large dose of empathy — I’d never think of making someone else feel bad about their appearance (or anything else, really) because at one point I looked approximately 10x worse. Also, why risk peaking now, at such a young age? When you embrace the awkward of your TAS this is definitely not a possibility.
Maybe I’m bitter because my TAS began on my first birthday and basically ended yesterday. Maybe I’m salty because I look at beauty video tutorials the same way I used to look at the whiteboard full of notes in my calculus class, equal parts impressive and incomprehensible. But really I just don’t want young girls to look in the mirror and feel the same way — like they have a problem that needs to be solved (cue “You’re Beautiful,” Christina Aguilera or James Blunt — you’re choice).
This is a call to arms to the current generation living through their TAS: Start being more awkward! Put down your MAC lipstick and pick up your LipSmackers! Yes, it will make your lips more chapped than before you applied it, but those five minutes before you lick it all off with taste like artificial grape flavoring, and isn’t that beautiful??
You have years to work on the perfectly executed smoky eye, so set down those flattering shades of brown and bronze and pick up that nice blue eyeshadow with a metallic sheen that you bought from your local drug store. Dust yourself with some body glitter meant only for Halloween before you head out the door, like the diva you are. You’ll find glitter on every thing you own and most things you don’t for weeks to come, like a one woman Hansel and Gretel.
Even as I ceremoniously toss pictures of my middle school self into a bonfire kindled by pictures of my early high school self, I’m grateful for my TAS. I even save one picture from its inferno fate: I’m probably thirteen, I have frizzy hair that I’ve pulled into two pigtails each with a different colored hair elastic fastening the ends, and my cheeks are so pudgy that they push my eyes into a squint. But my smile is huge and genuine, and I am blissfully unaware that I am Awkward.