Once Upon a Time I Believed in Teen Lit

In romances, the girl is always beautiful (or at least uniquely attractive). She’s a little bit awkward and a fast talker, witty and independent, and she always has long eyelashes. I don’t know what is about “closing her eyes so that her eyelashes rested against her pale cheeks” or some variation of that that so many teen lit authors find appealing, but long, thick eyelashes seemed to be a part of becoming the perfect girl. I didn’t pick up on this until freshman year or so, but once I did, I would spend minutes at a time looking in the mirror and wondering why my eyelashes never could quite make it to my cheeks when I blinked.

Up to that point, eyelashes had kind of just been hairs that grew from my eyelids. The only times I’d really even thought about them were when the occasional loose lash made its way to my fingertip—I’d  blow it away and make a wish, just like my friend’s mom had once taught me.

In freshman year, they became a missing part of what I thought was my role as the perfect girl. I could more or less fake my way through the just-awkward-enoughness, the fast-talking, the independence, but I believed the eyelashes the hardest part because they couldn’t be faked. I’d stare at them in the mirror. Were they long enough? Dark enough? Thick enough?

I got a lot of things wrong freshman year, though, and eyelashes were one of them. Mascara and false eyelashes were definitely out there, and I’m not sure why I never thought of them, but the importance of eyelashes was much less than I’d made it. The girl who was really important was the girl that I wanted to become—if eyelashes were standard for teen lit romance heroines, that didn’t mean that they had to be standard for me. They would’ve been nice to have, but I came to the somewhat cheesy conclusion that I didn’t need to be the perfect teen lit girl as long as I was being who I wanted to be. I didn’t really know who that was yet, but it definitely wasn’t the perfect teen lit girl.

At one point, it might’ve been, back when I thought that Sarah Dessen novels were accurate portrayals of high school and high school romances, but I am never going to be the perfect teen lit girl because I am never going to be perfect. I’m not even perfectly who I want to be yet, and I might never get there. I know that. The important part is pretending, though, and if I swipe on a coat of mascara before leaving the house, I can tell myself that maybe it’s okay to want to be a teen lit heroine every now and then. I’ll go back to being myself (whoever that is) when I step outside. For a few seconds, though, I take a look at my eyelashes.

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One thought on “Once Upon a Time I Believed in Teen Lit

  1. I love this exploration because it’s about something so many people would dismiss, but I bet every girl who’s ever been a teenager knows exactly what you mean. I definitely do, ’cause my eyelashes are like a millimeter long. And because eyelashes are supposed to be a symbol of delicacy and helplessness or something, and I don’t know why those things are desirable but they are, and delicate is probably the last word anyone would use describe me. And maybe teen lit authors use the eyelashes to add a touch of that delicacy back the otherwise “witty and independent girl” that has become the staple of modern teen lit ever since authors started being looked down on for making their female protagonists helpless. Which is pretty sneaky and not necessarily even bad. I don’t know. Anyway, if you haven’t figured this out, I loved reading this.

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