I grew up thinking there was something wrong with my nose. Photo booths were the worst. There was something in how that booth took my grade school and high school pictures that seemed to magnify my already big nose. I was about 11, already feeling awkward having gotten my period for the first time, and wondering why my hips were growing bigger. But still – the nose.
Remembering Panget Moments
It wasn’t just the nose. In third grade, I needed to get eyeglasses – thick, Lola-like eyeglasses. I remember getting on the school bus with my glasses, and my bus mates teased me, “Lola! Lola!” I already felt super awkward with my unruly hair and my bad eyesight had to make it worse. I felt like an ugly duckling.
Fashion? What’s that? There was a moment when I was 11 years old. We were getting ready for Mass. I had picked out a shirt with horizontal stripes, and shorts with vertical stripes. Then I had socks and moccasins. MOCCASINS. I heard my father whisper to my mother, “Ano ba suot niya? Hindi ba siya magpapalit?” My mother replied, “Pabayaan mo na.” Maybe my Mom was thinking it was the trend of the moment. The truth was I didn’t know what I was doing. I just grabbed a couple of items from the closet and threw them on. Stripes on stripes. Since that moment, I was a little bit more cautious about what I wore going out. It was another panget moment.
NERD. Labels are big in high school, and that was one label I was given. Geeky clothes, big glasses, hair in an eternal ponytail. I remember hiding in the classroom during recess because I had no friends to have a break with, and two of my classmates from the cool barkada were snickering at me. “What a nerd,” they whispered. I felt so bad. I felt so ugly. I pushed my glasses up my nose and ate my recess quietly, pretending I didn’t hear them.
I recall so many more moments in my childhood when I felt ugly. But looking back, it wasn’t just the lack of good looks that was depressing me. It was how I saw myself – because I wasn’t pretty enough, I felt I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough to be with the cool kids. I wasn’t stylish enough to be noticed. Social status matters so much in high school. Coolness was the currency, and I was flat out broke.
Panget Moment Triggers
One of the reasons why I felt so ugly was my fascination with “pocket books” set in the U.S. – specifically, the Sweet Valley series. There was Sweet Valley Twins where you follow the protagonists Jessica and Elizabeth when they were 12 years old. There was Sweet Valley High, stories that revolved around 16-year-old Jessica and Elizabeth. Later on there would be Sweet Valley University (college life), Sweet Valley Kids (kindergarten), and bunch more. I was obsessed with the Wakefield twins. I wanted to have their wavy blond hair, blue-green eyes, tanned and fit bodies, even the lavaliere necklace they both wore. The more I read about their lives and the clothes they wore, the worse I felt about myself, really. I still read on anyway. My unruly black hair, brown eyes, awkward teenage body was so far from how they looked. I knew they were fictional characters, but I so badly wanted to have their lives and look like them.
“I’m not maarte.” When I was in high school, the pretty kids were the ones who’d keep brushing their hair, sneakily put on lip gloss when the teachers weren’t looking, spray themselves with the “in” colognes. I thought they were “maarte”, focusing so much on themselves when they could be doing something cooler. I didn’t want to be called “maarte.” I was happy with how simple I was. NOT. I tried styling my hair the way they did and it looked like I was trying too hard. I put on lip gloss but blech, what’s with the waxy taste? I put on cologne and got teased that I didn’t take a bath that morning (apparently I had put on too much). If I had a time machine, I’d go back to my 14-year-old self and tell her to take care of herself more. They’re not maarte, I’d tell my teenage self. They just know how to nurture themselves better than the average 14-year-old. My 14-year-old self would probably roll her eyes and bury her nose back in a Sweet Valley High book. Bah. Why is hindsight always 20/20?
In my sophomore year in high school, I got contacts. The world changed. I was suddenly part of a cool group of kids. Boys started to notice me. I got called “maarte” by one of my friends. I felt more confident. I didn’t only see the world much clearer, but I could see myself in a newer, better light. I began taking better care of myself – fixing my hair in a way that suited my face shape without trying hard to look like the cool kids. I let go of fancy perfumes and became happy with my own Angel’s Breath cologne. I began tucking my shirt and actually using belts on my jeans to emphasize my figure (now I know what those hips were for).
It also helped to have a good support system. My best friends in high school encouraged me to take better care of myself. My friends helped me build my confidence while being patience with my hesitance to blossom. The three of them were instrumental to my growth as a lady, and to my learning how to accept how I looked and how to make what worked work even better.
There were still plenty of panget moments, but having had more confidence, I was beginning to be happy with how I looked. But more than that, I was beginning to feel happy with how I was embracing myself – flaws and all. I still had my giant nose, but so what? By the time I graduated high school, I was a confident 16-year-old with bright eyes, a big smile, and had a spring in my step.
Panget ba ako?
I still ask myself that question, especially on super losyang days. Those are the days when I don’t feel like dressing up or when I’m super bloated (visits from Aunt Flo always do that). I think we all have those negative moments, but what matters is that you pull yourself out of it with grace.
My giant nose? I grew into it by the way. If I’d go back in time, I’d tell my 11-year-old self not to worry, and to brush her hair a little bit more, moisturize and wear a little lip gloss. Other than that, I’d tell her that she’s one beautiful little girl, and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her nose.