He sat in the row behind me. I immediately found him attractive once I noticed him in theology class, and for a few weeks, I was infatuated with his red sweater, messy hair, and soft smile. I observed him by way of stealthy glances disguised as accidental head turns, praying he wouldn’t realize I was staring.
Perhaps it was my impatience or the mere longevity of the pining, but one day I finally thought Fuck it, and decided to approach him after class to tell him I liked his outfit. What was supposed to be a quick exchange ended up extending to a fifteen-minute walk down the street, where an organization he was a part of was having an event. I dropped him off, and then walked another fifteen minutes back to campus by myself. I only confessed my feelings when we were already friends and my crush on him was long gone. I was surprised when he responded with wide eyes, telling me he harbored a small crush on me, too.
It wasn’t the first time someone confessed their feelings to me only after they subsided. In retrospect, this is how it’s always been. I was always the last to find out that my crushes felt the same way towards me. I eventually willed myself to become accustomed to wrongly-timed romances, because people never seemed brave enough to own up to what they felt. I expressed this frustration to my friend, saying that if people I mutually shared feelings with only confessed when they were over me, then my chances at the innocent, cheesy, grabbing-popcorn-at-the-same-time-and-accidentally-holding-hands romance I grew to yearn may as well be obliterated. When I was finished with my rant, she simply looked at me and said, “It’s your confident bitch energy.”
What surprised me more than my friend’s revelation was how proud it made me feel. I’ve always been aware of my intimidating aura, which is usually attributed to my infamous resting bitch face. It was one trait I always expressed that I hated but really secretly loved, because, truthfully, my RBF saved me from the toxicity of people who were in it for the wrong reasons. Although now I’m mostly grateful for my stone-faced demeanor, my appreciation for my innate friend-filtering device didn’t come easy.
Throughout my youth, I was always accompanied by such coy girls à la Mia from The Princess Diaries or Cady from Mean Girls. The only confident girls I saw onscreen were antagonists. They were girls who knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to let everyone know— often labelled as “bitches.” To me, good girls were vulnerable and helpless, almost as if their womanhood rendered them incapable of choice and strength. It was only the version of Girl I knew how to be, as if to be a woman was to be weak. It was almost like this notion was set in stone, written in a rulebook we were all supposed to have read.
But you see, I am not, and have never been, a damsel in distress.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be self-sufficient, and until now, this desire has remained changed. My need to be independent at all times translates to every little thing, driven by the underlying thought that I have to continuously prove myself. My life feels like a constant quest to prove my own strength, and this is reflected in things as minute as parking my car backwards by myself or refusing the help to carry my things when I move from one classroom to another.
When boys look at me like they want to help me, I stare back with the bravado of a girl who knows She Can Do It. And you know what I’ve noticed? That boys will shake at the slightest display of awareness of your own successes. They scare easy because when you show them that you know how much you are capable of, they’re defeated.
It’s quite amusing, really, that my reasons for trying to be friendlier back then are the same reasons I am proud to be confident now. I am no longer afraid of being self-aware, because I grew to understand that there is so much power in knowing that the entirety of the world resides on the tip of your finger. I guess all it took was realizing that most damsels are their own knights in shining armor.
By Ticia Almazan