Looks.

“I think he likes you, girl.”

Thought my friend must have bullshitted me. No way a boy would like me. Yeah me. Me with hair covering most of my face. Me drinking beer in recess. Me swearing more than saying actual words. Me the fat girl.

***

But he liked me. He would lock eyes at me whenever I stood in front of the class. Other girls might have looked away or played hard to get, but me, I would stare back. Of course I blushed, but I stared back. Mother taught me to avoid all attention, to live a simple life; so as her dear teenage daughter with loads of rebellious hormones, I did the opposite.

When a boy gave me attention, I would return him with double.

***

“You are smart and fierce but kind.”

Was that it? Was that his love confession? Where was my “you’re cute?” Where was my “I like you?” No holding hands? No mix tape? What was going on? Were we going to be best friends and shits? I thought he liked me???

But it felt great nevertheless. If he had told me I was pretty I wouldn’t have believed anyway. But being smart. Fierce. And also kind. That was pretty cool. I was proud. There were other qualities that would define success in life, other than look and money.

Even now, as an adult, I blush when someone says I am kind. And still struggle to respond to “You’re beautiful”.

***

When you talk to a child, or a teen, especially a girl, compliment them on things they have to work hard for. Like knowledge. Like manner. Like kindness. Like thoughtfulness.