Your Awkward Phase Made You Awesome

What a Sassy magazine overdose looks like.

It is my personal opinion that someone who didn’t have an awkward phase as a child isn’t someone worth spending much time with.

I’m not worried about offending any of you with that statement because I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this website, you had–or, hell, may still be in–your awkward phase. People who live in good-looking bubbles like that Jon Hamm character on 30 Rock do not read Aiming Low as a general rule. And I’m not saying you’re not good-looking now, I’m just saying you were once–for a matter of years or months or maybe even just a few days when your nose decided to sprint ahead of the rest of your face right before 8th grade picture day–not good-looking. Because even if you’re a dead ringer for Michelle Pfeiffer now, just having gone through a period of painful physical awkwardness makes you a club member for life.

I’m talking about the Good Personality Club. Even if you didn’t have a particularly good personality, you automatically got that compliment from members of the opposite sex. It was a way of saying, “You’re not attractive but I am trying to be nice.” It was the best that any middle-schooler could do.

My awkward phase started when I was 6, thanks to a powerful unibrow gene passed down through some mystical chromosome that no one else in my family has. I looked like I was perpetually dressed as Bert from Sesame Street for Halloween, if he had been into wearing puff paint shirts, and if Ernie had been Miko, Tropical Island Friend of Barbie.

I remember one day in sixth grade, a boy I had a crush on informed me that if my personality could be inserted into the body of my best friend Halima, we would make the perfect woman.

I’m not going to lie, I died a little inside. I went home and wept into my cabbage patch doll, Emily Michelle (named after Kristy’s adopted sister from The Babysitter’s Club), and probably listened to the one tape I owned, The Best of KC & The Sunshine Band. Now I’m kind of glad his little pre-pubescent testicles sent the message to his brain that it was an okay thing to say to a girl. Because all of those painful slights, both large and small, made me who I am today: someone with a genuinely good personality, in the body of Michelle Pfeiffer. Okay, fine, more of a wonky cross between Tina Fey and Alyson Hannigan. But still. At least I’ve mastered tweezing

I spent a lot of years in college (when I was still, unbeknownst to me, in my awkward phase, thanks to an unflattering pixie haircut and a predilection for platform sneakers and overalls) attempting to hide all photographic evidence of ages 6 to 16. But now I treasure those photos. The more tragic, the better!

Blossom hat? Don't mind if I do!

No one appreciates a Texas tuxedo like Hans Christian Andersen.

If these photos didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be able to cringe, laugh, and smile at them. If this girl didn’t exist–if she was replaced by a Sloane Peterson-perfect teen with clear skin and long legs and a virginity that would not remain intact until age 20, then who would I be now? I shudder to think.

Excuse me, I have to go listen to “God Only Knows” and sob while looking at my prom pictures, in which my foundation is approximately three shades lighter than the rest of my body.

But seriously, braces, glasses, acne, conspicuous birthmarks, a hairline that started approximately one inch above your eyebrows–whatever your personal cross was to bear, I just want to tell you that I’m so glad you had it. Because it makes you unique, and empathetic, and funny. Because it bands us together against the people who, even though we all left the playground decades ago, still try to make us feel like we’re not good enough. Because apart from The Babysitter’s Club (Claudia Kishi–I want the Yodels from your sock drawer!), there’s no club I’d rather be in than the Good Personality Club with you guys.

Jon Hamm can even come to meetings, if he brings pie. Right? Should we vote on this? Miko and I are at an impasse.

About Una LaMarche

Una LaMarche blogs at The Sassy Curmudgeon, and writes for The New York Observer, The Huffington Post, and NickMom. She dominates at mini golf, especially after a few drinks, and it is a fact that Tim Gunn once complimented her on her sandals. You can find her hawking blog posts and fetishizing candy on Twitter, and if you really want to feed her ego (which took a major hit thanks to an adolescent unibrow and a penchant for Troll doll earrings), you can become her fan on Facebook.


  1. I love this! And, based on your outfits and the Sassy reference, I believe we would have been best friends.

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      Thank you! But where were you when I needed someone to compliment my Troll doll earrings and help me pick out colors for my braces? (Turns our silver and blue is not as attractive as it sounds…)

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  2. Aja Lynn says:

    Ummm … so the awkwardness was supposed to be a phase??? Damn.

  3. schmutzie says:

    I personally LOVE your unibrow. It was rockin’.

    I had my own until they started calling Bert (as in Bert & Ernie) in grade eight. What a confidence booster that was!

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    • Una LaMarche says:

      Thank you! I love meeting my hirsute sisters. And no one called me Bert, but only because I already had a name that lent itself well to a mean nickname. Una… unibrow… unfortunate coincidence.

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  4. Kristin says:

    I absolutely LOVE this. This should be a must read piece for everyone.

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  5. barbsobel says:

    i have MY REALLY UGLY high school photo taped up near the bathroom mirror. it’s actually a cut-out, i was making a diorama with my scary photos a few years ago.

    it freaks my husband out when he’s brushing his teeth.

    i have to go match my Tretorns to the stripes in my Limited shirt now.

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  6. Jenn says:

    Love your post – well done. Makes me feel like I am a part of a big, humble family. Funny how as you get older, you realize the Good Personality Club really is the Cool Kids Club. Here’s to blooming late rather than peaking early!

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  7. Amanda says:

    I just LOVE this post. It made me smile from ear to ear the whole time I was reading it. Perfect kids make boring adults. Period. So glad someone finally said it. :)

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  8. Vikki says:

    Beautiful post. I’ve always been awkward but at least I finally figured out my hair.

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  9. Serenity says:

    Not so much concerned about the uni-brow as I am the acid washed jeans. Those made me cringe!!!!!

  10. marj says:

    Holy crud, the unibrow. I was fortunate mine was a light reddish blondish color so not too bad. I always feel sorry for the kids with the dark black or brown unibrow…pluckity pluck pluck!

    I am too old for a blossom hat but I DID have a single white glove, a zipper jacket and a number shirt. OY.

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  11. Stacey says:

    I loved this post. What I lacked in uni-brow, I made up with bowl-cut bangs (that my dad cut) and 80s-style thick glasses (although it was the 90s).

    In unrelated news, I miss your project runway recaps. I haven’t bothered to watch Season 9, it is not worth it without your snarky commentary to read afterwards.

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  12. Cheri says:

    Those perfect kids from high school aren’t so perfect now because they had so far to fall.

    I love going back to my Wyoming hometown every 10 years for our reunions. I genuinely like the people I grew up with but feel sorry for the jocks and “socias” who seem to have less hair and more body fat than the rest of us. They also seem least happy. Guess being a big fish in a small pond isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  13. MamaKaren says:

    My 7th grade yearbook has a picture of me wearing a wrinkled and untucked men’s dress shirt and a loosely tied skinny tie. I am also carrying a unicorn purse. My glasses take up half of my face.

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  14. Julie Beckham says:

    Thanks for making me laugh so hard I cried and nearly shot Mini-Wheats out through my nose. I strongly resemble your remarks about Sassy magazine and the Babysitter’s Club. However, when I went to my 10 year high school reunion, I was surprised that, even though I was pregnant at the reunion, I still looked better than I had in high school while others, who had been considered good looking in hight school, did not look as fabulous. Here’s to late bloomers!

  15. Al_Pal says:

    My ninth grade photo was the worst. Newly applied braces, an unfortunate bob haircut that I didn’t even *want* [bad hairdresser!], and teenage skin…at least I only had pimples and not really bad acne! Man, I feel for those folks…and I was always a chubby kid. In junior high a guy said that my friend looked anorexic…and that I looked “the opposite of anorexic”! & seriously, I was only chubby! Like, 5’2″, 145#. Lucky for me I was still 145-150 in HS, but arrived at my adult height of 5’4″! :P
    Much love for all my awkward homegirls. :P

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  16. Nancy says:

    The fun part about remembering all this is that mixed in with all the cringe-worthy moments are others – of friendships, of “cool” moments, of sleepovers and singing in cars. All of them sweeter because of the awkward.
    Here’s to being grown in many ways but not so grown that the cringes are the past.

  17. Alexandra says:

    Oh, I wish you could see me nodding in agreement here.

    I have often thought this, but have never said it.

    I am/was/will always be the picture next to the definition in the dictionary for the word AWKWARD.

    This, was spectacular.

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