By Jean Park, 18, Harvard-Westlake School (2011 graduate)
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Jean is learning to have fun and not pay attention to her insecurities.

I don’t like wearing dresses. I don’t like that I have muscular legs from playing soccer. They make me feel manly in a dress or a skirt so I feel more comfortable in jeans or soccer shorts. My typical outfit is a pair of black jeans that have faded a lot because they have been washed so many times, flannel with a plain T-shirt and Converse. I only wear dresses when I have to.

In elementary school I was a tomboy. I was the only girl in my grade who wore the uniform shorts instead of the uniform skirts and I played sports with the boys. My mom forced me to wear dresses for family pictures, but they showed only a few inches of my shin. My parents and friends knew that I didn’t like wearing dresses.

I usually got away with wearing something other than a dress. For the eighth grade Halloween dance, I wore leggings and a nice shirt, and sported nice dress pants for the orchestra concert. But my freshman year was more demanding. It was the year my grade was allowed to attend the semi-formal dance, and to my friends it was a huge deal. Who you took to the dance didn’t matter, but to my misfortune what you wore did. I told my friends I didn’t have a dress to wear, but they had so many dresses they weren’t planning on wearing that my excuse didn’t work.

My good friend Lily let me borrow a black dress that fell right above my knees. I agreed to wear it, hoping that my bruised and scabbed knees from soccer would go unnoticed. A few days before semi-formal, I wanted to get rid of the scabs so I scratched off the hard surface on my left knee. My heart stopped when I saw blood dripping down my leg. Trying not to stain the carpet, I made my way to the cabinet with the Neosporin and Band-Aids. The blood soaked through the Band-Aid a little bit, but at least the pain stopped.

When I saw cameras I wanted to hide 

Jean's typical outfit is black jeans, a T-shirt and flannel.

The night before the dance, I tried on the dress again and walked around my room to get more comfortable wearing it. But when everyone met up at a friend’s house before the dance, I felt my heart pound again. All of a sudden, I didn’t want anyone to look at me. Parents were there with cameras and everyone wanted to see each other’s dresses. I felt that my friends, who all had long, slender legs, looked better in their dresses. I turned around whenever I caught someone looking at what I was wearing and I stood on the third set of stairs so I could hide my body when parents were taking pictures.

At the dance, I pushed my chair in all the way so the tablecloth would cover my legs. When I walked past the boy I had a crush on, I forced myself to walk taller so I seemed slimmer. When some of my friends got up to dance, they pulled me onto the dance floor. Surprisingly, after a few minutes, I was having so much fun dancing and singing to Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk that I wasn’t thinking about my sock tan or my Band-Aid.

Although I survived wearing a dress for one night, I decided that dresses were for special occasions. During my sophomore and junior years I didn’t attend the semi-formals and I wasn’t involved in anything that required me to wear a dress.

At the beginning of senior year, I made a pact with Lily to go “all out” during our last year in high school. That meant painting our faces for the Homecoming football game, dressing in school colors during Spirit Week and of course, attending our last semi-formal.

Lily offered me one of her dresses again and I didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I did three years ago. I liked dressing up and being a little more feminine for one day because it’s not something I do every day.

Before the dance, we met at a friend’s house and just as we were about to leave, all the girls walked into Julia’s bathroom to get one last look. It turned out that every person had something they were worried about. Emma had trouble walking in her heels, Rebecca was worried about her sunburn and Lily was nervous about her hair extensions falling out. But seeing their excitement despite their insecurities helped me get rid of mine. I realized that events like school dances should be memorable and the only way to have fun was not to worry.

This year, we were so excited that the dance was on the rooftop of a building that we ate for only 10 minutes, then spent the rest of the time laughing and dancing. I didn’t mind so much that I was in a dress this time because I didn’t want my insecurities to get in the way of me having fun.

Jean picked a long dress for prom instead of a short one so she'd be more comfortable.

Over the years, I’ve learned to adjust to my body and see what kinds of clothes make me feel the most comfortable. Although I’ll always feel better in jeans, I’ve realized that you don’t have to be “girly” to wear a dress. I’ve grown to become more comfortable in some dresses and I’m sure there will be more occasions in the future when I’ll have to wear them. I’ll still feel a little insecure, but much more comfortable than before.