I just binged GEEK girl on Netflix, over the last few nights. Of course, I was drawing a comic while watching. A comic about being a Geeky Girl. Probably no surprise since this blog is called "TeddyBear and GeekyGirl", right?

I related to this movie in so many ways, but the two biggest are Neurodivergence and Modeling. The description of the movie is: Awkward, neurodivergent teenager Harriet Manners whose life is turned upside down when she is spotted to be a model and embarks on a life-affirming journey of self-discovery as she balances high school and high fashion.

I was also an awkward, neurodivergent teenager - before there was "neurodivergent"... or Aspie, or Autistic... or anything really, except "geeky". And I was in a private school where I definitely did not fit in. I think I had the only divorced, working mom in a school of rich kids with country club mothers. I did not have the right clothes, house... lifestyle. And on top of that, I had an incredibly rare tumor.

In middle school, I went through a few biopsies, they weren't successful. I woke up with transfusions in my feet. And then a series of experimental radiation. Half my face looked burned, my hair fell out in back, and I lost my eyebrow and eyelashes. FREAK.

But, despite the vomiting, the nosebleeds, and taking every Wednesday off, I always made the High Honor Roll and no one, not even my closest friend (probably not that close after all?), knew I spent every afternoon at Mass General in Boston. And did my homework while sitting in traffic on Storrow Drive. By the light of the makeup mirror. I embraced being invisible. I didn't want anyone to know I was different.

In the tv show, Harriet gets overwhelmed, has panic attacks, is oversensitive to foods (her dad packs very particular foods in her lunch and none of them touch), sounds, light, crowds... everything. She talks too fast and spouts facts about her passions when she is anxious. And yet, it is all part of her style. That's kind of the point of the show - to embrace being herself - to own it. (I am a GEEK, wouldn't you like to be a Geek too?)

The loneliness is real. She compares herself to a polar bear in a rain forest.

So, back to modeling. I was a freak polar bear trying to fit in with adorable penguins, on the wrong side of the planet. But one of MY superpowers was saying "watch me" when told I couldn't do something. (Possibly, that's why I'm still alive when the doctors said I wouldn't live past 25?)

The radiation treatments ended. The vomiting eventually ended too. I went to bike camps to prove I wasn't an invalid. I biked from Canada through VT, and then all the way along Long Island Sound. When my hair grew back in... I got a job modeling at Saks Fifth Avenue in Boston!

I never thought I was pretty. I only saw the deformities on my face and body. But looking back at my 16 year old self... I wish I had known I was OK. One of the runway models told me I had "beautiful hands" and another said I had a "nice smile". I learned that the weight I had lost during radiation, and my height, were assets in the modeling world - as long as I continued to not eat. Runway models have to be bone thin so they can fit whatever clothes they are handed.

The best way to teach a teen girl how insane anorexia and other body issues are, is to have them work behind the scenes of runway fashion.

On the other hand... my job at Saks was to wear actual clothes from the racks, walk around the department store, and direct people where they could find what I was wearing. What a concept, right?! This was loooong before Amazon and social media. But the perks were an ENORMOUS discount on any clothes I wanted. At the time, Esprit was the label of choice and I had a lot of nice Esprit clothes. For the first time, I could pretend to fit in in High School.

I'm not sure what the Universe is trying to tell me now, but the High School period of my life keeps bonking me in the head lately. Maybe because my daughter is a Junior now too? But she is actually a year older (I was only 16 as a Junior). She's beautiful too. But doesn't realize it. Or maybe it's because I cleaned out another closet and sold my (now vintage) Norma Kamali flats (purple!) on eBay.

(Yes, of course, they were from Saks.) I loved those shoes. No one in my school had those shoes. Just me.

So many tv shows lately with Neurodivergent characters. They're Geeky but lovable. Quirky. Original. So how do you embrace your uniqueness, if you are no longer sure of who you are? A 16 year old making bold choices is one thing - but I'm going to be 55 this fall - and I still don't know how to be a grown up - how do I start over AGAIN? And where oh where is my Tribe of fellow Geeky Polar Bears!?