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"It ought to be a crime to look this good."
I sat in my mother's car and checked out my freshly styled hair. The flips of my dark brown locks looked nothing like the glossy picture I had brought in to my hair dresser, but it was cute so I didn't mind much. My sixteenth birthday party would be the next day. The cake had been ordered, the decorations picked and stowed away, and I was expecting my father and half brother to arrive the next day. To say that I was excited would be an understatement; I had handed out my hand made invitations the prior week, and expected my classmates and friends to arrive and party the night away with me.
"I can't wait." I gushed over the phone to my best friend Paris later in my room. Paris and I had met the previous year, and quickly became best friends. I planned on picking her up the next day so she could help me, my mom and brothers set up. We talked about everything that would be happening, and I hung up the phone and went to sleep dreaming of a My Super Sweet 16 worthy event.
The next morning I woke up and rode with my mother to the airport to pick up my father and younger half brother Shayeh. I hugged my father, who looked a little rough since I had seen him last, and looked up into a face similar to my own. As his bespeckled gaze met my own, I knew he was happy. I was happy to finally be able to spend my first birthday with my father since I was five. He had cheated on my mother when I was young with Shayeh's mom who was now my step mother. I never understood how a man who claimed to love his family so much could throw it away on a short unattractive women who in no way could even begin to compete with my mother. I actually felt personally slighted by his mistakes. Was I that unimportant to him? Did he not love me? I would see him for two weeks out of the year in the summers. I often felt a little detached from my dad because of his absence, and I was ashamed and upset with that fact. I put all of the blame squarely on him, and was very resentful of Shayeh, who had gotten to live in a two parent household, while I was so jaded by my parents split it was and still is hard for me to trust. It wasn't until later that I learned that the grass wasn't always greener on the other side.
"Crap it's windy," I thought as Paris and I tried in vain to tape down the personalized banner above the door of the hall. Everyone was buzzing about, posters of mediocre films, such as Cat Woman hung on the walls (hey, my mom tried) and my colors; pink, gold and black were everywhere. My theme was old Hollywood and we put movie accents everywhere. My stepfather was the D.J and was quietly setting up in the corner. I myself stood in my pink velour jogging suit, the wind blowing into my face worrying about how many people would actually show up. I wasn't exactly popular in school. I had friends, but I was painfully awkward and shy. Although it was my sixteenth birthday, I had had yet to have a boyfriend, or even a first kiss. It bothered me, and I tried to climb the social ladder by following the latest trends and acting like the cool kids. It took me awhile to realize that being myself would ultimately make me happier than any amount of friends.
"Pass me your lip gloss."
Paris held out her hand and I gave her the small tube. We were standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom getting ready. I had on a long glittery pink halter dress with a sparkly tiara on top of my head. (To this day I do not know where that tiara went.) Paris went with my color scheme and wore black. I was trying to fix a bump in my hair and stared dejectedly at my flat chest.
"This sucks," I said frowning into the mirror.
Paris smirked. "Well at least you don't have too much! Look at me."
I looked over. Paris was very well endowed. I had little sympathy for her though, in my head bigger was indeed better.
"Man, you have something there! I don't have anything," I looked down at the flat patch of brown skin between the low v of the dress.
"You should be happy that you're little, you don't have to hide your body."
"Yeah whatever, pass me those boob pads."
It's funny, now the very things I was insecure about in high school are the things I embrace now. I'm still skinny, and my boobs have only gotten a smidge bigger, but thanks to my discovery of the push up bra, and some well placed confidence, I've come to love the body god gave me, and I wouldn't trade it in for the world.
"Nobody's gonna come!" I wailed out at the table.
My close friends Jahleia, Paris, Alexia, Bailey and Dominique all rolled their eyes in unison.
"We're here!" They all cried.
"Yeah I guess," I said sitting back and pouting. Look, before you judge me, it wasn't that I didn't appreciate my dear friends that were there. I had given out A LOT of invitations. Invitations that I had printed, and put together myself. So you can just about guess how I was feeling right about then. I only had to worry a bit longer as more people showed up. Nobody else from school, but my family and friends made me feel like the belle of the ball. Cameras flashed, food was devoured (the Chocolate fountain was a hit.) and I danced a little (remember the whole shy thing.) the night was turning out to be a great success. I spotted my dad speaking to my stepfather at the DJ booth, and seconds later he motioned me over as Luther Vandross' "Dance with my Father" suddenly drifted from the speakers. He pulled me to the middle of the dance floor and took me into his arms. As we swayed awkwardly to the music, he told me how much he loved me, and how much he cared. I listened with biased ears, remembering his past indiscretions. I should have listened harder. I should have engrained every word into my mind. I say that because now I see the complete irony of the situation. As Luther begged for one last dance with his father, I was unwittingly having the last dance with my own. It was nothing fancy, no twirls or sways. No complicated steps or dips. We barely moved. I had my cheek pressed against his firm chest as he held me close, as if it would be the last embrace we would share. It wasn't, we hugged as he boarded the plane home. I still remember driving away, angry that he had lied about my birthday present and disappointed me yet again. I gave no thought to that dance. To the heartfelt words he spoke and the way he seemed reluctant to let me go. I didn't know that I would never ever see him in person ever again. My sweet sixteen taught me many lessons, and the biggest one that I hope that you reader take away from this is to always cherish and appreciate your loved ones. They are far from perfect, and they may hurt you, but no day is ever promised. I remember that every time I hear that familiar melody and wish that I could take those slow even steps and hear that gruff voice in my ear telling me "I will always love you" again.