Essays — December 31, 2013 12:05 — 1 Comment

Why Ryan Should Like Me: 34 TOP REASONS – Elaina G. Smith

(Wherein I address my 13-year-self, who listed her 34 top attributes on a piece of notebook paper written in pencil)

Reason #26 – Large vocabulary

You collect words like trinkets, scribbling them down in notebooks to look up later. You use your dad’s old dictionary to copy down the definitions. You have a particular fondness for fanciful-sounding words (evanescent, pearlescent). You also keep a list of color words because nothing bolsters a story with a few viridian’s and cerulean’s thrown in for good measure.

Ryan doesn’t collect words like you do. You know he’s not very smart. He’s not very dumb, either. He just very is. You adore him.


Reason #8 – Pretty (sometimes)

You try very hard to be pretty for Ryan. You make a catalogue of your physical faults: too tall, too fat, nose is too big, eyes are too dark, your face is too long, your skin is too pale, etc. You go to bed dreaming you’ll wake up different. But in the meantime, you spend hours making yourself pretty. You highlight your hair (watching your blonde hair progress towards brown was traumatizing), you pluck your eyebrows until they disappear (this, you realize later, was ill-advised), you decorate yourself with hair clips, braids, necklaces, bracelets, fake nails, and earrings. You are particularly fond of blue eye shadow and black eye liner and lip-glosses in every shade. If you look in the mirror for a second, you might be pretty enough.


Reason #23 – Loves God

You love God like you love your sister, like you love your dad, like you love your grandmother who sends you frilly nightgowns for Christmas instead of cash. You love God because admitting otherwise will make your contract with him null and void. You hope to stay in his good graces just long enough that you aren’t sent to hell.

You love Ryan more than you love God.


Reason #2 – Wise (in most things)

You are not wise. You love boy after boy because if just one will reciprocate, you will be happy. You love Ryan the most. You have no real reason to love him. He’s vaguely cute, like a puppy. He is not smart. He is not talented. He is not even funny. But to you, he is beautiful.

You are not wise. You are impulsive. You tear up math tests at your desk when you get a B. You scream at bullies, you slap other girls, you cry in class. You cry when you aren’t invited to parties, you cry when classmates talk about your spider hands, you cry when you have to sit with your teacher coming home from a field trip because your one friend is sick that day. You are not wise because you think Ryan will tell you that life will get better.


Reason #31 – Stubborn

You love Ryan for four years. You are too stubborn to move on from him. You love when he asks to borrow a pencil, to have a piece of paper because he is too absentminded to have school supplies. He styles his hair with gel, pushing it up in an arch across his hairline. He has braces. He is stunning in his bleached, white polo shirt.

You decide one day to buy him paper and pencils. You have your mom take you to Target, and you get him the supplies he never can seem to bring to class, and you wrap it up in green ribbon. In the morning at school, you place it on his desk and wait for his arrival. You leave no note.

He smiles in confusion when he sees it, and you get revealed as the giver. He’s been raised too well to do anything except say thank you. You are too stubborn to see it means nothing to him.


Reason #12 – Responsible

You are responsible because you are too scared to get into trouble. The only times you get in trouble are when you react. Your bad deeds are never premeditated.

You do your homework. You study for exams. You answer politely to teachers (usually). You tuck in your shirt and always wear a belt for your school uniform. You don’t pierce your belly button (you want to so badly). You wear socks with your shoes. You go to class. You don’t smoke. You don’t drink. You don’t swear. You don’t have sex; you don’t even kiss. You say thank you when you receive a gift. You don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. You are responsible because you don’t know what else to do.

Reason #22 – Loves family (despite what she says)

Sometimes you hate your family. You hate that your sister treats you like you are stupid. You hate that your dad doesn’t care about you anymore, and you hate that he’s gay, and you hate that he will never tell you he’s gay. You hate your mom for marrying your dad, you hate her for telling you to ignore the bullies, you hate her for not letting you wear short skirts, you hate her for making you live in Missouri.

You know that Ryan has a perfect family. His parents are married. He is the oldest. His mom is so blonde and so pleasant. His family has money. His mom drives an SUV. His dad isn’t gay. You probably envy Ryan more than you love him.


Reason #27 – Can write well

You keep notebooks of parts of stories (you never finish one), ideas for stories, ideas for characters, maps of fantasy worlds, names of characters. You write at night and dream about being published.

Ryan doesn’t write things. You’re not even sure he reads things. He plays basketball. He asks you for answers for the math homework. He gets B’s because his mom makes him study. You get A’s without trying.


Reason #33 – Tries to go against the grain in some aspects (discreetly, at least)

You go against the grain as much as you go with the grain. You have a desperate need to be popular. You are not sure what being popular entails, but it definitely means having a boyfriend who gives you necklaces. Being popular means you are number one in someone’s mind to invite to a party. Being popular means people do not make fun of you for being awkward. Being popular means being envied. You want to be envied more than you want to be loved.


Reason #20 – Clean Feet

You can only own to having clean feet, not dainty feet. You see your feet grow and grow and grow. Your feet are one of many things you hate about yourself. You wonder seriously if you could cut off your toes to make your feet shorter. You ask if you can walk without your toes. Sadly, the answer is no. You wonder if it would be worth it not to walk if you could have smaller feet. You wish your mom had bound your feet like Chinese girls.


Reason #3 – Loyal

You are loyal to the point that you hurt yourself. You are loyal because you are convinced your loyalty will earn you someone’s regard.

You are loyal to Ryan because you love him. You make an extra effort to be pretty at your first dance in ninth grade. You get a dress that looks like something a saloon girl would have worn, you wrap your throat in ribbons, you tie a headband in your hair, you even wear lipstick. You purchase fake nails and file them down and paint them maroon and meticulously glue on a single rhinestone in each corner. You also decide to wear gloves but then realize they would cover up your nails so you cut off the fingers.

You are loyal enough to ask Ryan to dance. He declines. You go to the bathroom and come back to see him dancing with another girl instead.

You don’t realize that sometimes loyalty is not a virtue.



You are not desperately in love with Ryan. You are desperately in love with the idea of him. Ryan could be smarter or dumber or uglier or prettier or poorer or richer and he could have been named Mike or Dave or Steve and it wouldn’t have mattered. You have pinned all your hopes on him because you have no other man to pin your hopes on.

Ryan will tell you you’re pretty and worthy.

Ryan does not tell you that.

Ryan is a scapegoat.

Poor Ryan. Someone should have warned him about you.


Reason #32 – Vibrant personality

You don’t realize you are memorable. You don’t realize that you make people laugh. You don’t realize that you are clever. You don’t know anything about yourself. You write that you are vibrant but you don’t believe it.

Ryan doesn’t tell you that you are vibrant. You have to figure it out yourself.


Elaina G. Smith currently attends the University of Missouri-Kansas City's MFA program. She has been published in [PANK] and is the Managing Editor of Revolution House. She lives on the Kansas side of Kansas City with her two annoying cats.

One Comment

  1. RT says:

    This is great! Thank you.

Leave a Reply

The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney