By age thirteen a truckload of hormonal changes had come raining down on me. I was emotionally still a girl, but now suddenly I was becoming a young woman. It was frightening. Nature was running its course and pubescent girls had to just sit helplessly waiting, during what amounted to a high-stakes poker game, nervously watching to see what cards they would be dealt in the game of life.

Dad said I had racehorse legs. Was that a good thing? Anyway, I was broad shouldered, small waisted, and slim hipped with new rosebud boobies starting to blossom. What should I do about it? It was embarrassing and reassuring at the same time. It seemed too early to start becoming . . . a woman. Then, suddenly and mysteriously, lovely things began happening to me. Nature was working its magic, transforming Raquel Tejada into someone else.

However, the game was playing out slowly, taking its time over a period of a couple of years. Whereas for some girls it was one summer—and whamo!—girl to woman at the speed of light, for me it was more like watching grass grow. My development was gradual . . . a work in progress.

It's my theory that during this early period of uncertainty, almost all women come to hate themselves physically. I haven't met a woman yet who really likes her looks. That's because we don't identify with the finished product but with the anxious memory of waiting to see whether we'll win or lose. Not many draw a winning hand in the first round. But once the game begins, we can bluff our way through and play along the best we can. And that's the essence of the female persona, concentrating on our strong suit and shaping our hand into a winning streak.

From Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage by Raquel Welch (April 1, 2010); reprinted with permission from the publisher.


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