It was on my tenth birthday when I opened the large manila envelope. Inside that envelope was was the first of many seeds.

My fourth grade teacher had a tradition for celebrating the birthdays of her students by having everyone in class draw them a birthday card. Just magic markers on stiff paper, we all enjoyed the break we would get making a card whenever someone would have a birthday. On the last day of school she had everyone draw cards for the people that were to have birthdays over the summer (this included me). Over the summer she would dutifully mail out each and every one of us "summer children" an envelope full of hand drawn birthdy cards (timing the delivery just right). I was so excited to get mine, it had come the day before my 10th birthday. My mother made me wait to open it (looking back now, I wonder how different I would be today, if I had never opened that envelope at all).

The next day came. I opened my envelope to look at all of my wonderful cards. I smiled at the first one. The second one wiped the smile from my face. By the third one I was in tears. There were 25 cards in that envelope, 17 of them had your standard grade school art on them. The other 8 did not. There was a little clique of 8 pretty girls that were in my class. They also drew cards for me. But the cards from them were a little bit different than the rest.

I can still remember exactly what some of them said.

"No one at this school likes you, I hope you aren't in my class next year."

"This is a picture of outer space. Space is messy just like you. You should live there".

"If you see me at school next year. Please don't talk to me. I don't like you"

One of the cards just had "I hate you" scribbled on it about 50 times. The others I can no longer remember (not that i would want to anyway). I am just glad that my mother was not in the room when I opened the cards. Her attempts at comforting me would have only made things worse.

The first seeds had been sown.

The bad experience of my 10th birthday just made me try that much harder to gain the favor of the pretty girls in school. Junior high came and went, without any major traumatic experiences (plenty of minor ones though). Then came high school (oh yes, angst filled high school).

In my sophomore year I took several of the more advanced classes. There was no shortage of pretty girls in the rows of desks around me (most of them were a year older then me). I began to talk to one group of girls regularly, most of them were cheerleaders. They all had that sort of beauty that only sixteen year old girls could possess. They were nice to me. By the second semester I was eating lunch with them everyday. I finally began to think that I was normal. I had a crush on one of the girls in particular, Marissa. She was a pretty, slightly short, sixteen year old cheerleader. The kind of girl that all the guys were after. After much internal debate, I decided to write her a love letter. The results, were not what I had hoped.

Why in the world would you ever think that I would go out with you? The only reason we even let you eat lunch with us is because we feel sorry for you. Marissa said rather loudly in front of everyone.

She looked over toward her friend, Tell him Jacqueline, tell him!

Jacqueline paused for a moment before quietly saying, I'm sorry.

The second seed was sown.

The third and final seed happened right after high school. I had began to date a pretty, artsy type girl named Jamie. We went out exactly three times before I received a phone call from her best friend.

Jamie doesn't want to go out with you anymore. She didn't know that you were a dork when you first asked her out.

Now 8 years later, I find myself making my own standards of beauty (having lost the desire to be hurt another time). I now seek out quiet, plain looking women with glasses, exactly the opposite of the loud and beautiful women I once pursued.

From time to time, one attractive woman or another will show an interest in me. I usually cannot even see it myself (I have put up walls to them). But my friends will point out their attentions toward me (which then become clear as day). But I simply cannot bring myself to become interested an any of them (it was difficult even with Katie, and she was only a little bit pretty). I just can't shake the ghosts of my past off of my back for long enough to see the possiblity that maybe, just maybe, this time, things would be different.

There are all kinds of women in the world, I am sure there are plenty of women who are as attractive on the inside as they are on the outside. It is just difficult for me to let myself see that. This is a problem that I have to deal with. This problem belongs solely to me and me alone. You (the reader), did not cause me to feel this way. Perhaps some day I will work through this, perhaps not. But either way, this is my problem to deal with.