Starting university was supposed to be a fresh start, but I carried my issues in a suitcase. Being around new classmates made me feel self-conscious as I still felt insecure about myself. While no one cared about popularity contests, the trauma from having to care so much about what and how others perceived me from elementary to high school carried over. To make up for the years of hiding myself in school, I dyed my hair in various shades of the rainbow and dressed like a Tumblr girl. Having a sense of individuality without having to be judged for it felt freeing, but I still felt judged.
Daniel* (not real name), a Jordan Belfort lookalike, was three years older and two grades above me. We shared the same East Asian Pop Culture Studies and Asia Media class, where we sat a footlong apart from each other. A son of a FBI agent and Pacific Palisades native, Daniel had that rich California boy steeze of gelled hair, intense brown eyes and fitted tees. He was Aaron Samuels and I, Cady Heron.
“I like your hair,” Daniel said.
“Thanks,” I said sheepishly.
I would have never guessed that he would like my blue/green/purple pixie cut, which was not intended to make myself appeal to him. The one thing that made me stand out to him was that my face was considered “exotic” to men like him. Since he made the first move on me, it was a new sensation for me as I usually had to do the chasing to get their attention.
Because I never had a boyfriend in high school, I wanted to return the interest. I texted him asking for lunch plans, but he ghosted. Then, Daniel asked me to meet up with him for dinner. I accepted, but he didn’t follow through when I asked if we were still going out for dinner. One day, I decided to confront him after our East Asian Pop Culture Studies class ended. Before I could get a single word in, Daniel’s friend bumped into us. While I made small talk with his friend, Daniel walked away from me the moment I attempted to talk to him. Little did I know that it was a set up for his sneaky and humiliating escape plan.
Though I had outed my Asperger’s in my uni’s newspaper, I thought that Daniel would be able to acknowledge it as it was distributed across campus and perhaps read it. But, he didn’t care that I had it. From there, being mistreated by Daniel prompted me to hide my condition again in real life and on dating apps.