Mara Fendrich, Staff Writer

My demise began in a Minnesota CVS.

My cousin, Natalie, and I were wreaking havoc on the far wall stocked with Maybelline, desperately searching for my fated first lipstick shade. I ran the chipped, magenta-lacquered nail of my index finger along nearly every tube on the wall before my hand twitched and knocked one named “Pink Peony” from its position on the bottom row. As I lifted and rolled it around in my hand, I saw Natalie nod; we’d already been searching for 10 minutes, and the previous hour consisted of a mile-long walk and cross-legged sitting on the concrete while we waited for the doors to open.

The 20-something cashier rang up my purchase, an amused look on his face. I was six cents short, but he thankfully forgave me, as I was a nine-year-old and hadn’t thought to calculate the tax on my iPod.

On the first day back from the Minnesota visit, I walked into class with “Pink Peony” smeared brazenly across my lips. The rubbernecking from my classmates went unnoticed; it wasn’t until a friend elbowed me and motioned at her mouth that I caught onto the feedback. Using my backpack as a shield, I rushed to the girls’ bathroom and recklessly attacked the Lavagirl-colored lipstick with my white sleeve. All my attempt succeeded in doing was moving the crime scene to my chin. With my confidence stripped and the lower half of my face besmirched, I retreated to my classroom and sunk down in a plastic navy chair, my head hung and tears brimming my eyes. That cursed Maybelline tube was shoved to the deepest corner of my bag.

When I told my mom what had happened that day, she laughed a little. According to her, I had a while before my teenage years. I didn’t need to try to be mature so early on.

But despite her words, I still voiced my curiosities about growing up. I had no idea how babies were made, or why TeenNick on channel 103 aired that commercial of girls playing sports so often.

“You’re at that special age, Mara,” said my mom. “You’re a flower. And the Fendrichs are early bloomers.”

That title, while designed for empowerment, put pressure on my little fourth-grade brain. This whole “flower” thing was news to me, seeing that I had no idea how to be a woman, and a flower was the ultimate symbol of femininity. I needed answers, ones I knew my mother wouldn’t provide.

When she left with the neighborhood ladies for their nightly walk, I snuck into her bathroom and pulled on whatever would open. In one of the bottom drawers, I found a box exactly like what I saw on TeenNick. The top right corner had an image of something that appeared to be opening. Was it in bloom? Was I one step closer to accessing a womanly secret?

As it turned out, no. When I opened the box and took one of the products out, what I found definitely wasn’t a flower. So I kept searching. My persistence eventually paid off; I found something I could use. I realized where I’d went wrong earlier.

The next morning at school, I didn’t make the same mistake again. I vowed to never attempt to wear “Pink Peony” again; instead, it found its forever home in the garbage. When I sat down at my pod and waited for class to begin, my friend once again elbowed me and motioned at her lips. I flashed my smile at her. A tube of my mom’s brightest red lipstick was tucked into my front pocket in case I needed to reapply. What I discovered in the grown-ups’ bathroom was that there wasn’t one way to be a flower, or even to bloom. I could flourish and evolve and still stick to everything that made me myself, and that started with the fact that I wasn’t a pink peony. I wanted to be a rose.