So at first I wasn’t going to participate in this event, I guess I didn’t really “get” it. But then I decided I could share something that happened to me when I was younger that I really never talk about, even though it was a major influence on my life and the way I socialize. This is kind of a long story, so here is a pretty picture first!
When I was in 7th grade, I had a ton of friends. I was just starting to come out of my shell, and leaving behind the shy bookworm I had been before. My best friend was a blonde girl with glasses named Cassie, and my other best friend (because who has just ONE BEST friend?!) was a plump girl named Alexandra, who we all called Alex. We, with our large circle of about 15 other girls and a few boys, ruled the smart band geek level of our middle school social hierarchy. Life was good.
One day about 2 months before school let out, everything changed – and to this day I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHY. We were sitting at our usual round lunch table, eating gross cafeteria food. The sun was shining, it was hot, and everyone was laughing like they could die. I said something about wanting more chocolate milk. The table quieted. Alex looked at me and said, “Miiiilk? You want more milk?” And I said, “Uh… yeah?”
She looked directly into my eyes, leaned over the table and poured her milk carton all over my lunch. (An important note: I am NOT a food mixer. I don’t like a lot of different foods touching. Seeing other kids mix their foods together with milk in their trays made me nauseous. This was a known fact.) Her look dared me to say something, or do something. But I was too grossed out and too hurt to fight back. Tears welled up behind my glasses and I tried to jump up from the table. The boy sitting next to me who’s name I don’t remember now, tripped me and I fell hard on the concrete. Then Cassie, my best friend, pushed my food tray off the table onto me. Milk and food bits were all over me. I was hyperventilating, on the verge of throwing up, bleeding and bewildered.
Why was this happening to me?!
I limped away, dirty and humiliated. I cowered in the nurse’s office until the end of lunch, and then begged them to call my mother, unable to face going back to class. I would speak to no one about what had happened, not even my mom. I got home and took a shower, crumpled up and crying on the bath tub floor for well over an hour.
My mom told me that whatever it was would be fine. The usual parental platitudes. There, there honey. Tomorrow everyone would have forgotten what happened, my friends would laugh and smile at my jokes like always, and everything would be exactly as it had always been.
For the next two months I lived in exile. I spent my lunches on the floor outside the school office. I was called fatso, bulldyke, four eyes. I was a lezzie freak, an outcast. I was ugly, freakishly tall and everything that is wrong and bad in the world. They made fun of my looks, my glasses, my race, my weight, my fat mom, divorced parents, my intelligence. Kids made fart noises when I moved in class, spilled paint on my backpack, whispered in the halls when I walked by. In the space of 24 hours I had gone from carefree, confident pre-teen to cowering mouse, afraid of my peers, terrified of the ones who had just yesterday been my friends.
It continued till school let out. On the last day we all got to go see a movie. It was Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise. I sat alone in the corner of the theatre, and kids threw popcorn at me.
I was relieved beyond measure when the movie was over. We were bussed back to school and it was finally at an end.
This is getting frighteningly long now, so I’ll wrap it up quick. The torment continued through summer school, made worse by the “layered” haircut my mother had decided to bestow upon me. (She regrets that haircut to this day). When school started back up in September, Cassie and Alex opened their arms to me again and I was suddenly back in the good graces of my “friends.”
I never did find out why it happened… was there even a reason, or “just kids being kids?” I’ll never know. But that incident has shaped me.. made me stronger on my own, but also made it harder for me to make friends, to trust people. It did give me something great – the need to reach out to the underdog, to always be kind to someone regardless of how they look or what they believe. I am ultimately a more accepting and kind person because of what those kids did to me. I don’t know where they are now… But I hope they have lovely lives, and that the experiences they have enjoyed and endured have taught them like mine have taught me.