It’s amazing how quickly experiences can bring you back.
This Monday I covered the first day of school for the Clearwater Patch. I went to Belcher Elementary to get the requisite picture of a kindergartener giving mom one last hug before facing the brave new world of paste and crayons. While it didn’t tug on my personal heartstrings, it was a pretty cute moment and I have mostly great memories of elementary school.
Next I went to Oak Grove to get a middle school picture. My unpleasant memories of middle school, like kids tricking me into eating sand in the popcorn and getting beat up more than once, and dotted with even more unpleasant ones, like figuring out I really do suck at math (this, by the way, is not opinion. I only passed College Algebra because my professor felt sorry for me and gave me a C as long as I promised not to take any more math classes.) I also didn’t enjoy that less-than-lovely transition from normal-sized girl to girl-who-gains-weight-by-blinking. My face started breaking out (and it hasn’t stopped since) and, for the first time, I realized that there were people whose families had more than enough money and I wasn’t one of them. Girls in my class went to something called “cotillion,” which I swear until just last year I thought was some sort of racist thing for people who had money. I figured out there were parts of the beach that were private, restricted to the “haves” and off limits for the “have nots,” of which I was one.
I was socially and physically awkward. I was the kid who always had a stain on her shirt after lunch or whose pen leaked all over her blouse or tripped and fell, ass over ears, down the stairs. When I went to middle school, the worst insult you could hear was that your family bought your clothes at K-Mart. Guess who heard that one a lot. Was it true? Hell if I remember. Hell if I care now. Middle school is but a distant memory to me.
I say “but” a distant memory because the moment I set foot on middle school grounds, I reverted to a 13-year-old geek with braces, acne, and way too much Sun-In in her hair (My hair bleaches trailer-trash blonde at the faintest hint of sun and I still thought it was a great idea to drench my head with that crap several nights in a row. As you may imagine, doing this in summertime Florida was not the brightest idea.)
All around me were groups of kids wearing pretty much the same bad fashions we wore in 1983. Apparently I’d hit the formula just right so that when I opted to return to a middle school I did so at the precise moment that fashions had made a complete cycle. Anywhere else in the world this would have made me chuckle. Somehow, though, I didn’t feel superior to these young teenagers just figuring things out.
I tried to remind myself that I have a great life, a job I really love, and most of the acne’s cleared up by now. Also, I tell myself that the people who don’t like me now might be greater in number but they have more valid reasons.
Nevertheless, I feel awkward. I keep waiting for people to point and laugh. It is totally irrational. I am telling myself this when I notice that, for the first time in years, I’ve managed to get pen on my shirt. Also, my left boob has half popped out of my bra.
Awesome. Just awesome.