Friday, December 15, 2006

Two Eyes, Four Eyes, Six Eyes, a Dollar!

So I've kind of put myself in a self-imposed exile this week (did I really need to specify that it was "self-imposed" since I clearly said I put myself in it? Hence it was obviously self-imposed? Probably not, but that's just me, good ole' redundant AMG). Why? Not because of any contagious sickness or hideous deformity or because I'm taking time to find myself, but because I have to wear my glasses all week since I'm getting my eyes mapped in preparation for either Lasik or ICL. Which sucks when there is a perfectly good pair of contact lenses sitting on my sink.

At least it sucks for me, because wearing my glasses immediately takes me back to the time between sixth grade and ninth grade when I cried myself to sleep almost every night. To the time when I had giant purple plastic glasses with inch-thick frames, the biggest overbite this side of modern dentistry complete with snaggletooth, a short haircut that could possibly be considered "in" now by some emo boy but looked awful on me, giant dimples that only served to highlight my huge cheeks, and a body that was not only somewhere on the curve scale between a two-by-four and a surfboard but was also a foot taller than everyone else in my grade, including the boys. And sometimes the teacher.

I tried to fit in...oh, did I try. I went to a small school, with under 50 kids in the entire grade, and I was good friends with most of them up until about sixth grade, when looks suddenly started to matter and the tiny blonde girls with straight teeth and emerging boobs rocketed to the top of the popularity scale. This was driven into sudden, sharp, and heartbreaking focus when I was invited to the birthday party of a girl who had previously been one of my closest friends, only to be told that it would be better if I didn't go, since her mother made her invite me. As I felt my grasp on my life-long friends slipping away, I tried to buy them back with gifts of hand-decorated barrettes and pencil toppers and drawings (my sketches of Lisa Frank unicorns had always been insanely popular), which only developed into fodder for the snubbings. I developed an insane crush on a boy, which the entire class knew about, and it served only to massively embarrass both me and him. My lack of an Adidas winter coat (the solid color one with two stripes down the arms) and that brand of gym shorts everyone had, the name of which I can't remember now but I think it started with a "U", cemented my place in the lowest echelon of students, above only Laura G. and Jacob C., two extremely bright kids with the unfortunate pairing of horrendous acne and a complete lack of social skills. Either because of or in spite of the fact that it was a Catholic school, the teasing was vicious and cruel, and I can even now, fourteen years later, call out the worst offenders by name. I had three girlfriends who served as confidants, but their constant bickering about who was better friends with whom meant I never grew exceptionally close to any of them.

Up until sixth grade, my status as a teacher's child had protected me from the worst of it and had given me a sort of celebrity status among the children, since I was given unprecedented access into the private lives of the teachers and grew up knowing their first names - and sometimes (gasp!) even visited their homes (shocking since common theory held that the teachers all lived at school). That protective wall crumbled around me at the beginning of sixth grade, and it never fully recovered, even to this day. However, the start of high school offered welcome relief, as I went to an all-girls school where the worst of the boys couldn't go and the worst of the girls didn't follow. I got braces for my teeth and the snaggletooth pulled. I learned that girls can be vicious and cruel, for sure, but that when you take boys out of the equation, the playing field levels out - with most of the students receiving first honors and the top students racing for valedictorian with A+ GPAs that tied stretching into the fifth or sixth digit, brains began to outrank beauty for importance.

Sophomore year I blossomed, as my hair had grown out, I lost the braces, got contacts, grew into my cheeks and dimples, developed hips and boobs, and perhaps most importantly had close, true friends. It was still difficult, as the emotional trauma of the last few years had left me completely raw and lacking confidence, but I can point to that year as the year I began to grow into myself and thought for the first time ever that maybe I could grow up to be pretty.

An abusive boyfriend my senior year through my first two years of college knocked me flat on my ass both physically and emotionally, and the growth I had experienced through then regressed a bit. However, that experience never matched the pain of grade school, which may explain my blasé and cursory attitude towards both him and the situation.

Five years later, I'm happier and more confident than ever - except when I put on my glasses and remember how I couldn't wear sunglasses OR play "Heads Up, Seven Up" without them smooshing my face, which is a grievous injustice for an eight-year-old.

Speaking of "Heads Up, Seven Up"...I feel like a game. Anyone in?


Melinda said...

I'm totally in! In fact, I just played that game with my students yesterday :)

Your post really spoke to me because there are so many parallels to my own life: the glasses, having a mom as a teacher at my very small school, being a nerdy kid, growing into myself in high school (an all-girls school) and had a boyfriend who used to tell me I was fat and all sorts of other fun things...

I hope you look on your younger self with pride - and feel even better about the person you've grown into. Even if your glasses are smushing your nose during Heads Up Seven Up.


buffalodickdy said...

If there was a blind spot I was blessed with growing up, I never differeniated between rich, poor, good looking or homely, smart or dumb. It sure helped when I grew up and found out I was right all along! Sometime while growing up, you are the odd kid out-and it does hurt.

Mr. Toast said...

Kudos on a touching post, which I can relate to as I also grew up a nerdy, bespectacled "spaz" who was the butt of jokes by the "popular" kids.

But from your writing and your photos, I see a beautiful, classy, highly intelligent woman, and I'm glad that both of us turned out OK after all.

donius said...

They were Umbros!

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how to play whatsoever but I sure would play anytime with you.

This was an honest post. Children, young people can be so cruel.
I was incredibly unpopular at school and once I got that reputation it was impossible to shake off but I just sort of went through it not knowing it could be different. Thank God for college.

So you turned out pretty, smart, funny with a great boyf and no bitterness? I wonder if all those once-popular girls did so well...


Ilanna said...

ahh - the joys of childhood.

I was the heavy one. Truthfully at that time, i wasn't all that heavy. (around a size 12 or 14 and a lot of that was bust and butt - inherited.) But i was mostly used for homework etc. (which was odd since i never did it :) )

children can be incredibly cruel - but you also came out of it a better person. This is not to say that i sanction the cruelty, but i think a lot of people benefit from that social interaction at that age. The kids who are homeschooled through that era end up with issues. (I have a friend who was homeschooled all through HS. She didn't learn to drive til she was 22. She had a bf (one of my friends) after joining our group, he was her first everything. Then he dumped her and she was a mess for about 2 years. She is FINALLY starting to socialize again, and go to school etc. But her lack of experience decimated her.

So as much as it hurt - you are a better person for it, and as others have said - you've grown into a lovely confident woman. :) (man do i sound preachy in this HAHAHA)

I feel your pain though - i'm the one who thought she'd never get married etc. and here i am.

So HUG the pups and have a happy holiday!

scott c said...

I really couldn't connect with this post. I was pretty much the coolest kid that ever existed at my school.

Internal Expert said...

I always cheated at Heads Up Seven Up. While I had my head down I looked at the person's shoes, so I could pick them out of the line-up later.

The Wonder Years sucked, didn't they?

5 of 9er said...

Wow... and this morning I thought I was bummed because my eyes were bugging me and I could not get my contacts in... so I was Mr. Poopy-Pants because I had to wear my glasses. My glasses are not comfortable... but they do not bring back awful childhood memories. Wowzers indeed.

I too was a Heads Up cheater.

Chris said...

Well, you've certainly grown up pretty. Beautiful, in fact. And I say that in the least-creepy way possible. :)

Puberty was unkind to me too. I was 4'10" my freshman year of high school and was a skinny little zit factory for the rest of it. I don't feel that I actually "bloomed" until my mid-20s.

The great thing about blooming late though? You keep getting better looking as you age, while those popular girls who bloomed early all look like weathered hags.

Thanks for sharing this story. It was a nice bit of insight.

Oh, and I hope the surgery or whatever they do to your eyes works out okay. :)

Aliecat said...

I, too, was mocked throughout junior high...sucked. I also was in an abusive relationship and that shit takes a long time to get over...

mysterygirl! said...

A great post, AMG. Most of the interesting people I know now were not especially cool as kids (and of course I count myself among them). :) I rocked the skinny/glasses/braces look, myself, so you were in good company!