One of the most popular themes at TeenInk.com is self-esteem and fitting in. From time to time, just about everyone feels like an outsider or a freak at their school, work, camp, or other community. Lots of our writers have shared their stories of insecurity, and we're highlighting one of them for you today. I hope you enjoy reading this story by Teen Ink member Sagechime.
I wouldn't ask for a dressing room. My mom always asked for me.
The evening before I had repeatedly risen from my seat and piled on excess noodles suffocated in meat sauce. Then I licked my bowl with the buttered garlic bread, leaving no evidence of the four servings I had inhaled. In the morning I would be forced to lie on my bed and suck in my stomach just to button my jeans. I dreaded school shopping. The sale rack, with its slender size markers, knew my number continued to bloat.
I learned how to eat from my dad: fast and without thinking. In our house, the dinner table involved battle, with the children on defense. One false move and our dinner would be snatched off our plates without warning and gobbled up by our father faster than we could blink. We soon learned to keep a hand up while devouring our chicken strips, and if Mom decided to cook that night we needed to hurry and get seconds before it was gone.
Only one pair of jeans I tried on fit. I lied and told my mother I could button every pair but only needed the jeans that lay guarded in my hands. We walked to the checkout.
I kept my head down as we passed a group of girls. They whispered. I glanced up only long enough to know my place. Their eyes cut at me, hands cupped over their mouths in secrecy.
The recess bell rang and I followed two girls in my third grade class out past the monkey bars to the fenced grassy area. We all wore the same clothes that year: khaki pants and polo shirts. Everyone was the same, or that was the idea.
"I like your pants. Where did you get them?" Marcy asked Alicia. I nodded in agreement, thankful they had removed their cupped hands and I could hear the conversation.
"Really? I like yours better," Alicia replied.
"We should trade. What size are you?" Marcy asked.
"I don't know ..." Alicia said, finding the tag in the back of her pants. "Seven."
"Me too," Marcy said.
I hid in line as I held the jeans, tag folded in so nobody could see the number inscribed on it was 12. I am not a size seven.