The Prive of Being Me

March 8, 2008
By Shannon McClure, Mesa, AZ

Hurtful names fly across the lunchroom faster than the French fried potatoes that are constantly being launched into space. I know that the names are all directed at me, and most of the fries are as well. But I don’t care. Scratch that. I do.

I tried explaining this to my mom on the pay phone halfway through the lunch period. But she didn’t understand. She was popular in school. I’m not. They all hate me because I’m different. I don’t fall under one of their perfectly organized categories. Table A: Rina and her cronies. They literally could be in the dictionary under the word popular. Table B: The jocks. Perfectly located at the prime table situated next to the wanna-be celebrities that have named themselves “Rina’s Girls”. How original. Table C: The brainiacs. I suppose I could sit by them, in hopes that their smartness will rub off on me, but to be initiated, you have to be able to answer ten questions correctly that have answers with numbers too high to fit onto a calculator. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. Table D: everybody who doesn’t fall under one of the above columns. They seem nice enough a first, but all they really want is to sit at table A or B. I can’t really help them on their ascent of the social ladder that is Sunshine Meadow Middle. Then there is Table E: as in none of the above? That would be me.

Until three months ago, everything was fine. Then we had the talk. (The "we" refers to my mother and I.) It was a “We’re Moving and You Have No Way Out” talk. Yes, I’ve named it. Sixteen of these have happened during my life. Starting when I was two, and now, I’m twelve. You do the math. Or better yet, have a brainiac do it for you. I’m twelve, and hated. How does that happen?

At first I said,” Wait until they get to know me.” It was the glass half full technique. You have to be optimistic. That’s what all the books say. And the movies. And songs. And whatever else you can think of.

Maybe that’s it. The books. But why should they care if I read during lunch? Or that I ask all of my teachers for books relating to the subject that we are learning about? Books aren’t the man who lives downstairs. Although, many people used to think that they were, and even burned them. Maybe I should stop sharing information with them. The kids at school, not the man downstairs.

Wait a minute. Why should I change everything about myself? The real me should be good enough for everyone. So I told some people that. They just laughed. I laughed along, but not inside.

My mother says, “hate is a strong word”, but these kids seem to strongly dislike me. So, it’s a hate situation. Now that I think about it, it seems to have worsened today. Even the teachers chuckled at me this morning. They aren’t supposed to play favorites. Teaching For Dummies says so.

Finally, the last bell rings and I leave for home. As I get on the bus, the driver gives me a quizzical look. Great. Now he plays favorites too. Mom isn’t home from her job yet, so I let myself into the house. On my way to my room I glance in the mirror that hangs above the table in the front hall. “What happened to me?” I screamed at my reflection. The girl in the mirror shrugs back at me. So that’s why they laughed and said those words. Now it all makes perfect sense. Why can’t they make a book that says not to wear mismatched clothes, especially if the shirt has a stain the size of a bowling ball on it? If only I were a writer.

So I do the only thing a girl can when she needs to impress everyone at school. I go shopping. What choice do I have? Either I have to hide for the rest of the short time we will be staying here for, or magically turn into a whole different person. I choose option B. It is the more optimistic choice. So they didn’t really hate me. Or maybe they did. But why is it based on looks? Or clothes? Why can’t it be based on personality, or qualities? Because it’s middle school. That’s why.

Upon getting off the city bus, I head straight for the teen store that seems to have popular written all over it (I have changed my clothes). But do I want to be popular? Who am I trying to kid? Of course I do. Unfortunately everything in the front of the store is about 200 percent out of my range. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I’m not one of the smart people, remember? So I head back to the sale merchandise. Lucky for me, this section I can actually afford without putting me out of house and home, as Mom would say. A few shirts and two pairs of jeans float into my hands, and I walk to the cash register knowing that I can still afford the biggest part of the new me yet. And besides, I can always come back for more clothes with Mom. Or Mom’s credit card.

The opposite end of the mall holds the hair salon in which I plan to create Lily’s new look (Lily is me, in case you were confused). I find a worthy picture and my stylist starts chopping and coloring. Perfect. This should work out great. My hair finished, I head back to the bus stop.

When Mom gets home, she screams. At first, I worry that it looks horrible. Then she says she loves it. Phew. Safe. Plus one for Lily. Now I just have to wait for tomorrow.

I should have never done this. What was I thinking? Now they dislike me even more than they did with my stained and mismatched clothes. Of all the ways to humiliate myself, I had to choose the most effective.

As luck would have it, I showed up to school the next day in the same outfit as Rina. What are the odds? I have no idea either…

”I paid full price for mine,” she said snarkily. “I just haven’t had a chance to wear them since I have so many.” Why would it matter anyway? The damage that I had created was good enough. I suppose it didn’t help matters that I had picked Rina’s cut and style for my locks. That was on purpose. The clothing mishap was not. By the end of the day, people were glaring at me so fiercely that I’m sure their eyes hurt. My face has been a wonderful shade of red since nine this morning, and the harsh glow won’t be going anywhere for a long time. I wonder if we can move.

The next day doesn’t work out any better. I’m in my new clothes, which thankfully don’t match Rina’s today. And I cut my hair some by myself so that the layers don’t look quite so much like her’s. Someone actually said the three little
words to me today. No, not I love you. Are you kidding? I hate you. That was it. Three little words undermined my confidence, my whole look on things. That
glass I was talking about before? Totally empty. It’s amazing what three little words, or even syllables can say.

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