Twisted Views This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Theengine of the rickety ferry rumbled as we plowed through the sparkling cobaltwater. It was a scorching August mid-morning, one of those summer days you had tobe by the water, if not in it. My family and I were on the ferry to Block Island.The engine rumbled again and I felt the steady vibration rise through my spine. Isat up straighter to prevent the direct connection of the engine's oscillationfrom flowing through my seat to my back. My mother looked overnervously.

"Are you all right, honey?" sheasked.

"I'm fine, Mom, really."

"I knew we shouldn'thave taken you on the ferry only two months after the surgery," sheremarked, using her windbreaker to cushion my aching back. I laid against it andquickly lost myself in thoughts of the beautiful summer day that stretched aheadof me. I wasn't allowed to swim yet, but I could sure shop. I smiled contentedly.

All of a sudden I felt someone looking at me. I glanced up to see a girlabout my age staring intently at me. I quickly looked down again. What is shethinking? I wondered. She is judging me by my appearance.

No, I toldmyself fiercely. She couldn't be that cruel. I gazed back into the green eyesstaring in my direction. Yes, I could read her perfectly. She was trying tofigure out what the repulsive white brace that encompassed my torso was for. Youwould have acted the same way if you were her, remember? I told myselfreluctantly. Remember?

In the beginning of seventh grade I was youraverage happy-go-lucky preteen. I had a positive self-image, was in with the"popular" crowd, and had a boyfriend. I must admit I was a follower,but content in being so. I followed all the fads because I was sensitive to whatpeople thought about me, and since I did, I never really experienced any pain orrejection. I took note that there were people not as lucky as I, and felt badlyfor them, but that was the extent of my thoughts. I never imagined that theymight be lonely, or nice people. They were just different, and different wasuncool. Little did I know I was about to understand what they wentthrough.

I underwent major surgery for scoliosis (curvature of the spine)in the spring of seventh grade. The six months leading up to surgery, and thesurgery itself, were grueling experiences, but I had no clue that the most pain -mental, not physical - was still to come.

Before leaving the hospital Iwas fitted for a brace to wear under my clothing. I assumed it would not benoticeable, but I was wrong. This brace became my nemesis for the next sixmonths. It consisted of two parts - like a turtle shell - that were attachedwith large Velcro straps. The hard, white plastic outside pieces were lined withfoam, and the sections that went over my collarbone and back of my neck stuck outquite a bit. I was so upset when I got the brace that I cried inconsolably fortwo hours. Finally I realized that I needed it to protect me to the same extentthat I hated it. I knew it would be hard to cope with, but I had no other choice.So I suited up in my breast and back plate and marched off into the humiliatingbattlefield known as public places.

I dreaded going out. I becameextremely self-conscious because people stared at me. My clothing style changedfrom tight-fitting tank-tops to baggy t-shirts (a current fashion"don't") that fit over my brace. The brace made me sweat so much thatthe crisp white lining turned yellow. I was constantly uncomfortable. As fallapproached, I became even more anxious. I would be starting at a new school, andthe kids would judge me just as countless strangers had that summer as a"special" kid, not a potential friend.

My mind drifted back tothose immense green eyes sizing me up on the ferry. How long had she been staringat me? I looked up and shot her an evil look. She seemed to get the hint andlooked away. Thank God, I thought, but wait, now other people are staring. I'llhave to learn to ignore them, I sighed in exasperation. I don't care what theythink. But as much as I tried to smile reassuringly at my now ever-nervousmother, I knew that my perfect summer day was ruined.

The start of schoolbrought many agonizing moments. I learned firsthand the cruelty of my peers. Ineeded to use the elevator and have my books carried. I remember having fewfriends those first months, yet everyone noticed me. I was known as "BraceGirl" and was constantly badgered with questions like: "Is that abulletproof vest?" "Why do you wear that?"

I got to thepoint that when someone even cast a questioning glance in my direction I wouldimmediately rattle off, "It's a brace, I had surgery forscoliosis."

My brace has been off for ten months now. I have tons offriends, but it saddens me to think that many didn't even try to get to know mewhen I had my brace.

Instead of being bitter about the whole thing, I tryto look at it another way. Because of my experience, now I try to includeeveryone and reach out to others no matter what they look like. Also, I nowbelieve that, with the right attitude, you can overcome anything. I havedeveloped more of a "I don't care what you think of me" attitude andcan now officially categorize myself as a leader.

I know who I am now,and appearance has nothing to do with it, although I am happy I can wear theshirts I like again. I am planning on joining the swim team even though the suitreveals the one-inch-thick scar that runs down my back. I am beyond the point ofcaring because I have come to terms with my physical flaw. When the going getstough, the tough don't get going. No, they buckle up their armor and face theworld.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Scoliosis said...
Jul. 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Im really glad this got posted in the magazine. Great job!

i also had to wear a back brace for 3 years and got surgery 7 months ago... im feeling way better now :)

Kwstar said...
Nov. 8, 2008 at 7:14 pm
I really love your story I also had to wear a back brace for scoli for 2 years I dint have surgery though, but I know how it feels to have kids judge you by your brace!
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