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Swimming in Insecurity


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High school is like a factory for people. Each kid, fresh from middle school, is pumped in and pushed through, and what comes out on the other end is totally different from what you started with. All the parts that used to fit together so perfectly are suddenly replaced by newer models, better models. Most of the time anyway.

My best friend from middle school was still my best friend after our freshmen year of high school, remarkably. Even though we went to different schools, the absence truly did make the heart grow fonder. I could see her changing, but she wasn’t drifting away. I assumed I was changing along with her.

My perception was greatly shifted in the form of the most demoralizing event ever construed by well-intended adults—Teen Night at the community pool. While I considered such a social situation akin to sticking my feet in red ant hills, I went for the sake of my friend, who was blissfully unaware of the many social embarrassments awaiting me at that pool. But I missed her and I didn’t want to assist in widening the ever-growing chasm between us that I’d been trying to ignore, and went.

As soon as we stepped into the pool, I knew what was coming. All of these people were only vague memories to me. My path had gone a different direction—another high school completely—and I all remembered were the preteen middle school versions of the suddenly bikini-clad and muscle-ridden classmates, with horribly one track minds.

A whole section of the pool seemed to be devoted to making out, a task I was shamefully stranger to and had no intentions of engaging in that day. However, this seemed to the activity of choice, without much room for alternatives. Kaitlyn, my friend, happened to be between boyfriends for once, and was not yet sucked into the vortex of professional tonsil hockey. So we slipped into the shallow end of the pool, entirely vacant of anyone but a few other losers a similar situation to my own. They eyed Kaitlyn suspiciously. She was obviously the outsider in our loser's section, the kiddy pool for the not-yet-true-teenagers. We were all hiding ashamedly behind one piece swimsuits, not confident enough to display bare stomachs or allow a full access pass to our limited supply of cleavage. This wardrobe choice was definitely a check in the "loser column." Kaitlyn's, though she usually goes on and on about her many insecurities and how she doesn't know why anyone would want her, choice in swimsuit screamed "hello boys, come and get me." She was wearing a string bikini, emphasis on the easily undone strings, that she was spilling out of on top. Not so accidental, if you ask me. Her body was near perfect, even if she swears otherwise, and this was no secret to all the guys now gawking from the other side of the pool. I felt like a granny-attire clad anchor, holding her back from her true, tongue-in-boy's-mouth potential. We were standing awkwardly (and shivering, though her lack of apparent material probably made her colder) in the loser section of Dr. Love's Makeout Land, and it was most obviously my fault. I couldn't help but feel guilty. This wasn't where she belonged.

Finally, I summoned up the courage, silently praying in the back of my mind that she wouldn't sacrifice me for her hormones, and asked her if she'd like to go sit with her "friends" on the picnic benches. These friends were all male and of the skater species, wearing skateboard-brand swim trunks, no shirt, skater shoes, and that grungy facial hair Kaitlyn had come to admire. Without saying a word, she nodded, her still-perfect hair cascading over her should as she did so, despite the disgusting chlorine water (which I now suspected contained every bodily fluid imaginable- every one) and lifted herself out the pool, Baywatch style. I followed her, except I awkwardly dripped my way up the steps and not a soul was looking at me, and into the lion's den of horny teenage boys. It's probably a good thing their shorts were loose, because I'm pretty sure their eyes weren't the only thing raising when Kaitlyn entered their little circle. She spread her towel on the table, feigning innocence, and hopped pseudo-seductively onto it. I was hesitating behind her, afraid for what the rest of this evening held in store for me. She beckoned for me to come sit with her. Apparently her innocence did stretch far enough not to realize how uncomfortable this ordeal was about to be for me.

I wanted nothing more than to leave, but I could never make her understand why I wanted to run so badly. She'd take it as me avoiding her, not her fan club’s judgmental gaze. I sat on the table and heaved a sigh. I could only imagine what somebody would think looking inward at this scene. Here's a beautiful, more-than-half-naked girl. Her hair is perfect, not a frizz in sight. Her skin is tanned to perfection and her swimsuit tightens in all the right places. Guys are circled around her, vying for that all-important attention.

Beside her, looking like a puzzle piece from a different box that got swept into the wrong pile, is a girl wearing an unflattering one piece suit. Her hair is a half an inch short of a full fledged afro due the water and humidity. Her body language screams "get me outta here" but she stubbornly sits beside the teenage goddess, who hasn't looked at her twice since she they arrived at the table.

I checked the time. Two hours left of this. I figured, hey since they're all ignoring me, maybe it won't be so bad. Then my situation worsened tenfold.


Just because guys never looked at me doesn't mean I never looked at them. There had been one boy in middle school who actually flirted with me. And though there was some level of attraction, he'd never been brave enough to dump his bimbo blonde and abundantly busted girlfriends for the little girl he loved having conversations with in fourth period. So, I remained his little guilty pleasure on the side and I took it because I had nothing else.

Now I saw him crossing the pool, leaving the wannabe Playboy Mansion annex, with a girl in his arms. This was only the plot of every daydream I'd had over the past two years. At that moment, I'd have killed to be that girl. But here I was, the pitied sidekick in my own teen drama. Much to my dismay, my guy and his princess decided to settle on the next bench over and proceed to see how far they could plunge their tongues down each other's throats. Lovely.

Now I really wanted to leave. I've never felt more inferior, more like useless crap, in my life. There wasn't a single soul who truly wanted my presence. I felt like a little sister at her big sister's first boy-girl birthday party. Kaitlyn pretended she wanted me there because she'd feel too guilty kicking me out. When I returned my attention to what I'd once thought was my best friend, she had the arm of a little middle schooler, possibly upcoming freshman, wrapped around her waste, his hand settled on the side of her butt and slowly creeping into a more prime position. The smug little jerk's face said it all. I realized, with a start, that he was the little brother of Kaitlyn's most recent ex-boyfriend. If anybody else had been displaying such behavior, I would've labeled them a whore. But this was the girl I'd had countless sleepovers with. I'd shared clothes and secrets and a bed with her. She wasn't a slut. She was my friend. Then I realized the reasoning behind letting the little boy cop a feel. A much older looking boy was staring at the ill-positioned hand with great malice. He looked like Kaitlyn had custom ordered him from a Build-a-Boy magazine. She was shooting him furtive glances from the conversation she was trying to make look extremely engaging. I felt even more like I was cramping her style. I decided to take leave.
"Look, I've got to get out of here."

Her first instinct was to protest, but she glanced down at my covered stomach, my towel (it was pink and baby blue and now reminds me strongly of a nursery), and my frizzed out hair.
"See you tomorrow."
When I hopped down from that bench and began the shameful walk back to my house, I knew I was walking away from an era. Life just wasn't the same as it was in middle school. I never thought I'd be one of those girls who resist growing up and feels slighted when her friends move on without her, but that's what I felt like now. I'd never been so insecure, so scared, so alone. I was mad at myself for acting like I was 40 and looking like I was 12. Anything but my true 15 years.

I still haven't caught up. I tried for awhile, but I just couldn't jump the hurtles of teenagedom as quickly as Kaitlyn. It wasn't me. After I fell down on a few of them, I quit trying. I'm slowly accepting the person that I am. So what if I skip the cliches of years 13-17? I also skip the hurt. That boy at the pool that day went on to cause Kaitlyn more troubles than I've got time to document. Problems I don't have.

And no little middle schooler is touching my butt.




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silent reader :-) said...
Aug. 11, 2009 at 4:00 am:
I loved what you wrote here and i completly understand what you were going through when you wrote this. Sorry about your friendship I hope you made others.
 
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