Popular Misconceptions This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I was awkward in middle school: bony and athletic, with a high grade in science and a low one in self-esteem. Though I had friends, I didn’t fit the mold of popularity. I was picked last in flag football and I sometimes ate lunch by myself.

I remember the day Brittany came to our school. She was from the Bay Area, and told us stories of how she had snuck out at night to meet older boys and smoke in the park. Her teeth were crooked, and she was a little overweight. Not that that mattered though, because she walked around like she was better than all of us put together. She was incredibly intimidating, outspoken, and aggressive – a person you didn’t want to cross.

Around Brittany, I tried my best to go unnoticed. Standing out or stealing her spotlight could only result in one thing: confrontation. I considered myself a chameleon, blending in with my surrounding and remaining the shy sixth-grader I had always been. I wore skorts and Tommy Hilfiger sneakers with red and blue laces, and my blond hair was frequently in a ponytail. Brittany and her friends wore shorts with words like “Hottie” on the seat and pulled their thong underwear up so it showed. She dyed her brown hair black and got a perm like the other popular girls. All the boys were completely smitten with her.

Although I could run for a touchdown, Brittany was always the first girl picked in flag football at recess and I was lucky if I was picked at all. I was thrown the ball while she stood with the quarterback, chatting about the last keg party she’d gone to. I didn’t even know what came in a keg and had never contemplated drinking. She was promiscuous and mysterious while I was a declaration of what good parenting and strong Christian morals could produce. I had never been kissed, nor did I understand the tactics to get as far she had gone with a boy.

One day, Brittany bribed a classmate to ask me to the school dance. I wasn’t allowed to go, and I told him so, but I was flattered. I felt elite and accepted by those around me. I told myself, Though I am alone, I am desired and that is good enough for me. I blended in in the most perfect way; well enough to fit in and not nerdy enough to stand out. Then Brittany told me during science class that she had put him up to it. She asked in front of everyone, “Why would anyone ever want you?” And I believed her.

I went home and cried, questioning whether I was an alien. I told myself over and over that she would amount to nothing while I still had time to grow. She would become a middle-aged trailer park renter in Northern California, with lots of kids with her same bucktoothed smile, while I would somehow turn into a high school social butterfly and move to New York City, Chicago, or Washington, D.C., cosmopolitan and sophisticated. She would never be in the same league as me, but at the same time, I would never be in the same league as her.

Secretly, I emulated her. Through everything that she did to me, I wanted to be 20 times better. Although she was seemingly perfect in everyone’s eyes, I wanted to be everything she wasn’t and yet a million times more perfect. Where she was loud and mocking, I wanted to be reserved and coy. She wore tight pants that exposed her chubby stomach, but I wanted to be thin and muscular. Brittany was intimidating and violent, but I wanted to be, and was then, serene and not at all confrontational. I wanted to be the polar opposite of her, showing how much better I was than her.

I forgot about Brittany somewhere between eighth grade and freshman year. I found a new group of friends – girls from other schools who finally became the “in crowd” in high school. Looking back, I was and am better than Brittany, and though I let her rule over my inadequacies in middle school, I never did again. She was exactly what I hated then and is the type of person I will never let myself become.

I found Brittany’s online profile a few weeks ago and discovered nothing outwardly shocking. She still has the same chubby face and mocking smile, flipping off the camera as if she couldn’t come up with anything original. I cringed at some half-naked pictures with captions that read “GeT bLaZeD.” As I read on, I realized that Brittany had died in a drunk driving accident a year ago. She had been 16 and pregnant at the time. Suddenly my perception of Brittany changed from a bad influence into a struggling little girl whose life was taken before she could decipher right from wrong. I had wanted everything bad to happen to her, but no one deserves that. No one. Those who worshiped her may never again, but I will always think of Brittany as the girl who never had the chance to find herself.

My experience with Brittany taught me that though we are all naive in our youth, the choices we make will impact us forever. The people we choose to be will remain a part of us. I will always remember Brittany as that loud, overconfident girl, and a part of that shy, insecure person I used to be will always keep me humble.

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 19 comments. Post your own now!

inez8 said...
Oct. 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm
Well writen, and so true!
otherpoet said...
Mar. 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm
Really, really good! I enjoyed every bit of this article. You wrote in a way that everyone can relate to. I loved it!
owl-girl said...
Dec. 15, 2011 at 11:11 am
Very well written. Meaningful and deep... please kep writing!!! check out some of my work? thanks!!!
Lilies said...
Aug. 27, 2011 at 8:35 pm
Wonderful. The ending surprised me and you're absolutely right. Nobody deserves that. But it takes a really good person to be able to realize this.
Hover This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm
I loved this so much! The message is great and your writing style rocks. <3 Keep writing!
JoPepper said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm
I didn't see the end coming at all!!! WoW!!! :l
spency said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm
danmmm,thats a shokign story......good job and you did the right thing by doing your own.....my message to the world is to not copy others "do your own"
thatgirlnamedrose said...
Jan. 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm
It's funny how complete strangers have the same experiences. Great post!
liisangel said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 9:28 pm
Woah. It's great to know someone went through something almost exactly the same as me. I have come to learn that the girl I once envied is no better than me, because even though people turned away from me because I wasn't scary I have realized I was always there for them all the times she wasn't. Things were a little bit luckier for me because the girl I knew has not passed but I prayed to God to help me - we ended up moving away and I haven't seen her in years. I pray that B... (more »)
Laughternchoclate said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm
Wow. This was seriously touching.
TheColorSilver said...
Mar. 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm
Wow! That was truly amazing!! I love the line, "with a high grade in science and a low one in self-esteem." Great Job!!
Mspi18 said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 10:41 am
this is really amazing! i would have never of thaught of an ending like that. Great writing. Keep it up.
Aastha`Duggal said...
Nov. 27, 2009 at 5:23 am
I can completely relate to how you felt.
The_Poet said...
Jun. 23, 2009 at 3:09 am
I love this so much. You are so talented and you relate to real-life experiences.
terriberr94 said...
Jun. 22, 2009 at 2:31 am
oh my goodness!!! this is wonderful. i'm just getting out of my freshman year in highschool. i feel like i'm not in the exact same situation but i have very similar situations(rather me being "brittany"/"you")and this rlly just made me feel like i'm not alone in the situation tht i'm in and now i know how to handle it. great work rlly
socialbutterfly15 said...
Jun. 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm
thats a really well written experience!!!
pinksage33 said...
Jun. 19, 2009 at 8:24 pm
This is really good!
blinkingandbreathing said...
Dec. 12, 2008 at 10:31 pm
wow!! i was in the same exact situation, down to the flag football thing. good writing and its nice to see something i can relate to so completely. good job!
RayyKayy3 said...
Nov. 16, 2008 at 8:09 pm
this story is amazing. reallyy well written.
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