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Anyone But Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Camden, TN
Back in elementary school, I thought nothing of my little muffin top belly sticking out over my shorts or my stubby arms that waved around when I ran. I was just me. How could I know I was supposed to be someone else? How was I to know that my love for orange soda, chocolate, and potato chips would condemn me to a life of endless sneers, an eternity of being picked last in gym, continuous jokes about “Hannah the Hippo”? How was I to know that being me simply wasn't good enough?

Even now I walk with a heavy weight on my shoulders as I stare at the tiled floors of my high school, feeling glares of distaste at who I am and how I look. My parents claim I have so few friends because my “loner” attitude tells people I want to be left alone. But don't they know that's not true? Don't they know that by staying away, I'm doing what others want from me?

I started carrying this heavy weight in second grade. One day on the playground, I ran to the monkey bars. I didn't know that this would be the beginning of the weight that would start to build on my shoulders, like bricks being added to my pink backpack one by one. A group of girls sat together on the bars. I beamed at them and asked what they were doing. One of the blonde girls, who I still see today, answered calmly, “We're in a club meeting.” I asked enthusiastically if I could join. A girl with black hair smiled weakly and simply said, “No, sorry.”

Thud went the first brick.

But it wasn't that heavy. I pouted but didn't feel too bad. Instead I asked, “How come?” They exchanged hesitant looks. The girl with the black hair spoke again: “We can't tell you. We don't want to hurt your feelings.”

Another brick.

Oh, how innocent I was. I just smiled and waved away her answer. Why didn't I leave it at that? If I had, would I be the person I am now? “Oh, you won't hurt my feelings. Just tell me why and I'll leave.”

The blonde spoke again, shrugging as if her answer was nothing, though her voice was slow and hesitant. “Because this club is for skinny girls only.”

A hundred bricks suddenly landed in my backpack. Hot stinging tears flooded my eyes. I wanted to run, and run is what I did. I hated the tight knot in my throat. I was ashamed. Ashamed that I was the cause of this uncomfortable feeling for everyone around me. No one else had ever said that I was shunned because of my size. But in a way, I should have thanked those girls. They opened my eyes. I wasn't so innocent anymore. From then on I believed I knew what everyone was thinking, the message the world was trying to send: you are ugly and unwanted.

Bricks continued accumulating throughout elementary school, and when I reached middle school, my peers began using them to build houses on my back. If I wasn't careful with my belongings, I would find them torn and scattered or in the trash can. I acted indifferent as girls giggled after glancing my way. I was afraid to tell the teachers. My classmates would shoot accusing glares at me from across the room, but when I started to cry and the teacher asked me what was wrong, I'd just say I didn't feel good, which was technically true. In fact, I felt like trash in a bin in the corner: useless, unwanted, and most of all, ­disgusting.

In junior high, my peers started to pile large city buildings onto my back, right on top of the brick houses. I found the notebooks that I had forgotten on the gym bleachers, torn and scrawled with crude language and vulgar pictures that made that unpleasant knot tighten in my throat.

In high school, I was lost under an unceasing embankment of concrete. It felt so heavy that I was always slouched forward in my desk, ignoring the laughter and whispers of the football players who were dumb enough to believe I couldn't hear them. Or maybe they wanted me to hear.

Now I am pale from years of staying inside my house, refusing to go out unless I have to. It's my fault that it's gotten this bad. I made a habit of drowning my sorrows in clusters of Almond Joys, pints of Ben and Jerry's, liters of soda, and bowls of gooey mac 'n' cheese. I grew even bigger in my misery instead of trying to address the problem.

Thankfully, I am not completely alone. I have a few friends who are always there to comfort me, though even they can't completely take away my painful loneliness. We've had long laughs that leave my belly aching, and good times that I'll always treasure. But nothing hurts more than the discomfort on their faces as I try to find solace in them about my weight. They murmur the things that friends always say – how they think I'm fantastic just as I am, or how I shouldn't listen to what others say – and then quickly change the subject. It tells me that I'm right not to tell anyone about my distress. It tells me that even though they are the best of friends, they can never know my pain. Oddly, I have very thin friends – friends who will never know what it is like to be hated and mocked because of their weight.

I don't blame those girls on the monkey bars for what they did. They didn't know I would remember their words for the rest of my life. They didn't know that from then on, my every action would be based on what those around me thought. I only have myself to blame for caring. For wanting to be anyone but me.

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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rheameThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 6:17 am:
its  simply a wonderful expression! wow! and i truely truely admire you for your thoughts and your wish to be yourself!!!!
 
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