When I was in second grade, I thought I was a dog. I would roll my lips in my mouth and make a high-pitched noise as if whimpering at my owner. My friends patted my head and teased me with questions like “Who’s a good boy?” and “Come here boy!” I played along with their games until it was time to take a math quiz. The entire room was silent, though trying not to squeak was like a holding in a sneeze. It had to come out—squeak! The people closest to me looked up, giggled, and continued to work on their quiz. I giggled back, but as soon as I started to work—squeak! I covered my mouth. No one looked up. A cluster of goosebumps appeared on my arm. “Not now!” I thought—squeak! I looked up to a sea of eyes glaring at me. “Woof,” I hesitated. “Twitch face,” a kid smirked, and the rest of the class rolled their eyes and went back to their quizzes.
That was the moment I realized I was born with a twitch. For me it felt natural, like breathing, but kids and adults tormented me with negativity. Sometimes, I wished that everyone was diagnosed with a twitching disorder so that it appeared to be a normal characteristic about ourselves. I imagine myself as Oprah running up and down rows of people in an auditorium while screaming, “You get a twitch! You get a twitch! EVERYONE GET’S A TWITCH!”
Growing up, I picked up at least 3 different twitches. I came to believe that my twitches were my superpower because I was able to morph them into different appearances. I grew out of my dog phase and picked up a new twitch: shrugging my shoulders. Although this one wasn’t as annoying as my dog whimper, it made it awkward to talk to other people. The first day I picked up this twitch, I was 12 years old and at the mall with my parents shopping for jeans. I found a pair that I wanted to try on, so I went to the fitting rooms. An employee asked in a trying-to-be-polite voice but with a sprinkle of I’m-so-annoyed-with-this-job voice, “How many?” I shrugged twice, my right shoulder almost sucker punching my face. The employee sighed, “Well, it looks like you have just one.” I wanted to say sorry in that I didn’t mean my shrug to be a sarcastic response for “I don’t know,” but the employee had already left. I entered the fitting room, and shrugged it off.
“Stop it now. People are going to stare and think how weird you are,” my mom said.
My brother, however, looked on the bright side. “At Disneyland, you can say you have a mental condition, and we can get to the front of the lines!” I haven’t tried this. It would be too embarrassing to have to dramatize my twitch to persuade the Disneyland worker of my “mental condition.” As I grew older, it seemed more disrespectful to have to twitch in front of my teachers and other adults. Back when I was a kid, I didn’t see anything wrong with having a twitch. People looked at me, and probably thought that I was just playing around or acting like an idiot. But to me, it was like wearing a striped shirt, or a belt—it was a detail not worth talking about.
I didn’t think I had a mental condition; it was just a twitch. I enjoyed seeing other people have a twitch and act as if it were a part of their daily life. For instance, my mom—ironically—has a twitch where her left eye repeatedly blinks. She tells me to stop when she hasn’t even been able to stop hers. Once, we sat on the couch together watching TV, and I caught her left eye twitching. I said to her what she continually said to me:
“People are going to stare and think how weird you are, mom.”
This triggers a rippling domino effect:
“At least I don’t do mine in public.”
“Oh, so after a long day you go into your bedroom and spaz the hell of out your eye.”
“I don’t! I control it, unlike you- “
“Mmhmm, I’m not the one taking stress relief pills” I say, as I imagine flipping long hair to the back of my shoulder.
Luckily, my friends aren’t judgmental of my twitch since they’re already used to me having it. “Hey, Manny,” my friend said with his back turned against me when I hadn’t given him a clue that I was behind him. My friends know I am coming when they hear, “sniff, sniff…sniff” coming closer and closer. For my most recent morph, I sniff while moving my nose in a way I don’t even know how to describe. My friends never complain or tell me to stop, though they do mock me by simultaneously sniffing as I sniff.
I don’t see myself losing my twitch. I prefer to live with my twitch since it’s not going to leave me anytime soon. Yes, I do wish that I didn’t have a twitch, but my twitch can show others that making dog noises, shrugging your shoulders, and constantly sniffing aren’t intentional; they’re a difference not worth talking about. Having everyone be diagnosed with a twitch will teach others to be less judgmental, and we shouldn’t need to care what other people think of us. My twitch is my superpower, and it will likely continue to morph for the rest of my life—sniff.