One of the most traumatic days in my life was going to the first day of school. I would work my way into a frenzy, unable to sleep the night before. I’d be so amped up by the time it was to leave I’d be hyperventilating with a paper bag over my lips. My mother took us clothes shopping as the lead up to the day. I’d review my choices, looking over the “new” school clothes and wondering which outfit would make me look cooler. Because I was fat (and still am for that matter) back then there were only two colors for fat people, brown and green. I don’t know why that was. Every season, the same colors were trudged out as if large people couldn’t be colorful. As soon as I was able to get out of the green/brown hell that was my childhood, I wore red and blue like as much as I could. Then there were the jeans; Levy’s were the standard. Their commercials flooded the television and if you weren’t in them, well, you were a loser. It was difficult to look cool in Robuck’s (jeans from Sears), but they were new, and it had the possibility. The hope for me was that the oversized belt I chose would occlude the label from view enough for kids to know me, and not my clothesware. Kids can be so mean at the drop of a dandruff flake. Looking back I don’t see any less uneasiness as an adult, but I’ve worked at it.
Upon arriving, you would instantly know the class bully. He was the kid who had your friend in a headlock trying to get his lunch money. Somehow the teachers would be looking away, as if on cue, like the rest of the class, trying not to become involved in the incident or become the brunt of the next misdemeanor. Then, there was the pretty girl, who pretended she didn’t know she was beautiful, but there were all these boys around her like drones in a honey colony. She was over made up to look like a contestant in a beauty pageant (or she fell into her mother’s makeup case and forgot to wash). She would parade herself and her court wherever she’d go. The only thing missing was the trumpeters to announce her arrival.
Friends were very few and far between for me and I understood why. Trying to navigate the popular waters is a difficult time. You don’t want to be seen with the unpopular folks, cause that could cause negative repercussions. Being the pariah is not fun, but being just outside of the circle looking in at the clique you were part of is even worse. At least as a pariah you know you are going alone. Being a once-upon-a-time part of a group looking in seems even more pathetic.
I was neither popular nor part of a clique. I ran an independent campaign. There were some friends that I’ve kept in touch with since my early days of education. I value their friendships. I cheer for their successes and am saddened for their losses. If anyone would have told me I’d have Facebook to know when my classmates are getting their colonoscopies, well I wouldn’t have joined. But it great to see all of their children’s smiling faces as they ready for their time at school. I hope their parents haven’t told them all they did when they were a kid, but I’d love to tell them.