I was not a popular kid. I never received a single card on Valentine’s Day even though we were supposed to give one to every classmate. I attended no birthday parties and was never invited over on a play date.
I don’t blame the other kids. I was a deeply unhappy, troubled girl who couldn’t hide those feelings. My face was in a perpetual frown. My lips were thin white lines. My eyes fought to restrain the tears that poured seemingly on their own accord. I never smiled, laughed or even when on the playground, ran about as joyfully as others.
At that time, I would have been labelled a sad-sack. I was Grumpy the Dwarf from Cinderella. I was the cartoon character who went about with storm clouds overhead. I was Eeyore.
Later when I became a teacher, I understood how my own teachers had failed me. In today’s world a miserable student like myself would have been referred to a school nurse or the psychologist or even Child Protective Services. The stories I could have told would most likely have landed me in a foster home. But that never happened.
Instead, I moped my way through school, the kid no one invited to anything.
Until one day in fourth grade a girl handed me a pretty card. She watched with bright eyes as I opened it and read. She wanted me to come to her house for a sleepover!
I didn’t want to go but my mother insisted. She took me to the store to buy new underwear and pajamas, toothbrush and toothpaste. She made me call the girl and tell her I was coming, get the details as to what time to arrive and what time my mother was to pick me up the next day.
As time drew near, I became increasingly anxious. I’d never slept anywhere but home. I was terrified about the logistics: where would I sleep, would I have to brush my teeth in front of others and what would happen when I had to go to the bathroom.
I feigned illness when it was time to leave. My mother made me go.
To my surprise there were four other girls there. None of them were friends as I had none, but all were in my class. I knew their names, but had never spoken to them.
We gathered in the girl’s bedroom, clustered on her twin bed. Because I was the last, I got the foot of the bed. I barely fit.
I don’t remember much about what happened that night, except for the magazine. The girl brought out one of her mother’s magazines. The girls passed around the magazine, taking turns ogling the models and the fashions. All went fairly well until they decided to read the stories.
The only one I remember was a test to see if you were a lesbian. I didn’t know the term, so had no idea what it meant. As they took turns reading the “signs”, I realized that I fell into that category.
I had no interest in boys (although, truth be told, I had none in girls either). I was a tomboy with muscles instead of a girly figure. And, worst of all, dark hair on my arms and legs.
The girls began teasing me, calling me names and scooting as far away from me as possible. Although no one pushed me off the bed, I somehow ended up on the floor.
The teasing was so bad, so insistent and so cruel that I ran downstairs and told the mother that I was ill and needed to go home. She must have called my mother.
While I feared my mother and really didn’t like being with her, when her car pulled into that driveway, I was very happy to leave.
Looking back, I wonder if the girls hadn’t set me up. If they hadn’t planned on taunting me. If that hadn’t been the only reason that they had invited me.
After the disastrous party, the girls returned to treating me the way they had before. They never spoke to me, played with me, invited me to parties.
That one invitation could have opened doors for me. Instead, it solidified my place in elementary school society. How sad!