I was a fairly lucky girl & my awkward phase was quick. I had a lot of friends in high school & was involved in team sports & NJROTC. I have never had problems making friends & would even go as far as to call myself a popular girl. I always had a boyfriend in high school & there were many late nights at numerous girlfriend’s houses or parties. Bullies were not a problem for me….in high school.
By the time I was in 6th grade, I had been to five different schools. I did not have a close knit group of friends like many of the other kids. My family were my friends. And because of that, as a preteen, I still thought french braids, canvas shoes, coordinating my braces colors according to the holidays, & Winnie the Pooh backpacks were OMGTHECOOLESTMOM!!! My parents were police officers & so I was protected & shielded from a lot. I never felt unwanted or ashamed. Until my mom’s shift changed & I had to ride the bus to school one morning. The bus was crowded & this being my first time on a bus, I had no idea that the back of the bus was for cool kids only. I squeezed into one of the seats in back. This older boy saw my french braids & Winnie the Pooh backpack as a target. Throughout the entire ride to school, he taunted me from behind. Making fun of my little kid backpack. Asking if I knew that Winnie the Pooh was for babies. I sat there, getting redder & hotter & more embarrassed by the second. No one stopped him. Everyone ignored it. To this day, the way that boy made me feel has stuck with me. The way he made me feel silly & stupid with just a few careless words.
That boy’s words stuck with me all the way up to high school, when I blossomed into a teenager without braces. One with all the nicest clothes & many, many friends. A car with a sunroof & leather seats. I was blessed. And when I couldn’t use the car one day & had to take the bus home, I was feeling so sorry for myself & behaving like a brat, cursing silently to myself about how I was above taking the bus. I sat towards the front because, after all, I was a junior & junior’s didn’t socialize with the lower classes. I sat across from a very tall, skinny, black haired, brown eyed boy with crooked teeth, a lazy eye & unwashed clothes. He was a familiar person. I had him in one of my math classes & he was hard to miss. The kid was at least 6 feet tall. Behind him sat a more popular kid, one whose brother I actually knew & called a friend. This boy was much shorter, fatter & wearing nice clothes & expensive sneakers. For the first thirty minutes of the bus ride, I heard mumbled whispering from the shorter boy. I didn’t make much of it. until I saw the look on the tall boy’s face. Eyes straight ahead. Unwavering. Determined. I listened more closely to the short boy’s words. I was horrified when I heard what had been happening right next to me. Every word from his mouth was dripping with disdain as he spoke of the tall boy’s penis & height & how dumb looking he was. This had been going on for at least 20 minutes. RIGHT NEXT TO ME. And without even thinking, I got up from my seat, sat next to this tall boy & held his hand for the rest of the ride home. The short boy never uttered a word after that. Nothing. Because this spoiled rotten girl took a stand. I didn’t even have to SAY anything. I just sat there, holding this kid’s hand. I wanted him to know he wasn’t all of those awful things that the short boy was saying. And the Winnie the Pooh backpack carrying girl inside of me knew exactly how he was feeling. She was screaming at me to not let this go without a stand.