Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember
The year was 1976. I was 13 years old and new to the district as well as beginning my first year of high school. When I got off the school bus, I was ushered into the school building with other students to begin freshman orientation. The students were standing in groups in the cafeteria waiting for orientation to begin.
I stood alone because I didn’t know anyone. I was very shy. And I was at least a year younger than most of the freshman in my class. My brown hair was shoulder-length. I wore glasses, slacks and a t-shirt. I didn’t wear jewelry and I was too young to wear makeup. Apparently, I was a curiosity to some of my new classmates.
A group of students from across the room began pointing at me and whispering. The group elected one of the boys to come over to speak to me. I had a bad feeling about what might happen next. I had too many years of being bullied to know this group wasn’t a welcoming committee. The boy looked uncomfortable when he asked me if I was a boy or girl. As he asked the question, the girls in the group began laughing hysterically.
I was embarrassed and hurt by the group’s attempt to ridicule me. I also felt sorry for the boy who was sent to ask me this very important question. I know he agreed to do it to impress one of the girls in the group.
That was my first day of high school. That incident set the stage for the next four years of awkwardness in high school.
Even now I am questioned by friends, family and co-workers:
“Why don’t you try a short hairstyle? You’re too old to have long hair, you know.”
“Why do you wear a skirt or dress every day? Slacks are so much more comfortable.”
“Why do you have to wear makeup every day?”
Why, why, why. I don’t know why these things matter so much to them.
I tell them, “I have my reasons.”
They would never believe my story.