So I feel like I’m a fairly confident, happy girl. This is NOT because society or my peers have ever been particularly encouraging in that way. It is because I decided to see my own worth. On this journey to self love, I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting on past hurts. Here is the beginning of my process.
The re-emergence of the homeschool girl
I wish that I could tell you this was a cute, happy story of adaption. I wish I could tell you that I either really fit in immediately or that my peers became accepting… that is not this story.
Let me take you back about 8 years. Picture a chubby, tall, afro-haired girl in jeans with bedazzled butterflies on them. Throw in some bad acne, a vegan lunch packed in a fish covered lunchbox and the idea that public school will be just like I remember! Umm, no. I left public school and was homeschooled for 4th, 5th and most of 6th grade. I decided that in the last 9 weeks of school, I would go back! Against the recommendation of my parents (sometimes they are right), I REALLY wanted to go back.
In my homeschool years, I was still the geeky girl with acne, bedazzled jeans, who re-read Harry Potter every 6 or so months. The difference is how I was treated! While homeschooled I was in a 4-H archery club and those were MY people. I was the secretary for 3 years and took it very seriously. We also had a “park day” that was pretty popular and a good couple hours of socialization. (Just so you know- I was never hidden, I never got weird about socializing and I didn’t wear skirts everyday.) Everyone was kind of weird so we never really worried about it!
Enter little ole me in public school. Besides being new to the whole middle school dynamic, I also lived in a very different area than where I had attended public school before. I went from a predominantly white area to a very diverse area. I was learning very quickly that apparently race was an important distinguishing fact?! That was a totally new concept to me.
Besides the fact that I was very pale, the only new girl and very shy… I also quickly learned that Hollister was even a thing. I never grew up wearing designer clothes because I was never built for them and I honestly never cared. The mall was fun but I was more interested in Rue21 graphic tshirts than anything else. When I got to my first class, my English class with Ms. Jensen, I realized that other people didn’t look like me. Most of these girls were shorter and they were all smaller. They were wearing jeans that didn’t have any butterflies or “bling” (Which to this day, I love!). They were also wearing shirts with bird symbols on them and had straight hair. At that point in my life, I owned a $15 straightner from Walmart that I had probably only ever used about 3 times. I had no concept of putting your hair into sections or even really why people gave up sleep to make their hair look like everyone elses.
I very, very quickly became a target for questions. Who is the new girl? Where is she from? Why is she here? Why does she always bring a lunch? Why does she only eat fruit and crackers? (Easiest vegan lunch to pack!) Why is she wearing that?
When they got tired of the questions and answers, I simply got ignored. I simply cannot begin to explain to you how exciting it is to think you’re gonna make a bunch of new friends in a day! I also cannot explain how disappointing it is to leave your first day, your first week, your first two weeks with no friends. No friends in classes, no friends on the bus and no one who wants to be your best friend yet. I figured it would happen in time!
Instead, I got “friends” like Kim Zipperer. Picture a 5 foot tall asian girl with clear skin, shiny black hair and a closet full of clothes that were way overpriced. Add in a manipulative streak, a following of 3 other girls and a desire to get whatever she could out of the new girl. I know this sounds a little mean girl-y and while it is similar, these are true blue stories!
Probably the least harmful but most annoying thing done in that first period class was how they ransacked my lunch every morning. They would steal my pretzels daily and anything else that they deemed acceptable. I was left with the fruit and anything that “looked weird.” Now looking back this seems crazy because I’m not that person anymore! I am not a pushover, I’m not shy and I certainly don’t let people guilt me into taking my food. I am not the kinda girl to miss meals! However, this continued all 9 weeks.
They also loved to make fun of me for being smart. Not Kady Herron, math genius smart! Homeschool smart though. I could finish all my work and the homework worksheet before they were even done comparing their bellwork answers with their friends. I suppose this was the perks of all my teaching at home, but also no distractions. If you have no friends, it’s much easier to just be the smart girl who doesn’t talk, does her work and then reads quietly. That was all day, everyday. I had straight A’s!
Unfortunately, the Hollister girls, as I referred to them in my head, didn’t like that. None of them were dumb but none of them were exceptional either. To them, I was a weird girl who made them look bad. While it was never my intention, everything I did seemed to make them like me less and less. I’m not sure exactly when it became commonplace to call me names or make little jabs at me, but a couple weeks into school and it was a popular thing to do.
The ones I remember the most were “You need to get pro-activ” and “Why are you so big?” At 12, the last thing a girl needs is a reminder that she’s bigger than you and her face is always really red and pimple covered! Way to make someone self conscious of their body AND face in record time.
I was already seeing a dermatologist every 2 weeks and trying really hard to get my acne cleared up! Sadly, nothing was working yet. This continued on for years! I tried every wash, peel, antibiotic, cream… eventually my face cleared when I went on Acutane in 10th grade. That was a lifesaver! It didn’t help in middle school though.
I finished up 6th grade and enjoyed the summer! I spent a lot of time at home, with people who were actually nice to me. I grew 2 or so inches taller, still had an afro, still had acne and still didn’t wear Hollister. Even if I had wanted to, the jeans didn’t fit me… not even back then. I had a very different body than that of most of my peers. I had a much taller frame, much bigger boobs and thighs and no shame in my eating. I was 50 or so pounds larger than the “average” girl in my class and for the first time, I started noticing it.
The beginning of the fat cheerleader
I played volleyball for all of middle school but even in 8th grade I was on JV. The talent simply wasn’t there. I loved the sport but I wasn’t committed, nor was I particularly good. As high school was nearing, I knew I wanted to do sports… I just wasn’t sure what. My friend, Rachel, had been on the JV cheer team the year before and I had really enjoyed hearing her say the chants and show me some of the moves, so we decided we would do it together! We went to all the optional conditioning sessions and choreography workouts together. Our moms carpooled, we stretched together, we had a lot of sleepovers, a lot of practice and a lot of time to dream about being on the team together.
Now, full disclosure: I am not an excellent dancer by any means. I am not someone who picks up the 8 count or the steps quickly. I learned that quickly and I learned to adjust. I made it work! After a whole summer of preparing, it was TRY OUT WEEK! It was 3 days of jumps, learning cheers, learning chants, jumping, and showing what you had to offer the team. They watched the collaboration and on the final day it was time to do a final audition in groups of 3. I was lucky #12! I was so nervous but I figured that if I didn’t make the team, I could always try out for volleyball. I realllllly wanted to make the team! We auditioned and then had to wait. They would take an hour or so and then post a list of who made the team and which team, (JV or Varsity) that each person made. I waited with Rachel, our new friend Ashleigh and another girl who was gonna be a freshman, Jordan. We all sat in Ashleigh’s explorer and just talked while we waited.
FINALLY, the list was posted… I. MADE. THE. TEAM.
LUCKY NUMBER TWELVE!
In a weird twist of fate though, Rachel didn’t. The 170 pound freshman with no high school cheer experience did. The 125 pound junior with a year of experience under her belt didn’t. I couldn’t help but feel guilt! She saw the list and took off down the parking lot to cry and vent to someone else. I didn’t know what to do! I did my best to console her but ultimately, she didn’t want to see me. I understood! It was immediately after tryout results that the high school was having their open house, so I went to meet my dad and brother to go get supply lists and meet my teachers. I was SO excited about everything! Cheering, high school, this big new building… all of it!
Later in the evening, I ran into Rachel again. I could see that she had been crying and I knew she was mad but she was acting as though she was okay, so I pretended to believe her. While trying to keep the conversation pretty light to salvage the friendship, she broke down. She started yelling at me in the middle of the courtyard. She let me have it! She let me know that SHE deserved the spot and I did not. She couldn’t believe that her fat friend with bad jumps made it and she didn’t. She repeated, over and over, how it should have been her. How it was SO unjust and no one understood it at all.
If you want tips on being a good friend, even in the face of disappointment, that moment was a really good “How Not To” example! That was the first time that someone had told me that my weight was why I wasn’t good enough for something. That was the first time that someone actually said it. All the implications in the world cannot compare to your friend saying that you aren’t worthy because you weigh more than she does. If that isn’t the cruelty of society, what really is?