5: The Makeover

5: The Makeover

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

The Makeover

Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.

~C. Neil Strait

Middle school was a difficult time for me. Home was an emotional roller coaster: My parents were getting a divorce and I never knew what to expect when I came home from school. My father was an alcoholic and I never knew if he’d be drinking. Or would my parents be fighting? Plus, I was going through a really awkward stage. I felt ugly and kids teased me every day, which only fed my insecurities. I was one of the “smart” kids, and that only incited more teasing.

When I found out that kids were calling me “Professor” behind my back, I started purposely making mistakes on tests so I wouldn’t always get the highest grade. That didn’t make me feel better. I didn’t think things could get much worse, but somehow they did.

The friends I’d had for many years claimed I’d changed and wouldn’t hang out with me anymore. I didn’t think that I was acting differently but maybe I had changed. It doesn’t matter, they weren’t there for me when I needed them the most, so I faced everything alone.

Then a funny thing happened. One of the “cool” kids started inviting me to hang out. Her name was Dina, and she invited me to parties and over to her house. The teasing from some kids didn’t stop, but it slowed enough to make life tolerable again. Although I still didn’t talk about my problems, at least I wasn’t alone anymore. Dina’s parents were divorced too, and she may have seen that I needed a friend. Or maybe she just thought I was nice. Either way, when kids teased me about being smart or ugly, she told me they were crazy. I never completely fit in with her group of friends—I thought they were a little boring—but I was happy to have a place to go.

Middle school graduation was approaching and I couldn’t wait. I knew there was a chance that high school might be as horrible as middle school, but maybe it would be great. It was a clean slate and it would get me away from all the bad memories of middle school.

Unexpectedly, the day we were taking graduation pictures turned out to be a life-changing moment for me. I came to school like I always did, with my long hair pulled back in clips away from my face. My too-big glasses were framing my eyes like giant magnifying glasses, and I was definitely not wearing make-up, although many of the girls were. Make-up was forbidden at my house until I reached high school, and I didn’t think much of it—that was who I was. That was who I thought I would always be.

I was getting ready for the photographer when Dina grabbed me.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Going to get my picture taken,” I replied, matter-of-factly.

She laughed and said, “Not like that, you’re not!” dragging me into the girl’s bathroom. Dina and her friends pulled out some supplies and started giving me a makeover. They changed my hair, they put make-up on me, and they took away my oversized glasses.

I couldn’t see how I looked, (I couldn’t actually see much of anything), but they said I looked great and I was just hoping it wasn’t all a big joke. I let them lead me to where I had to stand for the pictures, hoping the photographer would tell me if I looked like a clown or something. The flash went off and Dina gave me back my glasses. I can’t remember if I thanked her. Even though she had always been nice to me, the way my old friends had turned on me made me wonder if Dina would do the same.

When I got home from school that day, my mother was pretty upset about the make-up. She yelled at me for a while and told me that I didn’t look like myself. She said some pretty harsh stuff, but I didn’t care. I took it as a big compliment. I didn’t want to look like my old self. I didn’t want to be my old self.

A few weeks later, the pictures came back from the photographer. They actually did look great, and I looked like a new, happier person. I was surprised to see that I looked pretty and felt glad that I could now look back on middle school with one really good memory.

I will always be grateful to Dina for what she did for me. She saved me back then. She helped to bring me out of my shell and to lay a foundation that I would later use to build the woman that I would become someday.

Dina and I went to different high schools and would talk on occasion. High school turned out to be great. I made wonderful friends and had a great time. By the time we got to college, Dina and I had lost touch. I heard from friends that she was doing well and was happy, which made me happy too.

I write this because I never did get to thank Dina for all she did for me. During college, Dina was killed in a plane crash. She was on her way home from working as a volunteer in Africa as part of her medical studies. She did a lot in her short time here, and she made a difference in my life. I’m glad I had a chance to know her and be her friend.

~Lena James Edwards

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