62: Snapshots

62: Snapshots

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School


Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

~Harvey Fierstein

There in the narrow hallway, squished between lockers painted a hideous orange and seniors wielding calculus books, I had never felt so alone. It was a lonely year. No one wanted to welcome the skinny, home-schooled girl who wore turtlenecks, jumpers, and matching barrettes, and had braces and glasses. Especially not twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls who already wore make-up and short skirts. They must have had a field day with the girl who was still in the dark ages of fashionable apparel. I had been so proud of the matching clothes that I had bought with my mom for school, and especially of the skirts that I had sewn on the sewing machine all by myself. I had sewn other things, but never anything like a whole skirt before. Corduroy jumpers, red plastic barrettes, a skirt of pink fabric with beautiful blue and pink roses, a turtleneck with scattered mittens and scarves, a pair of pink jeans with a matching blue and pink sweatshirt we had bought at the outlets at the beach. They didn’t quite make me fit in with the crowd of junior high girls.

We were only a little over a month into school when it was time for the annual seventh grade school trip to a local retreat center. It was anticipated with excitement by the entire class for the sole reason that we wouldn’t have classes for three whole days. The fact that we could wear jeans and shorts also had the female population excited. Angela was one of the other nine girls who had been placed in the cabin with me.

On the first day, she had motioned me over to where she was standing. “Hey, Sara. Come over here, I want you to look at something,” she said with a welcoming smile that drew me to her. She leaned over her opened duffle bag and pulled out jeans, a tank top, and a sweater.

“Here, I want you to wear these clothes today. They’ll look so much better than the ones that you have on.” She pushed them into my hands.

They felt so heavy. Right in that moment I wanted to hand them right back to her, no—throw them back at her, and yell, “I don’t want them!” But I moved, as commanded, to the bathroom and tried them on.

Later, my own clothes lay in a heap on the dirty, cracked bathroom floor. Her clothes didn’t quite fit me right. She was shorter then I was and so the wide legged jeans were too short too. They were also lower at the waist than what I was used to. The velvety camouflage tank didn’t quite meet the pants.

Voices traveled from the main room of the cabin into the bathroom.

“I am so glad that we get to wear jeans on this trip!”

“I know. It so stinks that we have to have a dress code. All my friends at public school get to wear jeans.”

“I’m going to wear my hair like this tonight. What do you think?”

“Yes, that is so cute.”

“Gosh, isn’t she done in the bathroom yet?”

I stared into the mirror nervously and pulled the green sweater she had also given me over my head. At least with the sweater I looked less weird than I did before.

A knock sounded on the door. “Hey, are you done in there yet? Come out, we want to see what you look like.”

“I’ll be out in a minute.”

I glanced in the mirror again, and my eyes focused on the showers reflected in it, then on what I was wearing. I didn’t like it. I wanted to put on my own clothes and run out of the bathroom as fast as I could. There was a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn’t identify. I took a deep breath to brace myself. They didn’t even smell like my clothes. There was a strong scent of perfume clinging to them. The only scent that I ever wore was soap.

I opened the door tentatively and was surprised to find her still standing right outside the door, leaning up against one of the sets of bunk beds. She smiled, “Well, it’s certainly an improvement. You look much better then you did before. Didn’t I tell you that it would work?” Several girls playing cards on the wooden floor nodded in agreement. Others took a momentary hiatus from conversation to stare at me and then offered their affirmation as well.

“I have to get my camera. We have to take a picture of this,” she exclaimed like it would be a moment that would be lost forever if she didn’t capture it.

Just then, the bell rang to announce dinner time. A flurry of activity began as girls grabbed their purses and hairbrushes for quick touch-ups.

“Hurry up!” she said impatiently, grabbing my arm and pulling me down the stairs. “We have just enough time before dinner starts. Here. Stand right here.” She positioned me on the tree-lined path leading down to the dining hall and yanked my glasses off my face. “There, much better.” Everything around me turned into a blur as the camera snapped.

I wore the outfit all evening, letting it fall onto the same dirty, cracked bathroom floor after the night’s festivities. I wanted it off. It felt too weird to wear it—too unnatural. She wanted me to wear some of her clothes again the next day, but this time I refused.

I would wear her clothes again one more time that year—I remember exactly what they looked like: a pair of flared velour pants and a blue, silky blouse with pearl buttons. I remember those pants and that blouse so well, because that was the day I realized that I wasn’t Angela, and most of all, I didn’t want to be her. I wanted to be Sara, geeky as she might be.

I wore Angela’s clothes because I wanted to have friends and I wanted the other girls in my class to like me. But after I wore them, I decided I wanted to make my own decisions and wear the clothes that I wanted to wear. I wasn’t happy trying to be someone else. I never became popular, or became the girl with a lot of friends. But from then on, I always knew that the friends I did have were friends with me for me. Not for the clothes I wore, and certainly not for how cool I was.

~Sara E. Rowe

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