The Gorilla Syndrome

The Gorilla Syndrome

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

The Gorilla Syndrome

I wouldn’t have believed that I could ever be so embarrassed! I was sweating, my heart was pounding like a bass drum in my head and I felt as though the entire classroom could hear it!

Josh, the cute, blonde boy sitting next to me, my secret crush, was looking down at my extremely fuzzy legs! I could feel the heat of his stare. It seemed as though a force field was drawing his dark brown eyes downward to my legs. I swallowed hard and tried desperately to pretend that I was completely enthralled by what the teacher was saying. In reality, she could have been telling me that Martians had invaded the earth, and I would not have reacted. Oh Lord, please don’t let Josh be looking at my hairy legs!

Time seemed to stand still. The conversation I’d had the previous day with my mother kept whirling through my head like an amusement park ride that wouldn’t stop spinning.

“Mom,” I said, “Every girl in the seventh grade shaves her legs! I’m the only one who hasn’t done it yet! I can’t possibly wear a skirt tomorrow unless I shave. I look like some sort of gorilla!”

“Oh, Liz, don’t be silly. No one will even notice your legs. I’m telling you, once you shave your legs, you’ll have to shave them forever. Your hair will grow back thicker than ever after you’ve shaved them, and trust me, shaving is not a lot of fun.”

Oh, why did I listen to her?! She couldn’t possibly know how I feel!!

It seemed an eternity had passed when at last I could feel Josh’s eyes moving away from my legs. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief . . . and then it happened. He said the words that I will never forget as long as I live. “Your mom won’t let you shave, huh?”

It was too much. My mouth suddenly felt as though I’d spent forty years in the desert. I couldn’t remove my tongue from the roof of my mouth, but somehow I managed a weak smile and shook my head.

He gave me an understanding look of sympathy, but couldn’t stop his eyes from, once again, glancing down at my very hairy calves that were now wrapped like giant furry caterpillars around the back legs of my desk.

When Josh looked up, our eyes locked, and the embarrassment I felt nearly immobilized me. Somehow he knew I didn’t want to talk about it, and to my great relief, he looked away.

My face felt as hot as a July sun, and I cringed, thinking it had probably turned as red as my hair. My life, as I knew it, was over. My mother had just ruined my life . . . the sweetest guy in the world had noticed my woolly legs, and felt sorry for me! Oh my gosh!!! I can’t believe this is happening. He feels sorry for me . . . how embarrassing! How am I ever going to look at him again? How am I going to make my mother understand what this has just done to me? I won’t recover!

I did recover. Slowly, slowly, my pounding heart began to calm down, and little by little I could once again hear the sounds of the classroom around me. I didn’t think it was possible, but somehow I made it through seventh period and made it home again.

After slamming the front door, I made a beeline for my bedroom and proceeded to throw myself back dramatically onto the bed. With one arm slung across my forehead, I closed my eyes against the image of the expression of sympathy on Josh’s face as he was looking at my legs. Ughhh . . . was this some sort of nightmare or did he really ask me if I was allowed to shave?!

I rolled over onto my stomach, crossed my traitorous legs at the ankles, and wished I had about a pound of rich milk chocolate and two cartons of hot, greasy, French fries.

Instead, I thought hard about what my mom had said about shaving, thought hard about the consequences . . . and shaved my legs anyway.

There. I’d done it. My legs were smooth now—except for the half dozen or so cuts. They were shaved though, and I felt extremely pleased with myself.

I did notice, however, that my legs seemed even more pale than before I shaved them, if that was possible. Maybe it was my imagination . . . no, they definitely glowed. Great, that was just what I needed, even milkier white skin that showed my spattering of freckles even more. Oh well, I thought, at least they are shaved! I would never have those gorilla legs to look at again.

After pulling on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, I headed for the kitchen for a long-overdue snack and a phone call to my best friend, Krista.

Although I was exhausted from my ordeal, my sleep that night was restless. I dreamt of Josh and gorillas. He was trying to help me shave their backs and legs. It was absurd, and I was very relieved to wake up the next day. I was also relieved that the weather had turned so cold that wearing a skirt was out of the question. I was able to hide my war wounds with jeans.

I stumbled to my drawer and dug out a stuffed-in pair of jeans. They were only a little wrinkled. As I pulled them on, I noticed something weird. My legs weren’t even smooth anymore! I ran my hands down my legs, and then I knew. My mother’s words came back to haunt me as I stared at my battered-up, white legs with their newly formed stubble.

Closing my eyes, I sighed and tried to pretend that it wasn’t true, but to my dismay, my legs were covered with tiny, black whiskers that were darker than I ever remembered my leg hair being.

I threw myself back on the bed in disgust. Great, now instead of fur-balls on my legs, I have whiskers that feel as sharp as daggers.

A week later, I found myself standing in a cluster of giggling girls on one side of the gymnasium at school. It was the school’s first dance for the year, and the excitement among my friends and myself was at an all-time high.

Of course, the boys were all on the opposite side of the gym, some trying to look bored, others wrestling around and acting tough. Only a few of the most popular kids were brave enough so far to actually have danced, so much to my dismay, the teacher announced a game where everyone would have to be asked to dance.

My heart began to slam in my chest as I realized that I could be left standing until the very last, and I found myself panicking at the humiliation of it all. I think it’s time to go to the bathroom.

I began making my way through the crowd. Suddenly, a faint scent of spicy cologne filled my nose, as I felt a small tap on my shoulder. Fully expecting to turn and find that it was my friend Krista who had done it, I nearly fainted when I discovered Josh standing only inches from me.

Still unbelieving, I turned my head from side to side, sure that I’d made a mistake. Surely Josh didn’t tap my shoulder . . . did he? I had no more than formed the thought when he chuckled shyly, and asked, “Do you want to dance?”

Where was my gosh-darn voice when I needed it? All I could manage was a small smile and a nod. Within moments, I was dancing with Josh . . . the sweetest, cutest, best dancer in the whole world.

I was still dancing on air that night while getting ready for bed. My smile was huge as I twirled through the hallway and into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Standing in my nightshirt, I suddenly caught a glimpse of my legs and realized that the embarrassment I thought I’d never survive seemed almost laughable . . . well, almost.

I was better at shaving now. My mom didn’t even get mad at me when she found out that I’d shaved against her wishes. She just looked at me and said, “Be more careful next time.” I was eternally grateful she didn’t make more of a fuss. My dad, on the other hand, was not too pleased that I used his razor. . . . Well, that’s another story.

When I went to tell my parents good-night, I hugged them both extra tightly. I was having a hard time falling asleep. My sister was breathing evenly next to me, and I knew she was already out for the night, but I was still so excited that Josh had asked me to dance.

Suddenly, I felt grateful to my PE teacher for making everyone choose a partner, even though earlier that night I’d felt like shooting her when she started the game. I smiled into the darkness at the thought and felt satisfied that I had just survived the worst humiliation of my life. With that thought came the realization that Josh must still like me despite my gorilla legs. After all, he asked me to dance, didn’t he?!

My smile broadened, and with a satisfied giggle, I rolled onto my side and fell fast asleep.

Elizabeth J. Schmeidler

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners