Who were the kids who gave you the most trouble growing up? Usually there’s more than one. In my case, several still stand out today — perhaps because I switched schools often. I went to a private Christian school from kindergarten until third grade, and during that time, this boy named Steven was the big bully. I was about constantly ten pounds overweight as a child, but this boy was heavier than I was, yet he found something in everyone to pick on — the classic case of bullying others to protect his own insecurities. However, I had a lot of friends in my class, and some of them stood up for me. So while his teasing stung, I wasn’t as miserable as I would have been had I been a loner. Of course, he was one of the few people I wouldn’t miss when my parents took my brother and I away from that school after my third grade year because they couldn’t afford it anymore.
In the fourth grade, I started public school, which was a wakeup call. At the private school, saying gosh or golly sent a tattletaler to the teacher. At public school, kids were saying much worse — along with a lot words I’d never heard before — and no one was telling on anyone. The first day at this school — where despite my hard search I saw no familiar faces — I sat at a table with five other girls, one of whom was named Caroline. Caroline was new that year too, but she went to church with several girls in the class. I wouldn’t have that luxury since my mom requested special permission from the school district for me to go to this particular school because it was close to her office and she didn’t have to drive across town to pick us up and then drive back across town to our babysitter’s house.
So while Caroline shed a few tears on that first day of school, she rebounded well from her separation anxiety and took her place among her church friends. I, on the other hand, became the loner. At recess that day, I went off by myself and climbed one of the jungle gyms. The group of girls came by and asked if I wanted to go with them. I said I would and I thanked them. Then Caroline said, “Well, Mrs. So-and-so asked us to come ask you.”
When we returned to our classroom after recess, I watched (almost in slow motion) as Caroline slightly leaned over to the girl across the table and told her that she didn’t like me. Just like that. She could have taken a butcher knife andput it through my heart and it wouldn’t have hurt any more than those words. At that age, I would have much rather had sticks and stones.
But the girl who was my ultimate nemesis was a girl named Wendy. We went to church together. She was a year ahead of me in school. She was preppy and perky and petite — and a cheerleader, of course. She wore her curly blond hair in a cute, short style, and she had all the right clothes. I was tall and pudgy and wore my hair long to take attention away from my chubby cheeks. I wore baggy clothes to disguise my hideous hips and thick thighs.
She was the center of every group she circulated in, which exclusively included the upper crust of the popular kids. I had friends, but I always wanted to avoid bringing too much attention to myself in the fear that someone would point out my embarrassing figure.
Wendy was, without a doubt in my mind, the snobbiest girl I had ever met (and would ever meet) in my entire life. Her viciousness came not in words but looks and snickers and chuckles that could bring the worst of my self-loathing to the surface. Then I would hate myself even more for letting her evoke that sort of reaction. She had mastered the skill of disdainful looks and isolating clique formation, even though I also had my own group of friends.
I remember on a church youth trip to Myrtle Beach, I stood in front of the mirror in the girls bathroom, trying to get ready with her standing on the other side with that look on her face that seemed to say, “Why bother?” Finally, I stopped what I was doing and asked, “What? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose or something?” She simply let out a “pffffft” and walked by. I hadn’t even broken the surface to rattle her.
There were a couple of instances where I joyfully realized that she wasn’t the center of everbody’s world. Once on a youth day retreat in the mountains to this conference/camping-type center, I sat on one of the church vans with my friends and listened to two of the girls who usually hung out with her mimicking her prissiness.
Then there was the way she desperately wanted to go out with this guy who also went to our church and school. He was a nice guy who was a year ahead of Wendy, but he started dating another girl who was a year ahead of him (also a member of our church youth group) who was pretty and smart, not petite and perky. It was so funny to see Wendy almost turn green to see the two of them together. Eventually, he did go out with Wendy, but only after the other girl graduated and went off to college. And when he graduated and left for college, they broke up as well.
I haven’t seen Wendy since she graduated from high school. She went to Auburn, and I think she met someone there whom she married. I wish I could be there one day to see that she’s somehow realized what a bitch she was. The way life goes though, I know that more than likely she’s probably financially well off and still giving those you-are-so-beneath-me looks to anyone she deems less than her. That’s okay too, though, because (a) I don’t have to see her anymore and (b) I’m secure enough now that I could just laugh in her face if she tried giving one of those looks to me.