I was never that girl in school.
I was never asked to dances, picked by team captains, invited to parties. I was relentlessly teased by the cool kids when I wasn't being, mercifully, ignored.
I remember we used to square dance during P.E. I don't know if they even do this anymore. Is there anything more demoralizing than the do-see-do? But, ten years ago this was their attempt to keep kids off drugs and out of their backseats. And it sort of worked because everyone loved square dancing. Because at least it wasn't climbing the rope with the amorphous Mrs. Holz and her trembling chin hairs.
Well, almost everyone loved P.E. square dancing.
The problem with the process is that the clueless teachers set it up so that all the girls would line up on the bleachers in the gym and then the boys would come choose us individually. Here's the best part: there was one more girl than there were boys. And every single torturous session the same thing would happen. THE SAME GIRL WOULD BE LEFT ON THE BLEACHERS.
We would each slowly be picked one by one by reluctant boys (at least mine was always reluctant) and the leftover girl would remain and watch the rest of us dance for the next hour.
The image of this lone girl sitting there, the forced smile on her face, high up in the middle of the bleachers while the rest of her entire ninth grade class danced and laughed has been indelibly imprinted on my brain.
As hellish as school was for me, imagine how it was for her. How does the human spirit, especially that of a 15-year-old, recover from that sort of rejection day after day?
I spent the majority of my adolescence believing I was unattractive and unloveable. This gave way to, as it often does, an adulthood where I have experienced hot dates, great friendships, and frequent promotions. True I owe this transformation in large part to my discovery of tweezers. But, it also seems to be the natural progression. People tend to peak either in high school or adulthood.
I often visit my hometown and when I do I frequently see justice prevailing:
The former football jock who never gave me the time of day hitting on me in line at the grocery store.
The ring leader who relentlessly teased me about my leg hair waiting at the bus stop in a Wendy's uniform.
The prom queen who I hear lives in her parents' basement with five kids from three daddies.
And I come home to my full life here where I have spent the 10 years since high school working on my personality and my relationships and my career and writing and my looks. And I realize that high school gave me the best life lesson. You have to work for what you want in life.
I never received the message that things would come easily for me or that I could skate along. I was always too well aware of my invisible status and that gave me determination.
So, now as a parent I have mixed feelings when Savannah's teacher tells me that "Savannah is so popular!". A big part of me feels tremendous relief that maybe she will not have to endure the torture from her peers that I did. But, another part of me wonders what she'll miss out on if she doesn't.
I often think of that girl up in the bleachers. I wonder if she's a mother now. I wonder what she hopes for her kids. I wonder what sort of person she turned out to be. And I have a feeling she's amazing.