Tag Archives: junior high

Seventh Grade, Continued

Jason was a five foot walking terror with black hair and Gap clothing. Quiet, unassuming, non-brand name clothing wearing, stringy hair me made the perfect victim.

We were in the seventh grade hallway—I had just come from getting my food in the cafeteria and was on my way to lunch in my Language Arts teacher’s classroom; we were reading Hatchet in class that month and I wanted to get ahead. Jason was coming from our math classroom, having been forced to stay after class to pay penance for an inappropriate comment to the teacher.

“Hey, lice-head,” he called as he came towards me.

I had tried to pass off my fourth grade lice incident as an allergic reaction to a new shampoo, but my classmates couldn’t let it go. The nickname followed me out of elementary school and right on up to junior high.

Jason moved so that he was right in front of me. “Why don’t you ever wash your hair?”

I did wash my hair. But it didn’t matter what I said. I clutched my lunch tray closer to my chest. The hallway was completely empty. No one was coming to save me.

“Why don’t you answer me?”

I shook my head. “I wash it every other day.”

“Maybe if you washed it more, you wouldn’t have lice head,” he retorted.

“That was in fourth grade.”

Jason looked me up and down. I had nightmarish visions of him hitting the bottom of my lunch tray and sending my food flying everywhere, a la some TGIF show. I took a step backwards as he fluffed his hair.

“You know how you could have nice hair? Like mine?”

I didn’t answer.

The bottle came out of nowhere—a tiny white Paul Mitchell salon sample bottle. Jason opened the cap and squeezed the shampoo all over my head. I froze as the liquid oozed down my head, onto my shoulders, my backpack, my lunch tray. My lip trembled, but I refused to let him see me cry. Jason dropped the bottle onto my lunch tray and sauntered past me towards the cafeteria. I threw my food away and spent the next ten minutes scrubbing shampoo from my hair and clothes. The shampoo burned my eyes as I tried to shove my head under the short sink. I cried, unsure if it was from the burning or the anger.

When I arrived in the Language Arts classroom, fifteen minutes later to my lunch spot than normal, the teacher asked me why I was soaking wet. I buried my face in my book instead of answering, because an answer would only bring bullying worse than a shampoo bath. Ironically, one of the first lines of Hatchet I read that day was: “He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work.”

I smiled, tied my wet hair back with a pencil, and leaned back to finish my book.

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Seventh Grade

Lissa was the most popular girl in the seventh grade class. She had curly dark hair and a winning smile. The boys all said that she was pretty, and they also said that I wasn’t. But I didn’t think she looked that different than I did. Sure, she wore brand name clothes and makeup, and I didn’t. Sure, her hair was glossy and combed and perfect, and mine wasn’t. Sure, she could carry on a conversation that didn’t involve a book or an animal, and I couldn’t. Sure, she was interested in boys, and I wasn’t. To me, we were really just the same.

Everyone wanted to be around Lissa. To sit at her table at lunch, to walk with her in the hall, to carry her books. Her upcoming birthday party was the talk of the cafeteria. I heard that the invitations were selective, not the normal “everyone gets one just for being in class with me” type we had grown up with. I heard that she was handing them out herself. I heard that they were on glittery Lisa Frank Stationary, with cute, brightly colored animals plastered all over them. I heard that there would be boys at the party.

I viewed the invitation as a ticket to … something. And god, did I really, really, really want that ticket. I wasn’t sure why. Did I want to fit in? Make friends? Finally get interested in a boy? Or did I really just want to be invited somewhere, to be a part of something?

Lissa’s shoes clacked against the cafeteria tile as she walked towards the seventh grade area, invitations in hand. My seat was at the edge of the table, with at least two spaces between me and everyone else. Just out of conversation range, because no one really talked to me anyway. I stared at my bright red compartmentalized lunch tray, digging my spoon down and scooping up mashed potatoes that might as well have been soup before letting them drip back onto the tray without putting them in my mouth. I held my breath as Lissa got to the table.

She gave an invitation to everyone.

Everyone except me.

There would be no cute glittery animals. No party. No presents. No boys. Not for me.

For the rest of the year, I refused to eat lunch in the cafeteria. I stayed in one teacher’s classroom or another, reading books or doing homework. It only cemented in my classmates’ eyes how weird I was, but I didn’t care anymore. I figured that if I wasn’t going to fit in anyway, I might as well not fit in doing something that made me happy.

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