Monday, November 12, 2012

Time Traveling Amanda, Pt. 2: Middle School Years

Middle School Years: 1991-1993

Ok.  Get ready, because I think middle school, for everyone, is possibly the most miserable and confusing time in life.  Seriously.  Your body is changing, your skin turns on you, cliques are forming, and popularity is suddenly the most important thing in the world.

My middle school years were honestly torture.  I don't think I spent one comfortable moment in my own skin from the ages of 11 to 13.  I was homeschooled up until 6th grade, and to say I was unprepared for real life adolescence is a major understatement.

I was the definition of nerd.  I can say that with no embarrassment almost 20 years later, but at the time -agggh.  It was the worst.  I used to go home and fill up diary pages with plans to reinvent myself via new clothes, shoes, better haircuts - you name it.  I would give myself a stern talking to in the mirror every morning, telling myself not to use big words, not to talk about books or music too much, and to get better at volleyball (focus!).


So here's what I would change:

1.  Sixth grade, 1991: Friends
I can still remember walking into Ms. Pettyjohn's science class with my heart in my throat, and watching everyone turn as Ms. Pettyjohn introduced me.  Some kids were friendly, but some...were not.  Unfortunately, I was so eager to make friends that I just attached myself to whoever was nice to me in those first few weeks.  This was a bad decision, because I made "friends" with some of the meanest girls in the world.  They put the characters in "Mean Girls" to shame.  Less than a year later, two of those girls wrote me a letter informing me that I wasn't cool enough to be their friend.  Aaaand self esteem goes into the toilet.
Time traveling Amanda would smile politely at these girls on the first day and then go and sit with the people who turned out to be my actual friends all through high school and into adulthood.

2.  Sixth grade - Eighth Grade, 1991-1993: Volleyball
I am, without a doubt, the least athletic person I know.  The only "sport" I'm somewhat good at is ping pong.  Which, unless you're Forrest Gump, so does not count.  The first rainy day of sixth grade, the entire P.E. class was corralled into the gym and divided into teams for volleyball.  I was utterly confused.  I grew up in a motor home.  I had never seen a volleyball game, much less played it.  Everyone else seemed to know all the rules, and I was way too embarrassed to ask, so I went ahead and lined up with everyone else behind the net.  Of course, the first volley came right at me.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but the logical thing seemed to be to catch it.  So...I did.  I have a very vivid memory of a girl named Cassidy wheeling around, giving me a look of pure hatred, and hissing "Oh, my GOD!  Are you a retard or something?!"  Half of my class laughed, and half (mostly my team) started yelling at me.  From that moment on, I was horrified by the thought of my having to play any organized sport.  In high school, I even made a deal with our P.E. coach: if he would excuse me from playing basketball, volleyball, etc., I would write him a short story based on P.E. every day.  And I did.  That's how much I hated it.
Time traveling Amanda would learn how to play volleyball (duh), but would also dismiss girls like Cassidy.  In fact, time traveling Amanda would just launch the volleyball at her head and say "Is that what I'm supposed to do?"  I literally, to this day, have no idea if I could have been ok at a sport of some kind.  If I could go back, I would at least try to find out.

3.  Seventh grade, 1992: Shaving
My mom wouldn't let me shave my legs until 8th grade, so I partially blame her for this one.  I wasn't a yeti, but by 7th grade, I was a little...furry.  I was starting to notice, and unfortunately, so were some of my classmates.  This did not help improve my popularity.  One day in band, a guy named Scott passed my chair, pointed to my leg, and yelled "Amanda's legs are hairier than my dad's!"  Cue shame.  I went home and asked if I could please shave, but my mom wouldn't budge.  The next week, my parents went out of town, and I decided that if I couldn't shave, I would fake it.  I decided to wear floral overall shorts (remember those?  Eek.)...with pantyhose.  I figured that not only would it make me look tan, but it would hide my hairy legs.  Our babysitter was a family friend, and he was a guy.  He didn't seem to notice that my legs were a full four shades darker than my arms and face, and he let me go to school.  My friend Bett (who I now know was trying to be helpful) asked me "Um...Amanda?  Are you really...tan?  On...just your legs?"  I was all cheerful. "YES! I so am!"  Sigh.  And of course, the pantyhose totally didn't hide my hairy legs.  It just mashed it up into disgusting patches.  My mom came to pick me up from school that day, took one look at me, and laughed.
Time traveling Amanda would sneak a razor from her mom's bathroom and shave.  Yes.  Justifiable rebellion.  And she would burn those floral overall shorts.

4.  Eighth grade, 1993: Shoes
My mom bought our shoes from wherever she thought was a good buy.  I didn't have a brand name pair of tennis shoes until 8th grade, because I honestly just didn't care.  Payless was ok with me.  But then two of the Triplet Mean Girls - Tiffany, Julie, and Elaine - felt it was their duty to point out that I didn't have cool tennis shoes.  Tiffany commented dryly that "your shoes look like they come from KMart.  My shoes cost $75."  And then they made a comment about it every day for weeks.  It was the first time I had even noticed that my shoes didn't have a name running along the side.  And of course, it became my new obsession.  I went home and begged my mom for a pair of Asics or Nikes.  I got some for Christmas that year, but my insecurity had been pretty much cemented by then.
Time traveling Amanda would say "Good for you!" to Tiffany, and completely ignore the rest of them.  When you're 13, it's so hard to realize that it won't matter in ten years, but I would definitely try to figure that out a bit earlier if I could go back.  Maybe I would have given them some shoes from KMart for Christmas, and tell them I bought them for them since they seemed so obsessed with mine...

5.  Eighth grade, 1993: Talent show
I sang "Swinging on a Star," as made famous by Frank Sinatra.  Of course, with lyrics like "...or would you rather be a pig?," this didn't really win me any cool points.  My friend Amos would go on  to bring up this talent show every time I did something embarrassing, all the way into college.  He would say "At least you're not singing about people being pigs!"  Touche, Amos.  Touche.
Time traveling Amanda would sing something else.  Like "Loser" by Beck.  Much more appropriate.


LL said...

We should've been friends back then. I often consciously thought one word and then used another, "dumber" synonym out loud to try and seem more "normal."

One of my formative experiences was when a perky blond girl in 5th grade sighed at one of the "dorky" girls and said, "Oh, she tries so hard." I eagerly replied, "I try hard too!" to which she responded, "If you're cool, you don't HAVE to try." Unfortunately that shaped how I saw myself for a long time. I appreciate the maturity that has allowed me to be more myself, as I'm sure you do.

Amanda said...

We definitely should have been friends. And I completely identify with "trying." It takes a lot to conquer that way of seeing ourselves. Thank God for college and adulthood.

Mrs. Wilson said...

Amanda, you have me in tears with laughter! I can SO relate to your middle school trauma and tragedies. You have always been able to make me laugh. I wish we could get together. I miss you!

Mrs. Wilson said...

And I have NO earthly idea why it says that my name is "Mrs. Wilson". It's Jenny. LOL.

Amanda said...

I miss you, too! We HAVE GOT to get together soon. Seriously. Let's plan it - my weekends are usually pretty free!

And I like "Mrs. Wilson." It just makes you sound so grown-up, and a little sassy, to boot. ;-)