I had a very clear definition of who I was from a very young age. I was told I was “smart” and “pretty”. I grew up in a rural area, so I could tell people who my parents and grandparents were and they knew all they needed to know about me. But then I needed glasses, and my grandmother insisted my short, baby-fine hair needed a perm. Since I was going through that gangly stage (which lasted way too long in my case) and my parents got divorced before any of my friends’ parents did I just hung onto “smart” for as long as I could, and let all the other insecurities build.
I made some new friends in Junior High, thankfully. I didn’t find out until years later that a “mean girl” in the worst possible sense had put a lot of time and effort into alienating me from my childhood friends. But the friends I made in Junior High hung with me into High School, when I finally got contacts. It certainly didn’t put me back in the “pretty” category, but I could pass for “smart and kinda cute” on a good day. I threw myself into any activity that would look good on a scholarship application and didn’t require any actual skill or coordination, because I knew early on that I had no marketable skills and no money for a college education.
I graduated 6th in a class of 600, and got a four-year full-ride scholarship to the University of Kentucky College of Nursing. There I was neither smart nor pretty, but just a name on the roster. A name that was actually misspelled on my diploma, which I had to pay to get fixed. That had to wait until my third or fourth paycheck as a nurse, which was how I defined myself for a couple of decades.
That and Michael’s wife, Aaron’s mom, then Jack’s mom. Then my youngest has his own bullying experience, after which he changed schools and wanted to be called John, his legal name, which he goes by to this day. Is it wrong that I still want to find the boy who bullied him and made his life miserable (with the full knowledge of the Holy Spirit School teacher, counselor, and principal) for tainting the nickname my son used for almost the first decade of his life? I could slowly cut out his tongue with a smile on my face, but it would be pointless since he’s probably bullied so many other people since then he doesn’t even remember my son. He’ll be arrested one day for raping an unconscious college girl and his parents will pretend to be shocked.
Long post, so wait for Part II tomorrow.