There’s always one. That kid in school who has the wrong clothes, the wrong shoes, the wrong hairstyle. On the outside, they’re not like the other kids. In many ways, I was that weird kid. Here’s the second part of my imaginary diary, reflecting my feelings as a little tiny girl and informed by what I know now as a grown woman. To read Part 1, please click here.
Just know this: it’s not you. You’re not organically “weird.” In most cases, it’s parents with lack of empathy who almost seem to go out of their way to make their child “weird.”
At the end of this article is a little something I learned by being the weird kid and wrote, from my heart, to encourage all the other “weird kids” out there.
Dedicated to all the wonderful “Weird Kids” – old and young.
January 1993: Well, band just bit the dust. I adore playing flute in band but Mom and Dad are making me quit. I can’t do everything perfectly so my one-and-only extracurricular is going bye-bye so I can focus on my schoolwork. I’m sad but there’s no earthly point in showing grief. It wouldn’t make the slightest difference to their decision. “You give up everything so gracefully,” Mother praises me. How screwed up is that!?
September 1993: First day of Junior High. It’s a challenge. Running up and down four flights of stairs and working a combination lock with only three minutes between classes!?! What masochist dreamed up that system!? No adult could do it. Plus I’m coping with having a period now. Coping with not having any friends. Adjusting to this uncomfortable bra that’s either creeping up or flopping its straps down my arms. Seventh Grade is hard, but I’m getting Straight As and on the Honor Roll. Dad says I almost failed probably because I cry a lot. He scorns any feelings (except his own rage) as “emotion.” That doesn’t make sense. So I ask him, “Was I going to be sent back to Sixth Grade?” He has no answer.
November 1993: I finally got into a clique…and drifted right out again. Not sure what happened. For one thing, I don’t know what the other girls are talking about. They all watch TV and talk the lingo. We don’t have TV. They’ve all watched Dances With Wolves and have a huge crush on Kevin Costner. My family doesn’t go to movie theaters on moral grounds. I’m the odd duck. Out of it. Clueless. I eat lunch alone a lot. It hurts.
September 1994: I’ve got a Buddy. We’re all assigned a Senior Buddy. They’re supposed to do cool stuff for us, decorate our lockers, etc. My beautiful red-haired buddy, Jackie, asked for my locker combination so she could do that. I know it’s against Mom and Dad’s rules, but I’m weak inside. I’m incapable of saying “No” to anyone about anything. I gave it to her. Mom and Dad are furious with me. They’re afraid my winter coat will be stolen. I hate when they’re angry at me.
October 1994: I got hit in the face with a basketball today in gym class. My glasses broke. Mom and Dad had them fixed and bought me a glasses chain like little old ladies wear. I have to wear that now so, if my glasses get bumped, they won’t hit the floor. It’s embarrassing. But practicality is king in my family. Feelings be damned.
January 1995: Got into the National Geography Bee again. I hate it. This is my third time. Geography is not my forte but I “spelled down” the rest of my class just as I’ve done for the past three years. Last year, I refused to participate. This year, I thought I’d give it another whirl. Within the first round of questions, I’m o-u-t. Dad is visibly disappointed in me. He says he won’t allow me to participate again. That I need to let someone else have a chance. That I “choke” and let down my class. That doesn’t make sense either. And my classmates couldn’t even get into the first round! But whatever…
February 14th, 1995: Today my dad burst into my homeroom playing his harmonica and gave me Valentines Day candy. It was kinda sweet, kinda mortifying. I’m not sure how to feel about it. By their facial expressions, my freshmen classmates are flummoxed too.
September 1995: I’m a sophomore as of today! I’m wearing one of those damned, uncomfortable white blouses. When I grow up, I’ll never own another white blouse! I also have new shoes.
Big, heavy brown leather shoes for wearing during class and velcro shoes for gym time. Dad went through the whole shoe department at Target, squeezing the soles of all the tennis shoes, shaking his head sadly. None of the cool shoes, the Nikes and Adidas, were “quality.” Dad could easily afford them, but he refuses to buy me a nice pair. Somehow, the cheapest, velcro tennis shoes passed his sole-squeezing inspection. So that’s what I’ll be wearing to 10th Grade gym class. Velcro tennis shoes. I wish I could sink through the floor, I’m so embarrassed. Only people with mental disabilities who can’t tie laces wear them. To his credit, Dad is wearing them too. Seems strange for a man who talks fondly about his first pair of blue Adidas and how mortified he was to wear strange clothes to school. Why is he forcing me to wear “mental disability” shoes?
October 1995: I feel like a Little House on the Prairie girl. The other girls are wearing cute shoes, have permanent waves, pierced ears, make-up and lots of hairspray. It’s the age of “mall bangs.” I’m like Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory. Heavy, brown leather shoes with my dresses. Dad snip, snip, snips at my hair at home. He makes so much money, we live on only 80%…but he won’t shell out a dime for a salon haircut, let alone a permanent. I don’t ask; what’s the use. Pierced earrings are “unBiblical.” I only just got mascara last year. Finally! With my ugly shoes, glasses chain and dogtag, That’s also probably why I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m surprised I don’t get bullied but my school doesn’t allow that. Somehow, I slip under the radar.
December 1995: I introduced Dad to a boy I like at a concert tonight. I’ll never, ever do that again. I’ve been ordered to never look at, speak to or even think about that boy ever again. Mom interrogates me every day after school to be sure I’m following those orders. The first day I made a boo-boo and automatically responded “Good Morning” when that cute guy said it to me. I’m in deep shit at home. The nightmares have started. It’s always the same nightmare. Always about my parents. I’ll have it for the next twenty years.
April 1996: My classmates are getting letter jackets, class rings and driver’s licenses. Well, that’s not happening for me. It’s not even on the cards. And frankly, with my newly developed PTSD, I don’t think I could drive, at least, not with the person who’s traumatizing me in the passenger seat. He terrifies me. I explained that to Mom; she forced me go driving with him anyways. He’s like a powder keg. You never know when he’ll explode. One time, he broke the car door with his fist when he was raging at me for driving like an idiot. I did drive like an idiot. I’m shell-shocked. My nerves are in shreds.
February 1996: I get to go on a field trip! My whole class is going roller skating. But my parents say I’ll not be allowed to skate unless I wear a helmet and full pads. Not one single classmate is wearing a helmet and pads. I can’t bear the embarrassment, so I’ve decided to just stand at the rail and watch everyone else skate. For hours and hours. Some of the kids offer to let me use their skates, but I politely decline. If I disobey my parents and skate without protection, there will be Hell to pay later at home.
May 1996: Something is going on. It has to do with me. Tonight, the phone rang during supper, Mom nodded knowingly at Dad and he rushed me out of the room while Mother took the call. Dad refuses to tell me what is going on. I’m furious, panicked and besides myself with fear and curiosity. What are they planning for me now!?!? Do I get to have a choice!?
Well, they finally told me. I’m sixteen, so they’re removing me from school. It’s legal. While all my other classmates are learning to drive, having boyfriends and girlfriends, being cool Juniors and Seniors, I’ll be homeschooled. And home, right now, is batcrap crazy. I’m furious!! So begins the isolation and the worst thirty months of my life.
April 1997: My first date invitation!!! A boy from my old school called and asked Dad’s permission to take me to the class banquet. I’d get to see all my old classmates again!!!
Dad didn’t even speak to me about it. He just called the boy back and told him, “Lenora has not met all our criteria for dating yet.” To a Baptist school kid, that means only one thing: She hasn’t committed to abstinence. Dad basically told that boy I was, well, in Baptist parlance “sexually promiscuous.” A slut! I’m furious with Dad. Why didn’t he say what he actually meant: “At seventeen, Lenora’s not old enough yet.” But, no! He declined the date without every discussing it with me. And that’s the first I’ve heard that there’s an age when I can start dating! They’d never give me any info when I inquired.
May 1998: Graduation Day. One of the worst days of my life. Dad’s disappointed I didn’t learn more. Mom’s disappointed in my OCD-ravaged complexion but cover makeup is verboden. They believe the shame of my OCD-blemishes will motivate me to stop. The stress only makes the OCD worse!
I’m graduating anyways. I had professional graduation pictures taken, but my parents lied to the photographer. They said it wasn’t for graduation at all to save money. They told me not to smile much.
Now that I’ve graduated, they tell me I’ll be getting a job. I had a job. Did all that work for straight As mean anyhing? I worked my ass off. It was more than a full-time job, counting all the hours and hours of homework. And now they tell me it was all so I can get a job someday. I’ve already had one. It lasted for twelve long years. I’m exhausted. No one acknowledges how tired I am. Was it all for naught? I need a vacation. That’s not happening either. I’ll spend the next Summer in the basement or outside with a paintbrush in my hand, fixing my parents’ house they neglected as they were so busy raising me. It’s all my fault.
But at least I finally get to take off my dogtag!
Dear Fellow Weird Kids, Life gets better. Hand on heart, I promise you. It really does get better after graduation. So hang in there!!!
You will grow up and when you do, you will have the legal right to get away from the people who turned you into that “weird kid.” So study hard! Money is your key to freedom and normalcy. To make money, it really helps to be really smart. Hey! School just took on a whole new meaning. Suddenly algebra isn’t pointless after all. 😉
Finally, you can get that salon haircut. Buy tons of makeup. Paint your nails black if you want to. Wear cute shoes. Totally revamp your wardrobe even on a shoestring budget (hey! thrift stores have very nice clothes). Get your ears pierced. Get a tattoo. Be cool. Give yourself a complete makeover. That’s what I did. Perhaps I went a little too far the other way, but hey!! I like glamor!
The only good thing about being “the weird kid” is that it makes you strong. That was partly my parents’ intention. They knew I would learn to be strong and independent after years of suffering weirdness. That doesn’t make it right though. Now I use the strength to fight them and their cult-like ways and to maintain No Contact.
Being “weird” also made me strong and tolerant of eccentricity, my own and other people’s. Eccentrics may be the happiest, most interesting and intelligent people out there. So being “weird” isn’t all bad!
So if you’re the weird kid in school this year, remember these four important things:
- This too shall pass: While you’re going through it, the bullying and intrusive questions seems to last an Eternity, but you’ll graduate much sooner than you realize. Yesterday, I graduated. Today, I’m thirty-eight. Where did twenty years go!?!
- Being “weird” makes you strong: You won’t grow up to be one of those people who are enslaved by appearances – people who go into debt to have the coolest car, the designer clothes. You know how to survive being different. You have choices. Your pocketbook will thank you. You may just grow up to marry another (made-over) weird kid. I did…and he’s rather wonderful.
- It’s not you: You’re not organically flawed in some way. In most cases, it’s your parents choosing to make you weird. Mine did. It’s called lack of empathy. It’s called unkindness. It’s called not doing unto others.
- This is your little secret: When you grow up and give yourself that extreme makeover, no one will ever know you used to be “the weird kid.” It’s our little secret. And I won’t tell on you if you won’t tell on me.
Have a good school year…anyways!