Last Tuesday was the last time I left the house. It’d been a fortnight since I last went grocery shopping, so we needed a little bit of everything. Because of Michael’s pre-existing health issues, naturally I went prepared: gloves, mask, Lysol.
“Surely,” thought I, “this is our new normal. There will be others wearing masks. After all, even vain celebrities are wearing gloves and masks.”
Boy! Was I ever wrong!
I was the only one in town acting like anything had changed in our nation. Other customers looked at me askance. As I paid for Michael’s prescriptions, I was subjected to a very loud and flippant conversation between a customer and the pharmacist (!) about how the coronavirus is all a big nothing-burger.
That’s when it happened: massive trigger.
Suddenly, I was a little kid again. The weird kid in school. The really, really, really weird kid in school. All the pain, the embarrassment came flooding back. I wanted to rip off that damn mask…but of course, I didn’t. If my schooldays have taught me anything, it’s that if I try to be normal and don’t follow the rules that make me so weird, I’ll have three feet burned off my tail section when I get home. Verbally…and maybe a spanking too.
But why retell the whole story when I already wrote about this subject in August of 2018:
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. My husband was too. This article is for every little girl who felt weird and out-of-it (me) and for every little boy who didn’t receive enough haircuts and had to wear a hand-sewn orange velvet jumpsuit without a fly (my husband.)
This is my imaginary diary, reflecting my feelings as a little girl and miserable teenager and informed by what I know now as a grown woman.
Just know this: it’s not you. You’re not organically “weird.” It’s not DNA-deep. In most cases, it’s parents with lack of empathy who almost seem to go out of their way to make their child “weird.” Some may be clueless, some neglectful, some in a cult or cult-like family, some knowingly abusive, some paranoid and worried.
August 1986: Next month, I start first grade. I’m so excited about school!!! I have my backpack, my crayons, my pencils already. Today Grandma came over with something for me. It’s a metal dogtag like soldiers wear. She had it made at the Minnesota State Fair. I have to wear it on a chain round my neck right next to my housekey, so if I get abducted, the police can identify my body. (Wouldn’t that be the first thing my abductor would yank off?) When I run and play, the dogtag and key clank loudly together. It’s embarrassing. The other girls don’t wear military dogtags. They ask me all kinds of embarrassing questions when we’re changing in the locker room.
October 1986: Got invited to my first birthday party by a schoolmate! Mom says I can’t go. I’m not allowed to go to any birthday parties or sleepovers cause I could get molested. That makes sense, but it makes me sad too. I asked if I could invite some friends over for my birthday. They said “no.”
November 1986: All the other kids trade food at lunch. They have frozen pizzas and chips. I have very nutritious dry and crumbly whole wheat sandwiches, fruit and sugar-free desserts. The other kids think I’m diabetic. I’m not diabetic….but I’m not allowed to trade or taste anyone’s food. Mom says other people cook with germy hands and I already get sick all the time. One day I tasted one tiny lick of frosting on Jessica’s cake. Jessica is my best friend. Mommy yelled at me for, well, it seemed like half an hour at least. She was so angry!!! I cried and cried.
December 1986: All the kids on the bus were teasing each other to say the “F” word. I don’t know what that is so I said it. Jessica taught it to me. Now Mom and Dad said I must ignore Jessica and never, ever speak to her again. Ever. Jessica is my best friend. The other girls are mad at me for ignoring Jessica.
January 1987: The schoolbus is a problem. I’m not allowed to sit in the front seat; it’s not safe. I’m not allowed to sit in the back of the bus where, well, things are said and done. I’m not allowed to sit on the left side of the bus; that’s only for the boys. I’m not allowed to sit with Jessica. That narrows down my options. The bus is always stressful. The kids talk, compete, brag and express their opinions. I try to talk with them, but it never works quite right. And I don’t seem to have any opinions, unlike them. Most importantly of all, I mustn’t ever, ever miss the bus. And I never did.
February 1987: I’m bored. The other kids read so slowly in class. I amuse myself by reading ahead. My teacher is not amused. I’ve already read our whole reading book, except the story about the troll. I’m not allowed to read that one.
March 1987: I turned seven years old. Mommy made peanut butter cookies for me to pass out to my class. That’s kinda hypocritical cause I’m not allowed to eat any homemade treats my schoolmates bring, even for their birthday. I always have to say “No, thank you.” They look at me weird then. I always feel weird. That’s tough. Daddy says it’ll make me strong. I don’t want to be strong. I want to be normal.
April 1987: Had my first field trip today! It was so much fun. We went to parks, had a picnic and toured a McDonalds. Mom is furious. She wasn’t told about the parks and didn’t sign off on that. She asked if we all held hands to stay together. We didn’t. No more field trips for me. They’re not safe. That means I’ll miss the last day of school every year now. All my classmates will be having fun together; I’ll be at home. Mom and Dad say we’ll do lots of fun, educational stuff together as a family. That’s true, but it’s not quite as much fun as a field trip with my class.
September 1987: Second grade has started. Bathroom breaks are a problem. The other little girls just sit down on the toilet seat. I have to cover it with toilet paper first. That takes a long time. The other little girls keep asking me why it takes me so long to pee. Sometimes they kneel down and look under the stall door and watch me pee. This violation of my privacy makes me so furious, I want to kick them.
October 1987: Mommy told me what “sex” is today. I think it sounds horrible. Thinking about it gives me the most horrible, vile feeling that I just sob and sob. Other kids don’t feel or act like that. They like whispering and giggling about sex. Daddy says some people just can’t handle talking about sex and I’m one of those people.
November 1987: Today I did what everyone else does. I talked in class. Miss Davy made me put my nose on the wall in punishment. Of course, I had to tell Mommy when I got home. Secrets are not allowed at home. Great-Grandma was visiting so she heard my story too. It struck her so funny, she started giggling. She laughed so hard, she could barely walk but she kinda staggered over to the wall and put her nose on it, just to see what it was like. I guess in all her 87 years, she’s never heard of that particular punishment. That made Mommy laugh despite being upset and ashamed of me. Dad says he and I are going to put together a poster. It will say, “I will not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” That poster will hang in my bedroom for years, shaming me, shaming me.
December 1987: Today I disobeyed. After so much begging, my parents finally bought me a pair of black Mary Janes like the other girls wear. They’re so cute and snap on the floor when I walk. I’m in love. I’m a “shoe person” already. I wear them on Sundays to church with my dresses, but today I got permission to wear them to school. Mom said I must not wear them out to the playground. But I did. I disobeyed her. I wore them outside like the other girls do. Mom is disappointed in me. I’m so ashamed, I’ll never wear my Mary Janes again and simply grow out of them.
February 1988: I’m the weird girl in my class. Mom and Dad know it. They say it will make me strong, able to resist things like “worldliness” and “peer pressure.” All I know is, it hurts.
For example, we don’t have TV or VCR. I’ve seen Mr Rogers Neighborhood and get teased for liking it at school. The other kids are always asking me questions, questions, questions because I’m different. Mommy told me to just lie to them. I’m not glib enough to lie successfully. It would have been better if she taught me how to have boundaries. But she doesn’t have any, so I can’t have any either.
Please click here to read Part 2 of this article and especially the very encouraging summary for weird kids everywhere!