Elementary and middle school weren’t easy for a nerd like me. I had friends, but with giant glasses that rivaled Urkel’s, there was never a chance that I would EVER be part of the cool crowd. Here’s a glimpse of some of baby Spinster’s finest memories.
Back in the day, the recess yard was a pretty tough place to be. I often had big band aids over my knees from falling on the asphalt. Red Rover was taken very seriously.
Of course, in first grade, I was clueless about the hierarchy of cool. Didn’t think it existed. However, the caste system in grade school is very real.
I learned that just because I was in the same Girl Scout troop as many members of the class, it did NOT mean I could hang out with them. I tried to approach the group of them at recess once and they told me to go away. Of course, I didn’t - I was in first grade! What did I know, I thought we were all friends. Nope. The girl whose mom was troop leader actually turned around and shoved me backward. Never tried to hang out with them again.
I remember being told my big pink winter scarf was ugly. I remember having a girl grab the aforementioned hideous scarf and wrench it around to the point where I was being choked and I fell as she swung it to the side. Because my scarf was ugly. It is true what they say, fashion is clearly a cutthroat business.
I remember sprinting around the schoolyard thinking I was so fast and cool (I wasn’t).
I remember in sixth grade, rolling my red wool socks down during the hotter months. Wrong move for a brunette who hasn’t gotten her first razor yet. I was called disgusting and ape-like. Of course in hindsight, that is all absurd. There is no way my leg hair was that thick or dark. Still scarred me for life.
All About the Money
My life of attempted crime was very short lived and easily thwarted. Second grade me was a complete idiot who thought she was way more clever than she was.
One of my classmates was selling Goosebumps paperback novels. I thought it would be so cool to buy some but, of course, I had no money. I figured out a “fool proof” solution. I brought in Monopoly money. Yes, reader, I thought I could get away with paying in fake cash by saying “This is the money from the bank.” Needless to say, the presence of Mr. MoneyPenny rather than Abe Lincoln on the bills was a dead giveaway. I did not buy any books that day. But I do remember the title of which book I was desperate for - Say Cheese or Die. Turns out I was just going to die from embarrassment.
You would think this would be enough to deter me from attempting to buy things with fake money. You are wrong. I tried to buy a book at the school book fair. The adults ACTUALLY accepted the fake bills and I thought I was home free! Nope. They called my Mom. I had to issue an official apology to the volunteer I tried to swindle and give her real money for the book I essentially stole. I was grounded for awhile for that one.
For that person who ended up with the board game after it was donated many years later, sorry if you were missing some of the cash…
For the Love of Elephants
For a complete dweeb, like myself, I loved riding the bus because one of the cute boys in my class was on the same one. Every so often, he would deign to talk to me (probably out of boredom) and then one magic day he noticed the elephant edition of Kids Discovery magazine I was reading. Our third grade class had to do a report on our favorite animal, and as luck would have it, he had to do a report on elephants.
The time where he had possession of my magazine was magical for third grade me (adult me just gagged at the thought).
Then there was that day where he sat next to me wearing his plastic blue rain jacket with the flannel plaid lining. It was pouring rain and my bus stop had an ambulance parked next to it. My great uncle had collapsed and was on his way to the hospital. This moment of “excitement” guaranteed third grade me future conversations with cute boy as he would ask about what happened and how everyone was.
After multiple interactions on the school bus (I didn’t exist in class, of course), he asked about who I “like”. I refused to tell him. Of course I would! I liked him! After a fraught internal debate all evening, I decided to write his name on a piece of paper. Of course, I practiced writing his name several times and in some garishly stupid imitation of cursive, I handed him the note. He took one look at it and handed it back to me without a word. Humiliation complete.
Fast forward to sixth grade where the school dance (grades 6-8) is the coolest thing ever. My older sister convinced Bus Boy to go ask me to slow dance. It was in a corner where no one could see - but I danced with him! Elation turned into embarrassment when the yearbook photographer took a picture of us…and my sister on the yearbook committee cut it into the shape of the heart for the whole school to see. Humiliation complete.
Fast forward to the junior year of my undergraduate degree.
Bus Boy met my roommate’s mom in a class. Her mom set up Bus Boy with my roommate. When Bus Boy saw me he told me that I “grew into myself”. I had the potential to be pretty in grade school and now I am. Humiliation complete.
I cannot possibly reminisce about my school days without mentioning Cathy*.
Cathy always wore her hair in a single braid down her back. The braid went well past her butt. Cathy would tell us that she never washed her hair. Rather, she cracked an egg over her head and combed the yolk through. I remember being at school dances and seeing her whip her head around so the braid spun around her head. She would dance with her shadow in the corner to the song Dancing Queen. Everyone has a favorite go-to song, I suppose. But I thought she was weird.
Cathy wore a green velvet cape as a jacket. She would whip this cloak around herself and tell us stories about how she practices witchcraft. Did you know that the way to put a curse on someone was to fill a bowl with tepid water and leave it in a dark closet? That is not all - every time you walk by this closet, you had to think evil thoughts about the person you were trying to curse. Cathy would chant and use hand motions to curse us in the school yard. She cursed one of my friends to never be able to draw a straight line. A true punishment.
I wonder what happened to Cathy. Looking back on it, yes she was eccentric, but she owned every minute of it. She never tried to blend in.
Not many people can say that their friend punched them in the face. I can.
It was another typical recess out on the asphalt. Of course, being in 8th grade and oh so cool, my friends and I just sort of stood huddled and joked around. One of these friends was imitating the Fighting Irish. Except she extended her arm too far forward and actually hit me in the nose. Blood spurted everywhere. This may have been the only time that our uniform bright red sweaters came in handy. However, the baby blue puffy coat that I treasured was also a victim to the blood streaming down my face.
For the next couple months I was prone to sudden and severe nose bleeds. And not even a good story to tell.
There have been a few times now where I have not so subtly referred to how awful my eyeglasses were. For background - I had giant tortoise colored Bugle Boy frames that fell apart twice (and not because I thought they were hideous and tried to force my mother’s hand). When I was in fifth grade, and the frames broke for a second time, my Mom finally allowed me to try a different style (and let me just take this moment to thank Bob (his real name) for telling my Mom that Bugle Boy glasses were known in the industry to break). However, my Mom still would not let me pick my frames. So - I ended up with these silver frames that had a very oblong oval shape (so basically still huge lenses that didn’t dominate my face as much).
I BEGGED for contacts but was always told I was not responsible enough. WELL….fast forward to 8th grade.
I had had enough. I was constantly embarrassed and made fun of for my glasses. (My nickname? Window Face. Yep. Not the most creative, but hey, grade school kids are idiots but pointedly offensive when they want to be). I was crushed. Why was I cursed with horrible vision and even worse glasses?! I wanted to be cool (never would happen) so I started taking off my glasses outside of class so that in social settings I would be “cool”.
Well, I was so used to taking my glasses off once I sat down for lunch in the cafeteria that I failed to realize my glasses were still IN my lunch bag when I threw it out. Yep. Couldn’t see anything. Usually I would have had them in the pocket of my coat but not this time.
Here I am, mostly blind, and went home dreading what to tell my mother. In a rare instance of total fear, I had no lie prepared so I told her the truth: I legit accidentally threw my glasses away. Wouldn’t you know that my Mom drove me down to the school in order for me to dumpster dive through all that school trash to find those glasses.
Thankfully, the garbage had already been collected or else I would have been in that dumpster for awhile. Of course this was an awful way to go about it BUT in desperation, my mother and I sat at LensCrafters for about two hours while they made me new glasses - with frames that didn’t make me want to crawl in a hole and die.
Trying to be cool, does not pay.