"Awkward" seems to be the most fitting word when trying to describe myself in middle school years, yet at the same time "awkward" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what I was.
I was the kid with the inward turned knees, greasy curly bangs that crookedly hid my eyes, and braces. I was the one who carried a tiny rubber dinosaur in her pocket for good luck and grew my fingernails freakishly long so that I could paint them neon blue. I was the target of all the lunch period pranksters who asked me on dates and ran away laughing, coincidentally also the same boys who farted loudly during history class and blamed it on me.
It wasn't a secret that I was tragically different, but my stubbornly unaware nature kept me from giving up hope. I dawned loudly striped T-shirts, too tight and too short for my boyishly built body, in my own special attempt at bringing sexy back (even though looking back in it simultaneously explaining why sexy left in the first place). I matched my nails to my shirts, and my shirts to my scrunchies in an attempt at drawing attention away from the oil factory that was my head. I was a hero among the lunch room dork table, and in this respect I was not without friends. The "popular" girls teased me mercilessly every day of the week and every 42 minute class period of the day all the way through 8th period, but it was not them I was trying to impress.
Of course, there was a boy. The dark haired, mysteriously quiet boy in the popular crowd who was untouchable to a vast majority of the adolescent female population, let alone me. The one who was so beautiful he was hard to look at but you couldn't look away either, so cool he never had to try, and so effortlessly perfect in my eyes he was the only thing I ever felt resembled saintliness in human form. I would hold my breath walking by him in school, and find a reason to walk by his house (only 5 houses down from mine) almost every day hoping for a glimpse. What made it worse was my mother was friends with his, and my little sister friends with his little sister, so every once in a while they would invite us over to their house to watch a movie or have dinner. On these occasions I washed my hair 3 times in preparation and laid out the perfect outfit the night before, yet every time we were over there he would ignore me, leaving to ride his bike or play basketball with a friend. I was as invisible as my own breasts, at that point.
Ever a tragically clueless optimist, I decided to ask the object of my tireless obsessing to a school dance. I picked up the phone, dialed, hung up. Paced across my room. Walked down the stairs. Walked up the stairs. Dialed the phone. Hung up. 3 hours later, I let it ring. He picked up. I stumbled all over myself, letting my well rehearsed and flawlessly memorized speech go straight to hell, and managed to stutter something closely resembling an epileptic asking someone to a d-d-dance. He politely declined, saying he was going to be going with a group of friends. I was shot down.
The next day at the dance (a social event in middle school I frequented alone sitting in the metal bleachers until I got a leg cramp) my heart broke to see him slow dancing with another girl. A girl who never wore scrunchies and had bracket less smile. Thus began my hatred for the band Boyz 2 Men and my curiosity for why the DJ felt the need to play "I'll Make Love To You" at a 7th grade dance. I was crushed.
I spent the rest of the week hiding from the boy and wallowing in my own shame, ending the following Thursday in the yellow painted bathroom stall at school staring blankly at my friend Jen. "Jen, we're in 7th grade. I just got my period. I don't feel like a woman though." Jen replied "I got mine last year actually, and I didn't feel like one then either."
But I thought still everyone must know, they must see it in me, I must look older and more mature all of a sudden somehow. It was a new bravery boost, and that afternoon my newfound womanhood went to my head a little to quickly.
Everyone lined up to get on the bus to go home, and I became instantaneously aware that standing in line right behind me to climb the bus steps was none other then the boy who was responsible for my broken heart and the sudden onset of my unpreparedness for adult life. My heart was going about a mile a minute, and when I reached up to grab the metal railing of the school bus steps I made the fatal flaw of deciding to give the boy a little show. I was determined to shake and wiggle my non existent bottom up the steps in an attempt at making him realize what he was obviously missing by not dating my seductive boodylicious self. In my enthusiasm, I must have forgotten to factor in the inward turned knees or the 50 pound jansport backpack or a combination of both, because on the 3rd step my ankle decided to abort the mission.
Backwards I went, in a flash of bangs and backpacks and braces I toppled literally heals over head into the boy, taking us both into the concrete driveway below. I ended up lying side by side with him, a world of throbbing pain coming from somewhere on my leg and a stinging embarrassment that was ten thousand times worse. He jumped to his feet and I sat up slowly, watching a little pool of blood gather around my ankle and stain my purple socks.
"You're bleeding." He said.
"Yea, I know." I said.
And with that, he got on the bus.
The bus driver helped me get up, grabbing me a gauze pad from his first aid kit and muddering something in Russian. I sat in the front seat all the way home, sobbing into it.
I have a little scar on my ankle to this day serving as a constant reminder of the day I became a woman, and even though I can now openly laugh about my slowly developed social ability in my youth, theres still a bit of a sting every time I touch it. That which does not kill is makes us stronger, a statement which I now live by, because 10 years after this happened I met the boy again in a restaurant, went to a movie with him, and slept with him the same night.
High five, little lunch room dork table girl. High five.