I was your typical nerdy kid all through elementary and middle school: I wore giant purple glasses in 1st grade. At one point, I had a hairstyle that could only be described as a mullet, and one picture in particular will always stand out to me: my third grade school picture. There are laser beams in the background (classic eighties), my hair is disheveled and frizzy, I’m wearing pink glasses (an upgrade from the purple ones), a plaid-collared shirt, a bow tie, and ruffle suspenders. You can’t make this stuff up.
To this day, I still ask my parents what they were thinking when they let me wear that heinous outfit. My mom always gets defensive and says she wanted to give me the freedom to pick and choose what I wore.
Um, thanks Mom and Dad?
Anyway, I tell you all of this to help you understand that I was the perfect target for ridicule. Hell, I was begging for it. Sure, I had my small, but solid group of friends, but I was generally pretty quiet and really loved school (two strikes). I was also an avid Trekkie and spent most of my time writing fictional stories about traveling through the labyrinth to save my imagined baby brother from David Bowie.
In short, I had no chance.
That brings me to one moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was 6th grade, Social Studies class. I was minding my own business, as usual, trying to listen to the teacher, when this boy named Chris tapped me on the shoulder from behind. I tentatively turned around. He was a good-looking kid, no doubt, and while I’d love to say he’s fat and out of work now, I actually think he ended up becoming a model out in California.
Well, when I turned to face him, he gave this absolute look of disgust and said, “God, you’re ugly.”
And that was it. That’s all he had to say to me. That’s all he wanted. To let me know that he found me repulsive. I’ll never forget the gasp from the girl sitting beside him. She was a friend of his. That gasp let me know that even she thought he’d gone too far. She gave me a sad little look, then looked back down at her paper. I turned back to face the front of the room and tried to hold back the welling of tears in my eyes.
I don’t remember ever talking to that boy again. If I did, it wasn’t memorable. All I know is the emotional weight of those few words weighed me down for many years to come. Sure, I eventually broke out of that Ugly Duckling phase many of us go through, and I now feel quite confident in who I am, but there isn’t a moment that goes by where I don’t feel sorry for that young girl I once was. I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter what that kids thinks. I want to tell her that that she’s destined for a beautiful life. I want to tell her she’s not ugly at all.
But I can’t.
All I can do is try my damndest to raise my own young boys to be kind, not cruel. To date, not berate, the spectacled girls of the world.
I happen to know for a fact that nerdy girls are the most fabulous.
(Naturally, I will also teach them to appreciate the progressiveness of Star Trek and to watch Labyrinth for all its cinematic glory. After all, these are essential to a well-rounded human being.)