The end of 6th grade saw the demise of what had been normal life for me. By the time the start of 7th grade rolled around, I had a dad who didn’t drink and took my mom and I out to dinner a few time a week, a sister in college, a brother in the army, and another brother with a stable, well-paying job. It was weird. I, instead of being happy about this, hit a funk. In fact, had I talked about this with a medical professional, they may have diagnosed me with depression.
It was the early 90’s and Nirvana had just entered the music scene. I didn’t know much about them, but I thought it was cool that they had inspired Lizette, one of my two best friends at the time, to wear her mom’s cop boots to school. I wanted a pair so bad. So, I convinced my mom to get me a cheaper version from the Army Surplus store.
Lizette moved away.
Enter deeper depression.
I don’t know if it was that I didn’t care about what anyone thought or what, but I started dressing funky. Maybe it was the subscription to Sassy magazine. I started sporting black tights, jean shorts over them, a t-shirt—the bigger the better, combat boots, and if it was the weekend, a felt hat. No one else really dressed like that. Not even the Depeche Mode-loving eighth grade girls.
But, no one made fun of me. I was nice enough to everyone that I probably could have sat at any table in the cafeteria. I had a mixture of on-level and honors classes, so I knew a lot of people. The cutest guy in our grade knew my name and not just because I was the fat nerd, but because he would actually talk to me once in a while. Still, I didn’t have a group of friends. I liked flying solo. In fact, a lot of the time, I’d end up in the library after I ate lunch.
Not long after the introduction of my new style, the Depeche Mode-loving eighth grade girls started copying me. I remember one day I was at the water fountain and one of them came up to me and said, “I just wanted to say that you are like the coolest person ever because you’re the one that started wearing combat boots to school.”
I didn’t know what to say. Mostly because I really wasn’t the first one, it was Lizette. I probably just mumbled “thanks” and walked away.
This memory fluttered back as I was listening the 90’s Alternative Pandora station.
I find it ironic that when I think back, my 7th grade year was probably the worst year of my entire life. It seemed like everything was just fucked up in so many ways, and I felt so awkward all the time. Yet, here I am, twenty-three years later, teaching 7th grade.