After recently recollecting how I survived the worst grounding sentence known to man as a senior, I pondered the reality of how I stumbled upon many of the lasting friendships created in high school. Overall, my high school years were fairly typical, but they started out in a unique way.
Having just moved to the area the day before my freshman year began, I spent several months meeting people. Eventually I determined which group of girls I had most in common with, and I gravitated towards them. This was no easy feat.
The very first day of school was a bit nerve racking. The box containing my wardrobe had yet to be unloaded off the moving truck, or the movers had dumped it in the wrong place in the house. Each room contained a maze of boxes and we had no luck finding my personal wardrobe. I was forced to rely on my sister's generosity as she decided which of her outfits she would allow me to borrow. She certainly couldn't be expected to wear the same outfit as her younger sister the very next day. There were many factors to consider. I was at her mercy.
My all-girls Catholic School kicked off the school year with a half day for freshman only. The shortened class schedule allowed us to wander the halls finding our way around and familiarizing ourselves with our schedules.
My lunch period was a bit awkward. This 'fake' lunch occurred around 10 in the morning that day - half way to the half day mark when we would be dismissed. Most of my fellow classmates knew girls from their grade school. They recognized even more girls from area grade schools that they had competed against in sports, cheer-leading, or math competitions. I knew no one. Recognized no faces.
The assistant principal identified me from my recent registration process. 'How are you finding everything?' she asked from her post in the hall outside the lunch room. She seemed to be guarding the glass doors leading to the academic hall as if some of us might attempt to escape the awkwardness of our 20 minute lunch period and bolt back towards the comfort of the classrooms.
After all, the four walls of the classroom offered protection from social nightmares. No one cared if you were a loner in class, because a teacher demanded everyone's attention while she introduced herself and summarized her class expectations. Silence was expected- not feared. My post outside the glass doors signaled how uneasy I was joining in conversation with a bunch of recently reunited former classmates.
I responded that everything was going just fine. There was another girl milling around nearby who was also waiting for the painfully unstructured non-lunch lunch period to end. She eyed the glass doors anticipating freedom from our similar Hell. That's when it happened.
The funny thing is, I could see it coming but I couldn't stop it. Ms. Assistant Principal was about to introduce us. We were the only two freshman in our lunch period not overjoyed at gathering around endlessly long tables to rehash summer with old friends and play the 'Didn't you go to such and such school?' with familiar faces. There was no place to hide and I cursed myself for leaving my initial bathroom detour too prematurely. My timing was definitely off.
'Ernie, this is Marilyn Mupcheck.' Marilyn's chia-pet hair sprouted like fine, soft peach-fuzz rising a few inches from her head. The light color of her fluff was offset by her ruddy complexion highlighted by clusters of red blemishes. Her round body reminded me of the globe with her waist serving as the equator. She stood planted in a wide stance swaying back and forth from one foot to the other with her skirt hiked up unnaturally emphasizing her equator. Her knee high socks stretched to their very limits.
I reminded myself that she was most likely a very nice girl and I tried to keep an open mind. I could hear my mother's voice in my head, 'Don't judge a book by it's cover.' I'm not sure that my mother was able to complete her thought from the depths of my psyche before Marilyn's nasally voice interrupted.
'Do you have any pets?' she inquired. My eyes darted around but there was no where to go. The lunch room was too far and I couldn't think of any excuse that would require me to jog in the opposite direction. No, I informed her. I had no pets. 'Well, I collect sea monkeys,' she informed me.
This couldn't be happening. I had stayed up half the night giving myself a pep talk about high school. It would all work out OK. I intended to meet girls with similar interests who I could enjoy spending time with. Wait, what were my interests? Babysitting. Art class. Irish dancing. Well, the Irish dancing chapter of my life ended when we moved anyway, I reminded myself. Sea monkeys - nope. Not on my list.
Fourteen was such a weird age. I was still trying to figure out who I was. What was I into? I needed to meet a group of fun girls. I cared little about being considered one of the cool girls. The popular girls. I knew I didn't have the wardrobe (unless the movers lost it entirely and replaced it with hip clothes instead of hand-me-downs), the hair style, or the self confidence. Popularity wasn't for me, but neither was Marilyn.
Marilyn's 'book cover' that I had tried not to judge had acted as a total spoiler alert. I knew how this book ended - and I wasn't going to hang out with her because that would be the end of me. Does that mean I was judging her? I hoped not. I'm sure there would be girls interested in learning about how sea monkeys could be ordered thru the mail. I just wasn't one of them.
After a few minutes my fierce stares willed the bell to ring compelling Ms. Ass-Principal to prop open the glass doors offering me an escape route and a new mission to try harder to meet some main stream girls.