Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beware of Plastics

Dear Friends,

Remember when I said that one day we'd start Tarantino-ing my life stories? Well today we're only moving forward by a few months. Welcome to my eighth grade year. This story disturbs me because it makes me remember myself at my worst, but at the same time it's a story that I LOVE to tell people. 

So now I'll tell it to you.

Beware of Plastics

My final year of middle school I belonged to a clique that ran itself like it's own mini country of baddassery.  We had an army of boys, a nation of hanger-ons and groupies who followed our orders, and a number of alliances with our fellow cliques. At the time of this tale, I was part of our clique's government.  It was a government constantly in flux due to constant revolution and metaphorical assassination.  At the time, there were three of us heading the clique: Nikki, Pandora, and myself.

I can't tell you why we thought we were so cool because I really don't know.  Maybe it's because we snuck out a lot, but at 13 we were only walking around town in the dark.  Maybe it's because we went roller skating every single Friday night and hung out with high school kids who provided us with CDs sporting parental advisory stickers. Or maybe it's because wore embellished flare jeans and put on makeup every morning as soon as we got to school (we had no choice: our parents didn't permit us to wear anything other than Lip Smackers). Maybe it was all of these reasons. Whatever it was, it obviously isn't a standard for measuring "cool" nine years later. 

Anyways, Nikki, Pandora and I had English class together. The three of us were the only students in the class with assigned seats. Our teacher, Ms. McMillian swore that if we sat together, we would pass notes constantly. On a balmy day in April, Ms. McMillan stood in front of the class and introduced a new girl.  Her name was Jody and she was--in a word--a mess. Jody was taller than anyone else in the class by at least five inches, but her eyes surveyed the room with genuine fear. Her hair was brittle yellow and fashioned into an uneven bowl cut that looked as though she'd used safety scissors to cut it herself. Jody wore a pink plaid shirt that was at least two sizes too large and she had braces.

When Ms. McMillan finished introducing Jody to the class, she told Jody to pick a seat.  Jody's murky brown eyes whirled around the room cautiously. Eventually they landed on the seat next to me.  I smiled, said hi, and scooted my book to the corner of the desk to share it with Jody.  Rule number one of being an "it girl" is to make those below you effing love you. You've got to be kind before you can be cruel, otherwise they'll never stand for your ridiculous behavior.

Class went on without a hitch and afterwards Pandora, Nikki, and I walked to lunch. We had a table outside which everyone understood was our table. As we sat down to eat we saw Jody standing in the pizza line, crying. Because of the laws of  It Girl World, Nikki approached Jody to ask her what was wrong.  Of course, Jody didn't have any friends yet and therefore had no one to eat with. Nikki invited Jody to join our table: since it was her first day we could afford to be nice.

Jody ate with us for the next two weeks. And soon she began following us around all of the time. From English class to our lockers to secret meetings after school, Jody was with us. Her fashion didn't change at all in those two weeks, which was a problem. But even worse, she didn't take advantage of the gift we were offering in letting her hang out with us: Jody never contributed to the conversation. By week three we still didn't know what kinds of boys she liked or what her hobbies were, we didn't know how she got along with her siblings or what kind of music she listened to, she didn't even talk to us about whether or not she got along with her parents. We didn't know much more about her than we did on her first day on campus.

So, we decided to break up with her. All of the eighth graders had PE at the same time; first thing in thing in the morning. We decided that would be the perfect time to let her go.

It went down like this: Pandora, Nikki, and I rolled into PE fifteen minutes late. After getting thoroughly reamed out in front of the whole class for showing up late, we picked a corner spot in the gym and waited for Jody. No less then thirty seconds later, Jody scooted across the room to sit with us. She smiled as she approached. "Hi," she said.

Nikki, Pandora, and I all met eyes. Nikki nodded towards me, "Do it." 

I placed my hand on Jody's calf, in an effort to seem compassionate. Her legs were unshaven and I swallowed to keep from recoiling. "Jody, this really isn't working for us anymore." 

"What isn't working?" Jody's smile started to fall.

"You and us," I said, motioning towards Nikki, Pandora, and myself. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to be our friend anymore."

"What?" Now Jody's eyes were panicked and I thought back to her on her first day of school in Ms. McMillian's class. "Why not?" Jody asked.

Pandora twirled her hair around her finger as she took over the conversation, "Look Jody, it's not that we don't like you, but we don't know anything about you. You never tell us anything. You never talk with us about boys or music or class or anything."

Nikki pretended to look bothered, "I think other friends would suit you better."

By this point, tears rolled down Jody's cheeks. Pandora, Nikki, and I looked at each other, trying to decide what to do next.  Finally Jody spoke up, "I can talk more.  I'll start to tell you things.  I like listening to Britney Spears and my parents are in the military." She took a deep breath, "I know you all. I know that Abernathy doesn't even like the boys you eat lunch with-"

"Yes she does," Pandora interrupted. 

"No," Nikki said, agreeing with Jody, "she doesn't. But that's okay; Abernathy speaks up, she dresses like the rest of us..." Nikki's eyes roamed over Jody's mismatched gym uniform as her words trailed off.

Jody sobbed even harder, "I'll let you give me a makeover. It's okay, we can fix this."

Nikki shook her head, "No Jody, we can't.  It's too late."

Jody looked at all of us pleadingly, "I don't have any other friends."

Pandora shrugged and Nikki and I rose to head to the locker room. "Make some."

The next day in English class I did my best not to say anything to Jody. She looked over sadly through most of the class, but I did my best not to return her gaze.

At lunch that day, I was the first to reach our table and was surprised when Jody approached me.  I looked up from my meal to see Jody wearing a green plaid dress. It would never fly with my group of friends, but I could see she was making an effort. "Can I eat with you today?" She asked, "I mean, until I find new friends."

This seemed fair enough to me, but I knew better than to make a decision without first running it by Nikki and Pandora. Rule number two of It Girl World: you cannot make your own decisions.  I told Jody to hold on, then I went and found my friends in the lunch line and explained the situation.  Nikki shook her head, "Absolutely not. We said she's out and I mean that; she's out."

Slowly, I walked back to Jody. I shook my head, "I'm sorry." Jody walked across the courtyard, sat down against a wall and spent the rest of the lunch period sobbing.

I never talked to Jody again. She ended up becoming good friends with two girls who didn't care what she wore and didn't judge her for not talking about boys all the time. I always thought she looked genuinely happy with them and I hope that she's just as happy wherever she is today.

That summer (about six months after this story takes place) I received the Jody treatment and was dumped from the clique as well...but I'll save that story for another day. 


The Points of Today's Story: 
(1) Karma will get your ass. 
(2) Being cool is not necessarily the same as being happy. 
(3) When you do horrible things to nice people, it haunts you and you'll still feel horrible about it nine years later. So just be a nice girl.


  1. I love this story - it has a great message, and the details really transport the reader to the situation. The Aesop bit at the end is a nice capstone too!