The New Girl

The private schools in my hometown tended to resume school a week later in the Fall than the public schools. I already had a week under my belt at Public School when my parents got the call from Private School that there was a last-minute seat for me there. They had mentioned over the summer that they wanted me to go to Private School, but I pshawed them and turned Fatboy Slim up higher to drown out the noise.

We learned of my spot on Thursday night, and on Friday afternoon after my last day of Public School, my mom took me to the uniform store. I cried the whole time as I got outfitted in Oxford blouses and heavy pleated skirts. I didn’t like the idea of having to wear compulsory clothes that smelled like a hospital among a bunch of Catholic kids I didn’t know from Adam. Sometimes in life, it’s all in the timing. That time, I just wanted all those cliches to kindly shove it because there was a boy I met on the bus who I liked. When you’re fifteen with your freshman year safely behind you, the idea of being uprooted for sophomore year is basically a mental miscarriage.

The first day was exhausting. I sobbed at breakfast and felt groggy and dazed when I actually got to school. I had done all the summer reading for Public School. And it had taken me all summer. Props to you guys that can power read. I can’t. I couldn’t do it in high school, I couldn’t do it when I was getting my English degree, and I couldn’t do it when I went on to graduate school for the Masters. All summer, while I was poring over Murder In the Cathedral and Watership Down, I didn’t know that Last of the Mohicans and The Scarlet Letter were breathing down my neck.

Since I had a vacancy in the crush department, I transferred my infatuation on School Bus Guy onto Private School English Teacher. At any given time, I had to love on someone, and he fit the bill because he was smart and safe and I would never have to worry about what I’d do if he reciprocated because that would never happen. He probably took pity on my outsider status because he wasn’t really a part of the school either. He was gay and young and very not Catholic, and he was biding his time before he went back to school to get his PhD in literature.

Embracing that uniform

Embracing that uniform

In English, I took a chance and raised my hand, announcing to my teacher and the class that I was new and hadn’t done the summer reading. It was one of those moments where you don’t have anything to lose because as far as you’re concerned, the world is going to end in a couple hours anyway. You may as well recognize publicly that you’ll be buried in those stiff, artificial clothes you’re wearing.

As it turned out, though, my admission that I would have to read about the sprawling adventures of Natty Bumppo in the course of  48 hours was good for something better than eliciting the sympathy of a 28-year-old man who had a goatee and drove a Saturn. My best friend was sitting in that room that day, watching and listening and taking pity. She wasn’t new in the same way that I was, having gone to Catholic school all her life and knowing her classmates maybe a little too well. But when you’re fifteen, you’re pretty much always new. Life as you know it is constantly being turned on its head. She needed a friend as much as I did. We both needed someone who we could wear strange clothes with together and mutually adore the English teacher who could never love us back.

That day, I met Besfrinn.

We would go on to be new together. New classmates. New friends. New high school graduates. New college students. New graduates. New wives. New women.

Newness looks good on us. Much better than a school uniform.

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51 comments

  1. Great post, Emily. That’s harsh making a kid switch schools sophomore year. My daughter is 10. We asked her if she wanted to go to the private school and she said nope so that was it. We don’t even make her go to PSR anymore. We suck as Catholics I guess. Probably at parenting too. Lol.

    1. It was harsh, but there were a lot of things at work that were kind of beyond me at the time that spurred my parents’ decision. And I’m glad they did it. It was a good move, and I got to start clean. I probably suck as a Catholic even more than you because I’m actually Presbyterian ;D

  2. I’m not a power reader either. I feel your pain. :)

    1. Ugh, it is the worst. I have been rereading Great Expectations going on three months now.

      1. Ooo I love that book!

        1. It is sooooo good. This is my third time reading it since I was a kid, and every time it gets better.

  3. Aw…the happiest of endings!! And geez, the young male teacher is always the object of affection. It doesn’t matter if he’s ugly, goofy, or gay. Teenage girls are ridiculous. I know, because I was one. The year we got a new young History teacher, everyone thought he was hot. He was only hot by “male teacher in an all-girls Catholic school” standards. And then when I taught in a private school, I saw the same thing happen with my own students. They all adored the male teachers. I think it’s just a rite of passage. A creepy, ridiculous rite of passage.

    1. It certainly is, especially when all the rest of the teachers at the school are either nuns or chain-smoking old men.

  4. I can speed read. Unfortunately, I seldom remember anything I do read which means I do get to devour good books more than once and am often surprised at the ending.

    I have always loved being the new girl, first days, new situations. Except once. Here’s that once:

    http://mrscarmichael.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/be-prepared/

    1. Have you always been a speed reader or did you have to learn to do it? It is really a big annoyance for me that it takes me so long to lumber through even a short piece, and I’d love to train myself to read faster than I type.

      Be sure to add your link to the little blue Inlinkz frog at the bottom of this post so that other people can find it too ;D

      1. Ah, my speed reading passed that bit by. Thanks.
        It’s a benefit and a curse, I think. I was so competitive in school I hated, others turning the page before me in group reading :)

  5. Being the new kid is awful, but I’m glad you got a best friend out of it and a teacher crush to last you through the years.

    1. I still kind of have a crush on him, to tell the truth.

  6. Love, love, love. Glad you had only a few days notice of your impending fate. Short notice of one’s fate compresses the histrionics nicely. Now that you’re a Mom that is a nice trick to know. I will eternally be glad there was a last minute spot for you at Private School!

    1. I am grateful I had a spot there too! I can’t imagine my life without the relationships that formed because I went there. (Also, who would have gone to Smashing Pumpkins and Tori Amos with me?)

  7. OH how I love this. Mostly for the love story that came about between you and Bestfrinn. All that time you were looking for love and it was right there. <3

    1. IT WAS. Ohmygoodness it was. That reminds me that I will eventually have to write more in-depth about how I met The Mr.

  8. One of the treasures of being a parent is loving your child’s best friend as one of your own and I am happy to say you are at the top of that list. I’m so thankful you endured that tough beginning at a new school.

    1. Your comment is so sweet to me. Your family has been a tremendous gift in my life, and that first day was a serendipitous one indeed.

  9. My parents wanted me to go to private schools too. . . except I put the kaboosh on that REAL quick. I was a snooty little thing…

    1. I was fairly strong-willed, but the problem was that the reason I was that way was because my parents were, too. So they won. I’m pretty glad they did, though ;D

      1. I had no idea what I was talking about as a kiddo…I was not worried about the quality of my education, I just didn’t want to leave my friends. Seems like it definitely worked out well in your case :)

        1. It really did. I still kept in touch with my public school friends who I had known pretty much my whole life, though. I had to tell SOMEONE about all the crazy Catholic concepts I was learning about ;D

  10. Yikes! I can’t believe you had the nerve to raise your hand and open your mouth in front of a classroom full of strange, teenage piranhas. You deserved to find a friend there.

    (p.s. have I told you lately how much that picture makes me smile? And reminds me of my daughter Gwen? May I call you Gwen? You can call me Mom….)

    1. Awwwww, I love that! You can call me whatever you like and I’ll call you Mom, and I will hit you up for money and drop Wee Cee off at your place where you can load her up with cookies while I get my nails done. ;D

  11. 15 years at the same Catholic school- so even though I was never the new kid (until I went to college and realized I didn’t know how to make friends), I really really get this experience.

    1. I went on to go to a Catholic college and a Catholic grad school, so I think they’ve got me on some kind of plan to convert by the time I’m 35.

  12. Teresa Pate · · Reply

    We knew the change was hard for you, and Dad and I prayed over our decision. The public high school you attended was going through many changes and was not a safe place to be……would not send our precious Emily while things were in a dangerous flux. We also prayed for a friend at the new school. Besfrin was a wonderful gift and blessing. God heard our prayers.

    1. She certainly was. I’m really glad things turned out as they did. xoxo

  13. A goatee and a Saturn! That describes my exhusband, Fartbuster. Oh my.

    1. I did the linky thing and shared a post about being on the outside looking in. It also has a “new girl” but it wasn’t me.

      1. Awesome! I will be checking it out! Thanks!

    2. Hmmmm…maybe he was teaching high school honors English on the side too.

  14. I was worried this was going to be about Zooey Deschanel.

    Do you know what I hate about those summer reading things? I read the book the one time they had us do it and my report was really extensive and about 20 pages long. Another kid did a half page. We got the same grade.

    1. I submitted an article about Mr. Rogers to Zooey Deschanel’s website Hello Giggles awhile back and have yet to hear back from them, so I guess Kidz Showz will soon have a post about Mr. Rogers, if you’ll have it.

      1. Zooey is a C-word

        (I’m not going to say the word for when Wee Cee is 10 and reading your blog)

  15. I never knew you joined our school your sophomore year, I guess I always thought you were there since Fresh yr. By the time we started hanging out more I think I was a senior and you were a junior and you were just cool ole Ylime.

    1. Awwwww, those days in the little newspaper room were some of my favorite ever. I am still really proud of the hard-hitting journalism I did when I gave She’s All That a bad review. I’m still waiting on my Pulitzer.

      1. Wow what is that icon next to my name! Awe they probably just lost your address. I would file a complaint! I know my wonderful review of the Orbitz drink (remember those with the floating gummies in them?) was no award winner! BTW I don’t think I have ever seen She’s All That all the way through :).

  16. I LOVE YOU! This is so beautifully written, and so true: I needed you, and I had no idea what wonderful adventures were ahead of us, which are still continuing today. Thank you for being the person in my life who I can always tell absolutely anything to. It’s a rare gift. And I love you more all the time. It amazes me that we basically haven’t lived in the same city since…high school. And yet you’re the first person I’d want to share my happiest news or my worst day with. Thank you for being you, and thank you for loving me. And thank you for knowing me and for building so many memories with me (many of which are hilarious…ahem, independent surveys). It’s really late and my eyes are burning, but I just want to tell you that this post was such a gift to find in my reader, in spite of my lack of eloquence. I love you!

    1. You are far more eloquent than you give yourself credit for. I adore you and I am so honored to not only know you but to call you my best friend. xoxo (Now take your contacts out.)

  17. Krug’s your best friend?? I stalk her on Pinterest. Like I seriously repin pretty much anything she even looks at. So…tell her I’m not crazy, k? I mean, not REALLY crazy.

    1. I have it on good authority that she thinks you’re pretty groovy too. She told me so at Christmas. ;D

  18. My daughter had to read 6 books over the summer. She would have shanked someone had she found out she was expected to change schools and start summer reading all over again.

    I love this theme, and I may join in later if that’s okay. My week went from having three days off to working all day long, so my thinking time has been minimal!

    1. We would love to have you! All we want is to be a little inspiring ;D

  19. As always, beautifully written Emily… so poignant and tender. Such a hard time to make changes, and yet it all worked out. Funny how it’s all so big when we’re in it, and years later… it feels like some of the easiest stuff. Nice post!

  20. You’re awesome! I’m giving you a Bouquet of Three award:
    http://joantwarren.com/2013/08/25/bouquet-of-three/

  21. How is it that irrespective of countries, irrespective of race, irrespective of school, there is that one mandatory hot teacher in school? How? Its like a mystery that transcends space and time. Or is that our raging teenage hormones perceives older, single men in power (read teacher) as attractive? I remember looking back at pics of my highschool crushes and wondering what was wrong with me. There is something about being a teenager that makes us see things differently.

    Loved your post. Following you.

  22. […] I have a Cameron. I have had one since I was fifteen. You can read about how I acquired my Cameron here. That was a happy day. Getting my Cameron canceled out having to read The Last of the Mohicans in […]

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