This week for Remember the Time, tell us about a rivalry you’ve fostered. Sibling, cousin, friend, or even team, what is something that made you compete? Just make sure that you are pulling from events that happened in your past rather than something that happened, oh, I dunno, last week. Just a friendly reminder that RTT is all about nostalgia. ;D
When I was in seventh grade, a new girl – NM – came to our school.
She became my friend during my middle school days, eventually joining my clique which was comprised primarily of girls who preferred weaving friendship bracelets to smoking cigarettes in the woods after school. She was extremely smart and full of interesting tidbits like the story of Dr. Pepper. She was a minister’s kid, but she and her family never flagrantly discussed their faith. Later on, I put together that she was Episcopalian, which was as foreign to my vocally-Protestant upbringing as Zoroastrianism. She wore hand-me-down clothes, ate foods that were uncool like cheesecake made from tofu, and told you upfront when she didn’t agree with something you said. One time I asked her for a pad at school when I randomly got my period, and she gave me this bizarrely huge generic brand maxi pad that could probably soak up an entire sink of water.
At first, her independent streak left me uneasy and I tried to find a reason to dislike her, but I soon learned that the things that made NM different were the very things that made her a strong, solid person who deserved the kind of respect that isn’t ordinarily handed out to people who aren’t even old enough to drive.
I’ve mentioned before how seemingly random details from our pasts push their way forward in our minds and just stay. One such memory for me was when in high school, one of our mutual friends casually remarked one day,
Everyone always talks about how they don’t care what other people think about them. They are all lying. We all care too much. The only person I know who really doesn’t care is NM.
And it was true. Her words went straight to my core and have stayed because back then I placed a dangerously high premium on the thoughts others had about me, and the idea that there were people among us who actually felt comfortable in their own skin was almost unfathomable. As a preteen, I was tremendously insecure. I still am.
However, I never felt a rivalry with NM because I knew her too well. She was my friend during those scary middle school years, and her own self-security talked me down from comparing myself to her. Competing with her would be like competing with the Dalai Lama.
Instead, out of my own insecurities, I created a rivalry where one never actually existed between myself and some other arbitrarily-chosen girl in my grade. I picked a girl who – at least on the surface – was the complete opposite of me. AT was a cheerleader, she had a boyfriend who she was rumored to have actually kissed, she was pretty in a Barbieish way. Her tragic flaw was that she had an air of superiority about her that I absolutely hated because I didn’t know from whence it came.
I didn’t know where it came from because we never even spoke to one another. Not ever.
Well, except that once.
In the sixth grade, AT and I showed up at school one day wearing the exact same multicolored striped top from the Gap, and I liked the way it looked on her better than how it looked on me. She was trying to destroy my life by being slightly less pudgy than me. She passed me in the hall and said, “Nice shirt.”
She was clearly making fun of me. I mean, clearly.
I told my mom about how much I disliked AT. She was totally stuck up and horrible and blonde and blagh. I omitted the detail that this person had never, ever done anything to me much less said anything substantive to me. Since I didn’t give her the full (literally uneventful) story, my mom assured me that AT was probably insecure and that she was taking it out on me. Having convinced my mom that the charade was real, I began to really believe it myself. AT was just a stuck-up cheerleader who was jealous of me because she was unhappy with whatever she already had. It sounded so good.
I think about that a lot now, especially since I have a daughter of my own. It sometimes makes me want to wretch when I think about how I demonized this other person I didn’t even know when I was a kid. What saddens me even more is when I realize that I still do it. I get jealous of people who seem to have everything that I don’t and who are flourishing (whatever that means) just to stick it to me. I catch myself believing that they are the ones who are insecure and broken, not me. Pinning my own shortcomings on someone else is always easier than being accountable and being better.
I’m grateful, though, that in my memory, I always seem to couple NM and AT. Even though I haven’t spoken to NM in nearly fifteen years, I think of her when that not-so-middle-school tendency towards jealousy flares up. Not only can she tell you the meaning of the word “anhedonic” without even consulting a dictionary, but she can help you remember to be a better person by just accepting yourself and all the things that make you wonderfully you.
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1. Write your post. Remember, it can be ANYTHING about rivalry. We always want you to take liberties with these prompts! They are never hard and fast. Interpret them as you will; we love seeing how they can be explored. Just stick with the whole “back in the day” vibe ;D
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I remember my birthday party in fourth grade, when I helped ridicule a girl I myself had invited. It was right on the line of being funny and being absolutely horrible, and at the time she convinced herself it was the former and grinned – slightly nervously – the whole time. Whenever I think about it now, though, I know it was the latter, and I physically cringe. It was basic Lord of the Flies stuff… it felt like a miracle that some of the popular girls at my sleepover had come at all, and I had to prove to them that I was more like they were than like the other girl.
Urgh. I have to go think about something happy now. But maybe there is a longer post in this…
What is this strange, mean urge inside otherwise nice young girls? I’ve never actually seen the movie “Mean Girls”, but I feel like I don’t really need to because I am so familiar with the general feeling of meanness brought on by severe insecurity. I’m grateful that we live in a time when bullying is getting so much attention, because without that awareness I would feel so afraid for my daughter and the difficulties that she will inevitably face. I just hope she’s more like NM than me.
It’s amazing how much rivalry exists between girls. Where on earth DOES it come from? I was and still am completely insecure, although I’m getting better and better. What I don’t get though is how NM became so amazingly secure in herself at such a young age? I think some people are just born with that confidence. If not, I want to know what her parents said/did to make her so confident. Can you call her up and find out so I can teach it to my kids? ;)
I truly don’t know how she managed to be so secure. I mean, even my mom remarked once that she was insanely mature compared to the rest of us. I actually lurked on Facebook looking for her while I was writing this post, and I found her. I doubt she’d even remember me, but I want to know what ended up happening to her too and to ask her what her secret is!
Cheesecake made from tofu? That’s where I draw the line… But New Mexico sounds pretty awesome. I never had any major middle school rivalries, just one in first grade with a pair of twins who disliked me for some reason…
Tibble twins? ;D
Aw Emily, this was a very nice posting – I liked it very much. Some of the RTT themes I find nice to have a boy in the mix, (moi), so that I can spin the topic in order that you girls get to experience (hopefully through my story) what that whole thing back in the day meant to us boys. Even in reading this story I felt my different wiring come through. When you wrote about borrowing a “pad”, the immediate mental image I had in my mind was one of those yellow notepads with the thin blue lines on it. Then when I read this line I about spit my coffee out onto my computer screen at work because it made me laugh out-loud. :) “bizarrely huge generic brand maxi pad that could probably soak up an entire sink of water.” I don’t think one of those yellow pads would do the trick (and what the heck would you look like with a giant rectangular-shaped piece of cardboard poking out beneath your pants?)
So sometimes you might think that these ‘girly’ themes are a challenge to us boy RTT story tellers…HA! Not this guy! Boys don’t carry ‘rivalries’ – we end them quickly, (sadly which explains why there are so many damn useless wars…ugh), but I digress. I think I might have the right story in my draft folder already that might be good for this one.
This was a fun read Emily. I can maybe recount a tale from memory, but I wish I could write like a real “writer” (like you). :)
I am so glad you are our token guy, Rob! You are going to find in blogging that you will pretty much always be in the minority, being male. I can’t explain it. The ladies are just voracious. I’m glad you’re on our team, though, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with for this prompt.
And if by “real writer” you mean “person who regularly uses the phrase ‘like a bag of farts’ in her everyday speech”, then yes, I am a real writer. Ahem.
I worry about this stuff as a parent too, but I find that my past experience has led me to ask a few questions now. Like what has this person said or done to make you feel this way? I remember having lots of drama in my mind that clearly wasn’t there. I’m sure I won’t prevent it with my kids, but I can try something! Look at NM. Great post. You weren’t alone.
“I remember having lots of drama in my mind that clearly wasn’t there.” This, ohmygosh, THIS. I still have all kind of ridiculous stuff that plays out in my mind, and I’ve found that one of the biggest, most challenging things about growing up and behaving like an adult is recognizing the drama as just that – drama – and treating it as such and moving on.
I JUST saw someone post an article on Facebook yesterday that claims that women are genetically wired to be bitchy. Granted I didn’t read the article, but I think there’s some truth in that. Most of us have fallen into taking our own insecurities out on someone else…I bet NM even had her moments. Maybe she was just more private about them. It’s a hard thing to rise above it sometimes.
P.S. I feel pretty certain AT wore that shirt just to piss you off. (I got your back, girl). Also, was NM’s pad as giant as those ones they give you in the hospital after you have a baby. Because those may as well be diapers. If I used one now, I could probably get a good three months out of it. Okay, I just realized how gross that is. I’m leaving now.
I knew you’d have my back! Come to think of it, the pad wasn’t as big as the ones they give you in the hospital, since those are meant to soak up the entire Dead Sea. I don’t even know what I mean when I say that. But it was huge, and under the fluorescent lights of a middle school girl’s bathroom, it freaked me out like whoa. I was easily excitable as a child.
It’s so interesting that we can come up with drama and rivalry in our heads, without it actually being grounded in reality. I know that I’ve done so myself many times.
But how was her tone of voice? Did it sound like “Nice shirt?” :P Kidding, kidding. I think I will hop in on this one this week.
She probably sad it completely innocently, but I heard her say is as Ursula the Sea Witch since that’s what I was conditioned to do. I was such a weirdo.
[…] would be a much safer place if we all just learned to be a little more introspective like my buddy Emily (read her) or more ‘live and let live’ like my buddy Kelly, (read her) but we boys are […]
I love how honest you are, without being at all self pitying. When you write “As a preteen, I was tremendously insecure. I still am.” it is the kind of honesty I strive for. I am working on several posts that deliver this, but they always come off as if I’m asking for sympathy. Yours does not.
The post is raw and honest and although it’s clearly written from your heart, there’s an objectivity about it that speaks to the greatness of your writing. Bravo, this. Rock on.
What a great theme for a post – and life in general.
Well done, Emily.
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I still place too much importance on what others think of me. I am always working on it and that is one of my goals with my blog. I want to write without analyzing every word and syllable. So far I have not been successful. I still over think it and sweat out every single thing I post. Still, at almost 41 years old, I worry about other’s opinions too much. People who don’t care about that fascinate me! I loved reading this, it is an honest accounting of feelings most of us have felt but don’t always admit. And of course it’s entertaining at the same time! My favorite line is: “pinning my own shortcomings on someone else is always easier than being accountable and being better.” Wow. So well said, I’m sure I will be quoting that with my children when they enter the jungle of teen angst and rivalries!
And this is why my mother always bought my clothes at garage sales … didn’t have to worry about anyone having MY wardrobe. *cringe*
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