Barbie World + blog

The Dark Ages

One of my favorite bloggers, C. Jane, is right smack in the middle of telling her life story through blog posts -- and her writing is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. Even when she's writing about stuff that makes you cringe, or even feel a little sick to your stomach. Yesterday's post was like that -- it literally made me feel nauseous.

But like all excellent writing, it got me thinking -- seriously, is there anything worse than middle school? Talk about a wasteland of complete and total awkwardness.
It wasn't all bad, but some parts of it were.
And thus begins a very long, rambling recount of my middle school years. This might only be interesting if we went to middle school together, and even then, probably not.
But if my fellow HMS alumni bloggers ( Joanna, Abby, Sarah [who was two years older and thus completely cool/terrifying]) want to chime in and recap their middle school years, that might be fun;)

UPDATE: Read Joanna's hilarious memories here. Click on that link right now. We dressed up as thugs for Halloween one year, and she has photographic evidence.
I moved the summer after fifth grade out to a school district that kept sixth graders in the elementary school, and even though it was a big time bummer then (I really wanted my own locker, which in my mind was a sure sign of adulthood) -- I'm very, very grateful now. It's hard enough being a new kid, so it was nice and comforting to see the occasional first grade class pass by in the hallways. I had the thrill of being part of the oldest grade in the school for the second year in a row, and I wasn't forced to leave "childhood" behind.
I'm pretty sure a part of me still believed in Santa Claus then. I belonged in elementary school as a sixth grader.
Then we moved again the next summer. Nothing like becoming a new kid multiple times in these tender years to toughen someone up, right? Wrong, it didn't work on me.
I decided to forsake Santa Claus (in retrospect, it was probably time). I was ready for makeup and boyfriends and R-rated movies. I was oh so ready to be a grown up!
My parents took me shopping for back to school clothes in August, and I picked up one outfit in particular that I loved. It was a short-sleeved, square-necked red shirt; a red plaid short skirt; and a pair of chunky loafers with a heel (please remember this was the Britney Spears "Baby, One More Time" era).

via The look I was going for. Not at all the look I achieved.
I think it was my first-day-of-school outfit. And as I walked into my first period class in seventh grade -- health with Mr. Rice -- and sat in the back while everyone else chatted with their friends, I was nervous, but not terrified. I think my hair was in french braids.
As a B last name, I was toward the front of the attendance list. When Mr. Rice called me, a few people remembered the name from first/second grade (I'd lived in this town once before). Their heads swiveled around, and I even got a smile from one girl who had been a friend back then. It was nice. I sat with her at lunch that day.
Later in the week, Mr. Rice talked to the class about healthy nails, and he made me hold mine up because they were so neatly manicured. Some girls later told me I looked smug, but the truth is that I repainted them every night because I didn't have real friends yet (so I had nothing else to do) and I was desperately trying to make a good impression.
As the late summer turned to fall, I moved lunch tables (but brought the nice girl from the first day of school along with me). Some of the "cooler" girls invited us to sit there, so I put my vampire book that I'd been reading at lunch away and went over. I wish I could go back now and stay firmly planted at that first table, because while we certainly were a nerdy bunch -- boy, were we free to be ourselves. And the kids there were so nice.
I hope my future kids sit at the dorky lunch table.
We had fun at the new table though. We talked a lot about boys, always a favorite subject of mine. I started making friendships. Never a shy kid, I was soon passing notes and talking during class with these girls, and with some boys too. Quite aside from my extremely serious boy-crazies, I liked talking to the guys best of all because they were so funny and goofy. When you grow up with two brothers, that kind of stuff makes sense to you.
It turns out that some of the girl didn't like it, but that only reared its ugly head later.
At the end of the year I started "dating" my first "boyfriend." That basically meant that his friend told my friend who told me that he liked me, and I said I didn't "like him back" for awhile, but then decided he was kind of cute and, you know, what the hey? So yes, we were "dating."
I think I did manage to meet him, with all our friends in tow, for a movie that summer. We probably sat next to each other but didn't talk. Sometimes we talked on the phone -- again, usually with friends on a sort of party line. It was all sorts of bizarre. And fun. And I really started to like him a lot, which shocked me as much as anyone.

End of seventh grade -- happy times! I'm in the red. Check out my 'fro, both in real life and in our drawing. (Thanks Taylor -- far right, my beautiful bridesmaid!)
So then eighth grade started.
I wore red lip gloss and sported a deep tan for my school picture, and I straightened my hair (let's use that term loosely -- I didn't own a straightener yet, just a blow dryer, so my poofy hair in the late August heat was decidedly not straight). I was thinner than the year before -- I was swimming a lot and just getting rid of baby pudge. You know, growing up. Becoming an adult, like I'd always imagined. I was so excited for that year to start.
Things really went downhill in eighth grade.
My "boyfriend" dumped me. I can laugh about this now, but it was devastating at the time -- and incredibly, I didn't truly get over it for a few years. Which is really something, because he wasn't a very nice guy. My best friend at the time and I started arguing. It was terrible.
The most incredible part of my eighth grade journey through Hell, though, was when my English teacher pulled me out of History class, sat me down, and basically told me that she thought I was going to be a bad kid in high school. I think she used the term "sleep around."
Okay, back up a hot minute.
One of my best friends sometimes snuck alcohol. Another one once snuck out at night to meet up with boys. Kids were trying cigarettes and starting to go to parties -- you know, normal adolescent stuff.
I was not.
I think I went to one "party" in eighth grade, basically a gathering of awkward kids in someone's basement, and a girl I loathed snapped the top of my underwear. I believed alcohol was the work of the devil. I wouldn't have ever tried sneaking out of my parent's house. I mostly sat at home with them, watching Anne of Green Gables and IMing, trying to mend my broken heart.
So when my teacher said that, I was pissed. So was my mom, when I shared it with her. And so was the principal, who held a little meeting with that teacher and quickly quashed the notion that she could say something like that to a student. Even one who was chatty with boys and not that reliable with her homework. But especially with one who'd never been in any real trouble in her life.
Of course, then I did get myself into trouble. I got caught cheating on an art project (who cheats on an art project?)
Most of my friendships were ruined around that time. And I couldn't wait for the school year to end.
Mercifully, it ended with the Lock In dance, reserved for eighth graders. My friend from the first day of seventh grade, the one who jumped lunch tables with me, the one who was pretty nerdy on the inside too -- she and I competed in the swing dance competition that night, and we owned that thing. My name was also drawn as the winner of a beach towel, or something like that.
At the end-of-the-year breakfast, kids won awards for being future scientists or great athletes or bookworms. The teachers picked who won. I didn't win anything, not even that dumb bookworm prize, which about 10 other students received, which I really wanted. Just on principal. I still had my books, damnit. I sat at a table with several girls I didn't even like anymore.
I was happy when it was over.
I left ready to go be an "adult" in high school. Which is, of course, an entirely different story -- one with equal amounts of awkwardness, but much more kindness and self-confidence. And still with absolutely nothing adult about it.
Maybe I'll share a high school recap soon too. Spoiler alert: I did not sleep around.

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The Dark Ages + blog