I wish I’d learned that being individual would be so much more important than fitting in.
But these things take time, and with age comes wisdom…
Here’s one of my earlier memories of school, and when I first realised that I didn’t fit the mould like everyone else.
When I started secondary school, I, as usual, came late.
Everyone else had met each other during induction days, or had been to primary school with each other.
Here I was, in another new town, with none of my friends, with another new school to start.
It was exciting, because it was the same school my Dad had been too, and I was in the same ‘House’ as him. My brother – after we’d been separated for most of Primary School – was in the same house too, but would be in different lessons.
It suited us, we might be twins, but we were different people.
I see mums worrying now about whether twins should be together or not, and the answer is – whatever suits them. Some twins are close, others are not.
That said, I love my brother deeply and feel a great sisterly protection over him.
He was little, I was big. I worried other kids would pick on him or see him as weak.
And they did.
Kids are assholes like that.
That said – I worried about him if I saw him struggling, and he’d punch me in the arm if he saw me in the corridor. It’s just who we were.
Anyway – it was the second first day. I was late by a day, and late by 15 minutes.
So I had to find my new classroom, and walk in to everyone staring.
I was shy then, so I shuffled in and waited to be pointed to a seat.
I sat down and could feel stares hitting my back.
Now I don’t know if your school was like it, but mine was full of cunts – so while everyone else understood the unspoken rules of which bag is the ‘right’ bag to have. Or what shoes are ‘acceptable’ – not in the school rules –but socially acceptable.
How to have your hair, why you MUST have a new school jumper at the start of the year and why you can never ever be seen wearing a school shirt from Tesco, they were just some of the dumb things that would determine whether you were worth someone’s friendship or not.
I sat in the classroom and wrote my name on my Homework Diary, printing it slowly and carefully, deciding how my handwriting was going to look ‘for the year’.
All important stuff obv.
I glanced up to check the date, and caught one of the girls still staring at me.
She was looking at my tin pencil case with a look that suggested it had a cat shit on it.
I looked at my pencil case.
It had a few dents and a couple of cringey stickers on, but I shrugged it off.
I’d wanted to stratch my name into it with a loveheart – so no one would try and nick it. Well darling. It certainly wasn’t that type of school.
I followed her gaze as it went down to my hand me down skirt. ( my sisters, frayed at the bottom, and not the same colour as my jumper – which was brand new, thank fuck)
Her eyes were practically popping out of her face by now – she’d never seen someone like this before , clearly. I tried to discreetly hide the stars I’d drawn on my leg in biro whilst I’d been waiting to go to the classroom.
It drew her attention and she silently gasped, eyes wide at my shoes…
We hadn’t had enough time, with moving all of our stuff from one end of the country to another, to buy new school shoes. Mum had had to buy our jumpers last minute.
So I’d had to wear my summer shoes to school, which Dad reasoned -‘ at least they fit‘ and ‘ will be comfortable‘.
My summer shoes weren’t some lovely fashionable floral dolly shoe. Or sandal. Oh no. That would be normal, at least.
I’d picked out black ankle boots, which nowadays might seem fashionable but back then they most certainly were NOT.
They’d fit well, and reminded me of my old Doc Martens – I’d kicked them around the summer festivals, and kicked them around when we’d moved into Grandma’s too.
They were battered now, and I looked down ashamed.
This morning I’d felt nothing but confidence when I’d put my trusty, familiar boots on. They hadn’t been a ‘thing’ then.
Now I’d have preferred to be sat there in my socks.
I stared at them, like they had betrayed me. Like it was their fault I was being judged.
It’s funny really, how another person can make someone feel like that.
It wasn’t the first and it definitely wasn’t the last time someone made me feel like an outsider, simply because I didn’t fit in with their ‘norms’.
I wish that time had been the time that I decided not to care what other people thought, but I was only 11 then. And it would be a few more times yet.
So I would desperately try and fit in, and that meant I would need all of the ‘stuff’ required.
When I explained this type of stuff to my mum she would take it in, and retaliate with a ‘Why that crap isn’t important, it’s who you are that matters’ speech.
Yeah Mum, try telling that to the girl that literally laughed at my personalised tin pencil case this morning. I don’t wanna be laughed at, I just want to be fucking normal.
So my dear mum bless her, when I begged her for a new ‘rucksack’ type bag, that had to be a brand but I wasn’t actually sure which, or where to buy one from – took in what I was saying and promised me a new bag for school.
I literally counted down the days to the New Bag.
I day dreamed that my New Bag was going to be this statement making, ‘I’m the same as all of you’ item. Once I had The Bag, then people would actually give me a chance, I thought.
And then they might actually want to be friends with me.
Sad, I know.
The day came, and Mum gave me that Smug Mum look, knowing she had bought the gift to end all gifts.
‘ It’s on your bed’ she said knowingly.
I flew up the stairs, into Grandma’s spare bedroom and threw open the door.
There, placed lovingly next to my pillow was The Most Hideous Bag I have ever seen.
A black and purple, from-the-market, hiking rucksack was sat there gloating, where my fashionable New Bag should have been.
Mum appeared behind me waiting to see my pleased reaction.
I couldn’t do it. I was too appalled.
I saw Mums face and forced my horrified expression into what I hoped was a smile of pleasant surprise.
‘ Well?‘ She’d asked not picking up my despair.
‘It’s…….not what I thought it was going to be..’ I’d said back. Forcing my face into a perma-smile before it fell into childish tears.
I think I probably did end up crying, and my wonderful Mum told me it would be alright.
‘We could personalise it with key rings (!!!) and other bits to make it ‘ a bit more you..!’ She’d said, holding it up and inspecting it.
But I didn’t want to be me, I was weird.
I wanted to be the same as everyone ELSE.
With their Eastpak bags, and brand new Tupperware for cooking class, and their fucking piss flap Parker pens.
I cried for a bit – then me and Mum made different key rings, and beaded string and threaded it through the bags various netting and pockets for penknives and whatever else.
Now whenever someone uses the phrase ‘ You can’t polish a turd‘ The Fugly Bag swims into my mind, and I can’t help thinking that no, you cannot. But you can roll it in glitter.
She tried so hard, I thought when she’d laced another bead onto the tiny string, or fished out another forgotten keyring from wherever they bred.
She had sat with such patience while I’d run off to cry about how the Bag ‘Was a metaphor for my shit life.’
It didn’t matter what bag I had at school, the Twats that it mattered to would only find something else to nitpick at. It mattered that she had made so much effort, and spent her money on trying to make me happy.
I loved my Mum so much in that moment, and the hatred for The Bag simmered away into pure gratitude that my mum had simply – tried.
I went to school the following Monday with the Fugly Bag. Or now it was the Fugly Bag with Bells on.
People probably laughed at me behind my back, people probably flicked the key-rings while I walked in the corridors. But they already laughed at my glasses, or wonky teeth or crap hair anyway – so who gave a shit.
I got home and Mum would be there and even though she knew I hated The Bag, I appreciated her for it anyway.
Oh, and if your wondering about the girl who hated my boots….
We had PE as one of our first lessons that first day. Knowing I was going to be judged on my sporting prowess ( which I was not shit at, might I add) I knew I had to up my game. Now was the chance to prove myself.
We were playing rounders, and it was my turn to bat.
The Boot Judger was bowling and threw a perfect ball.
I swung the bat round with clear precision.
It connected with the ball perfectly, and the ball changed direction.
Time seemed to slow down, as I watched the ball shoot away from the bat and fly straight ahead towards her.
It hit that bitch straight in the face, and my god what a noise it made too.
Whilst everyone rushed forward to check I hadn’t inadvertently knocked her out.
I looked down at the knackered old bat and smirked.
That’s karma, bitch.