I knew I was screwed pretty early on, when I started going to school and meeting other children. They didn't talk or think the way I did. Some of them lied, which horrified me. It had never occurred to me that people were dishonest and would lie for no other reason than that it amused them. I believed everything everyone told me, because I did not understand what a lie was. The concept was utterly alien and inconceivable to me.
Eventually, I would learn to lie and cheat and be insincere, just like everyone else on the planet. It would take even longer to realize that I was the source of my own disharmony, fear and sadness.
But I'm getting ahead of myself again.
I had no filters as a child. I would say what I thought, and use words too old for me, and elicit responses from my peers that did not encourage me to repeat my observations. I learned early to shut up and - if not outright lie - to keep my thoughts and my vocabulary to myself.
In second grade, I used the word "mysterious" in front of two other girls in the cafeteria during lunch. They crinkled their noses and looked at each other and rolled their eyes and asked me why I used such weird words, was I trying to act "all big?" Translated: "All Big" is the nine year old version of "pretentious."
In sixth grade, whilst riding on the school bus on a particularly misty morning, I looked out of the window and looked down a little lane, twisting away into the fog and lined on each side by a split rail fence. I turned to my seat mate and asked: "Do you ever look down a road and wonder where it goes?" The seat mate turned and looked at me as if I had suddenly and very loudly farted. "No." she responded, in a tone of voice reserved for an especially stupid and ill mannered child. I was summarily dismissed.
I was once called "gay" for admitting that I was hoping to receive a cassette tape of orchestral music for Christmas when I was 11 or 12.
I got my first period at age 11. I wasn't at all happy about it. I went to bed with stomach cramps and woke up covered in blood. My mother was pleased and misty eyed. I was disgusted. I was still flat as a board, utterly uninterested in growing up. My body might be maturing, but my intellect was slow to catch up. I was what is commonly referred to as a "late bloomer." At 11 and 12, most of my female peers were shaving their legs, using makeup and giggling over boys. I didn't care about any of those things. I was dragged into maturity kicking and screaming, not understanding why I now had to apply underarm deodorant and wash my hair every day. I wasn't done playing in the dirt and scabbing my knees. I had as many boy buddies as girls, and frankly I preferred the boys. All the girls ever wanted to do was play with dolls and steal their moms lipstick. I didn't mind doing that once in a while, but I also wanted to play Star Wars and chase and race cars.
Eventually, the girls began to treat me with scorn. I made straight A's in grade school and played with everyone, which just wasn't cool. The boys didn't want to play with me anymore either because I was obviously morphing into a female with breasts and everything. I didn't know how to act. Any attempt to fit in with the other girls was rejected. But if I didn't at least display proper respect to the girls who were Popular - girls who had designer jeans and pierced ears and posters of rock stars on their bedroom walls - I was faulted for that too. I was fucking eleven. I was so confused. I was being forced to grow up and I was doing it all wrong. The rules had never been explained to me, and it was my fault for not instinctively knowing when or how to do it...whatever the hell "it" was.
I left grade school as a straight A student, tutoring other children and given a slot in the Gifted Children's Program. I started Junior High lost, and ugly, and soon to be left behind.
Hold your light,
Eleven, Lead me through each gentle step,
By inch by loaded memory,
As soon as pain allows so we can,
And both move on together.