I wasn't ready to be a teenager when I started Junior High. I did not wear makeup, I had not cut my hair in years and it hung down to my waist, straight and boring brown, and I wore secondhand clothes because I didn't care about clothes. They were just things to cover my body. I knew nothing about fashion and didn't give a shit about much of anything, really. Except horror movies. I went to school because I had to. It was a job, and I did not understand why there was such an enormous pressure to be social and popular. It was not my choice to be there, why did I have to socialize?
I hated lunch hour. I had nowhere to sit. The cafeteria was off limits: might as well smear yourself with cow blood and walk into a tiger cage. I hid in the bathroom, or sat in the dirt against the outer wall of the gym. And that's where the popular girls found me one day.
Stephanie, Suzanne, Christy and Dina. I'd known them in grade school. They were tall and pretty and dressed in tight jeans. They wore rouge and had boyfriends. Their hair was layered and feathered and sprayed. And oh, they said, I could be pretty and popular too if I just wore a little makeup. They could help me, they said. Let us make you over.
So I did, because I was afraid to say no. Stephanie was the one who produced a clear plastic makeup bag and went to work on me with eyeshadow and rouge. They wouldn't let me see myself in a mirror, just assured me with smiles and nods that I looked great. And I knew from the giggles, and the slightly guilty way that Dina tried to "fix" it once Stephanie was done, that I had been made the butt of their joke. And I had to somehow make my way across campus to the bathroom, in front of everyone, to see what they had done.
Of course, it's impossible to hide your face and walk at the same time. People stared, open mouthed, or pointed and laughed. I knew long before I got to a mirror that I looked ridiculous. And I did. I looked like a gaudy, forty year old whore with heavy blue eyeshadow and bright red circles on my cheeks. I spent so long washing that shit off of my face that I was late for my next class, and got in trouble. I was humiliated and felt stupid, gullible and so stupid for trusting them that maybe I'd deserved to be humiliated by them after all.
I still remember exactly what Stephanie looked like, what her last name was, how her voice sounded. I wonder if she ever remembers doing that to me, and feels ashamed. Or has she forgotten me completely? Or simply remembers it as being funny, and not at all a big deal. But it was a big deal. And I ran whenever I saw them heading my way during lunch again. And I never forgot, never stopped hating them, and myself.