The Ugly Friend

Yesterday I took us on a little road trip back to my past. [Click here to catch up]

We’re going to pick up right where we left off.

So, we’re back in 6th grade again. My second year of 6th grade. I am still recovering from being the “home-schooled-stupid-child”. This year, a new girl had arrived in my class. As I mentioned yesterday, our school was small, so anything outside the ordinary drew massive amounts of attention. This new girl in my class was tall, skinny [of course], she was athletic, with long shiny brown hair. Oh, and she was rich. At least rich compared to my family. She owned her own horse! Her Mother seemed to buy her pretty much anything she wanted. So yeah, I was jealous. Somehow, I managed to become her friend. Perhaps it was my charming personality. 😉

I’m going to call this new girl “Jessie”. That sounds like the name of a tall, athletic, and rich bombshell. The year goes on, and Jessie and I get really close. We pretty much become inseparable. And yes, we definitely exchange BFF necklaces. That was the thing to do back in 1992. Speaking of, who designed these things?? Looking at it now, I see the shape of a broken heart. What a fantastic symbol of friendship.

If you were to see the two of us together back then, she was the pretty one. I was the okay-I-could-take-her-or-leave-her one. When we would go to the mall, guys as they passed would cat-call to Jessie or whistle or sometimes even stop us to talk to her. To her. Not to me.

On this particular day at the mall, Jessie was stopped by two guys. I knew they wanted to talk to her and not me, and frankly I had grown tired of this happening, so I kept walking. She called to me, “Alana. Alana! Come back! Where are you going?” I stopped. Debated. Then decided to walk back to Jessie and the two guys. I still remember the look of disgust on the boys’ faces when I walked back to their recently formed posse. Perhaps they were disgusted that I just kept walking. But at the time, I read this in their expressions: “Why are you here? I want to talk to your friend”. As I write this, I’m wondering if one of them actually said this to me, because the feeling of rejection that I felt then is still so vivid and clear.

I was the ugly friend.

I’m sharing these stories of rejection because it is important to lay the groundwork for why I grew up believing certain things about myself. Although these stories are not outrageously horrific, they were real and impactful to my personal identity. I believed I was stupid. Ugly. Unwanted. Undesirable. Not worth speaking to.

My friendship with Jessie did not last. And I’ll tell you why next Tuesday.

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12 thoughts on “The Ugly Friend

  1. I feel your pain. I grew up in one of those towns that doesn’t have a real traffic light… only a blinker on each end of town. I graduated with a class of 75. There weren’t a whole lot of options for friends. I worked my way into the “popular” crowd, but I always felt like I didn’t quite belong. We had an unspoken order at lunch (or at least this was my perception). The coolest girls in the clique would sit at the end of a lunch table. The rest of use would file in in order of “coolness” and strain to hear and engage in the conversations from the cool end of the table. I always found the cool girls to be shallow and uninteresting, but that didn’t matter. I was very shy and needed that connection (especially since my family life was a mess).

    Fortunately, Steve and I started dating our freshman year. I gained a lot of confidence from that very stable and healthy relationship. I didn’t really care about playing the popular game. I also helped that he was on the football team, so I rode his coattails a bit 🙂

    During high school I also had a great teacher who changed my life. He’s the reason I became a teacher myself. He was a wonderful, Christian man who became like a father to me. He actually helped to marry Steve and me… not in high school though… a few years later 🙂

    Between the two of them, I was saved, literally and figuratively. However, to this day, I still struggle with feeling like I belong in groups. I kinda think we all do to some extent, but not everyone is as open as you are about it.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how your story ends next Tuesday. Are you still connected to “Jessie” today. I know, I know… stay tuned for details 🙂

    • Jody, oooooh!!! You made my stomach turn when you described the lunch table situation. Holy crap, did that bring back memories… and I imagined a young Jody sitting there, being shy and unengaged. AGH. I feel like your story is triggering and unlocking a few things for me. Thank you for sharing it.

      I had no idea you’ve known Steve since high school! That is amazing and awesome! How many years have you been married? I mentioned this in my comment to Joe below, but I am realizing the importance of affirming others and having people in your life who can affirm you as well. WIthout knowing all the details, I am thankful to Steve and your teacher for the affirmations they poured into you – especially since it saved you! You, my dear, are worth fighting for.

      • Sorry, I missed your reply. Steve and I started when we were 14. We got married almost 10 years later. In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate our 11th anniversary. 21/34 years of my life have been with Steve. It’s good I like him 🙂

        Thanks for your kind words. You, my dear, are worth fighting for, too. I love hearing more about your life story. Your openness and honesty are refreshing.

      • 11 year anniversary! That is incredible, Jody! It IS good you like him. How could you not – he knows how to do the Gangnam Style dance and is willing to do it on camera! lol.

        Thank you for the feedback that you enjoy hearing more about my life story. It is healing for me to contemplate my past as an adult. It also means a lot to me that others appreciate my honesty and are able to [re]experience their own personal journey alongside me. One of my most favorite things in the whole world – yes I said the whole world – is to hear people’s Stories and somehow feel a new or deeper connection with that person.

  2. I have a hard time believing you were the “ugly one.” But perhaps your mother didn’t tell you (enough) how pretty you were. Or, maybe you had older brothers who would call you names. (As my wife’s brothers did.) Or, conceivably, you and your father didn’t have a warm, loving, nurturing relationship. My sisters had a great relationship with our dad — and they always had a strong sense of self worth. Similarly, I think I have the same with my girls. And they too have always known whom they were. Not to say that they weren’t picked on…or left out…or mistreated in some ways by their peers. They were. Lesson? Treat our children well…especially our young girls. I’m pleased that your story (who YOU are) has a happy ending.

    • Joe, thanks for your comment! Yes, my story will continue to unfold over time. 🙂 I have a lot of memories that are beginning to come back to me and I am not the “victim” in all of them. There are some where I act as the bully. Those stories will be more difficult to share because I knowingly did things to hurt others.

      I do not recall having many affirmations growing up, but I hope this is something that reveals itself more as I continue to remember my past.

      Although Josh and I do not have children of our own, we are beginning to realize how absolutely important it is to affirm them. I fully agree with you here. 🙂 My personal belief is that the lack of affirmation could be as equally damaging as having a verbally abusive parent.

  3. I think it takes a lot of grit to step up and expose your rawness; you will help many by sharing your story. Well done, Alana, not that you need my approval. You only need yours.

    Bests!
    MJ

    • Thanks MJ! Ironically it is so much easier to write my own story than it is to write about what I think people want to read.

  4. Wow, we have a lot in common. My beliefs about myself and how I am challenging them are why I started my blog over the summer … ugly, clumsy, inept, undesirable, undeserving … I look forward to reading more of your blog.

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