Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: MY MANDARIN

In Kirsten Hubbard's stunning debut, 14-year-old Grace wishes she lived a life less ordinary and more like wild, older Mandarin. Kirsten has invited the blogosphere to share memories of their own “Mandarins” – folks they envied when they were teens. As it turns out, I can think of lots of people I’ve wished I were more like. Today, I wish I were more like my friend Julie who has four kids, like me, but is so much better organized (producing plays, helping out at church, plus the whole family thing), not to mention handy around the house (that girl can change plug outlets and strip wallpaper like nobody’s business). So it wasn’t so much a matter of THINKING of a Mandarin story to share but of CHOOSING one.  Anyhow, here we go...

When I was in junior high, I wanted to be my locker-mate. Let’s call her Lesley. She was popular. I was not. She had big boobs. I had small ones. She had the stylish Dorothy Hamill haircut. I wore my hair in a ballerina bun—not cool. I had just come to the school district the year before and, though I had made friends, I was still the odd one out when it came to locker pairings. I was so grateful to Lesley for sharing that I willingly gave her the top half of the locker with the hook and extra shelf while my books, boots and coat sat in a glum hump below. In truth, I felt not only lucky that Lesley had chosen me, but also relieved.
Ballerina me at 16

Perhaps it was this relief, or my secret desire to be part of the “in crowd” Lesley represented, which made me fail to question why she’d deigned to share with me in the first place. But before September was over, I learned the truth. Lesley had had a falling out with three other popular girls over an incident with a certain boy. This resulted in some serious, detention-worthy name-calling and Lesley’s demotion to the company of artsy, less-popular types like me. Looking back, I guess we were both kind of using each other.  By winter, Lesley was back in the popular clique and I was more firmly established in the artsy crowd. We barely exchanged hellos at our locker. The following fall, we both found different locker partners, and I’m not sure if we spoke more than twenty sentences between then and graduation.

Years later, I found out that Lesley went on to study dance in college. Dance was a huge part of my life back then and remains important to me to this day. So, it’s not without a touch of remorse that I sometimes think that we could have been real friends if we'd both been less concerned about who we thought we needed to be like—and whom we wanted to like us.

6 comments:

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Wow, what a strange irony. I have to say high school really sucks. It makes us all into people we really aren't. Anything that actually matters in life goes out the window in high school. And all the stupid things become our number one priorities. I was the same, I think. I wonder what she would say to you now.

Stasia said...

So many folks have high school stories like this one, don't you think, Carol? I feel for everyone in these scenarios. Honestly, if we met today, I'd bet on us being friends even though neither one of us was particularly nice to the other at the time!

Michael Offutt said...
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Stasia said...

Hey everybody, let's keep comments on topic so I don't have to moderate. MANY THANKS!

callyjackson.com said...

The sentiments of your post reminded me of Before I Fall. It really captures the people we 'become' in high school based on which group we fit into/want to fit into. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it! :-)

Stasia said...

So many people have told me to read Before I Fall, Cally. I feel like I've really missed something. Definitely adding it to my tbr list.