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Being An 80's and 90's Fat Kid Part 3

I had a great summer with my best friend.  We swam in the above ground pool my parents had just put in that spring. She and I made a few bucks watching a neighbors little boy a few days a week while she was here. The funnest thing we did was rent '80s horror movies. We'd rent five at a time because there was some deal that I can't remember about five movies. We'd watch them all in two days though, and return them for more. If I'm using my brain correctly, this was the summer of 1994. Yes, this would make sense because I started freshmen year September 1995. At the end of the summer I was sad to see her go. We had a lot of fun that almost two months, but none of it worked in my favor as far as losing weight. Sure, we swam. We went for walks down past our old school. As I said in my previous article the school wasn't very far from my house. There was a road right next to the school that lead to the ocean shoreline. You could find horseshoe crabs there sometimes. When we were that age and younger it always felt like it took that much longer to get places by walking. As an adult walking that road I realized it takes 15 minutes, if that, to get down to the shore. Then 15 minutes back. I guess it felt like a lifetime as a child.  Anyway, despite the walking and the swimming, we ate a LOT of junk food. We drank a ton of Pepsi. We munched on chips and candy. My friend probably gained 15lbs when she'd visit and then lose it again in her first month home. I however stayed the same. I didn't gain more weight but maintained. So I didn't go into the 8th grade looking any different. 

When it was time for the first day of 8th grade, I was nervous. I wasn't AS nervous as I'd been the previous year, because my KNOWN bullies were off to high school. There was a semi good feeling that at least I'd know some kids now. I wasn't close to anyone, but they would no longer be new to me. There was still that feeling of not being able to sleep well, but it wasn't as bad as how I felt the previous September. I can't remember, but I feel like my homeroom was slightly different this time around. Certain things that I used to remember perfectly, are fading a bit now that I'm 38. This makes me incredibly sad because I've always prided myself on remembering everything. For years, whenever I'd bring up things from the past to my ex classmates, they'd barely remember it. Now I'm getting to that point too, just ten years later.
I'm going to tell you right now that I don't remember a lot of terrible things about 8th grade. In fact, I think 8th grade might have been, other than my years at my little grade school, my favorite grade I ever had. The majority of the school was nice to me. I joined Chorus that year.  I attempted the saxophone but after four lessons and trying to practice at home, I realized it wasn't going to work. In fact, I took Chorus 5th and 6th grade, then 8th grade, then three years of it in high school. Plus all the years of normal music class. I STILL can't read music. I had great teachers. I just couldn't grasp it. Much like math. Unlike my son who picked up reading music fairly quickly in 5th grade and played the trumpet for four years. He never excelled at it, but it was because he wasn't overly passionate about it. 

I had acquaintances I would sit with at lunch. We weren't super close, mainly because I wouldn't let anyone that close to me. I've always been that way with everyone BUT my best friend. It was always "Let's hang out at school but I don't want to go to your house and I don't want you coming to mine". I'd never say that of course, but it was just how I was. How I am. Shy and anti-social. I'm a tough nut to crack.  I was grateful for those acquaintances though. They made me feel safe. I had two girls that I would frequently team up together with for group projects in science. We never did that well, and I struggled with keeping my notebook organized. That was a terrible problem to have, because every three months we had a notebook check. The science teacher would go through our notebook and see how neat we were with keeping our notes up to date. He verbally embarrassed me a few times about how messy I was. He didn't dislike me though. He was just a teacher doing his job.

I excelled at English class and creative writing. I didn't even mind reading my work out loud to the class. It was a much different year and environment. I even had boys who were nice to me. There was one who constantly tried to make me laugh and fake flirted with me. I KNEW it was fake, and I KNEW it was joking, but it wasn't malicious and I appreciated it. It helped me come out of my shell a bit more. In fact, I embarrassed the guy a little bit once. We had to say in creative writing class someone we were grateful for, and I named him and he got uncomfortable and acted like he didn't want to be in the room and everyone was like "Ummm what? Why?", and kind of teased him a bit. I explained it was simply because he was funny and helped me open up a bit. I don't think 8th grade boys and girls, most of them, were ready for such deepness. I felt embarrassed that I'd embarrassed him and I couldn't help but wonder if it was JUST being the center of attention that bothered him, or the fact that I was overweight and said I was grateful for him. No matter what the reason, I couldn't really judge him too much considering he was just a 13/14 year old boy and most of us don't like attention called to ourselves.

During the winter of that year, I started to get a bit of a reputation for being kind of morbid. My stories in creative writing often had a bit of a morbid twist to them towards the end, and people loved it. Even my English teacher got a kick out of them at the time. This was a few years before Columbine. What happened around this time in 8th grade would never fly these days. There was a winter dance coming up. We had a kid in 8th grade who was extremely talented. He was pretty cute, he played sports, he acted in plays, he sang really well, and he was straight. One day he jokingly walked around asking every single girl to the dance. We all knew he was joking. All the girls said yes, except for me. It's SO cringe to think about now, but all that day whenever he'd see me in the hallway, he'd ask me to pretty please go to the dance with him, and I'd give him a fake evil look and laugh. This somehow turned into a fun little game where for months he and I (we were in different home rooms) would leave each other little notes behind in the English classroom that were basically fake death threats. WE thought it was hilarious. Our classmates thought it was hilarious. The teachers either didn't mind it or didn't even notice. Again, this was before Columbine and everyone knew we were obviously kidding. One girl in my class had someone take a picture of me holding a ruler pretending to cut her head open with it. It was stupid stuff but we got a kick out of it. Another guy in my class got me to chase him around. We got in trouble big time, embarrassingly enough because we were stupid and this was during a fire drill. Big time face palm.

I DID develop a crush on the actor kid though. It's basically why I kept up the fake death threat note thing for so long. It was an awkward time. Totally embarrassing when I think back on it, but I was enjoying 8th grade.

Obviously there were some crappy times. A few times I heard two guys in my class whispering about me, and teasing each other about who'd be stuck dating me and how gross that would be. It was hurtful, but I could handle it better because these were things I wasn't supposed to hear. It wasn't cruelly said to my face. These were two dumb boys who would have probably been embarrassed had I spoken up and said hey, I heard what you said. 

There was a girl below me in 7th grade who was very much the church going girl. She was very religious, very bubbly but also boy crazy and hyper. She often said things without thinking. She wasn't a mean girl, she just literally had foot-in-mouth issues. One day we were outside and it was kind of chilly out. One thing I've not mentioned is that I hated wearing a jacket. I already felt like I looked bulky enough so I often refused a jacket which made my mom angry. NOW I understand this, because it probably made her look like a bad parent for not making me wear a jacket, when in reality she made me wear it. I'd just take it off on the bus. So it's chilly out. A few kids kept asking me "Aren't you cold?!" and I'd say "Nah I'm fine". Well this religious girl says "She's got a lot more blubber than the rest of us. It's naturally shielding her so she's probably not as cold as we are". The other kids looked at her with their mouths hanging out. Someone chastised her and she was like "Oh, sorry I didn't mean it in a mean way". I just wanted to kind of walk away at that point.

At one point during Science class, we had to write a ten minute speech. Not only that, we had to stand up and deliver the speech to our class. Not only THAT, but it had to be recorded. Not only THAAAAT... but we had to re-watch the recordings as a class and critique ourselves. So basically we had to be humiliated twice over. A lot of kids counted how many times they looked down when talking, or said "Ummm" or "like". I could barely look up to watch mine. I hated hearing my voice, and I HATED seeing how absolutely gigantic I looked on screen. We all know how badly pictures and cameras portray us, and I was already huge. It was one project I was happy to have over.

The absolute WORST part of 8th grade was a month before we graduated. Traditionally in the mid-coast Maine area, in the spring time 8th graders (it's now changed to 7th AND 8th graders) spend a week at a leadership camp. They spend the night in cabins with some kids they know and some kids they don't. They do trust exercises the entire time they are there. Now for your typical normal sized, outgoing kid, this could be fun. In fact, my son went in 7th grade and as a beanpole he enjoyed it for about four days but then got homesick. Mostly for Xbox. For a fat kid, it's pretty much a nightmare. I refused... REFUSED... to spend the night. In fact, the only way they could get me to even go at all was to allow my mom to take me and pick me up everyday. I hated every waking minute there. 

Picture these leadership/trust exercises as a fat kid. The pit - There is a rope swing. There is a hole in the ground. On the other side of the hole, is a small plank of wood. One at a time the kids in your group have to swing across and fit all ten kids onto the small plank of wood. You can't move on until everyone's on the plank for 30 seconds without falling off. So to recap we have a fat kid trying to, first of all, swing over a hole in the ground with a flimsy rope. Then they have to fit with other people on a small plank and not knock anyone else off or fall themselves? Sounds great! Especially since the counselor will not intervene or make suggestions. Which means bullying can happen. Kids get frustrated. They want to move on. They get angry at the ones holding things up.

Ants on a log - Everyone has to fit on a log and slowly walk to the end without anyone slipping or falling. If you slip, everyone has to start over.

Trust fall - I'm pretty sure you all know about this one. Trust fail is more like it.

The group sit - This one was especially awkward.  Everyone and to stand with one person standing in front of them. We had to put our hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us. Then, at the same time, we all had to squat slowly to the ground until we were all sitting on each other's laps. It was very not cool. I could not wait for that week to be over.

All in all, 8th grade was a blast though. I literally cried at my 8th grade graduation. I knew most of the kids would be moving on to the same high school as me, but some wouldn't. Also, having experienced a similar situation with the kids from my grade school when I arrived at this Jr High, I knew that just because we'd all be Freshmen did NOT mean we'd be in the same classrooms. In fact, sadly, I can tell you right now that I never had a class with the majority of these kids again. I'd see them in the halls or I'd see them at lunch. Other than an odd elective like Chorus or Creative Writing though, I didn't see most of these kids again. In fact, to get off the being fat train for a second, that's the sad thing about childhood friends. If your lucky you keep those friends forever. For those of us that had to move, or had friends that moved, you promise you'll always be best friends. You promise to always write. You promise things will always be the same. Most of the time it just doesn't work out that way.

My best friend and I tried to keep up the letters. We moved on to email and AOL Instant Messenger in high school. There were long periods we'd go without speaking, but when she came to visit it was like we could pick up where we left off. That lasted until the end of high school. We had an awful time interacting when she came to visit me when I'd moved out of my parents house. I had a live in boyfriend at the time. Neither of us had experienced the other one dating, so it was an awkward, jealous situation and at one point she came right out and said she wanted to leave early. It was awful for both of us. I didn't see her for 5 years after that. She came to visit my husband (different guy than the boyfriend was) and I and my two year old son in California. We had a really nice time and things went much more smoothly. Then she came to visit me when I was visiting my mom when my son was three. We had an absolute blast and it had been awhile since she'd seen my family, so it was all around awesome. My son is now 14 1/2 and we've not seen each other in person since he was 3. We still talk on Facebook but it's more like checking in every six months or so. It's kind of sad, but we've just got our own lives now. Your spouse kind of turns into your best friend sometimes when you get older.  Things would probably be different if we had ever gotten to live close to each other again.

I'm sorry to go off on such a tangent. I'm just reminded of this stuff because I'm about to start writing part 4 about when I was in high school. My son started high school this year and the reason why I mentioned what I did in the last paragraph, is that we literally moved to Texas this past September. Previously my son had been attending a grade school in Maine for four years. My husband used to be in the Military and is now out. He is originally from Texas so we just naturally decided to migrate here for good. I was sick over it though. Remembering what it felt like when my best friend moved. Feeling sick over my son having to start over yet again (school age wise he did pre-k to two months of second grade in Guam, the rest of second grade to 4th grade in Washington state, and grades 5-8 in Maine) and having to leave behind friends. Sure, he'd done it twice before, but he's a teenager now. His personality totally changed when he reached 11. The real teenager started to come out. Regardless, my mom and my friend that transferred into my high school Junior year reminded me that none of them had classes with their friends after 8th grade and rarely saw them except in the halls, similar to me. They said he will survive. He has so far. I'm proud of him because I know it's hard.
I loved 8th grade so much that I even went back to school the day after graduation, like a dork, because they said we could and I heard my actor crush would be there. He was, as were a few others. We got to listen to music and watch TV all day. It was awesome.

That summer, I put it into my head that I should swim laps everyday and lay off the junk. I thought to myself, "Hey, use your crush as motivation. Lose a ton of weight. Maybe he will notice you as more than the funny fat girl". Unfortunately that motivation did NOT last long. Soon my best friend AND my cousin were at our house for a month and a half and we were constantly busy. Constantly going places, constantly eating junk because my cousin rarely got to have it, etc. I had no self control and I completely forgot about my plan. That is until we were sitting in the back of my mom's car the second week in August. It was a few days before we were dropping them both off at the airport. We each had an ice cream cone. We were all licking away as my mom was inside the store grabbing a few things. All of the sudden I hear my name called and I see my crush standing outside my window, pointing at me and smiling and then making our fake death threat finger across the throat sign. All while I had a mouthful of mint chocolate chip. I wanted to die. It turns out he lived right next to the store my mom was in. My brother started laughing as my crush walked away. I was so embarrassed and angry that I put my ice cream in my brother's face

       School was starting in two weeks. Freshmen year. High school. Mandy would be there. I'd not lost a pound. In fact, I had gained five. I wasn't ready.

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Dalek227 Posted on Jan 09, 2019 at 07:48 PM

I too think that deep down, despite how I was often just trying to blend in, a part of me WANTED to stand out a bit. A part of me craved a little positive attention and being a little "shocking" in a not physically harmful way made people laugh and maybe that's part of the reason.

Dalek227 Posted on Jan 09, 2019 at 07:43 PM

LOL yes, I agree it sounds odd. It's hard to explain as we ALL knew they were just stupid little joke notes. Kind of like 10 year olds pretending to kill their friends playing War or Cops and Robbers. Back then you could joke around a bit like that and it not be such a big deal. These days it's harder to determine what's a joke. We were both actually fairly dorky (despite me having a crush on him and him being kind of popular) and the biggest goody two shoes you'd ever meet so that is why it was so funny to people. I guess we could get away with messing around like that BECAUSE people knew we would never do that.

I guess it's complicated. I'd consider my sense of humor morbid even today. I'd still never hurt anyone or wish death on anyone. As much as Mandy was terrible to me i'd never wish death upon her. I like to watch the ID channel and read crime novels and there might be some morbidity to that, but I assure you i'm not someone that would participate in such things LOL and by looking at me I don't ooze creepy I swear.

Benjanime Posted on Jan 08, 2019 at 09:39 PM

eh, i guess i'm just saying that she wouldn't be my type lol.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jan 08, 2019 at 09:24 PM

@Ben: Well, let's see... "During the winter of that year, I started to get a bit of a reputation for being kind of morbid."

I think she kind of made that pretty clear, don't you think?

Benjanime Posted on Jan 08, 2019 at 08:09 PM

writing notes to others can be fun, but death threats? don't you think that's a bit morbid looking back?

Vaporman87 Posted on Jan 08, 2019 at 07:50 PM

I'm really enjoying this series. Once again, your honesty and openness regarding your years in school dealing with weight issues has made for a really great read.

It's good that at least some aspects of your school life improved. I felt bad that your son had to basically go through a move similar to yours. Losing friends like that would have been devastating for me. I was extremely shy and quiet in school too, except to those who were friends or friendly to me.

I look forward to more.

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