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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Gory Days

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
One day when Andy, my youngest child, was about three years old we were wheeling through the grocery store together. Andy was in the seat and he smiled and waved and chatted with everyone he saw. He had a great time. As we were standing in the checkout line he said with a big, toothy grin, "Mama, everybody in here is my friend." He said it as though it was a very fine surprise indeed that all his friends decided to come to the grocery store at the same time. I cried then and writing it makes me cry now. I remember wishing, maybe even praying, that he would always feel that way. My tears were the complicated tears of a mother - they were for his innocense, his sweetness, his supreme confidence that the world was on his side, and they were also filled with the knowledge that he would not always feel that the whole world was populated with best friends.

As a child I was a huge dork. I am still a huge dork, but now I'm all grown up and it doesn't worry me. Too much. I talked in a dorky way about dorky stuff. I played dorky games. I read a lot. Also, I dressed funny. Sorry mom. But I did. I don't think fashion was very high on anyone's list of priorities at our house. I mention this for a better reason than hurting my only mother's feelings. I wouldn't do that. I mention it as background information.

There I went singing and dancing down the sidewalks with a rose and a wadded up Kleenex tucked into my t-shirt to serve as a bosom, hoping a talent scout would see me. There I went edging dangerously away from dorky to downright weird, but I was sure happy. I was happy right on through elementary school and the summer after sixth grade. In fact, that summer I was super happy because I was going to start Jr. High and my cousin had sent me a pair of incredibly cool purple Levi's. Faaaaaar out! I was happy, happy, happy, right up until the day that I wore those cool purple Levi's.

I was standing in the band room with my clarinet propped on my thigh talking to this guy named Paul. I was thinking Paul might be a good candidate for my first kiss. I was happy as happy can be. Until this guy - a jock who played saxophone and had platinum blonde curls - came up and said, "Hey Bussey, you expectin' a flood?"

Huh? A flood? In New Mexico, in September? Whu? I looked at him with a dorkily quizzical expression. He pointed at my ankles. I looked. It was the looking that got everyone to laughing. I think I could have pulled off some kind of save if I had known what the heck he was talking about. But I didn't. So I looked at my ankles. Which showed below the hem of those cool purple Levi's. Oh. I get it. A flood. I socked him in the middle of his chest.

That was the day that I found out the whole wide world wasn't filled with best friends of mine. That was the day that I learned how to feel ugly and stupid and dorky. I mean, I was dorky prior to that, but was never aware of the fact. In that one little twenty second slot of time I learned how to hate myself, to feel inferior in approximately fourteen different ways, and I have remembered that lesson and struggled against it all my life.

So what, you ask? I know. So nothing. Everybody has that moment. There are very few people, especially few female people, who do not secretly wonder if the cool kids will like them, or what all the other neurosurgeons are going to be wearing, or whether anybody will want to talk to them, or if they will get all the jokes. We learn to doubt ourselves at the very least and sometimes to hate ourselves sometime before we hit our teens and we never forget how to do it. Many, many of us become self doubt masters. And that makes me want to cry again.

So hey! Dorks unite! Guess what - you're grown up now, you can drive, you can get money out of the bank without asking anyone. If your library books are overdue - too bad, so sad, here's the fine, have a nice day, and nobody will yell at you. You never have to clean your room in your whole life if you don't want to do it. You are all grown up and you determine what is dorky and what is just you. Forget whatever your particular epiphany of self loathing was and take a good long look around. The world is filled with friends just waiting for you to meet them.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" - March 24, 2006 Column

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This page last modified: March 24, 2006