We spent our days pouring over gossip about boys and laughing in our too short track uniforms, Adele's Rolling In The Deep was the hottest track on the radio. Excitement flowed out of every word we spoke while we imagined a life outside of middle school. Eighth grade was coming to end but not soon enough. To maintain with the ratio of the small town, the middle and high school were placed in the same building. The Southern side was full of kids in braces and stunk of Axe Body Spray. The Northern side was full of kids with licenses and prom dates. We craved the status and the respect we thought we would gain as high schoolers. We wanted to relocate to the Northern side of the hallway, we wanted to sit in the common areas and leave home for lunch. We wanted an out from the South side of the hallway.
There was never an immediate air of clicky-ness, everyone was friendly. No one was deemed cooler because of the fashion you wore. We did, however, care deeply about the pattern on the back pocket of our jeans, if they didn’t have the stripes from an American Eagle store, then don’t bother wearing them. The stripes represented a status, you had a cool factor, you had the money to buy American Eagle jeans.
Two things, I did not have.
I craved it, I craved the softness of the jeans, I wanted people to look at my ass and see I was one of them. That I fit in. I wanted to sit with the cool kids and laugh. I wanted to be one of their top three best friends on Snapchat. I wanted to joke around and hang out with the high schoolers after school hours.
In my time in middle school, I never fully reached coolness. I never did in high school either but that’s beside the point. I did, for a short period of time, gain the attention of one of the popular girls. She was, without a doubt, one of the cool girls, if not the coolest. She wore American Eagle jeans and even some pants with faux-rhinestones on the butt.
She had siblings and cousins who did their schooling on the Northern side of the hallway so she had an in and I desperately wanted to be her friend.
The last period of school was dedicate to studying but no one did, this was the time to gossip and sneak to the bathroom to, unsurprisingly, gossip. American Eagle Jean Queen and I were placed in the same room after we had the same class. I thought this was the perfect time to build a relationship so I let her copy my homework, I laughed at all her jokes and rolled my eyes at all the appropriate times. I did anything to make her like me. I even teased the new girl because American Eagle Jean Queen found her annoying so I also found her annoying.
The new girl was never mean to me never gave me a reason to talk bad about her but I didn’t care. This was my way to earn a status, I gained something worthless while losing all that I liked about myself. The more rude comments I made about the new girl, the more I hated myself. I saw myself in the new girl, we were both scared and looking for a friend. The only difference between us was she didn’t bring anyone else down in her journey to find friendship. She didn’t trade in harsh judgment for a false sense of belonging.
The new girl didn’t stay for very long, she moved as quickly as she came. After her departure, I had nothing left to say to American Eagle Jean Queen. There were no more eyeballs to be rolled and hardly any homework to allow her to copy. Middle school was coming to an end and so was our short lived friendship. I retreated back to my old ways of looking at American Eagle jeans in the clearance section and staying in my place in the social ladder. The place were I didn’t have to trade in my values in order to fit in. A place where I could be myself and live out my truth.