Sixth grade was probably the height of my awkwardness. At least physically.
I remember that I seemed to be uncomfortable in my own skin. Almost like it was too big, or too small.
Either way, I felt suffocated and weighed down all at the same time.
Yearbook pictures were never fun. Ever. I always wondered why my parents even ordered any.
I remember, even at the age of 11, the moment that I had to face looking at myself in a picture.
It was a sickening feeling.
I felt the envelope in my hand and looked down at my image peering back at me through the cellophane window. I was standing in the door of the library opening the envelope and trying to desperately to turn the picture upside down so that it would not be viewable to others.
Before I had successfully made the rotation, I remember a classmate coming up to me in the hallway wanting to see them. We weren't that good of friends and she was everything I wasn't: tall, lean, incredibly athletic, long, smooth, straight hair, big eyes, and clear skin.
"Nah!" I laughed. "They're terrible. Really."
"They can't be that bad", she claimed.
My nervous laughter was followed by, "No. Really. They are."
She laughed and kept putting on the pressure.
(I didn't blame her. Pictures are pictures. Really there aren't bad pictures as much as bad moments captured. Unflattering moments. But generally, almost without fail, you do look like yourself in the photo.
Maybe you in a less than stellar moment, but you nonetheless.)
Always being one to please and never good at deflecting pressure or standing on my own, I ended up flipping the picture over for her to see.
I knew the truth.
I didn't need her to tell me.
Part of me expected the usual, "Awww....it's not that bad."
(That is always what the pretty people say.)
As her eyes scanned the photo and the peered directly into mine, even with all my self-loathing, I was unprepared for what she said.
"Kim, really. Just think about it. You're young. I probably won't look good when I'm older. It's like the ugly duckling. You know how it grew into something beautiful. You might, too."
She was sincere. She truly was. I knew when looking into her face that she was trying to be nice, in her way. A little bit of truth mixed with a tad of encouragement.
She meant well.
At least I think she did.
I looked at her and laughed as I always did and said, "Yeah... I am sure one day I'll be beautiful. Sure. Can't you tell?" as I motioned for her to take me in. All of me.
As I shrugged my shoulders, the laughter coming out of my mouth was still the self-depreciating kind, but I noticed it hurt a little more than usual.
As I turned to go to class I didn't turn back to look at her....
.....I just continued to walk.