Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I am not easily affected by other people’s opinions. Maybe I was at some point, but I rarely value my worth by how others perceive me. So I don’t understand how I can feel so awfully judged by someone else without her saying a word.

If asked if I were ever explicitly bullied, I would probably say no. But when I sat at this table among eight of my peers, all girls within a year of my age, many of whom I’ve been acquainted with for years, I positively felt like crap. One of the other girls at this table, one of my close friends, visibly hunched over as we sat down.

My friend and I are intellectual. We have truckloads of aspirations and are not afraid to share our opinions or assert ourselves. Neither of us would have a problem speaking in front of a thousand people- as long as I didn’t know these girls were there.

I can’t place what it is. They say that my voice is cute even when I’m talking about rape as a war weapon in Sudan . They fake laugh at what I say regardless of its content, because apparently that should be more of a compliment than actually responding to what I say intellectually. They think that it’s strange that I talk to my friends, the rest of our peers, and teachers exactly the same way, and especially that I talk to guys in the same manner. I can’t do the coy, flirty thing. Maybe I could if I tried, but I haven’t. Maybe one day I will, but it’s not currently my prerogative.

When I speak, even when I’m just sitting there, they look at me. They stare; they never actually make eye contact. If I look back, they just sit even straighter and adjust their clothes.

Around them, I just shrivel up. I feel ugly and fat. I feel like my clothes are wrong. I feel like a loser, and immature. I am always aware, I suppose, that by cultural standards, they are much prettier than I am. I know that, by all logical measures, they are thinner than I am. I know that I dress unusually in comparison. These things, although I am aware of them and do not often fill me with glee, seldom negatively affect my thoughts. Usually I am proud of being a “nerd”, as I value intellectualism. My intelligence is what I am most proud of. But for them, being a nerd is bad, and when they’re around, their perspective begins to infiltrate mine. The immature thing is the most ironic. I’m concerned with global issues and ethics whereas they are typically preoccupied with typical adolescent drama. But for them, due to the fact that I’m all virginal and whatnot, I’m a little kid and younger than them. Somehow, just… lesser than them.

Strangest of all, I feel jealous, so very jealous. I have never been vapid. I will never be so easy to laugh or cry or forget about intense issues and just go to some party. It is not in my character to just get drunk impulsively or, honestly, do anything impulsively. I will never have that kind of fun. It depresses me a bit, because the satisfaction I achieve, although nice, is very different from their immediate gratification.


  1. I know what you mean. One of the perks of being both a huge nerd and the daughter of immigrant parents is that I'm still not so good with this whole social skills thing. I've gotten better over the years, but that "ease" that many people seem to instinctively have is something I can really only fake (and even then, in a pretty half-assed way).

    And you know what, I'm fine with that. I think people exaggerate how important social skills are, especially for people who have lots of other skills.

  2. This is definitely how I felt early in high school. I never have been and never will be conventionally cool, and even a few years into college I still have moments of social anxiety like this. It's all very a deep part of our culture. What has changed for me since high school is that I'm generally a lot more confident and am not as self-conscious for not having a boyfriend all the time or whatever. You have your own kind of fun! I like talking about movies just as much as I like talking about refugees of the Somali diaspora (I like talking about both of these a lot). Just because it's different than other people's kinds of fun doesn't mean it's not fun or valid! Duh! There are different types of cool, and I'm sure you're a cool person.

  3. You're currently in high school, right? I was lucky to have some good friends in both high school and college...but I also remember feeling like this much of the time as well, even when among people I related to. I never felt like I "really" related to anyone, or if I did I would be terribly afraid of losing that connection to the point of backing away from the very person I should have been getting closer to.

    As an adult I interviewed one of my close high school friends in whose presence I often felt this way--not attractive enough, not sexy enough, not savvy enough, just sort of immature and naive. She never told me I was any of those things, of course, but I felt them. I just about dropped dead away when she told me that she'd envied me through high school, that things always seemed easy for me and that she was envious of the attentions I gathered. Here's the interview, if you want to read it--I didn't post too much of what she said about me because I didn't want to make her uncomfortable: http://www.the-beheld.com/2011/01/jennifer-miller-35-single-momsuperhero.html

    I felt like I heard this a gazillion times when I was younger, so you probably have too, but I'll say it anyway: It gets better. I still struggle with friendships sometimes, but over the years I've learned how to identify--and keep!--the kind of company that makes me thrive instead of makes me shrivel. You'll do the same, I have no doubt.

  4. @miriam- "that 'ease' that many people seem to instinctively have is something I can really only fake (and even then, in a pretty half-assed way)." I completely know what you mean.

    @Liz- thanks :) I think the kind of "cool person" that I may be is just different from the kind that the vast majority of my peers are.

    @Autumn- Yes, I'm currently in high school. I have some incredible friends that I relate to very well, but lots of other friends and peers who I don't quite connect with. I had a friend that I was *extremely* envious of too (mostly her appearance), and I told her, which enriched our relationship a lot- when I confessed it to her aloud, much of the envy just dissipated. It seems similar, to some degree, to your interview. And thank you for the advice. :) I'm glad.