I Have a Fake Personality
As a little girl, I changed who I was to fit in. Decades later, am I still pretending?
I grew up a sad, sullen child. Always quiet. Always watching the other kids as they laughed and played, trying to figure out how they operated. Sometimes they’d catch me watching and I’d blush and turn away.
My family was constantly in motion. By seventh grade I’d gone to six different schools, and my personality didn’t lend itself to making friends. More than that, there was something about me that attracted spite and derision from other children.
They teased me about my wavy, messy hair. I brushed it each morning in an attempt to render it neat and cute like the other girls, without success. It was too thick for barrettes, and I couldn’t figure out how to weave it into braids.
I was taunted at the bus stop for wearing high-water jeans, a term I didn’t even understand until someone told me it meant my pants were too short. Even then, I didn’t understand why it mattered. The reasons I was teased never made sense to me.
I longed to shrink myself invisible inside it but red jackets ten sizes too large don’t lend themselves to invisibility.
As I bounced from school to school, I came to recognize certain patterns. Popular children were pretty and happy. I was neither of those things. Popular children also owned clothes that fit. In second grade I wore my mother’s red raincoat to school every day. She’d cut it short and cropped the sleeves so I’d have use of my hands, but it was heavy and the shoulders hung low to my elbows. I longed to shrink myself invisible inside it, but red jackets 10 sizes too large don’t lend themselves to invisibility.
One day, I pulled it on after class and discovered a miracle had occurred. The raincoat fit perfectly. I was no longer a fat strawberry waddling down the street in a too-large jacket. That afternoon, I walked home as a slim, red straw. I still remember how light I felt as my feet bounced off the pavement.
God must have transformed my raincoat, I thought. He knew I was a nice girl and he’d commanded my mother’s massive jacket to conform itself to my…