I’ve never been a fan of the princess fairy tales, even at a young age. I was always drawn to the Ugly Duckling. I’d read that fairy tale over and over, hoping that someday, one day, I might become a beautiful swan. I identified deeply with the duckling’s sad eyes, the feeling of not fitting in with the other ducklings, with my freckles, wild hair, gap-tooth and chub-chub. If only some day, I could see my reflection in that pond as a gorgeous swan. If I played the gorgeous swan scenario out, I might have wanted to look like Farrah Fawcett from Charlie’s Angels, or Daisy Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard, because these were the shows I watched at the time. I just wanted to be attractive, because that’s what you do when you’re a female, and you grow up and ‘get beautiful’, right?
Fast forward a few more years, to 4th grade, gah! the awkward years, as I like to call them. That year, I went to a private Christian school where God forbid, we had to wear the most hideous uniforms on the planet, brown jumpers with pale yellow cotton shirts, brown knee highs and brown shoes. Did I say enough brown? I felt like puke and dung that whole year, and it wasn’t just because of the uniform. I was still that sad little duckling trying to fit in.
We had these unbelievable cubicles, like an office space, where we couldn’t see our neighbor, apparently because talking was from the devil. (I can’t help but think of Kathy Bates in The Water Boy when I say that phrase.) There was a Christian flag and an American flag in each cubicle and as we finished our work, in these workbooks, we’d raise our flag and put it in a etched out hole at the top of the cubicle, so our teacher would know we needed help. I remember no, yes-no, direct instruction from a teacher that whole 4th grade year. This Ugly Duckling lived for recess that year and though I had really no friends, I played at the edge of the property line near the honeysuckle. I’d pick the honeysuckle and put the sweet nectar on my tongue and escape for just a moment from my cubicle.
Thank God the next year, in 5th grade, I went to a different school. My teacher was Mrs. Hamilton and her breath smelled like coffee and cigarettes. (I’d smoke on my breaks too, as a teacher, if I knew it wasn’t bad for me.) She was a teacher, a real life teacher, and she taught me how to diagram sentences and renewed a joy for learning that this Ugly Duckling craved. Recesses were chaotic. It was okay. I made friends that year, and had the best crush on a feathered hair boy who wore Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, Dan White. He’s in the top row of the featured picture…the boy looking down or the one he’s covering. He didn’t walk, he swaggered. That was the beginning of liking boys who didn’t like me back. I was an Ugly Duckling, and was later told as much, by my crush…
Part 2 tomorrow. Love you loves.