The sophomore eyes my pants. My hand-me-down bell bottoms are blue and made of corduroy. It’s the 80s. The combination of used clothing, bell bottom and corduroy are as vogue in my private school as sporting Farrah Fawcett feathered hair while listening to disco inside a Ford Pinto.
What must have knocked the sophomore over the edge are the embroidered Danish children. The clog-wearing boys and girls hold hands around the entire bottom rim of my pants. These are probably the most ridiculous pants the sophomore has ever seen. Yet I loooove them. Who wouldn’t love Danish children on their bell bottoms?
Right as I pass the stairway, the sophomore says, “Nice pants.”
There is no mistaking this for a compliment. Her words say one thing, but her tone says, “You fashion-impaired idiot.”
As a mere 7th grader, I could be growing red hot with embarrassment. After all, I am at the bottom of the totem pole in a school that extends to 12th grade. The words have come from a girl with several years of seniority above me. She has heavy eye shadow, a short punk haircut, and a figure that looks as if she has one foot in the adult world. I, on the other hand, with a pony-tail, and no figure, look as if I should have one foot in the four-square court in elementary school.
The sophomore looks at me with an I’m-so-cool-I’m always-bored look. For my response, my lips could be quivering. I could be dashing down the stairs and hiding in the bathroom near the gym. I could be all tongue tied, like I usually am when put on the spot.
Yet at that moment, I do something that will make my future self very proud. When the sophomore says, “Nice pants,” without missing a beat, I calmly say with a smile, “Yes, they are.”
She looks startled and walks away.
As an adult, I marvel at that little, confident seventh grader. Where, I wonder, did this boldness come from? How did I manage to get the better of a meannie with seniority? What I learned from this was not the importance of being the type of person who has quick comebacks. Nor that quick thinking can prevent me from getting hurt.
What I believe is that I must remember what I love, what I care about and what gets me excited. That way when faced with a meanness or malice that could derail me, my core hopefully has the strength to handle matters with the grace and confidence that my 7th grade self once showed me. I believe in Danish bell bottoms.
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