We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMaeve O’Connell

When I was in 5th grade, I was in this relationship with these girls that I thought was a healthy, friendly, elementary school friendship. But I knew deep, deep down, it was the worst possible thing for me.  These girls were perfect. They had the perfect hair, they knew how to put on the perfect amount of mascara, and they knew where to get all of the nice clothes. Me, on the other hand, well, let’s just say I had a blonde lion’s mane, my mom never taught me how to put on mascara, and I never knew where to get those miniskirts that made you look like an American Girl doll.  They would always compare themselves to each other, saying things like “oh my gosh your eyes are so pretty!” Or “oh my gosh your glasses look so good on you!” But they knew full well that they had the prettiest eyes in the whole group, or they were also subtly making fun of me for wearing glasses.  Around them, I felt insignificant. They made me hate every flaw about my- self, because they were all so perfect. I was a quiet, reserved version of myself with them. I’m usually a bubbly, carefree person who cares so little of what people think of her. But with them, I was shy, mumbling, and self-conscious.  One time, I nervously went to the pool with them. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I decided not to wear my comfortable, falling-apart suit, and to wear a nice bathing suit instead. I liked the bathing suit I decided to wear, but immediately regretted my decision to wear it when one of the girls said “woah, Maeve, you’re showing A LOT of cleavage right now, you might wan- na cover up.” They all laughed, and I felt really bad. I felt like crawling into a hole and staying there forever, but I was in a pool, so the only thing I could do was swim to the bottom and stay there until I needed air.  Another time, they all wore matching tops and jean skirts to school. Every one of them. Internally, I was like, “what the heck? Why didn’t they include me in this?” I just laughed it off, saying “it’s no big deal, my mom took my phone away, so that’s why I didn’t get the memo.” But then they just came out and said it, “We didn’t add you to the group chat......” - What? They didn’t add me to the chat? Why? I thought I was part of their group! I was crushed. Why would they include me all these years, and then, just...not? I was flabbergasted. It was like I’d kept trying to claw my way up onto the cruise ship that was these girls, but they had anchor after anchor that kept on dragging me down.  Finally, one day, they decided to let me drown. They stopped talking to me altogether, and whenever I came up the stairs and turned the corner, I would see them looking in my direction, hoping I was another one of the girls in their posse, and then look away with a disappointed look on their face when they saw it was me.  At first, I was absolutely devastated. I moped around because of this for a while until I found real friends who don’t treat me like dirt. Instead, they become the people I most rely on to stay afloat. They are my life boats. They are my islands, and they have begun to reshape me. I don’t know if I really, truly, love myself yet, but I’m getting there, with no help from _those girls. _

© Maeve O’Connell. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.