Recess in fourth grade was torture for me. There was a fifth grade queen bee that mercilessly teased me because of my clothes.

I am the eighth of nine children and we didn't have a lot of money. So I was wearing clothes that had been through two sisters already--and that were probably hand-me-downs when they got them. By the time I got them, they were definitely the wrong decade. I was a late 80's girl looking like I had just walked out of the 70's. My mom was busy figuring out how to feed 11 people and how to get the house paid off. Clothes were just things to be worn and used until they wore out.

And I hated it. I hated it because of this girl. I'll just call her Queenie, because now that I look at it, she was just being that queen bee. I can't actually remember anything she said to me. I can barely remember her name. But I despised her. She was a beautiful blond and she was always dressed immaculately. She would remind me just how out of style my clothes were--and, by default, how poor I was. She was the person who taught me that I was poor. I hadn't noticed before.

I thought of her as I was reading Charette's post today. And it actually surprised me to find out how much this one person has affected me.

1--I'm usually a pretty forgiving person, but I didn't forgive her very easily. She was always beautiful and popular and a year ahead of me in school. the was also always a queen bee. I ignored her in high school, still remembering what she did to me in grade school. I found out that someone I knew and loved was going to marry her and wondered why he had lowered himself to her level. There was no room in my heart for her to grow up and get over her cattiness. I have no idea whether she did or not. Now I never think of her at all. Why should I? I would be nice if I ever ran in to her again. And yet, I can still, in some small way, feel the pain of those moments in fourth grade. I remember her less and less, but I see the effects of her teasing still.

2--Now I want nice clothes. I want clothes that are in style. I want people to look at me and see a well dressed person. However, one thing I've learned since then is that most grown-ups (Not the big people who still act like they are in high school and that it matters, not them) can look and see a well dressed person no matter what decade of clothes they are wearing. Phew!

Of course this propensity on my part seems contradictory to my ability to hang out in my exercise clothes all day and to buy my nice clothes off of clearance racks. (That is so last year!) I find it interesting to look at myself and see that I have this amalgamation of my mom and Queenie inside my system. By all means, look nice! But do it as cheaply as possible.

3--I think that another way the teasing affected me was that I went to the other extreme for years. I spent years wanting nice clothes and not being able to get them so I went to the other end of the spectrum and pretended I didn't care. I hid behind the clothes I had and spent a lot of time borrowing from other people. I was lucky in that it was the late 80's early 90's and the styles were huge and baggy and I had the enviable body that could pull that off without a hitch. The bigger and the baggier, the better. It took me a long time to actually put on something with even a little bit of shape to it. Now I can't stand big and baggy unless I'm sleeping.

4--There's still a part of me that wonders what people are thinking about my clothes. Maybe there always will be. But that part is getting smaller and smaller. My mom always likes to look good, and does it as cheaply as possible. My mother-in-law is another who dresses well off of clearance racks. I've found that style comes down to looking your best in clothes that fit you well, and that ultimately, it doesn't matter.

God doesn't care whether I have clothes from Nordstrom or Good Will. It's my actions that count.
7 Responses
  1. Such a thought provoking post! Your Queenie reminds me of my elementary school equivalent, Penny Corder. Except we called her Penny Nickle Dime Quarter. Anyway, there were quite a few gals who teased me b/c I also came from a large family (I was #6 of 7 girls) and my dad was a teacher and so we didn't have a ton of money, either. We lived in California and so we were the weird Mormons. You make such a good point when you said something along the lines of not having room in your heart to allow for her to have grown up or whatever. All kids do nasty things and it doesn't mean they are nasty people. On the other hand, those that have had a hand in defining YOU--well, it is hard to let go of how you have always defined them. I so agree with you on the point about dressing in clothes that flatter you--you will always look good when you do that whether you are in "the first stare of fashion" or not. And classic stuff will alway be in style, too!

  2. Melanie J Says:

    #4 is SOOOO true. I think part of the reason I shop in "nice" stores so much, though, is that I don't trust my own sense of style and assume I have a better shot at getting it right if I'm buying something current. Lame, I know.

  3. Laine Says:

    What a great post Dedee. You and I had a lot of the same growing up pains...and today? I still shop on the cheap racks and never pay full price...but I, too, want nice clothes, and lots of them....thankfully that desire does not overcome my rational/miserly side....but it's still there.

  4. Kimberly Says:

    I think you know I had some very, very similar experiences growing up. While I am finally (beginning) to let go, I think there will be subconscious effects for a long time to come.

    This is why I live in slight fear of my oldest daughter's tendency to be bossy. I'd had to think of her doing something similar some day, and I work so, so hard to teach her how to be loving...

  5. Brillig Says:

    In my case, the body I want is long gone, so I don't particularly care about what I wear. As you said, by all means, look as nice as possible, but do it cheaply!

    For my kids, though, that's maybe where my securities let loose. My daughter isn't going to be teased because her legs are so long and skinny that nothing fits her right. I'll spend the time and the money to find her SEVERAL outfits that fit and are in style. Again, I don't spend a lot of money because, hi. I don't HAVE a lot of money. But I'm very aware of how hard elementary school can be, so I try to make that aspect easier, at least.

    Still, we definitely need to have a longer talk about ACTIONS, as you say. I don't want my daughter to be the kid who's picked on, but I'd MUCH rather she be the one picked on than be the one doing the teasing!

  6. My heart aches for you now and for your 4th grade self. I remember being made fun of in 6th grade, back then that was still elementary school. I was naive that I didn't even realize these two popular girls who were supposed to be my friends were tricking me and then trapped me and laughed at my expense. Thankfully I have been blessed that this experience didn't completely reshape my childhood ... but it was also nice when the teacher found out about some of their shenanigans and chewed them out in front of the class. She was a "cool" yet intimidating African American teacher and everyone, including most of her students, respected her. That made me feel proud :) !!

    I am the fourth of 9 and I always wore hand me down clothing. Funny thing is, I was such a tom boy growing up I could care less what I wore. I think I care more about my style now then I did than ... hmmm. I am a bit backwards :) !!

  7. I went to schools that required uniforms (grade school and high school)so I did not quite experience being teased for wearing the wrong clothes. But I do remember an encounter or 2 with a Queen Bee. There's one who until now thinks she is my friend, but deep down I hate the way she makes me feel. So glad she lives thousands of miles away so I can forget she exists most of the time.