Imagine. You’re the new girl at school, first week of school. 8th grade. Still desperately searching for a face you know when you get there in the mornings among the sea of junior high-ers.
There is a small group whose acquaintance I have made. They have in no way made their decision on whether I may be seen with them. One, the slightly more acerbic of the three, is showing the other two an ink pen on which is inscribed, “This pen was stolen from __________ ‘s Clothing Store.” They all laugh.
I decide this is a good time to insert some wry humor, show them I can keep up. I had just been at that particular store with my mom and though we bought a couple of things, it wasn’t “our kind of store.” Seemed aimed at older women. Seemed aimed at women with much bigger pocketbooks than my mom’s.
I take a breath to pace myself. Here goes, I attempt to be low-key and nonchalant, as though I am not trying to be funny, but I know they are going to be impressed. They giggle over the pen’s words, “This pen was stolen from __________’s Clothing Store,” was still hanging in the air when I said,
“Well, you’d have to steal it. Everything there is so expensive.”
That was it. That was my profound oh-this-is-going-to-impress-them statement. That was the best I had. And I can truly tell you I understand what a millisecond is because that is about how long it took for me to understand I had just said the worst, most awful, most insulting thing in the world. I didn’t know why what I had said was so wrong, but I knew it was.
One of the girls said, of the girl holding the pen, “Meet Susie (not her real name) ___________.” And you guessed it: it was her family’s store.
The other girl said, as they moved away from me, “Well, that was awkward.”
I stand alone near the vending machines with my wry humor in the sea of junior high-ers, surrounded by, engulfed in awkwardness.
NOTE: Two of those girls ended up being great friends later and didn’t even remember that incident when I got the courage to ask them. But the girl with the pen never, ever looked my way again, never had anything to do with me. And now that I am not in 8th grade and not so self-focused about that moment, I can see I truly embarrassed her, hurt her feelings, and I am truly sorry for that. The pen really was cute.