October 28, 2007
Age 13 at the time
I was a nerd in junior high school, but my friend A. was even worse off. She was new in town, she wore weird clothes, and her family didn’t have any money. She looked funny, too; all the kids called her “fish face.”
In spite of these strikes against her, A. was mysteriously self-confident. In 8th grade, she decided to run for Student Council vice-president. I was aghast: everyone knew Student Council was just a popularity contest, and A. was anything but popular. What was she thinking?!
But A. didn’t seem worried. She made posters, campaigned, did everything a Student Council candidate was supposed to do. Just as if she had a chance.
On the morning of the election, the whole school gathered in the auditorium to hear the candidates’ speeches. One after another, the candidates for treasurer and secretary stood at the podium and read carefully rehearsed banalities about how they would dedicate themselves to improving the school.
Finally, it was A.’s turn. My stomach clenched. I was mortified for her already. She was sure to say something weird, and even if she didn’t, just her being who she was and standing up in front of everyone was sure to be social suicide. It was bad enough that she got teased and harassed in the halls and at lunch: how much worse could it be to see her humiliate herself in front of the entire school?
A. stood up and approached the podium. The room rang out with hoots and whistles and cries of “Fish Face!” until the principal made everyone be quiet. A. waited patiently for silence, then began her to read her speech.
“Some of you call me Fish Face,” she said.
Pandemonium erupted! Once again the principal called for silence. When it was quiet enough for her to be heard, A. calmly continued her speech. She talked about how regardless of names people called her, the important thing was whether she would get things done on the Student Council. She talked about changes that needed to be made, and about her ideas for making them. She talked about how everyone said that Student Council was just a popularity contest, but that this was our chance to prove them wrong.
Everywhere in the halls that day, you heard the words, “Fish Face.” “Fish Face!” Nobody could believe it. Nobody could believe she’d had the guts. Nobody could stop talking about it.
A. won the election.