October 24, 2007

by Meredith Lom
Age 6 - 12 at the time

When I was little, one girl in my grade school class was the boss of all the other little girls. There was nothing special about her, really, save for being the youngest daughter in a big Mormon family; but in my town, even that wasn't exceptional.

Her parents had even given her the most boring name in the book -- they'd named her Khaki. She was one of those impossibly tiny creatures whose hair and skin were all the same translucent color. She was the pied piper of the playground, and since all the little girls had "friend crushes" on her, she was always successful in getting them to do her bidding.

One time, I invited her over to play on a Saturday, and she accepted, and the parental dance had been done, and she came over to my house. She and her mother pulled up in their yellow convertible (which was roughly the same color as her hair and skin). They found me playing in the yard. I was probably a mess like I was most Saturdays, being something of a tomboy. My father, then a dark-haired thirty-something with a preference for short red running shorts with white piping (which, come to think of it, were actually in fashion at that point), had been cursing and sweating and clipping the lawn.

Khaki and her mother took one look at the mess of us out there and climbed back into their hideous car. Her mother said, loudly, "Come along, Khaki, we don’t play with these kind of people.” And they left.

For the rest of grade school, Khaki was the master of my social demise -- of my not getting invited to birthday parties; of my not being included; of my not being asked to wear the same outfit as the other little girls on the same day. Khaki was vicious. The little girls would all do musicals together, under Khaki's direction, and I would not be included. I would watch, in quiet horror, as she would distribute invitations to come to her parties, and events, and shows, in our classes -- and deliberately skip past my desk. I was paralyzed by the exclusion.

I would say to the teacher, “Don’t you think it’s unfair that she doesn’t invite everyone?” And year after year, the teachers would look at me blankly, as if to tell me that unfairness was just part of growing up. Maybe that was true, and it was a painful lesson that we all had to learn. But that didn’t make it any easier when Khaki passed my desk, handing out candy hearts to the rest of the class. She would smile at me as she passed, polite as ever, but never once stopped to place a Valentine in my heart-shaped holiday folder. Being left out of her circle was heartbreaking.

Khaki’s family moved away to Utah by sixth grade. The other little girls threw her a lavish going away party at someone’s backyard pool. They handed out invitations on the last day of fifth grade. By that time, our public school had instituted a rule that if students were going to distribute invitations in the classroom, they would have to invite the whole class. So the girls handed out the coveted envelopes on the playground. I was grateful that I didn’t get one. I never remembered being quite so relieved to see someone go.

Years later, after I'd forgotten about Khaki entirely, I bumped into her by chance. I was a college student, and she was working at the local convenience store. "My parents said I could come out here for a year and try to make it as a backup dancer!" she exclaimed, happy to see me. But seeing her, I felt like I had been cheated. I had expected her to go on and do something fabulous and breathtaking. I had expected her to be the boss of all of Los Angeles. In reality, she was a store clerk, just trying to make a living.

She was tall, no longer impossibly tiny, and her hair was no longer yellow, rather a colorless grey. She had bumpy, red skin, a bad haircut, and a round face. She was not an attractive grownup. I smiled, and nodded, and paid for my granola bars and cheese, then ran back to my dorm room to join my friends for a party. Khaki was not invited.

Posted by Shan & Jen at 12:01 AM  


Doesn't it seem like the pretty girls in school invariably wind up as sad, pimply-faced cashiers? Social Darwinism at work? Who can tell...

Anonymous said...
24/10/07 12:37 PM  

"..she exclaimed, happy to see me."
What really astounds me is that bullies end up forgetting about being bullies and how much suffering they have caused.
As the grow they just shrug it off, with something like "I was just a kid".
I am sure that Khaki would have loved to hang out with you and your college friends.

I've never had the chance to really face my own bullies, which is, in a way, so anti-climactic and a bit sad. I literally moved on.

I hope meeting her years later gave you some form of closure.
thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...
24/10/07 5:29 PM  

I recently went to my 20th high school reunion. It amazed me how many people -- who in school had treated each other like crap -- were so happy to see each other.

Shan said...
24/10/07 5:48 PM  

I just crashed my high school reunion and I was amazed at how many people fell right back in to the same behavior patterns -- the type-A overachievers, puking party boys, cheerleaders -- seems like we geeks were the ones who had evolved and yet maintained a sense of humor. I am glad these things are no more frequent than every ten years...


Anonymous said...
24/10/07 7:28 PM  

I am always amazed when I visit my hometown and run into one of the cruel girls who is oh so happy to see me. I don't have two words to say to any of them. Or maybe I do, but children might be reading.

Great writing! I really enjoyed reading this story, even though my heart hurt for your elementary school self.

Carrie said...
28/10/07 3:05 PM  

While Facebook and MySpace are a little nutty, and I am probably much too old for their nonsense, I must say it has been sort of fun to re-connect with some of "those people" on a neutral platform. I love discovering that the wiry shy girl went on to be a Victoria's Secret model, the "really hot" athlete is sort of flabby etc. More importantly, it's nice to see that the kids who were "good" people when we were younger have often figured out how to be great adults.

jennyalice said...
31/10/07 6:53 AM  

Clearly, I thank for the information.

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