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.