The year was 2009. I was a third grader. As I toured a new, bigger school where there were more than three other girls in my grade, a wad of cotton shoved up my nose to stem the spontaneous nosebleed, wearing clothes I now knew were unacceptable and not dress code, and surrounded by a cluster of strangers looking at me like I was a zoo animal, I suddenly realized that there was such a thing as a cool kid. And I was not it.
Up until that point, I had attended the Maria Montessori School, a school which promoted, ah, alternative learning methods. There was no homework or desks. We had a blind pet boa constrictor, Naker (don’t call him snaker, he doesn’t like it), that we loved to watch eat live mice (it took a while, on account of the blindness). And it was not rare for us to skip school in order to stack sandbags up outside of the school to prevent it from flooding when the river rose in the spring.
When I transferred to a normal school, my world got flipped upside down. Suddenly, I had to know math. I didn’t know math. I also didn’t fit in at all with the other kids who had been raised in a less flower-child environment.
Inevitably, I embarrassed myself. A lot. I almost had a panic attack when I took my first quiz, I frequently lost my homework (which was a novel concept to me anyway), and I struggled to sit still in my desk after years of roaming free, building sheds and whatnot. I was your textbook fourth-grade weirdo. That girl who always had a bloody nose and still brought a cloth napkin to lunch in order to reduce her waste.
Around that same time, my younger sister and I began our comic book phase – a phase that would drastically help my outsider status (kidding). We especially loved the X-Men series, checking them out in bulk at the public library and swapping with each other once we finished. My sister’s favorite X-Man was Kitty Pryde, but mine was Mystique.
In case you aren’t a fan, Mystique is blue and can transform into any person in the world at will. In the movies, she frequently chooses to transform into Jennifer Lawrence. This ability was tremendously appealing to me. In the blink of an eye and ripple of blue feather-scales, I could be cool and normal. I could fit in.
Now I realize that it was more my personality that set me apart and not my appearance (although my personality made some questionable decisions regarding my appearance, like that plaid-with-polka dots phase in middle schools), I blindly chose to ignore this fact. I just wanted to not embarrass myself all the time, and maybe cut back the “You’re so weird” comments to once or twice a week.
This sounds like a pity party. Oh no, my middle-class, privileged upbringing was so hard for me. I felt like an outsider at my prestigious private school that my parents worked very hard to be able to send me to! No. I am not complaining about my childhood. In fact, I kind of loved my childhood. I have learned many things from those days alone on the playground and those failed Spanish quizzes.
Yes, I was a bit of an oddball. But I was my own personal brand of oddball. What I perceived as weirdness back then is what sets me apart now.
Granted, it’s a lot easier for me to say this as a teenager surrounded with supportive friends and a familiar environment. I also can’t deny that I feel a little thrill of joy whenever I say something and am answered with “That makes sense” instead of “What the heck Samantha, why would you do/say/eat that.” But even though everyone loves to be accepted, everyone needs to be different.
I appreciate Mystique, and I believe that her abilities would be very useful for cunning tricks, miscellaneous spying, and getting extra free samples at Costco. But I don’t think that I would want to use her abilities in everyday life. I kind of like being me, bloody noses and all.