One day, behind the gym after lunch, one of the popular girls walked up to me and shoved a cigarette into my mouth.
“You’ll like it. It’s cool to smoke,” she said.
I spit the cigarette out. “But I have asthm…,”I started to explain as a fist landed hard and strong, into my left breast, causing instant radiating and pain that took my breath. The onlookers laughed. Nobody seemed to care that she had punched me. I should have reported her, but never did. Instead, I compensated for my defect.
After the assault thick black eyeliner adorned my eyes and I began to “rat” my hair. On a bet, even though I felt guilty doing it, I sneaked scotch from my parent’s bedroom and took it to school in a purse-size hand lotion bottle that was still scented with almond-scented Jergen’s lotion. I forced myself to drink the putrid mixture in front of some cool 9th grade girls. These were the girls whose smooth, salon-ratted hair tapered at their neckline and long, polished fingernails. They spoke clearly, not with a thick New York accent, giggled with airy artificial laughter, and hung around boys between classes. And they went to the noon dances.
Every cool kid at Adams Junior High went to the noon dances. The first time I worked up the nerve to walk through the door, into the multipurpose room, I felt like an intruder. But the music, the talking, the laughing, and the dancing mesmerized me so thoroughly that I temporarily forgot about myself. I stared at the kids dancing to“Lightnin’ Strikes Again” by Lou Christie, and “I Was Made to Love You” by Stevie Wonder, and the music of Herman’s Hermits and Dave Clark. Usually only girls danced and they danced with each other. The girls who danced had the highest ratted hair, called “beehives,” and the thickest black mascara and darkest eyeliner. They wore skirts “pegged” so tight I wondered how they could move at all. Only a few guys danced. They mostly watched like the rest of us.
I started feeling normal at the noon dances because so few had the guts to dance, I realized that most of us felt abnormal together.