They Called Me Turtle
I was homeschooled from K–8th grade, but I went to public school for all of high school (and a short stint in elementary school, but whatever). In high school I was your quintessential nerd – I read a lot, had poor fashion sense, and was obsessed with being the perfect student. My freshman year, a few of my friends began calling me “Turtle” because I wore green a lot (alright, almost constantly) and my backpack was so overstuffed with books and binders and notebook paper that it formed a robust shell on my back.
One day in the cafeteria I was trying to desperately force my way through the bustling crowd so I wouldn’t be late for my next class. To provide some context for my very real fear of being late, just know that when I did go to a public school in fourth grade I used to cry every morning on the way to school because I thought my Dad was going to make us tardy. I had nightmares about it, people. One involved a potato.
Anyway, that day I just so happened to be wearing flip-flops. And, as I climbed up the stairs from the bottom level of the cafeteria to the middle level, my flip-flopped foot slipped out from under me and I fell on my face. This was already embarrassing enough, however it was made infinitely worse by the fact that my backpack shell was so heavy that I actually couldn’t get up. As my peers pushed past me, I lay pressed to the lunchroom floor, trying my hardest to save my self – and my dignity – from being the victim of a stampede. I eventually made it topside, but that was the last day I ever wore flip-flops in high school. Ever.
I tend to carry the title of “awkward” almost like a badge of honor. I’ve just come to accept and almost cherish my own quirkiness. However, there have been numerous times that my awkwardness has led me into very uncomfortable and unfortunate situations that I usually try to block from my memory. But now, I’ve decided to share my embarrassment with all you fine people.
That Time At Church Camp
I only went to summer camp once in my life. I was probably 10 or 11 and it was at a church camp called “X-treme Camp.” We had a hand sign that involved making an “X” with your arms. Yes, it was as corny as you are imagining.
The way many church camps work is that several churches send groups to the same camp – that’s how this one worked, too. From day one of my two-week stay, I began to hear rumors that one of the church groups was so small that there was only one boy and there were issues surrounding where he would stay since all the churches stayed in the same cabins (separated by gender of course). It was a big deal because it was a really conservative camp and children’s camps in general are pretty strict on not “making purple” (mixing pink and blue, get it?). I’m a pretty curious person, almost to a fault; so, the more I heard about this particular issue, the more interested I became in the possible solutions.
Then, on one of the last days of camp, my time for answers came. It was my group’s turn to play paintball (I think that was one of the activities that made the camp so “x-treme”). I noticed that the team that we were playing was the infamous church group with the one boy. At last! I could finally have my questions answered. So I moseyed up to the group and asked the boy, “so, how does it work since you’re the only boy in your group? Where do you sleep? Where do you go to the bathroom?” The little boy looked straight at me and said, “I’m a girl.”
Horrified, I realized that the child in front of me was, in fact, a girl. And I had, in fact, identified the group incorrectly. In my defense, this little girl just so happened to be wearing boy clothes (early 2000s camouflage cargo pants and an oversized black T-shirt to be exact) and she had a boy’s haircut. All I remember is saying, “sorry,” and the girl saying, “it happens”. Then I ran back to my group. That interaction scarred me for life and I am now hesitant of assuming anyone’s gender when it is indeterminate. That’s also when I learned that my curiosity is often best explored though observation, rather than interaction, which probably was what has led to many of my other awkward situations. Thanks a lot, “X-treme Camp.”
To be continued.