Wanting to escape from my current circumstances, I went on a barrage of reading all the books recommended books from my book club. Night after night, I returned to the habits of my 10 year old self—reading with my light until my eyes couldn’t see anymore and diving into another’s imagination.
The other day, I started A Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress—a fellow book club member had described it as a girl who had trouble fitting in at school. All things that I identified with. When the book club member asked who wanted to read it, I paused for a moment scanning the moment and crazily shot my hand up in the air.
As people passed the book to me, I immediately regretted my earlier decision to take on a memoir about rape and another memoir about living in Afghanistan. Of course, I’ll find more in common with a misfit! An outcast just like me!!!
I expected the memoir from Susan Jane Gilman to recall events of the usual misunderstood child—the kind that was obviously destined to be an outcast both in youth and adult. The kind that…perhaps the teasing was well-warranted. During the first several chapters, to my horror, she had similar experiences as I did as a kid. Or at least my horrible clothing incident.
She had written:
The belt was a hand-me-down from my baby-sitter,” I said to the girls.
As soon as I said this, their faces illuminated like flashbulbs, exploding with bright malice and gleeful disbelief.
“A hand-me-down!” Courtney cried. “Eeeeeeeeew!”
For years, I had always thought it was just me that endured cruelty. As I went through my teens and college years, I always attributed my incident to being misunderstood. Why I was one of the few Asians in Lafayette. Or that my parents never thought to dress their children in designer clothes—and why would such purchases be deem necessary if there are sales at JC Penny and Macys? Or better yet, why can’t my parents bring clothes from Hong Kong where the currency exchange rates made clothing cheaper overseas than in the United States? Why not?
But in that combination in the dark night reading the memoir, I realized that there were probably thousands even millions of kids made fun of…on superficiality. Not because I was not white. Well simply put, it was kids who didn’t like people who were drastically different.
As I finished the memoir, I sulked with a despair that I didn’t take advantage of my misfit-ness. My natural introversion and the outcast-ness made me more passive and quiet rather than the outspoke feminist with many impulsive decisions.
There was another memoir I started reading about a girl who was made fun of all throughout elementary school. She apparently had normal parents, but just couldn’t fit in at school. The whole memoir was structured around her experiences as a child and a return to the reunion. The pressure, the climax of the plot was about her returning to face her childhood “enemies”. I couldn’t get past the first 30 pages. Sure there was the redemption discovering that people change, but where was the awareness to be something more than an outcast and try to do something about it?
Like the author of the hypocrite in a pouffy white dress, I eventually embraced my own outcast-ness. At the end of 6th grade, I defiantly decided my motto would be: “Don’t be normal. Be different.”
In some way it’s a lie, I always attempt to be accepted—maybe my weakness. But if someone made the attempt to tell me that there was someone like me in another city, another country, another world…I would say, “No. I think I am unique.”