You never know when the most important days of your life will be. You wake up just like you have on every other morning, but at some point during the course of your day something happens that changes everything. You probably won’t even notice as its going on, but years later when you look back on your life you can point to it and say, “That was it. For better or for worse, that was the moment where my life changed its course.”
My “it” moment happened on a Monday. The most unexciting day of the week. It was the summer between 9th and 10th grade and there I was, sitting in my high school cafeteria waiting for our summer acting workshop to start. I was surrounded by what can only be described as a group of total nerds and it was exactly where I belonged. These were my best friends and I was going to spend the summer hanging out with them. What could be better? Then it happened.
As the workshop got started, two beautiful girls strolled in to the cafeteria, fashionably late. One was tall and thin with legs that were seven miles long. The other was short and petite with big blue eyes. Both had long blond hair. I could smell the Herbal Essence shampoo wafting from across the room as they flipped it casually away from their faces in perfect synchronization. They were the kind of girls who woke up in the morning with perfect skin and threw on the first thing they saw in their closet — which just so happened to be perfectly, casually fashionable.
As they sat down at the back of the room, we tried unsuccessfully not to stare. Bekah and Mary. We all knew exactly who they were, and were painfully aware that they didn’t have a clue that we existed before this moment. What were they doing here? Were they lost? Apparently not. It turned out that Bekah’s sister had convinced her to come to the workshop and because no beautiful, popular girl can even go to the bathroom by herself, let alone spend the summer in Loserville without support. So Mary had bravely joined her.
Life was so unfair. This was the one place on earth that I could actually be considered cute (with nothing better to compare me to) and in walk Barbie and Skipper to ruin my summer. Suddenly, my carefully picked-out outfit looked cheap and butch next to the hot pink skirt and lacy tank top Bekah was wearing. Did people outside of Clueless even dress like that? They didn’t, in my world, but I was forgetting — these girls came from a different planet. Planet Popularity, where everybody had year-round tans and no acne. Where nail polish didn’t chip and nobody needed braces. I hated them — and at the same time, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
The lead role in our summer play called for a pretty, popular girl and because nobody else could have possibly pulled it off, Bekah snagged the part. Mary, despite being perfect for the role, couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. So I was cast as Bekah’s bulimic cheerleader sidekick. If someone had told me that these roles we were playing would some day become reality, I would have laughed — but on the inside I would have been praying they were right.
5 years later
As my brain swims slowly into consciousness I notice two things. The first is that I must have fallen asleep on a boat because this rocking is making me seasick. The second is that my mouth tastes like I have been eating a dog crap sandwich. Ugh, what did I drink last night? Or better yet, what DIDN’T I drink? I open my eyes. Big mistake. Note to self … never open your eyes again.
As I push myself up into a sitting position, my hand hits a lump in the bed next to me. The lump makes a familiar grunt. Its my lying, cheating ex-boyfriend. God, I hope we used protection. Doubt it though. At least he was here with me and not with her. I win … or maybe I lose? I’ll worry about that later. Right now I need some water, STAT.
I stumble down the hallway gently holding my head so that it doesn’t spontaneously combust. When I miraculously make it into the bathroom without dying (can you die of a hangover? I’m not that lucky) I shut the door and scoop handful after handful of water from the sink faucet into my mouth. I stare sleepily into the mirror and as my eyes begin to focus, I flip my long blond hair casually away from my face. I get a whiff of Herbal Essence shampoo mixed with cigarette smoke and vomit.
I walk into my room, step over my discarded hot pink mini skirt, and crawl back into bed. I’ve decided that I will never drink again. I laugh. It hurts my brain. Justin grunts again. This would be about the 200th time that I have made that decision and every time it lasts about as long as the hangover. Besides, it’s only Monday (I think) and I have at least three days to recover before we all go out again.
As I start to drift off to sleep, the memory from five years ago, of that first day that Bekah and Mary walked into the cafeteria, pops into my head.
I lay there, thinking about all that has changed since that morning. How did I get to where I am today? Half drunk. Half hungover and completely hating myself. I roll over onto my back and the memories start rolling through my mind …
This is the first in a series of essays by Jen. You can read the second one here.
About the author: Jen grew up in Simi Valley and is now a young adult.