I was awkward in middle school: bony and athletic, with a high grade in science and a low one in self-esteem. Though I had friends, I didn't fit the mold of popularity. I was picked last in flag football and I sometimes ate lunch by myself.
I remember the day Brittany came to our school. She was from the Bay Area, and told us stories of how she had snuck out at night to meet older boys and smoke in the park. Her teeth were crooked, and she was a little overweight. Not that mattered though, because she walked around like she was better than all of us put together. She was incredibly intimidating, outspoken, and aggressive—a person you didn't want to cross.
Around Brittany, I tried my best to go unnoticed. Standing out or stealing her spotlight could only result in one thing: confrontation. I considered myself a chameleon, blending in with my surrounding and remaining the shy sixth-grader I had always been. I wore skorts and Tommy Hilfiger sneakers with red and blue laces, and my blond hair was frequently in a ponytail. Brittany and her friends wore shorts with words like "Hottie" on the seat. She dyed her brown hair black and got a perm like the other popular girls. All the boys were completely smitten with her.
Although I could run for a touchdown, Brittany was always the first girl picked in flag football at recess and I was lucky if I was picked at all. I was thrown the ball while she stood with the quarterback, chatting about the last keg party she'd gone to. I didn't even know what came in a keg and had never contemplated drinking. She was flirtatious and mysterious while I was a declaration of what good parenting and strong Christian morals could produce. I had never been kissed, nor did I understand the tactics to get as far as she had gone with a boy.