One weekend I went out of town for a dance recital, and when I came back I was informed that a sleepover had taken place without me. Apparently, since my house hadn’t been an option, Tori had offered to host.
Tori wasn’t in the group, but she’d seen her opportunity to usurp me and she took it. I didn’t like Tori; Tori was mean. If I’d known what was good for me, I would have just shut up and accepted that we could alternate weekends. Maybe I’d even have to invite her over from now on, but that would be a small price to pay for true friendship. Sadly, my sense of justice would not allow me to make this sacrifice; I’d rather be right than happy. I reminded the girls that we, as a group, didn’t like Tori, that she was a bully. But no one listened.
The next day on the playground I was standing in line for the monkey bars, thinking about what I would say if I ever met the cast of Boy Meets World, and then I was on the ground. Fuzzy black stars appeared and dissolved in slow motion, and when my vision came back, I felt a choking sensation. I was being dragged across the gravel by the collar of my army jacket.
I scratched and clawed at her, but she was big for our grade. She towed me across the playground and under the slide. When I was put on my feet, I stood in front of a tribunal of the sleepover gang, who were standing in over-the-top indignant poses.
The slide on this particular playground was flanked by a wooden climbing wall (a normal wall with an old rope on it), so when you were underneath it you had a degree of privacy. Students had taken to scratching their initials into the backside of The Wall’s soft wood, which gave this dark corner of the playground a kind of menacing, Victorian-asylum quality. Something new was there. Haphazardly written in some kind of Magic Marker were the words Mary D is a jerk. In fact, as my eyes began to adjust, I saw that hastily scrawled insults about almost every girl in our group now adorned The Wall. Based on the manner in which I’d been summoned to this meeting, I knew what was coming.
I tried to protest. I didn’t do it! I was their friend! I mean, “Mary D is a jerk”? “Amanda sucks”? Why would I write a bunch of mean stuff about my friends?! Using such generic insults?!
I noticed how high the writing was placed and rushed toward The Wall to demonstrate that I couldn’t have done it! I wasn’t even tall enough! Surely they could see that! Once I started to reach my arm up, though, it looked like I would be able to make it if I got up on my toes. I made a big show of flailing my hand just beneath the writing but kept my heels firmly on the ground, as though I was the kind of person who couldn’t balance otherwise.
This was a setup. I suggested alternative suspects, I tried to look as outraged for my friends as they were themselves. I knew it was Tori; it was so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d even have to say it. But she was tall and I was outnumbered, so I wasn’t about to accuse her then and there.
Once we were back in the classroom and under the safety of adult supervision, I made the rounds to each girl. I whispered that it had to be Tori, that she was trying to squeeze me out, that they were giving her exactly what she wanted! Sadly, by this time, they were enjoying their dramatic game of cold-shoulder too much. It would have spoiled their fun to stop hating me.
The next day I regrouped. Sure, I was starting to hate them right back, but I’d been wronged and this would not stand. I doubled down on the “too short” angle, took a ruler outside at recess, and recorded the results. The measurements were shoddy, but what my evidence lacked in accuracy I made up for in volume. That’s how you save a friendship: comprehensive documentation!
I also pointed out that defacing property was not in my nature. I’d read about the disappearing beaches in National Geographic Kids and my anxiety about the environment went through the roof, so I did not condone waste, littering, or “graffiti.” I even argued that the use of the word “suck” should have eliminated me from suspicion, because I was against swearing. (Oh, sweet, naive younger me.)
They would not be moved. The harder I tried to prove my innocence the more I revealed my true nature, and eventually their motivation for shunning me transformed. It became less about the alleged betrayal and more about their aversion to hyperactive little weirdos. They’d moved on from being angry and settled into just not liking me.
This is how supervillains are created.
* * *
I. Except when I was born. My god, I was so fat. I almost killed my mother. And while that’s gross, it’s completely true. If we lived in a time before cesarean sections, she wouldn’t have survived. (I would also like to thank cesarean sections for sparing me the mental anguish of knowing I once passed through my mother’s vaginal canal.)