Can You Do a Cartwheel?
BY KALLIE WORNHAM
It was at the Boys and Girls Club. I felt for the first time like it wasn’t okay to be myself. I was in third grade. Everyone who went to the Boys and Girls Club was either way older than me or just didn't like me. There were cliques of all sorts, and yet I didn't fit into one. I tried to talk to everyone, but no one seemed to listen. It was one of the first times I felt alone. There was one girl who I would talk to. Her name was Paula, and she was in my class that year.
There was a courtyard outside the building that not a lot of people used. It was run down. There was a field with brown grass and patches of soil missing. There was also a “black top.” That's what they called a 30ft by 20ft slab of pavement that was cracked and badly needed repair. It was a nice sunny day, so Paula and I decided to go outside.
“Can you do a cartwheel?” asked Paula
“I’ve never tried it before.”
“Well, just try it now.” So I tucked my shirt into my jean pants and spread my feet apart to prepare myself. I tried my best, but my best was a combination of a hand stand and a somersault. As I tried to reach my feet up in the air, I felt my shirt get untucked, and it quickly began to roll down. Everyone who was outside that day saw my stomach. As I quickly pulled down my shirt, Paula said to me, “Why do you look pregnant?” I changed the subject so fast that Paula couldn't comprehend what I was saying. I felt so embarrassed I could have melted in a puddle.
That was the first time anyone had ever said anything to me about my weight. I always knew I was bigger than everyone else, but that's when it really hit me that I was “fat.” From then on, I tried to wear clothes that hid me from everyone else. I wore over sized sweaters and pants everyday to school. I even felt uncomfortable around my family. I stayed in my room for hours and wouldn’t come out until my mom called my name for dinner. I felt like the ugly duckling.
How could someone's words impact me that much? Over the next couple years, the insults just kept coming. Fat, ugly, stupid, would they ever stop? When would people realize their words meant so much more than just the meaning. I consider myself lucky. I never got to the point where I had actual depression. I just got really sad sometimes. I never got to the point where I felt like I did not belong here anymore. I had a strong support system behind me and that was my mom. My mom got bullied when she was younger for the same reasons. Her own dad would call her names about her size. A couple years ago, I told my mom the way I felt about myself, and it was such a relief to find out that someone has felt the way I did in that moment.
I've come to realize that people's words are, in fact, just words. They say means things just to get into your head and to make you feel worse about yourself, which somehow makes them feel better. It’s like they are eating my feelings and self-esteem and spitting them out. Why spend your whole life worrying about what other people think? A 16-year- old shouldn’t have to worry about if her thighs touch, but we do. We shouldn't worry about how much, what brand, or how good our make up looks, but we do.
I would never have thought that that one comment from Paula would change my life, but it did. It showed me that no matter who your friends are there will always be judgment.
You just have to take in the good and ignore the bad.
It was at the Boys and Girls Club. I felt for the first time like it wasn’t okay to be myself.