If someone would have told my sixth-grade self that everyone’s awkward at age eleven, I would have thought they were just trying to make me feel better.
I was the new girl. Not only that, but I was chunky — almost 5’7″ and 160 lbs, just barely starting my growth spurt — with no sense of style and what seemed like a bumper crop of acne. I also got placed in the advanced class with the smart kids, as I had in the two previous elementaries I’d attended. Add to that my love for music class and choir (which were more of a stigma than being in the supplemental advanced art class in the afternoons), and I was one seriously dorky kid.
I felt like I only had one friend in the whole school (although I later learned that I was mistaken, at least from others’ point of view), and even she didn’t consider herself my “best friend.” I felt taunted and persecuted and awkward in so many ways. I heard people talking about me when they didn’t think I was listening, calling me fat and lazy and stuck-up.
That’s why the unannounced Scoliosis Screening ultimately gave me such sweet and silent satisfaction.
For those who don’t know or don’t remember from middle school or junior high, scoliosis is a condition wherein the spine develops an unusual curve, described to us sixth-graders as an S-curve (although it can be more complex). As it often develops or becomes more pronounced during adolescence, we were the perfect age group to screen.
Screening involves standing in front of a qualified medical professional and bending forward in a deep bow, so the nurse or therapist can clearly see the spine.
The shirtless spine.
They took the girls to the girls’ restroom — I forget what they did with the boys — and had us each stand in an open bathroom stall, so only the nurse could see, for privacy’s sake. Then we removed our shirts, leaving our undergarments on, and bent over as instructed.
The skinny girls? They had no boobs at age eleven. Unlike me, who did. For them, wearing a bra was more of a grown-up novelty than a necessity. For me, it was starting to become necessary.
One of my very few sweet moments of karmic bliss that year was listening to the snobby popular girls twitter amongst themselves in the girls’ bathroom about how they couldn’t believe this was happening to them, how they didn’t wear a bra today! And they had to take their shirts off for the creepy nurse ladies!
It didn’t make me any more popular or more accepted, but I sure was glad I’d worn a bra that day.