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“Why do you ask?... Well, she’s weird.... For instance, she wears black outfits that cling to her body with red spandex.... No I’m serious. Her hair is half black and half blonde, too.... The other day she was walking down the hall with a red feathered boa wrapped around her neck.. .. Yeah, I see her every day sifting by herself in a corner all the time. . . . I guess you can’t blame her. What did happen to her when she was little?”
“Oooonnnncccceeee I was at hhhhoooommmmeeee, and I ssssaaaawwww...”
We despised the way her heart-shaped lips gawked open as she slurred her words. Mary Beth sounded like a lost, bleating lamb. She was the most entertaining character to imitate when my friends and I were at slumber parties. We all perfected the rhythmic pattern of her speech.
And then there was her appearance. Mary Beth’s gangly body towered over the other fourth graders, and her lemon-blonde hair rested on her shoulders in knotted clumps. Strands of hair constantly fell in front of her face, and she would constantly sculpt them behind her ear.
Every day she came dressed for school in brilliant colored leggings partially covered by a relaxed sweatshirt unevenly rolled at the sleeves. Her plump belly took shape under her shirts, creasing slightly, like a curtain conforming to its width. Her feet plowed into her white Keds and snuggled inside fluorescent socks scrunched at the ankle. Mary Beth’s Keds curved toward each other as she stepped, and it was evident she was pigeon-toed. (This was another characteristic we loved to imitate.) I saw her ferociously sprint during gym and on our Field Day. It was dreadful. Her leg stampeded into each other in an effort to run straight. Her arms flung back and forth anxiously like an ape’s, and I could see her tongue sticking out of her crooked mouth in determination. She was hopeless.
Autumn was approaching, and so was Mary Beth’s birthday party. Incredibly, all the girls invited, including me, showed up. We even brought presents, the ones our moms had carefully picked out in consideration. We were too reluctant and far too busy with our own lives to shop for a person we mocked. The arrival of girls seemed unrealistic until I discovered why they had come. It was a party, who wouldn’t show up?
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"Personal Narrative- Ridicule of a Child." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Feb 2020
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One of the most popular activities for children our age was the town’s dance class at the Walter S. Studio. It was the first time I had taken jazz dance; it was also the first time Mary Beth had taken it. We pranced in our red leotards and shiny black leggings with our hair preciously styled. But Mary Beth stood out. She was a giant, ugly duckling amongst a room of petite swans, and she needed at least double the dancing space as the other children. She’d twist and tumble and would constantly be used as the wrong example by the instructors. The famous spring production arrived, and the latest gossip of positioning on the stage circulated. Naturally, Mary was put in the far back corner for both of our dances. The dance instructors, including Walter S. himself, hoped she would be hidden by the other girls who were pretty examples from their instruction. But she could never be hidden, only ignored.
When thinking about Mary Beth, there is one event that rots in my mind. It happened on an ordinary school day during a class discussion. We all sat at our individual wooden desks, awaiting the wisdom from our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. H. Occasionally, students glanced back to exchange disgusted looks toward Mary Beth as she leaned back in her chair while holding on to her desk for balance. She appeared to be at ease while tilting back, distancing herself from the pack of lions. She had been repeatedly told by Mrs. H. not to lean back, but she carelessly forgot. I turned to look at her in order to reprimand her, cleverly knowing I would be tattle-telling at the same time, when I saw a flash of disturbance in her face. Mary Beth’s desk was off balance. She desperately stretched to grab higher up on the desk but only scraped at its surface with her jagged nails. Mary Beth plummeted down as the pack watched in awe. Her cluttered desk followed with her descent as her feet flew up in the air. A roar of laughter overwhelmed the room, and Mrs. H. joined in.
Mary Beth stumbled back to her feet quickly placing her chair and desk upright. No one helped; we were too busy observing the entertainment. She frantically grabbed her clutter to put back inside the desk’s sanctuary. One boy examined the scene.
“Mrs. H., Mary Beth drilled holes in her desk with her pencil.” Mary Beth looked up at her prosecutor.
“I did not! You’re such a liar!” Her face scrunched in disgust.
“She did, Mrs. H. I saw them.”
Mrs. H. grinned slowly with her slimy teeth. She stared at Mary Beth.
“Well, she’s just going to have to ssssssssand that desk until her arm hurts.” Mrs. H.
slithered her webbed veiny hands together as she licked her teeth. We purred in content at her reply. And class continued.
“I never knew.... That’s horrible! I can understand why she’s so distant from others now.
I also remember, actually it was very recent, some kids making fun of her.... No I didn’t, but if I knew what I know now, I would have stood up for her.”