Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

“She doesn’t act like this at home”

I cursed a lot. I rolled my eyes, smacked my lips, and defiantly put my hands on my hips. I wasn’t a punk, and if you thought you were going to punk me, you had another thing coming, because like I said, I cursed a lot, and you were going to get cursed out right then and right there (unless my mom was around).

I was a good student, but I could have been better, especially if I didn’t actually cut class so much. I was a good liar, though, and quite resourceful, so those absences never actually made it to my parents (I knew which teachers called home) or onto my report cards (I had a friend who worked in the attendance office). I wasn’t the perfect mastermind, though. On a few occasions, I am convinced that my parents knew I was lying, but they didn’t have the time (they were ALWAYS working) to dig deep enough to figure out how I was getting over. I knew that my parents valued education above all else, so if having some fun meant that I had to pre-read chapters in my environmental science book (my teacher used it like a Bible and went literally page by page) or trade an English paper for that completed Pre-Calculus homework pack, that was a small price to pay. My grades were always good (I never missed tests and actually took the time to study), so there were no red flags there to compel a day off of work for my parents to confer with teachers, and I kept it that way.

I knew how to work the systems that structured my life as a teen. I didn’t take unnecessary risks, nor did I do things that would land me in serious trouble with the law. I wasn’t often sloppy (even more rarely caught), and I knew what I could and couldn’t stretch. I was patient, and I planned, sometimes weeks ahead of time. I worked out escape routes and Plan B’s (and C’s) before execution to guarantee my ultimate success (and non-discovery).

From the outside, though, I looked pretty nerdy. I read Shakespeare for fun and loved those Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club books. I was much too into J.R.O.T.C. and enjoyed Mad Libs way beyond my junior high years. I kept a diary and watched movies like Grease and West Side Story over and over again. I made my own headbands and beaded jewelry and had an array of navy blue and gray sweatsuits from Wal-Mart. I was skinny (unnaturally so), wore thick glasses, and could always be found with a backpack full of short stories or poems I had written.

So when I sit in a conference across from a parent who says things like “she doesn’t act like this at home,” I have to keep the smile from spreading across my lips because I know better. I am rarely shocked by the things that kids get themselves into because a lot of it, I got myself into. I was a typical, multi-dimensional, stupid kid, too, and the scariest part of all of this is that now I have three of them of my own!


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