One of the more memorable moments in Junior High, besides my first french kiss, was during a PE class in 7th grade. We were gathered in the Library on the floor in a circle and a few guest speakers were going to talk about girly things: hygiene, nail care, etc. The excercise preceding the speakers was the true highlight.
Our PE teacher actually cared about us. She was a runner, super honest and understanding.
The thing you have to remember about girls of this age, which our teacher understood, is that every single one of them feels awkward. Someone else always had bigger boobs, better skin, a better tan, a cuter boyfriend, or newer Guess Jeans. And it was never me. But there was worse. There was Vanessa. She actually wore the school mascot costume to the football games, had poor social and hygiene skills, gray teeth, a shaggy boy haircut that just never grew, and the worst acne imaginable. She was the character in every single teen movie people made fun of.
As for this memorable excercise, we had to go around the room one by one while the rest of the circle was to shout out positive things about the girl. Vanessa was 5 people before me and I was so worried about what would happen. What if no one said anything? Would she cry? What if there was complete silence? Oh, think of something nice to say about Vanessa! Why is she making us do this? This is so cruel.
Most of the other girls in the class had obvious physical attributes to compliment, which was all we really wanted to hear about ourselves anyway. You would get the occasional 'funny', but that didn't really mean a whole lot to any of us in terms of "Jr. High value".
It got to Vanessa and I looked down at my brown sandals, my imperfect toes suddenly bothered me a lot less. My mind was blank, but someone needed to start a positive comment. Someone finally shouted NICE! and another repeated THOUGHTFUL! followed by SMART! and GREAT SCHOOL SPIRIT! I found the thesaurus in my mind and participated in the most glorious event that a 13 year old girl could observe: complimenting the one person in our whole school that really needed to hear it the most. And they weren't fake compliments. No one said GREAT SKIN or LOVELY HAIR or NICE SMILE and that was what I was most afraid of. There were no lies, it was all genuine.
Much like The Breakfast Club, afterwards we all still went on our ways with our hidden insecurities and same social groups, but I think Vanessa walked a little taller after that day. I know I felt proud I participated in that circle of people, not because of my own package of recieved compliments- but the ones we all freely and honestly gave. We all left a trail of butterflies behind us in the library that day.
When I think of my friends and acqaintances, I try to think like I did in that circle. I try hard to look at the person and think of all the genuine, wonderful things they are (inside and outside). When I speak of those not around me, I am getting better at speaking of things I would say in that circle. It is a much better feeling than hoping my negative words don't get repeated. More importantly, the negatives don't come to my mind as easily or as often as they once did.