When you’re a new kid in a new town it’s hard to be different and trying to make new friends is the pits. We moved around 16 times while I was growing up so I know all about being the new kid.
This story happened when I was 6 years old. But I remember most of what happened when I was a kid unlike most grownups who don’t remember being a kid at all.
When we moved to Berkeley California my grandmother had only been dead for less than a year. She had taken sleeping pills because she missed her husband who had died a few years earlier and she was sick too, but I didn’t know about her emphysema until I was a grown up.
I didn’t have any friends because I was new to town. We had just moved to town because my new stepfather had a printing shop in town. My mom and I had put up a sign on the community bulletin board at the local food coop where the dried food was sold in big bins and everything was super healthy.
The sign we put up said that I was new in town and was looking for a new friend. There was no internet back then because it was 1966. So all we had was a piece of paper stuck to this bulletin board. No Nextdoor app to find playgroups or anything modern like that.
Another mom with a daughter the same age with the same name as me, answered the ad. It seemed like a good omen that we both had the same first name. We got together to play a couple of times and it went ok.
Then she invited me over to her house for a sleep over with her other friends. The girls all brought these plastic horse figurines to play with. I didn’t own any of these figurines or understand what you would do with them except set them on a shelf, so I was already sticking out as being different. But horses were a big deal for my new friends and they all collected them.
The way you played was that all the girls all the horses out in rows and each picked out 5 or 6 to have as your own herd. So, it was nice that they were sharing the horses with me since I had none of my own horses to play with.
I saw this furry pony with a tail made out of real hair and a body that was covered in soft velvety fur, that I liked so much better than the smooth hard plastic ponies the little girls were playing with at the sleep over.
Since I wanted that pony so much, I didn’t pick the beautiful toy pony with the furry tail when I could have because I just assumed it was special and could not be chosen. The other girls didn’t even like it because it wasn’t cool The furry pony wasn’t just like the other slick plastic horse models they were used to. But since I didn’t ask for the furry pony another girl had it in her herd.
I asked if I could trade for the special horse once we started playing ponies. I showed that I liked it and therefore I was not a cool kid. Now it was harder to get the pretty fluffy horse with the real mane and tail, and the girls made fun of me because they thought this pony was an ugly horse because it wasn’t like the other hard horse models.
I wasn’t used to playing with horse figurines. I was used to playing with dolls who had hair you could brush and clothes you could change. But this new friend and her buddies were tomboys because it was cool to be like a boy and not cool to be like a girl. Being girlish and playing with dolls was considered stupid and weak.
If I had gone with my instincts, I could have had the fluffy pretty pony right away. But now it was withheld. The girls were mean anyway because I was different. I was an outsider and didn’t fit into their sleep over where they had new rules about how you were supposed to act and rituals about how you had to play and what games could be played.
When I put on my frilly night gown, they made fun of it. They all wore boy style Pajamas not nightgowns. They were tom boys remember and didn’t do anything girlie.
My grandmother who had just killed herself a few months before had cut this night gown and robe down for me from one of her own frilly night gowns. Nana was very feminine, and she was cool. They just couldn’t understand. After that one sleepover we went our separate ways and I found other friends.
It’s OK to be different. You just have to find people who will accept you for who you are.
Zoe Z.Zoe Lives in Silicon Valley where she teaches Pilates and draws funny characters while hiding in her van down by the river.
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