The theme for this week’s “Remember the Time” is RIVALRY, a concept I know all too well. As an actor and now a blogger, I’ve become an expert at comparing myself to others over the years. Not to mention there’s no rivalry like the one between sisters, but to avoid beating a dead horse, I’m going to branch out a bit for today’s topic.
My earliest rivalry was one I created myself with the girl across the street. We’ll call her K, because duh, every other girl in my year was named some form of Kristin, Katie, Kelly, Kaitlin, Kelsey, or Kristie. And the rest of us were named something that ended in the “eee” sound. Ashley, Emily, Stephanie, Bethany, etc. (Shout-out to the 1980’s!)
Anyway, we lived at this particular house until I was in third grade. That meant many of my play dates and birthday parties and even lazy afternoons were spent with K. I remember being so jealous of her. She had blonde hair like mine but it was curly!! I hadn’t yet embraced my stick-straight stringy hair and would have done anything for her voluminous curly locks.
This is a photo of me circa my third grade year. It’s from multicultural day at school, The Mother has indicated on the back of this
relic picture that my country was Nigeria. Cool beans. Note the straight hair.
K was my rival because she had a really cool mom who let her stay up late and watch movies that were PG-13. She had an older brother and she just knew stuff. I even envied the way she said the word “press.” In the computer lab at school we would buddy up together and she would tell me to “presh that key” or “presh this key,” with a smug, fancy face. I remember thinking, “Why can’t K say the word “press? That’s so weird!” But instead of correcting her or feeling smug at my ability to vocalize such a simple word, I attributed it to the fact that she was smarter and cooler than me. Clearly, I just didn’t get it.
As we got older, it seemed she wanted to hang out with me less and less as I’m sure I wasn’t keeping up with her new-found coolness. I felt burned, confused, and unjustified.
One fateful day in the third grade, I was looking for her at lunch so we could sit together like always. I scanned the lunchroom and finally found her with a group of kids we didn’t normally sit with. There was no seat saved for me. I stormed up to her in a huff, and I don’t remember if I actually said anything, but she completely ignored me. I found another seat at a different table and tried to avoid crying while my face burned with anger.
She caught up with me after lunch while walking to our classroom and attempted to explain herself. “Stephanie, I’m sorry, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to sit with you!” She pleaded. “I wanted to sit next to Ryan/Scott/Michael/Matthew/Kevin/Chris (pick your fave boy name from the 80’s)! I like him soooo much!! There wasn’t room for all of us.” She looked at me with innocent eyes, imploring me not to be mad at her.
I did let it go, I moved on, and eventually K transferred to another school when her family moved. But I stopped caring about my made-up rivalry with K after that day. Even as an 8-year-old I knew you don’t ditch your friends for a fleeting moment with some guy. It definitely wasn’t the last time I was ditched by a friend for their boyfriend, but it was my first time memory of it happening. In that moment K didn’t seem any cooler or smarter or prettier than me.