By Cabricia Diaz
Teen Voices Rising commentator

I thought I was the smartest kid, and that was my flaw. Anyone below my level of intellect was a weak link. I saw myself as superior to those who were amateur in something I excelled in. I was in the fourth grade and my sister got the brunt of it.

Camille was a great sister, my twin sister. She was two inches shorter than me and pretty funny. It was the summer between third and fourth grade when things shifted. “You didn’t pass the third grade?” I heard our older sister say to Camille. I gasped.

Camille had most likely responded, but with a shameful setback like that, I didn’t expect an audible response. She had been kept back and I could tell she felt bad. I felt bad . . . we all did.

The subject died later that day. It wasn’t the end of the world. All she had to do was redo the grade and soldier on.

Everything went back to normal as the months passed. But, of, course that made me superior in more ways. I was taller, bigger, and smarter. What I hadn’t noticed was a habit I was developing.

A year later, each time we would argue, I’d always bring up the fact that she was kept back in the third grade. I thought it didn’t matter. I remember getting into trouble with my parents one day. Camille was rubbing her freedom in my face as she watched me in my room, grounded. It was an innocent tease since the punishment was minor.

All I remember was saying, “At least I didn’t get kept back.” I recall seeing her smile disappear. For the rest of the school year, I taunted her and made her feel at her absolute lowest.

I wouldn’t wish that type of degradation on anyone, but I was nine and oblivious and mean.

Recently, I’ve gotten to talk to my sister about the issue. Yes, we laughed. There were lots of “oh yeahs” and “I remembers.” I also apologized several times during our conversation.

I asked her how she felt even though I knew. “I felt bad. I felt kind of stupid.” I always hated when people emphasized my weaknesses. There was no reason for me to do that to my own blood.

She told me she understood, that we were kids then and I didn’t really know what I was doing. “But how you felt was real,” I said. “It happened. And it was my fault.”

I didn’t want the conversation to get too deep but I had to learn something. Something along the lines of confronting my mistakes and giving rest to past troubles.

The last thing she said to me was, “But hey, it’s over. Now my grades are way better than yours.”

I guess I did deserve that.

“I am extra small”

By Janice He
Teen Voices Rising commentator

“Strawberry shortcake, blueberry pie, who will be your lu . . .”

Suzy and Bianca both dropped the jump rope. Jaws dropped but something else did, too — my pants.

A cool, chilly breeze blew my shaky legs as I immediately picked my pants back up. I felt a flush of red across my face and a sudden horrifying twist in my stomach as I prayed that my crush Marquis wasn’t looking in this direction. A really long pause followed until one of the girls broke out in laughter and laughs from the rest of the group echoed. A stiffness started from my toes and reached my mind, making it numb.

The loud, thunderous ring of the school bell came to my rescue. I never truly appreciated it until that day as it saved me from any possible further pain. Lowering my head among the rest of the students, I was well aware the news would trickle itself across the school.

This feeling was nothing new.

During swim class, my bottom piece dropped after I took a dive. Luckily, before I reached the surface, both pieces were back in place. I was relieved. I promised myself to never wear a two-piece swimsuit and to never risk a jump again.

As if these embarrassing situations weren’t bad enough, I was always reminded who I was by other people. Nicknames were just a start. Toothpick. Anorexic. Twig. Chicken-legged. Skeleton. If you can think of anything awfully gross or substantially thin, I’ve already been called that.

These little things began to shape me. I have cried myself to sleep hoping that I would someday wake up in another body. I hated my body. Baggy clothes didn’t disguise my small body and neither did the multiple layers I packed inside. “Disgusting and sickly,” that’s what they called it, and it didn’t take long for me to start believing it, either.

Remarks about my body were everywhere, from my relatives to my friends. If you’re big, that’s OK because you’ve got everyone’s sympathy. But critics can’t say the same thing for the rest of us. Why? Because it’s our fault that our bodies are the way they are?

“You’re not a real woman.” “You chose to be that way.” “Go eat a hamburger.” “You are a disgrace.” “Do your parents not love you?” “Nothing but skin and bones.”

This is the norm for someone like me and I am baffled why so many people assume that cruel words are a motivator when instead they have hurt me far more. These sayings have sunk into my mind and have been stamped onto other girls.

It started as a hole that kept me believing I was never going to be like the others and this hole continued to grow every day, building from all the features I lacked, just like the 20 pounds of meat my body lacked. It is the hypocrites who make loud claims that everyone is beautiful but shame down on those who they view as different.

As I am growing, I have become more confident with my body and who I am, not with therapy or reminders, but with being able to simply allow myself to take the criticism in, let it go, and be okay about it.

But even now I am still not fully whole, because I have a small folder in my head collecting all the childhood nightmares, including the jump rope incident.

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