What I regret most about being a mean girl.
Those words are both blog post title and personal confession in the wake of a conversation with an old friend at our 45th class reunion.
“Do you remember Katya Luwamala?” he asked as he sat down beside me.
“Very well,” I replied.
“Do you remember when Katya was sent home the first week of school?” my friend asked.
I shook my head. “No.”
“She wore a jumpsuit to school. No one would even notice it now, but apparently it was taboo in 1965.” He paused. “You know, the girls in our class weren’t very nice.”
“They ostracized her from then on. She was so different with her white-blond hair, her strange clothes, and lack of social skills.”
“She picked her nose and ate her boogers, too. Looking back, I wonder if she had high functioning autism. She was so smart, she couldn’t relate to other kids. But you should know something.” I took a deep breath. “I was one of the mean girls.”
He gave me a quizzical look. “You?”
I told him how Katya had been placed in my mother’s third grade classroom in the small, midwestern town where we lived. I was in a different section of the same grade, enduring a difficult school year among classmates who kept their distance because I was weirdly creative, poorly coordinated, and the daughter of the strictest teacher in the building. Mom encouraged a friendship between Katya and me the summer after third grade, and we played together often. Katya was unlike any friend I’d ever had–highly imaginative, well-traveled, brilliant, and a little odd. We spent hours dressing up and acting out the adventures she narrated. I loved playing with her.