Scattered Nothingness: On Being Socially Awkward, and Being Bad, and My Possibly Unhealthy Attachment to the Seventh Grade

This post will not be poetic. It will not say anything of great meaning. It will be a blank stare in a room full of people at that moment at the office party when the boss suddenly points to you and says it is your turn to contribute and you say, awkwardly, that you have nothing to say and and then there is a long moment of uncomfortable silence and you really wish people would stop looking at you before you burst into flames. (That happened to me yesterday; I don’t want to face work today.)

The week is about up. That means I’m one week closer to the last of my deadlines. I was bad yesterday and bought (1) jeans for $25 (really, $25, how bad is that?) and (2) a book for almost the same price that I am NOT ALLOWED to read until I reach this deadline, SERIOUS. (Oh, who I am I kidding, I’ll probably crack it open tonight.)

Last night I saw one of my oldest friends. She’s going back to school to become an English teacher. This week she started student teaching for seventh-graders in the Bronx. In fact, she and I met in the seventh grade. We were awkward, angst-ridden kids. We put safety pins all over our clothes. (Why?) We chose our favorite poets and tried—terribly—to emulate them. I had Anne Sexton. I can’t remember, but maybe hers was Sharon Olds. This week, she said she met the seventh-graders for the first time. So painful, she said. She looked on at them and remembered how hard that age had been, that special agony that no one understands—you’re sure of it—though everyone has been there. I hope they treat her well. Personally, I think she’ll be a kick-ass English teacher.

Speaking of seventh-graders, while I’m supposed to be working on this manuscript due September 28, I am sidestepping and working on an idea geared toward girls ages 10-12. The characters are twelve, in seventh grade. That age was a turning point for me, and I think for a lot of girls. I want to write for those girls. Yes, I want to write my literary fiction and I will; I’ll never stop wanting to do that. But more and more, I find myself wanting to speak to my younger self. That lonely, angry, confused, freakish, nervous, insecure, weird, passionate kid. I want to write something for her.

Really, there’s a lot I want to write. I can’t believe how far I am from what I’ve wanted to accomplish. That girl in an invisible middle seat in her seventh grade classroom, all those lofty dreams and yet when someone called on her she was too shy to say a word. We’re one and the same, even still.

I am writing this post in my usual corner spot. An addict—I’m assuming by the way he’s all scratchy and jittery—is at a table nearby. He keeps calling out to random people, now to me: “Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss.” I got up earlier than usual this morning and it seemed that all the night owls were still up. The wanderings. The sidewalk idlings. The man on the corner who says hello to you and if you don’t say hello back there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll tear your face off. (I gave him a hello, just the one.) I took my normal route around the edge of the park. I infiltrated a drug deal (accidentally walked through and bumped the dealer, oops). I hurried away. Kept walking. Dodged the broken bottles, the empty baggies, the condom—ick. I have ten emails to answer. If you’ve written me and I haven’t written back it’s because I don’t know what to say. How I have been? Not so good. What news do I have to tell you? None, absolutely none. But I’m working on that. I want to get better.

I took what felt like the longest subway ride down the west side of Manhattan last night, headed home. A girl and her mother were next to me. The girl had tiny little braids all down her back, glasses, freckles, wide-legged jeans. She was drawing on her sneakers with permanent marker, her mother trying to get her to calm down. But she couldn’t, this girl, she was talking loudly, animated, moody, then a second later forgetting she was moody. “Mom! Mom! Mom!” she yelled. “Look what I wrote!” She shoved her foot in her mother’s face so her mom could check out the message she’d written on her brand-new Converse for the world to see. I leaned over and took a peek. It said: “I’M WEIRD. APPRECIATE IT.”

I totally do. You know, I bet she was twelve years old.

6 thoughts on “Scattered Nothingness: On Being Socially Awkward, and Being Bad, and My Possibly Unhealthy Attachment to the Seventh Grade

  1. Really… do we ever get past being in grade seven? I think it is a great idea for you to write for that girl that you were / are.

  2. Like the poster above, I would argue that part(s) of us never change after that mad/crazy/hardcore time. I can’t wait to see what you write for them!
    Books saved my life right then. Seriously. I had one brilliant teacher who pulled me aside and gave me ‘extra assignments’ consisting of things like Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Sexton, and the like. Seeing those things saved my brain from rambling down a whole ‘nother road at the time.
    I think your writing could serve the same purpose for some other kid. Please write it.

  3. I love how books can save lives. I know that sounds so dramatic, but I really believe it. They’ve saved mine, more than once. I’m sure they will again.

    Only slightly related, but:

    The mantra at work when someone is really stressed out and going crazy over a deadline and feels like s/he can’t leave the office is: “It’s not brain surgery… it’s only book publishing.” And that’s important to hear. But at the same time, you know what? Books live on longer than we even imagine. They really can make a world of difference. So working on books isn’t brain surgery… but it can turn out to be life-saving too.

  4. I love this post. I hated 7th grade, but it was a turning point. I agree that it is a pivotal age…

    as for the girl with the writing on her shoes, that was me once.

  5. I love this post, too. Books did save my life; they gave me somewhere to go when I needed refuge.

    That age was super pivotal for me, I remember being angst-ridden and freakish but somehow more sure of myself, maybe like that girl who wrote on her shoe. If you have an unhealthy attachment to 7th grade, maybe I do as well.

  6. Ah, Nova. I apprieciate this article for reasons I am not yet aware of. *clears throat* I am however, in high school. I can relate.

    I originally came here, looking for adive on how to rid myself of social awkwardness, but ended up finding a new writer to look after. I write a little myself.


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