How much do you like me? From 1–10

Remember that time in your life when you were just figuring out how to, like, be a human in the world? And you were stuck with the same friends you’d had since kindergarten?

So they had the freedom and power to treat you like shit?

And you didn’t know enough about how to make other friends, so you just didn’t?

I remember the girls I was friends with in elementary school were merciless to me.

(I’m sure you’re all thinking, hey, that happened to me too!)

I would go to school one day and feel bolstered by their loyalty. We had a strong pact, made stronger by sleepovers where we’d choreograph dances to “Like a Prayer,” and make cheese eggs in the mornings. (Except, I didn’t like the cheese eggs, so I’d make them make me regular eggs.)

The next day, it would be like everyone had discussed my status before I’d even gotten to school and decided that I wasn’t in the group anymore.

I distinctly remember showing up on a school day and sitting down at a cafeteria table where my friends were already sitting. I said something I’m sure I thought was cheeky and cute and laughed at myself a little bit.

Silence.

Cold, staring, haunting silence.

My face dropped.

What had I done? Why the sudden shut out?

That silence still haunts me.

It’s amazing how these little moments in our childhoods can brand us for life.

And how often we remember them.

Once, my erstwhile “best friend” and I were waiting in a line before we were let back into the school after recess, and my long hair was blowing in the breeze.

She snapped at me, “Get your hair out of my face!” And I replied back, “It’s just blowing in the breeze!”

She didn’t believe me.

Really? You think my hair is magically standing on end and whipping into your face, unprompted?

Idiot.

Needless to say, our friendship didn’t last past the 5th grade.

And yet, I think about that moment, like, once a month.

The four of us in the group would make little charts that we’d pass around our cluster of desks in class.

The chart was for rating how much we liked the other members in the group.

“How much do you like me? From 1–10.”

Often, we’d mark 1,000,000 or -1,000,000 just to be clever, squishing the zeroes into the tiny boxes on the note to make our point more clear.

My existence on this planet seemed to rely on these rankings: who would mark me high today? Who was going to be obnoxious and mark a negative ranking? And which two had paired up for the day, forming a seemingly indestructible force?

I look back on those days, aided by the earned perspective of age and years of therapy, and think, how does any of us survive being a girl?

I learned, in contrast, that there’s no gray area with the typical boy: they’re either happy or they’re mad. Either friends or fighting.

And if there’s a conflict, there’s no social customs to interpret, no emotional manipulation, no picking apart to the point of whittling down someone’s character and scarring them for life.

Just a couple shoves or swings, and then they’re done.

When I was working with school-aged students, I found I gravitated to the boys.

I figured I would rather they punch me than risk getting ranked negative 1,000,000 on their Facebook page dedicated to my lameness.