The '90s were a rough time for young girls who didn't know how to do hair, because that magical Aquanet nest on top of your head was a big deal. Another important skill to master as a '90s teenager was that perfect tight-roll around the top of your shoe.
The hair was mostly a lost cause for me, because my hair skills (and patience) still just consists of a wash-and-go. The roll, however I practiced religiously, and even when I thought I finally got it, I still arrived at school with floppy-ankled pants. It just fell apart the moment I stepped out of the car.
Lord knows, floppy ankles could make or break you in high school.
I know this because one Christmas in the '90s, my mom got me some frayed jeans. I actually loved everything about them but once I got to school, I regretted my choice to be different. Seems like a small thing until you're the one under the glare of your perfectly tight-rolled classmates. I wasn't cool enough to start any new trends, so when I got home those jeans got shoved deep into the closet never to be seen again.
The thing is, I don't hold a single bit of resentment toward my classmates for those days (it definitely wasn't all of them anyway). Here's why.
It was a good day for me on the school bus so far. One of the more popular girls was actually talking to me, and I was talking back.
But then a girl stepped on the bus with a long black skirt that gathered around the bottom of her raggedy old shoes. No tight-roll for her. Her hair limply framed her face without any Aquanet acrobats atop her head.
Everyone snickered. A few called out names.
Her shoulders sagged and her eyes hit the floor.
I knew that look.
She thought she was nobody.
Every hurtful word thrown at her absorbed into her skin and settled deep into her heart, eating away her self-worth like an acid.
She didn't feel like she deserved to be there — or anywhere for that matter.
She wasn't good enough. She wasn't the same as everyone else.
I recognized every bit of it because I had been there. I knew it because of the many days that had been me.
Everyone on the bus refused her a seat as she walked by. Sadly, I mean everyone.
I wish with all my heart I could say that I was that one who stood up to the crowd, but as the girl in front of me rolled her eyes as she passed, I rolled my eyes too.
She reached the back of the bus and looked at me with aching eyes, but I slid my books over to the vacant spot beside me. My heart broke as I did it, but I can’t say I was forced. This was my own desire to fit in and follow the crowd, and I hurt someone in the process.
I am still sick about it.
Honestly, though, It was so easy to just jump on that bandwagon when everyone else around me was doing it, too. I thought, just for a second, that I was better than someone else.
But God didn’t let me think that for too long.
That night I laid in bed tossing and turning as conviction came on me like a ton of bricks. It hurt so bad that I had hurt someone else, and my 15-year-old self vowed never to do it again.
Although I can’t think of anything quite so extreme, I am certain that I have hurt others since then — whether I realized it or not — but one thing I have learned for sure is that I am no better than anyone else.
And if I ever start to think that way, then I remind myself that Jesus didn’t give conditions on who we should love.
He didn’t say to love only the people who get their hair right, or dress a certain way, or only those who have certain opinions. There’s not a soul on earth He deems as a VIP, He died for us all.
In fact, He declared that every one of us is wonderfully made — even in the '90s when my ankles flapped in the wind.