September 23, 2004

Tales of a suburban misfit

Part One.

I have never excelled at math, or even considered myself competent. Logic was never a strong skill of mine and my placement in a “level” geometry class in the tenth grade cemented my expectations.

My math skills, amongst other issues in my life, caused me a great deal of embarrassment. While other kids in my school zipped through geometry in the eighth grade, I found myself in a class of misfits, all deemed sub par by the school system that had obviously let them down.

And who would be our leader into the wonderful world of geometry? A first year teacher-- an Asian man of diminutive stature, whose only interaction with teenagers up until then had been writing their textbooks.

Starting in the seventh grade, when students, like myself, with lower than normal math skills were herded off into our own classroom, I began to become ashamed of the books I carried around in the hall. While everyone else had textbooks such as Algebra, I kept my seventh grade level math book hidden by a brown book cover. Tenth grade and geometry textbooks would prove to be no different.

Like my math skills, I usually tried to keep my arms hidden from others who I felt might have better arms than I did. More specifically, I kept my right arm hidden, thanks in part to a heinous rash that had taken residence in the crease.

My battles with heat rashes had turned into an ongoing war, one that I had fought on and off since the sixth grade, when the sweltering southeast Texas heat began to take its toll on my delicate skin. It never crossed my young mind to seek help from a doctor, and my mom, a nurse, never brought the taboo subject up, either. We hated doctors, who had been known to treat my mother like a second hand servant.

“Never be a doctor,” she’d tell me. “Or a lawyer or a dentist.”

Instead, we tried a barrage of creams and powders, none of which actually helped the skin, all of which furthered the crimson growth on my appendage until it looked like the skin on my arm had been sliced off with a razor blade.

Some days I forgot that the raw skin, roughly the color of a candied apple from the fair and covered with white bumps, was not considered the norm. On those days, I wore short sleeves to school, completely unaware that others might not find my arm attractive.

It happened to be one of those days when Pat, a tan, rich kid who had made a name for himself by being the cute short one, noticed my arm in class.

“Eww, what’s that,” he yelled at me during the middle of a lesson. Our young Asian teacher, not one to try to control his class, just kept on talking.

I immediately slapped my left hand over the rash, being sure to cup my hand as to not hurt the already delicate skin. I looked at Pat, eyebrows raised and said as nonchalantly as possible, “Nothing.” I hoped to myself that he would get annoyed and leave me alone.

“That’s so gross,” he kept on. “What is it?”

Thanks to his constant raising of his voice, some of the other misfits in class were beginning to take notice. Frantically, I leaned over to his desk and hissed “It’s a heat rash, okay?”

Pat kept on, speaking of the rash as if I had kept it around for fun. “Why don’t you go to a doctor or something?” I dismissed this question as nonsense. Of course he would want to go to a doctor. His father was a wealthy realtor and Pat had just been bragging about the large truck his father bought him. Well, I didn’t have a large truck. I had an Oldsmobile, even better, an Oldsmobile that had been used as a driver’s ed car in its previous life.

Instead, I tried to ignore his comments, hoping that my rash and I would just mesh together with the 20-year-old brown carpet that lined the floor in our windowless room.

My silence was enough to get Pat to shut up for the time being, though his announcement in class worried me. Did anyone else notice the rash on my arm? As it turned out, they did.

I stood outside of my school with my cross-country friends in the warm October heat, anticipating our 800 workouts that would have us tramping through woods and mud several times in a row.

We stood on the perimeter of the wooded area behind the 1970’s style massive brick building, huddling together like teenage girls do; all wearing sports bras and running shorts.

A group from the guys’ team ran by, all wearing shorts that wore shorter than ours, laughing and joking amongst themselves on their warm-up run.

Though nobody said anything, all the girls stood up a little straighter, sucked in their bellies a little more in order to look good. These guys may not be attractive, but they were guys and cross-country chicks weren’t exactly known for being a hot commodity.

I looked in the group to see Cody, a gangly, curly haired senior I had recently dated, running alongside his teammates. I rolled my eyes upon seeing him, eager to pretend that I didn’t care if he was in the group.

Everyone in the cross-country program knew of Cody and me. He, the unattractive red headed senior and I, the bubbly new sophomore-- happy that any guy had paid attention to me, had been an item after meeting at a party.

The relationship had only consisted of one make-out session in his bedroom, though it had been enough to make me change my status from “loser that can’t get a guy” to “sex goddess.” We never went on a date or even out as a group. Sometimes Cody and his best friend Josh would come to my house and sit with me on my daybed, but I found myself obsessed with the thought of them going through my personal belongings.

Cody had recently dumped me over the telephone, an act that I would soon learn to get used to by all future boyfriends, and we had not spoken since. I quickly turned away after seeing him, leaning closer to my friends to mumble how rude he was.

A surprising voice rang out from the guys’ group; they normally kept to themselves when it came to running. “Hey look, everyone! It’s rash girl!” the voice gleefully bellowed for all to hear.

I snapped my head towards the direction of the voice, only to see Jason, a tall senior with curly hair, laughing about his choice of words. The rest of the guys chimed in with laughter that echoed off the trees and onto the nearby soccer field. I could feel my heart jump into my throat. This would seal the chances of any guy ever liking me again.

To be continued....

Posted by Rachel at September 23, 2004 03:12 AM

What a dick. {{{hugs}}}

Posted by: Kate at September 25, 2004 02:06 AM

Finally, a fellow heat rash sufferer! I, too, have tried every anti-itch cream, medicated ointment, and oral antihistamine known to man... none of which have relieved the rash. Luckily I live in Ohio (did I really say luckily?), so I only get heat rash on and off during the months of May through September, when the humidity is terrible. But it's still embarrassing--people look at it like either I caused it (because it's so much fun that I'd want to do that) or I'm an alien. It was horrible when I was younger: I already had braces and glasses and frizzy hair and acne, so a rash on top of all that didn't exactly help. By now I just tell people "it's a heat rash," and leave it at that. My husband is wonderful because I can sit there covered in cream and put the AC on full blast, and he'll just wrap himself up in a blanket and smile. Men are so much better when they grow up. :)

Posted by: Melissa at September 25, 2004 04:02 PM

Ah...I know where you are coming from; I have been so hurt by those types of cruel remarks and actions.

In terms of the heat rash; have you tried something like gold bond powder? I know there are those who swear by it.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at September 26, 2004 08:54 AM


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