In the 1996 film The Craft, there’s a scene where an entranced Chris (Skeet Ulrich) chases Sarah (Robin Tunney) through the woods in an attempt to rape her after the love spell she casts on him backfires. It was frightening and aggressive and it turned me on before I knew anything about sex other than, “That’s not what it’s supposed to be like.” I felt bad for liking that scene, and for rewinding it, though I would fast-forward it if my mom were in the room so it mostly evened out.
I felt bad about the gap in between my two front teeth. When I’d complain about it on car rides, my mom would look at me in the rearview mirror and say, “Lauren Hutton has a gap in her teeth,” and I’d say, “I don’t know who that is,” and she’d say, “She was a famous model,” and I’d say, “I don’t know who that is,” and she’d say, “Madonna has a gap in her teeth,” and eventually I realized I would never get braces.
My whiteness made me feel bad. All of the biracial kids I knew resembled each other and I was ghostlike in comparison. I couldn’t qualify my ‘blackness’ on my own; my mother had to come in on Career Day or supervise a school trip to add the missing context. Whenever I played double-dutch and screwed up, I felt like the girls who turned the ropes probably blamed it on my being a White Girl who was not coordinated enough to manage multiple jump ropes at once. In junior high I wished for more ass and fuller breasts, like my Puerto Rican friends, because I was a long straight line that no one wanted to kiss. In the summers, I spent a lot of time doused in baby oil and laying on rooftops; I felt 90% better when I was tan.
I was jealous every time a classmate broke a limb or changed the color of the bands on their braces. I wanted their apartments, their pets, their magazine subscriptions, their divorced parents, the lunches their divorced parents packed for them. When my friend’s parents separated, she began to see the school’s guidance counselor once a week and one time, she took me with her. We played Connect Four and Guess Who? and the counselor would interject now and again with questions like, “How are you feeling today?” and “Do you feel better than you did last week?” and my friend would respond but was mostly concerned with whether or not I wore glasses or had a mustache or if my name ended with the letter “A.” When it was over, I felt bad that the guidance counselor hadn’t invited me back for my own sessions.
I didn’t cry at the first and only funeral I went to, which was for my grandmother. I knew I was supposed to cry, but I barely knew anyone there and I guess I had stage fright or I just wasn’t sad enough. After the funeral, we went to my grandparents’ house and I met a bunch of kids whose parents were raised by my grandmother. She was a foster parent before I was alive. They weren’t my cousins technically or otherwise, but they were my cousins that day, and it was the most fun I’d ever had at my grandparents’ house. I felt bad for having that much fun at my grandmother’s funeral. I never saw my ‘cousins’ again, and that would eventually make me feel bad, too.
In 4th grade, I was placed in the ‘Medium’ math group but actually belonged in the ‘Beginner’ math group. I memorized multiples of nine and then would add or subtract in my head to figure out the product for any multiplication problem that didn’t have a nine in it. It worked, but I felt like a fraud and like an idiot. It was a bad feeling.
Wearing jellies and stirrup leggings made me feel bad. Wearing the same outfit as my little sister made me feel bad, especially when my grandmother had sewn it by hand. I felt bad when I’d sit down and my jeans would rise and expose my ankles and my socks that never matched. Sometimes, I still do.