One of my friends in seventh and eighth grade was a good singer. She sang at some school assemblies. I was amazed at her ability to sing solos in front of the school, in front of so many people. I would have gotten stage fright and froze, so her ability to successfully complete a song impressed me. She carried notes well and had an even voice, not pitchy like I imagined mine would be, but I wouldn’t classify her as having an outstanding voice that would later capture the attention of judges on “American Idol” or other shows. That’s not to say I didn’t support her; just intended to capture a bit of reality.
She’d tell me these stories of competitions she’d go to with her singing group. These stories all sounded so amazing. She’d talk about these trips she took over the weekend, the people she met (celebrities included) and all these amazing things. I believed her; there had been no reason to really doubt her. Even though there really wasn’t any proof.
She had two friends (a brother and sister) who went to a different school. And she talked about them, too. They were part of her singing group. Many times she mentioned how they had seen me play basketball and how the boy thought I was pretty. Nothing like a little ego boost to keep things going. At one point she showed me pictures of them, cutout pictures like you would use to create a photo collage. And the boy was super cute. But at some point there was a bit of skepticism for what she was sharing. And then it happened. I came across a magazine that I never bought and saw a modeling spread of the people she had introduced to me as her friends. The exact images. She had taken them from a magazine and passed them off as her friends.
And yet, I don’t think I called her out on it. From that time forward, everything she told me was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. But I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t have her as a friend. Although, how good of a friend was she really if she kept telling all these lies and stories? Doing what she could to make me jealous?
I wrote fiction for myself and for friends as a way of escaping. As a place that I could go where it was my own little world, crafting alternate ways for how I wish things turned out. But I didn’t believe it was real. I knew it was fiction. And these stories didn’t hurt anyone.
But hers did. Hers were meant to stir up jealousy and envy. She shared these to make herself feel better or superior and, in turn, it made me question my worth, my value, my abilities, my significance. I found multiple entries in my eighth grade journal about how unfair it was that she got to do so many cool things and meet so many people.
Did she feel threatened by me and feel like she had to do something drastic to stand out? I don’t know. I feel like I was barely holding things together on my own. Didn’t seem to be anything about me that would make someone feel threatened.
Was her home life that bad that she wanted to find a way to make herself feel better? I can only imagine how things are now, if her behavior hasn’t changed, what with the influx of social media and Facebook. It’s so easy to see pictures and updates of people who seem perfectly happy and think that their life is that perfect and flawless all the time. As if there are no troubles in their life at all.
As I reflect on this, I wonder if maybe this early relationship is also part of the reason why I felt skeptical when people offered a compliment. Being unsure what to believe, what to trust. Thinking people are trying to be polite instead of actually telling me the truth.