One may assume that the most popular girls in school would also be the meanest. After all, they had no competition they were “it”—the in crowd. But, that is not necessarily true. In fact, I learned one year that the most popular group of girls in my school, despite being aloof, were actually quite kind and generous…at least to each other.
You will recall from my last post that I often sat alone at the lunch table. My goal was to hide from Rhonda and Linda: two of the cruelest people I have met to date. For months I watched longingly as the most popular group of five girls would walk into the cafeteria and take their customary spots. In their routine, some facts emerged as absolute.
1. They always filed into their seats in the exact same order: Kristen, Christine R., Sondra, Laura, and Lori.
2. They always brought a brown bag lunch–never bought.
3. They had a daily lunch ritual.
It took me months to figure it out but the moment that I did changed my life.
Just before lunch ended, the girls would each open their dessert. Kristen would start. She broke her candy bar into five astonishingly similar pieces and passed a piece to Christine who did not eat it. She passed it to Sondra. And on down the line until each girl had a piece of the candy bar. Then Christine divided her dessert and passed it down. Then Sondra and so on. This ritual happened daily and wordlessly. Every day, just a few minutes before the bell, they would all look down at their napkins and see exactly five miniature dessert offerings which they promptly scarfed down.
It was amazing. First, all five ALWAYS had a dessert item. Second, they ALWAYS shared it. And lastly, every one of them ate EVERY morsel–not one ever said “no, thanks,” or “I don’t like chocolate.” They ate what was passed to them.
Finally, after months of preparation, my moment arrived. I had managed to sneak a box of Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes into our grocery cart that week. While my mother was busy putting everything away, I hid the box in my room. On “The Day,” I packed my own lunch into a brown grocery bag I had cut and taped to look less like a book cover and more like a “brown bag”. Carefully, I placed the package of two chocolate frosted cupcakes and a plastic knife into the bag.
All morning my heart pounded. That lunch period, instead of shuffling my way to the empty table in the back, I sat at “their” table. As predicted The Five arrived carrying their 5 identical bags. As expected, Kristen was first. As she slid down the bench, she eyed me. I knew I was in her seat. I gulped. Much to my surprise, she just plopped down and began unwrapping her perfectly packed lunch. Sandwich, fruit, and carrots devoured, I knew what was coming. As she began careful division of her candy, I did the same. My ceremonial unwrapping and careful cutting of the cupcake into SIX equal pieces caught her attention.
Without looking up, I passed a piece to my right. She paused for a split second and took it from me. Then she did the remarkable thing.
She passed it on.
Within a few minutes, The Five had a piece of my cupcake and I had a six pieced dessert sampling.
They must have really liked chocolate cupcakes because no words were ever uttered about my presence at their table. Every day, for the rest of that school year, they quietly divided their goods SIX ways.
After a while, they would wave at me in the hall or smile on the bus. Don’t get me wrong, I was never invited to a sleep over or to the mall, but they allowed me to sit at their table and give them my cupcakes.
Boy, did that feel good.
Those girls were popular but in the end, they were NOT mean. Their crazy sharing thing was actually kind of sweet. The cafeteria became a Green Zone. As long as I was sitting with The Five, Rhonda and Linda kept on walking.
Who would have thought that the sins of wrong hair, shoes, and too much brain power could be absolved by 1/6 of a cupcake?
Looking back, while having 35 minutes every day free of my abusers was priceless, the lessons I learned carried me long after.
First, beaten down as I felt, I did have something of value to bring to the table—and it was not just a cupcake. But, more importantly for me, I learned that sometimes the easiest way to get what you want is to simply go get it.