Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Underdog

December 31, 1982 New Year's Eve
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I got a letter from Becky and I wrote her. I cleaned Chipper's cage and my room. Muffin went poopy in my room today. Me, Daniel and Allen went to Fashion Island. In case you didn't know, I read for a couple of hours a night. I am a real bookworm. Well I'll have to be going. Bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Jennifer the Bookworm
Being a child did not come naturally to Jennifer. She often labeled herself in an attempt to define who she was. It gets worse as she gets older. She thought she needed to fit into a neat little box, and she never did.
Jennifer is still in touch with her friend, Becky. They have been pen pals now for twenty-nine years! They still live in different states. Becky is in Montana and Jennifer lives in Northern California. Geography has always been an issue for Jennifer, but she never let that end her friendships.
January 1, 1983 The New Year
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I wrote a 7 page book called, A Night at Paki. It is very good. Here is a note on my physical growth. I am in puberty. My breasts are noticeable, they are bigger than budding. Well I have to go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Watching her body mature was like watching paint dry. Jennifer waited and waited to see any kind of change. All of her books on puberty focused on changes to the front of the body. She saw progression pictures that showed girls getting hips, hair and breasts. These photos did not show what was going on in the back.
Jennifer did not expect the changes going on behind her! Her rear developed much faster than her front. She remembers it well. It seemed that almost overnight her bottom popped out and it grew by the day. It was as though someone were pumping air into what had previously been two flat tires. She was terrified that her body wouldn't know when to stop! If it didn't stop growing--who would she call? The paramedics? She frantically wished for an "off" switch.
Women with large breasts may relate to this almost overnight sensation. Fortunately, Jennifer's body had a fill line. When her rear hit the genetic marker, it stopped--much to her relief. It was many years before Jennifer appreciated her rear for what it was--her best (and only) asset (pun intended).
January 22, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I had my lesson. Boy was it fun. I am going to ride in a show on February 6, 1983 Sunday and my mom said she might be able to come out and watch me. Also, February 5, Daniel is becoming an Eagle for Boy Scouts. I went over to Lara's and I read her my story and she read me hers. We are going to write a book. Then Lara came over here. I have to go because its 10:38pm and there is school tomorrow. Well bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
January 3, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I went back to school after our long vacation. I had a lot of homework. Lara and I went over to take care of Kitty. I still love Randy. That's about all so bye, Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Jennifer is not proud of the following entry. She actually had a bittersweet relationship with Lara. On December 3, 1982, Jennifer wrote that Lara often bragged about herself. Always rooting for the underdog--Jennifer is attracted to humility. Real pride in yourself, your family or your hard earned looks is not annoying--but full-on, self-inflating bragging is a turn-off. Jennifer's critical mind couldn't help but find fault when Lara elevated herself. This entry must have been written after an exceptional bragging session--Jennifer vented:
January 4, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today was boring. I am going to tell you something about Lara. She is 5 feet 9 inches, much too tall, but she is proud of it. I don't know why. She is 140 pounds, if she were thin and not so tall she would look much better. Her hair is blond. She says it's golden. Then she says her hair is going to turn white which will be very ugly. She has very white skin which is also ugly and nothing to be proud of. If her hair turns white, she will look like an albino since she has light, ugly grey eyes. But she is a good friend when she is not bragging about herself. Well bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Ouch! Jennifer actually did think Lara was pretty but when Lara bragged it made Jennifer focus on the negatives. Looking back, Lara was probably uncomfortable in her own skin. She towered over all the other 12 year-olds, she was already in a bra, she was taller than most adult women. She did have nice blond hair and light eyes, red lips and pink cheeks. She was quite pretty. Her large size made her a target at school and she had very few friends. Lara was an underdog and this attracted Jennifer to her--but one defense of the underdog is self-inflation. Maybe Lara chose this tactic to defend herself.
Jennifer and Lara

January 5, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I had a note for P.E. I was late to school but Dad wrote a note. P.E. is held outside and I had to ride my bike through P.E. class. Some guy yelled 'hey baby'. Lara says boys always yell nice things to her but I've never heard them. The kids are bothering me in P.E. and its Lara's fault. She told everyone I was her best friend and now they don't like me because they don't like her. Becky is my very best friend. Well bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Jennifer isn't proud of this entry either. She has always cared too much about what other people think. She did not consider Lara her best friend because of Becky back in Colorado. She never realized that she might have been Lara's best friend.
This also showcases the turbulent relationships of girls, especially junior high girls. It's a battle between compassion, competition and connection. Girls need each other, can't live without each other, are best friends and worst enemies. Even in adulthood, the politics of women can be dangerous waters. Treachery lurks below the surface where you can't see it. It's good we have intuition, we need it.
The bright side is that we also belong to a sisterhood that lasts beyond our children and beyond our men. If you have a friend who you trust, you will never let her go.
Do you remember your friends from Junior High?
Washington wins the Superbowl
US stamp, 20 cents
John McEnroe wins Wimbledon
Best Picture, Gandhi

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