In 1989, we were living in Oklahoma. I remember very little from those years; I know my best friend was Cheryl and we fought more than we laughed. I know I made my question marks backward because my first grade teacher never corrected me (I was finally corrected in 10th grade by my bff Jill, who told me via passed note in French class. The note said, “Dude, your questions marks are backward. Are you stupid?” and then she drew a page of ??? for me to trace. She remains a good friend.)

First and second grades are a blur, the memories hiding in some part of my brain. UNTIL. One day we were out on the boat and I was eating an Oreo ice cream sandwich and then my parents ruined my life. Things were perfect and then they decided to go and have another baby and WRECKED EVERYTHING. Let’s all remember my clear love for my baby brother:

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Instantly, my status as the baby of the family slipped away. Now there was this Thing that cried, sucked away all the attention, and was just a big dumb baby. I tried acting out. Didn’t work. Eventually, my broken heart led me down a path no little girl should ever go: the pixie cut.

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You guys. YOU GUYS. My hair was freaking SHAVED on the sides. For the entire year of 4th grade, the kids in my class called me Mushroom Head. (They also called me Madonna, a name that quickly turned into Madogga. It’s possible these nicknames stemmed from my near-obsession with the Material Girl. It is also possible I applied purple eye shadow and red lipstick on the bus every morning. It is even more possible I used navy blue eyeliner to give myself a birthmark just like hers. And, those things being possible and true, it is very nearly possible I did very little to help my case for coolness. I might have been asking for it. But still. As far as I’m concerned, Chris Keith and his dumb friends can go suck an egg to this day. Having the cutest boys in your class bark at you every day does very little for a forming self-esteem.)

So yes, pixie haircut, a haircut I never learned to style, so it ended up looking like a bowl cut. I spent the entire year trying to make my hair look longer. My 4th grade school picture is legendary in my family (although I can’t find it for you guys). I thought dunking my head under the sink would give me the appearance of longer hair. I’m wearing a hot pink DayGlo vest over a white shirt. My hair is DRIPPING onto my vest and I’ve tied a huge floppy black sash around my head. My mother was SO MAD at me. All I could see was long hair.

Eventually my hair grew into a little bob and 5th grade was much better. On the third day of school, Brandon Trotter asked me to Go With Him. I told him I’d think about it over the weekend and ultimately decided I was too young to be tied down. Plus, I kind of liked James Fowler. Brandon rebounded with Shelly Smith and I immediately regretted my decision, thusly crushing on Brandon for the next two years, a crush which led to an unfortunate era in my life I like to call The Open Mouth Years. Please to observe my 6th grade picture:

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Cute, right? Longer hair, cute smile, bright shirt. On the day we got our pictures back, Brandon Trotter (who had broken up with Shelly by then) told me he liked my picture. He said I had a pretty smile. This compliment led to my trying to recreate that smile in every single picture I was in for the next two years:

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As you can see, I never could get it right. (PS: Let me introduce you to my tonsils.)

6th grade was also the year of my THIRD eye surgery. Because my awkwardness in hair style choices and clothing selections wasn’t enough, I was born with a freaking lazy eye. I had two surgeries in 4th grade (which stupid Chris Keith and his friends used to make fun of me even more, walking by my desk and slapping the backs of their heads while putting a hand under their eyes and shouting, “Oooh, my eye fell out!” while I would cry and cry. Jerks.) and then a third in 6th grade. See, my eye always wandered back after the first surgeries so my doctor decided he would tighten the hell out of my eye muscle. I woke up in the recovery room with my right eye turned all the way to the bridge of my nose. Cute. Very cute. So to correct my newly overzealous eyeball, I had to wear an eyepatch:

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(This was also the Era of the Sweaters and Leggings.) You are all looking at the only picture in existence of the eye patch (aside from my Halloween costume that year which was a very clever pirate). So many things contributed to my coolness, y’all.

I wish I could tell you it got better. I wish I could tell you I figured the style thing out in middle school. Instead, I offer you the following pictures:

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Shoulder pads. Dress made of wallpaper. The hair. And the embarrassment is never far behind. You see, this was a bad day for me. My house was right next door to Blake Scott’s cousin’s house and on this particular Easter, Blake Scott was visiting his cousin. I had a huge crush on Blake Scott and he saw me hunting for Easter eggs and LAUGHED AND LAUGHED AT ME. After this picture was taken, Blake Scott and his cousin started calling me a baby and I went inside and cried. I’ve always had such a thick skin.

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(OMGTHEVESTWHYALLTHEVESTS???? And glasses! And braces! And no boyfriend! Shocking!)

I thought everything would be different in high school. I thought I’d get contacts (I did), get my braces removed (I did) and it would be just like that movie, She’s Out of Control (it wasn’t).

Pictorial proof coming in Part Three. Stay tuned. Let me just say now: eyebrows. Cowboy hats and bandanas. SWEATY PROM DRESS.

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