The Popcorn Incident

Let me tell you a story about one of my most embarrassing moments, one that has been with me since I was in elementary school.

One night, I think Mom and Dad wanted to go out on the town, so they left me and a friend at the YMCA for a movie night. We sat on a sticky floor surrounded by strange kids who’d also been signed up for this event as a ruse to give their parents a break, and we stared at a television set that looked like it had been rolled in from a nursing home. As kids chomped on popcorn and drank too much sugary soda, I could feel these strangers’ eyes boring down on me because I was the only person out of 5 billion people in the world in 1989 who hated popcorn.

I was also fat, so I was an anomaly to the others as I wasn’t eating from a greasy bag of buttered kernels that smelled to me like socks. Two girls sitting a few feet from me zeroed in on this situation and started to throw those stale bits of popcorn at me. “Eat, you pig. You know you want to. You sure are fat,” they whispered in voices that sounded harsher than any other fourth graders’ voices I’d ever heard.

I tried to hold in the tears that started to push at my eyelids. I could feel my face burn with embarrassment. I would have rather peed my pants than have those girls call me fat in public. I wanted to run, to find an adult, to see my dad, but I couldn’t move because it’s not possible to get up off the floor while being fat after bullies have called you out for being fat. My friend was my hero. She gave them the fourth-grade death glare and said, “Shut up, bitches,” adding in a swear word because when you’re nine you can do that. Her parents ran the bar in Brunswick, so she was very worldly and knew how to cuss someone out in 47 different ways.

I made my friend promise not to tell anyone about those bullies at the YMCA Movie Night. I don’t know that I even said anything to my parents when they picked us up. I just sat in the backseat and felt what had already become repetitive in my nine years on Earth–my body was revolting; therefore, I was not good enough. Strangers had seen my weakness in the chub that rested around my belly, and they’d pounced. That night was more evidence that I was simply wrong.