*All names have been changed, so that my current friends can’t Facebook my friends from third grade and make fun of me with them. Their real names are scattered around the internet – see if you can find them.
On the first day of third grade, I wasn’t sure if Greg Mason was still my boyfriend. I couldn’t remember what we had said to each other in June on the last day of second grade at Glen Hill Elementary School in Glendale Heights, IL. He gave me his home phone number and I had told him that I wasn’t allowed to use the phone. That’s all I remembered.
I walked into the room marked 19 and hung up my new yellow jacket on one of the coat hooks that lined the entire right wall. “Hello! Welcome!” called Mrs. Brighton from across the room. She was short and pudgy, with extremely short hair. “Find your desk and start your settle-down activity!” she said.
I walked through the five rows of paired desks, looking for my name and excitedly greeting my friends. There was Tammy Martin, with whom I sometimes matched clothes. There was Danny Modi, who always beat me in chess. There was Wesley Blue, who had glasses like me and was my best friend.
“Nausheen!” I heard my name being called from the left side of the room. I turned. It was Greg. He had grown a tiny bit taller over the summer, and he was still beautiful. He waved and smiled. “I’m your seat partner.” I walked over to our desks. He showed me what our settle-down activity was. Then, he told me about his music camp girlfriend, Laura, who was learning to play the violin like him.
I knew I was supposed to be at least a little upset by this new information. Greg had dumped me and started dating again, all during one summer, without informing me. It was like he had completely forgotten all the beautiful times we had together, like when he defended me from the hall monitor or when he gave me half a chocolate bunny for Valentine’s Day. I said loudly, “Yeah well, I kissed my friend at basketball camp this summer.” Greg was startled. This was a complete and utter lie. I had gone to a girls basketball camp. But now that we had clarified our break-up, we focused on our settle-down activities in front of us.
The settle-down activity was what was supposed to keep all the kids quiet until the Pledge of Allegiance at 8:20am, after which class started. Today’s settle-down activity was coloring. The white sheet of paper in front of me had the outline of a girl with a dress. I assumed we were supposed to give her hair and a face, and color her dress. Greg’s white sheet had the outline of a person with a shirt and pants. He had already started giving the person a face with glasses.
“How come yours gets to have pants?” I said. Greg paused.
“It’s a boy,” he explained. “Yours is a girl.”
“I want one with pants,” I decided out loud. Greg looked at me.
“But yours is supposed to be a girl! You’re a girl.” I rolled my eyes at him. I grabbed my coloring sheet and marched toward the back of the classroom to Mrs. Brighton’s desk. She looked up at me as I approached. “Yes, sweetie?” she smiled.
“Can I have a coloring sheet with pants, please?” I asked, as nicely as I could. She looked at me.
“Sweetie, your person is a girl,” she explained slowly. “Because you’re a girl. You can color her dress!” She looked very excited at the idea of me coloring a dress.
“I don’t like dresses that much,” I said politely. “I want to color a girl with pants.” I was getting annoyed at how long this exchange was taking.
“The coloring sheets with pants are for the boys, I’m sorry.” Mrs. Brighton was still smiling. She explained that we were going to hang them up and it would be confusing if one girl had pants because then no one would know that I was a girl. She was using the same logic as Greg.
I walked back to my desk, distraught and confused. Greg saw the look on my face and offered to ask Mrs. Brighton for another sheet with pants and then give it to me. He was so sweet, it was a little bit annoying. Needless to say, Greg and I drifted apart that year.
*This is not Greg Mason.