A group of nerdy men were in line in front of me at the coffee shop. Probably IT guys or actuaries. One of them said something and nodded in my direction. One of them smiled, the other laughed, and I shut down.
I stared at the ground, focused on the crappy music playing in the shop. I knew it was time for me to move forward in line when their feet moved out of view. It’s an automatic response, a defense mechanism.
In grade school, I was used as a way for boys in my class to taunt each other. “Hey, Dave. There’s your girlfriend.” or “Bridget, Ken’s too shy to say it, but he has a crush on you.”
For four years of my life it was an almost daily occurrence. It programmed me to think that if people were talking to or about me, they were ridiculing me. That every smile is a jeer, every compliment is a lie, and that being the target of my affection was a terrible fate.
As I was walking back to my desk, I realized that I was turning Nothing into Something. I have no idea what they were talking about. He was probably nodding toward the parking lot, the building across the way, a suburb down the road, the general direction of Something Else Altogether. And if he was talking about me, maybe it was a good thing. “Hey, that’s the lady who gave Kendall Salad Fingers” or “She’s the chick who used to sing to Dianne sometimes.” or “Dude! Her lanyard has the Hylian crest on it!”