Poem: 12

By: Holly Day

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I spent most of my pre-teen years in small towns in Nebraska,
with parents who were hard-core hippies, and I was truly a product
of my upbringing. I publicly despised television, which, of course,
we did not have in our house. I wore my mom’s baggy hand-me-downs
and I loved them, because I thought my mom was cool
and I wanted to be just like her. I listened to NPR every night. I refused

to wear makeup on the protest that whales were killed to make lipstick.
I even compiled my own Dictionary of Cool Words (mostly scientific terms)
that had reached nearly 200 pages by the time I was 11. I was really weird,
but in Nebraska, people treated weird people as humanely

as they treated retarded people—by smiling politely and waiting
until you left the room to shake their heads sadly
and wonder at your future. When I turned 12, my dad got a job offer
from a place in Orange County, California, and all my weirdness

went from something to smile politely at to something to run away from.
All the kids in junior high were obsessed with Prince and Duran Duran,
and the boys even wore makeup and little brooches at their collars and everyone
had to have a pair of lacey fingerless gloves to wear to school. Because I had long hair
and wore jeans, everyone assumed I was a rocker, and into metal, and would quiz me

about Ozzy and Quiet Riot. My dad was a Steely Dan fanatic, while my mom
was obsessed with The Kinks, so I really had no idea what heavy metal even was.
After a while, the majority of my classmates assumed I was just a retard hillbilly
and not cool enough to even be a Hessian, and would amuse themselves
with asking me whether my family had had indoor flush toilets
or if we used outhouses back in Nebraska, or if my parents
were brother and sister or just cousins.

I soon discovered that if I pretended I was possessed by the Devil,
or a similar paranormal something, people would leave me alone.
That became my favorite game, pretending
I was seeing pentagrams on people’s palms, or drawing pentagrams
on my own palms and then accusing people of being werewolves
for seeing the Mark of the Beast on my hand. “What drawing?” I’d say,

pretending I couldn’t see anything on my hand and acting dramatically terrified
of whoever was asking. “You see something on my hand?” It was stupid,
but people started leaving me alone. I had very few friends
in seventh grade, but I didn’t really care.

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