Chapter 2; When your mother is a witch (and other embarrassments)
In this chapter we learn that Meylyne has two best friends. Or, in her words, “her only friends.” For this she blames her “scary mother and even scarier father.” No one else in the Between-World has an outlaw Garlysle for a father and a brilliant sorceress for a mother so what chance does she have at fitting in?
Well actually, if everyone else knew alchemy, or if she had grown up with a bunch of mafia kids, her parents wouldn’t be a problem at all. She’d be the same as everyone else. The real problem is that her parents make her feel different from the other children.
Feeling different can be complicated. I don’t think anyone really wants to feel ordinary. At the same time, feeling very different from the norm can be alienating and embarrassing. When I was a child, I moved twice—once when I was 10 and once when I was 14. Both times I felt incredibly different from my new classmates … and not in a good way. Mind you, both times I survived, thanks to the small posse of friends I made (and by the way, having two friends, like Meylyne, is plenty).
The move at 14 was the biggest, when I moved from England to America. Although I generally looked the same as the others (a lot of the kids were white like I was) and spoke the same language, nothing else felt the same—it was a different culture, different values, different clothes … and an even more different accent. In those first few months I made a thousand cringe-worthy mistakes. I used words that meant one thing in England and something entirely different (and often totally unacceptable) in America. I wore the wrong clothes. I spent countless class periods crying in the bathroom after being punished for being too direct. It was a bewildering and painful experience for sure.
But guess what? I have since learned that I was not alone in feeling different. Most of the other kids were self-conscious too! So what if I was from a different country? There were plenty of kids that had grown up in America and still felt like the odd ones out. People hide their insecurities really well. Like this one girl in my neighborhood—she was cool and popular, and everyone wanted to hang out with her. Her parents didn’t let her shave her legs but that didn’t even bother her. In our neighborhood, that definitely made her different! How I envied her self-confidence. As much as I despised my differentness, I loathed my need to fit in just as much. Back then I thought, “well, she has every reason to feel self-confident. She’s not an immigrant.”
Now I know that’s not true. I later found out that she was embarrassed about having hairy legs—she just hid it. What I mistook for ‘cool’ was really a form of shyness on her part.
I wish I had known back then just how alike we all were in feeling different. I’m sure I’d have been a lot happier. Friendlier. More open. I bet others would’ve been too. As it was, our differences separated us. Goths scorned the Squares. Athletes ignored Brains and so on. Susie Hinton describes this battle really well in one of my all-time favorite books, THE OUTSIDERS. In it, the Socs and the Greasers hate each other for their perceived differences but at the end of the day the two groups are essentially the same.
How about you? Have you ever felt different from everyone else? How did you react? Probably with embarrassment or resentment. I find that the pain of feeling different runs deep. There are still times that I feel left out and angry and when I pinpoint the source, it’s that same feeling of being different and alienated in some way. The best way to combat that feeling is not to react right away. Instead, try “feeling your feelings.” I know it sounds ridiculous (like you have any choice but to feel embarrassed when your classmate sneers at your bargain-brand bike, or whatever) but I do find it helps because you end up not just feeling your feelings but also labeling them. Once you do that, the bad feeling tends to go away after a moment or two. Try it!
Tell me about the last time you felt different. I’d love to hear from you!