Shame

  1. I was a sophomore in high school, 15, and painfully awkward
  2. Imagine all the normal teenage angst plus adolescent female insecurities, uncontrolled anxiety, and also a strong feeling that you're just not good enough
  3. I was going to a friend's house to spend the night. I was nervous. I preferred having the home court advantage.
    (And still do)
  4. When we walked inside I was floored at how perfect everything looked. Like tidy and cozy and warm and All-American-HGTV-Martha Stewart-perfect.
  5. I felt out of place.
  6. Then my friend said her mom wanted me to leave my jacket in the laundry room.
  7. I was confused.
  8. She explained that the smell of cigarette smoke bothered her mom.
  9. I apologized and brought it to the laundry room, my cheeks burning with shame and my eyes stinging from tears that I couldn't shed.
  10. (My mother and stepfather smoked. In the house. The car. Wherever. It never occurred to me that I smelled like smoke. I didn't even notice it at the time because it was the norm)
  11. I was so embarrassed.
  12. It felt like confirmation that I was, in fact, different. That I was less. I realized that people probably noticed the smell at school too; that my friends and teachers knew I was trash.
  13. I did my best to appear unaffected. I never mentioned it to my mother; I didn't want to make her feel bad or, worse, have her get all defensive and say something to my friend's mom.
  14. My cheeks still burn when I remember that day.