too ugly

One of the things about parenting that I do not look forward to are the middle school years.  Especially because I really hope my son is kind to the awkward girls.  Because we all know it’s hell as a girl to go through the judgey middle school years.

For me middle school was pretty terrible all around, but I do have to admit there were bright spots.

Art class with my best friend, Tonya, for instance.  The teacher let us listen to the radio during class, and we got to sketch things terribly and giggle uncontrollably at our horrible art skills.

Band with my best friend, Tonya, because we made the band director cry.  What?

Applied Technology class with my best friend, Tonya, because our balsa wood bridge couldn’t hold the bucket, our bottle submarine wouldn’t hover, our sailboat sunk, and we filed our nails on the electric sander, but still got A’s. (We love you, Mr. Poest).

But my best friend wasn’t in all my classes.  In fact, she was only in my elective classes, so I had to suffer get through the core classes on my own, and I did my best to make new friends.

I can remember walking into my seventh grade science class and not knowing anybody on the first day, and I was actually thankful that my teacher, one of the high school football coaches, put us in assigned seats that he declared would be ours for the entire school year.  Which meant that the person at our lab table would be our lab partner for the entire school year.  I was nervous and relieved at the same time.  I was glad I wouldn’t have to suffer through no one picking me, but I was anxious that I would be put with someone too nerdy or too cool.  What would I do?

My permanent seat was all the way in the back corner next to the door and my lab partner was Steve.  Steve looked like a high school football player already because that was his goal in life.  I was sort of excited  that I got a cute guy as my lab partner, but I knew I wasn’t one of the popular girls, so I would have to prove myself.

In front of us sat Jeremy, the nerdiest kid in the world, and Jeanna, someone who smoked and had a high school boyfriend.  If we ever had to work in groups of four, they were our automatic partners.  We were the four most unlikely group in the seventh grade.  We were like the Breakfast Club, but in science class instead of Saturday School.

We actually became quite the group…pretty close.  None of us socialized outside of class, but in class we always worked together and talked to each other about stuff other than science.  So that is why toward spring, I thought I could tell Steve that I thought he was cute.

So I did.  In science class.  In front of Jeanna and Jeremy.

I partly blame Jeanna because she told me that she thought he totally liked me.  And stuff.

Anyway, he laughs a little like I am telling him a joke.  Then he puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Aw Kate.  You are just too ugly to ever get a boyfriend.  But you are so funny.  You’re a great friend!”

And he went back to work.

Like nothing happened.

And my face burned.  I wanted to just disappear.

But instead I thought of myself as ugly for years.  YEARS.  Twenty years and counting.

One statement.  In middle school.  That wasn’t even true.

I don’t want Eddie to EVER say anything like that. To anyone.  Ever.

How do I prevent that?  How do I teach him to be kind to all even when he is insecure about himself?

How do I show him that there is no such thing as “too ugly”?

This week’s prompt was to write about an embarrassing moment.


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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Kristin r says

    Aww that is horrible. Maybe tell him this story when he gets a little older and he will remember that his words affect other people sometimes for life.

    And as for Steve? He’s a jerk and I hope he’s visiting with karma.

  2. Reading this brought back a flood of middle school memories I thought were gone and buried! Not a good time for anyone.
    Well, except for Steve. And the boys in my class whose names I’ve long forgotten but were exactly the same as Steve.

  3. I wrote about middle school, too.

    It terrifies me, for both of my kids, in different ways. Abbey is so sensitive, and girls are so, so mean.

    Teaching middle school didn’t do anything to make me feel better about the whole thing!

    And Steve? He probably didn’t even know he was being awful, which makes it a little worse in a way.

  4. You can;t prevent it. My girls are told every day how beautiful and smart and funny and interesting they are. They still worry about their looks, comparisons to other girls, and the other emotions girls go through.

    It was beat into my head at an early age to respect your edlers, the opposite sex and yourself. I was one of the smallest kids in my glass and always the youngest. I developed a sharp wit to deflect bullies.

    The only thing I can say is teach your child everything you want them to know and be. Hopefully they’ll use that at preteen and teen age. My teenage daughter amazes me every day.

  5. I can’t believe anyone would say something like that but sadly, the world can be an ugly place. Things were said to me in middle school that stuck with me for years so I know how you feel.

    My oldest is going into 4th grade. She was talk to and play with anyone, but over the past year I really started to notice cliques forming. This kind of negativity is something I worry about.

    I think all we can do is talk to and teach our kids how we want them to be and hope that they are listening.

  6. Holy crap. I’m sure I sad mean things to people in middle school and have no recollection of it, and I bet they remember every word. Middle school is horrid. I guess we teach them how to behave and hwo to act and how to feel hurt and how to react and hope for the best?

  7. Are you effing serious? I don’t care how old you are, WHO SAYS THAT?

    Can you tell I’ve been hurt in a similar way before?

    Rob and I talk about this all the time – especially when I was pregnant and the whole baby thing was “real” to us. How do you teach a child compassion? Respect? Empathy? I suppose through example and through taking the time to talk to a child about how words can hurt just as much as a punch or a kick. Maybe more.

  8. Awww, sweetie. I think that no matter how outwardly beautiful each one of us are, we were all made to feel ugly at some point in our lives. Sometimes it scares me raising two boys. It’s so much pressure to teach them to RESPECT girls. My guess is that my boys will unfortunately break hearts and maybe have their hearts broken too. It’s just a part of life. It’s a part of learning.

    I’m so sorry that one awful comment effected how you viewed yourself for so long. I also had those demons to contend with after high school. And I did not cope well for a long time.

    But just tell me you believe you’re beautiful now. Inside and out. Because you are. That guy? He was the ugly one for saying that to you. But hopefully he learned his lesson in the form of karma.

  9. OMG! Do you think he was uncomfortable with you telling him that, so that’s how he responded? Lots of people, when things get awkward, can get mean even if they don’t really feel that way.

  10. Kids can be SO CRUEL. I went through a very awkward stage when I was 13/14 and I am so relieved that my 13 year old daughter isn’t going through the same thing.

  11. who would say that…oh Steve. Right?
    I don’t how to not have boys do this, I’ll kill Gio and Jacob if they utter things like this with no thought to how it hurts. If you find out you let me know, because being the mother of boys is kicking my ass lately.

    what a bonehead. 😉 You’re too pretty to be called ugly. Ever.

  12. I had an almost exact experience in the eighth grade.

    I remember that day so perfectly – I curled my hair, pulled it back with a navy bow. Put on a navy polo shirt & jeans. I thought I looked so pretty that day, which was incredibly rare. I even had my mother take a picture.

    In home room, a boy told me that I looked especially ugly that day. I think I even called my mom “sick” to go home early, I was so crushed.

  13. In college, I had this really good guy friend. We did everything together. And one night he was lying down in my bed with me b/c it was after my friend died. We were talking and laughing and in general I was head over heels for him. And as he lay there with his arms around me IN A BED he tells me “This is what I want, you know? In a girlfriend? I want what we have… only with someone I’m physically attracted to.”

    I still hate him to this day.

    • Don’t even ask Kate what I told her before we ended up dating… it’s still humorous to this day. And for the record, it wasn’t said to be malicious. 🙂

    • Law Momma–ouch. Thanks for sharing this story-I had a similar college friendship and for the longest time I wondered if it would’ve been easier to move on had I just known for sure he didn’t feel the same way (we never explicitly discussed it). This makes me think not so much!

  14. Look at it this way – Steve probably went on to play high school football, which turned out to be the pinnacle of his life, and now he’s just a fat, middle-aged used car salesman who drinks too much PBR and still talks nonstop about the good ‘ol days because he just can’t let go. The Steves of this world often peak in high school.

    You, on the other hand, have moved on. And more importantly, you’ve proven Steve wrong… and you have a wonderful husband and son, not to mention an engaged blogging community, to show for it.

    So, just tell your inner Steve to suck it. 🙂

  15. Oh, my heart sank. I HATED middle school too. Kids are such little jerks sometimes. They have such a way of making us feel so small. But we as adults can remember that and be better and hopefully teach our kids to be better. It’s the parents that never grew out of that mentality that I worry about.

  16. That is truly evil – wow. As a penised human, I’m quite ashamed. I can tell you that he, very likely, didn’t even think about the words he was using, but I know it doesn’t hurt at all.

    I have three stories of horrible “it’s not going to happen” times. First, in 7th grade, I called a girl, K, asking her out. It took me all day to work up the courage. She said no. The next day, her best friend found out. I still remember, in English, during some journal sharing (we had to write for 10 minutes at the start of every class – those who wished to share could), hearing “I hope the future Mr & Mrs Batzer make beautiful babies together.”

    Next, I asked P to a semi-formal dance at the end of 8th grade. Another kid asked her first, though, but she had not given him an answer. She was discussing the dilemma with her friends at lunch and someone asked what I would do to the other kid when P decided to go with him. See, I’ve been well over six feet tall for quite some time. Another friend asked “What’s the worst he could do, Oxidize him?” See, I had horrible acne, in addition to being freakishly tall. That nickname stuck for quite some time.

    Then, early my freshman year of high school, there was a bookish girl that I really liked – she consistently made me laugh, she was kind. I asked her out after an “investment club” meeting, because we all wanted to make tons of money. She looked at me & said “that’s sweet, but I need to focus on getting into Brown. Have a nice day,” turned her back, and walked away.

    After that, I never even asked anyone out that I went to school with.

  17. Oh wow. Boys can be so dumb. I’m sure he forgot about that comment 2 minutes later while it still hurts you 20 years later. I’m sorry! I think you’re beautiful!

  18. Most of my comments would echo the ones you’ve already received. Because I try to see all people as whole humans, that guy was a stunted, hormonally fucked up middle school kid who was going through his own crazy crap. So maybe he won’t rot in the seventh level of hell. Maybe. But I’m sorry that happened to you. Middle school was similar for me too. As always your writing was spot on for the subject matter. I like that you went ahead and went for painful embarassing and not just light and easy embarassing. Really good work.

  19. Oh that is horrible and I am sorry that you are carrying that crazy comment all these years! My son is heading off to middle school in the fall and I am nervous about this too. He is a little on the compassionate side at this point so I am praying that will remain and he won’t turn into one of those middle school stinkers!

  20. That is brutal. I completely relate though. I always felt “ugly” and uncool in middle school/jr high. I wore glasses, and didn’t have “cool” clothes. None of the popular kids liked me. Or so I felt.

    I hovered on the edge of many social circles, trying to fit in yet not willing to change “me” enough to be truly accepted.

    I hope my girls have more confidence than I did.

  21. I’m so sorry you had to endure that rejection but even more sorry that you still feel the sting of his words now. It’s a hard thing to let go of isn’t it?

    Katie I don’t know you personally but I know our God and he created you perfectly, beautifully, special, with dreams and specific plans for your life. You will to set this world on fire with the ideas you hold within you.

    No I’m not a preacher just an encourager who can’t stand to see one human cause another to feel devalued.

  22. Consider this stunned silence.

    I think the worst thing about that it that it sounds like he wasn’t a total jerk who said that to be mean. He just blurted it out and honestly didn’t think about how you’d take it. But you’re right – it wasn’t true.

  23. In seventh grade this girl told me, “You’re pretty.” She sat and waited while I stared at her, because I knew something mean was next. I was right. “Pretty ugly.”

    Good times, those middle school years.

  24. Oh no Katie. That is terrible. What a jerk face. I wonder where Mr. Football star is today?

  25. God… why are we compelled to behave like this to one another?

    A boy named Noel… an awkward, too-tall, not very interesting guy… I asked him to dance with me at a middle school dance. He was alone standing by a wall. And that was apparently a better choice than being seen doing the zombie-shuffle spin with me.

    I recently had the pleasure of not accepting his friend request on FB. But truthfully, I hate that I still feel vindictive.

  26. I want to punch your lab partner.
    It is such a cruel reality that when we are at our most sensitive, imprintable, and experiencing the most emotional turmoil, we also happen to be surrounded by people in the same boat who say really stupid things.
    i happen to like your face very much.

  27. Oh Steve, what the hell were you thinking? Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t thinking. I want to believe Steve was just dumb and not that Steve was malicious. But he might have been both. I felt the embarrassment right along with you.

  28. I hope he grew up and got fat.

  29. I can’t even really comment effectively on this since my own daughter is going into seventh grade next year and I am terrified for her.

    She is fragile and sweet and has the purest heart – really.
    She is beautiful.

    But oh. If anyone makes her feel bad about herself?
    I think I could rage. I would rage.

    How do we protect our babies from the world?
    And who are the parents raising these assholes anyway?


  30. Middle school? Totally hard as a kid.

    And as a parent of a kid making their way through it all? Like torture at times.

    But you are raising Eddie to be kind and think first, and he will be way better than a lot of the boys. But still, we all do and say things, test the waters, and sometimes are just NOT kind. And that stinks.