I don’t remember being tested, so perhaps we were just observed in our natural habitat. Either way, in grade 3, I was among a handful of students who were selected for a “pull-out” Enrichment Program. What I didn’t know at the time, was that this was happening in elementary schools all across the city.
Once a week, the teacher of this program would come to my school and our little group would congregate in an empty classroom and be put through our paces. I wasn’t aware of the greater significance of this, I just knew it meant I missed art every Friday.
I’m not sure what qualities were needed to have made this cut, as we were an odd mix… a little like Professor Xavier’s school for mutants in the X-Men. All of us with unique talents, but still in need of training. My super powers were advanced reading and comprehension, and complex problem solving skills.
We continued like this through to the end of grade 6. At this point the ostracism was still relatively minor as the majority of our week was spent in a regular classroom. We weren’t too different… yet.
In the summer between elementary school and junior high, I was invited to join the full-time Enrichment Program. It would be at my local school and the rest of the “pull-out” kids from around the city would be bused in to form a full class of our own.
I remember sitting with my parents at the picnic table in our old backyard. They were asking me if I wanted to join the program or not. I wanted them to make the decision for me but they wouldn’t… this had to be my choice. I said, “Okay, I guess,” and when grade 7 started, I became a “Pinhead”.
You see, the Enrichment Program was the “Pinhead Program” to the rest of the student body. Also unbeknownst to me, this program had been going for a few years already, so there were “Pinhead” classes in grades 7, 8 and 9.
We were all teased, but there were several of us who were able to assimilate pretty well into the general student body. We were outwardly “normal”. I played sports and made the dance team. I also had a sister in grade 9 who was very popular and was afforded some second-hand status.
All said, I had a pretty typical junior high experience. I went to dances and was actually asked to dance. I had my first kiss and a few boyfriends. I was minorly popular and was invited to my share of sleepovers and parties.
Others in my class weren’t as lucky. They were bullied and beaten-up.
I just lost my best friend.
She was the girl that everyone on the block wanted as their best-friend, but I had the honour because we had been next-door neighbours since birth. She was outgoing and daring, and a whole month older. She was the leader.
She was the one who proposed we try to conjure the spirit of Bloody Mary during a sleepover. (When her mother knocked on the door and we all screamed, she just laughed.) She was also the girl who suggested we practice kissing on our pillows and rate the boys we wanted to marry.
By the end of grade 6, we had begun to grow apart. My family had moved to a different street and, although we still walked home together, we had less and less in common. She continued to talk about the boys she wanted to kiss and I talked about the books I was reading.
One day, early in grade 7, we were walking home when she stopped me mid-sentence with a hand on my arm. “Why do you use so many big words? Why can’t you just talk normal.” She sounded disgusted.
I was stunned… and hurt.
A few years later, my mom asked me why I never hung out with this friend anymore when we used to be inseparable. I explained that we no longer had anything in common.
I told her, “I know how to spell fellatio… she knows how to do it.”
Turns out, my mother was also disgusted by my vocabulary.