I was an obedient child, quiet and unwaveringly contemplative. Young life may not seem the stuff of intellectual dwelling, but I was endlessly fascinated by anything, be it an image in a math book, a strange picture on the wall with a miniature copy of the same picture on the side, and the behavior of my teachers, which seemed to me as alien as anything else.
It was many years ago when I had attended this school, and I have forgotten almost everything about it, other than the fact its mascot was a pickle. It had a strange sort of gym class that also involved acting and dancing -- that is, "dancing" as in what a child under the age of five can do.
In this drama class we did skits. There was one skit that required two boys, two girls, and the rest of us could be soldiers. I was not disappointed at not being chosen as one of the main girl actors; I didn't want to be a witch, and so that meant the only part available was the princess, and my chances of getting chosen for that were slim in a class of about thirty-five. No, it was another skit that became trouble.
We were all doing an activity called "party hats". It involved dancing around to some really cheesy song. Before all that took place, us children had to have party hats. We had been given places to stand, and told to stay there as the teachers passed out the hats. I patiently waited; the others did not.
Two of the teachers were distributing princess hats. They were the classic, conical type with the ribbon on top, each one a different color and shiny with gold lace. Of course I wanted one, and I waited patiently in my spot as the other girls crowded around the teachers. I figured that the teachers would see me being good and save a hat for me. They did not. For a moment I feared they would run out, but more was brought out. And then they ran out again. The other girls had princess hats (the teachers did have a lot of them), and the obedient girl did not.
It would have stung less had they found some sufficient substitute. I would have gladly accepted a "Peter Pan hat". However, the teacher saw fit to provide me with a bowler cap. It was plain black, with no details whatsoever. What made it worse was that I did not know it was called a bowler cap, but knew it only as a "fat man hat", because in Westerns it was always larger men that wore them. I would have been fine with this if it were covered in glitter, as that would make it a "jazz hat", and jazz is fun. Instead I just ended up with a hat that made no sense in the context of a hat party. There are fewer ways to hurt a little girl's heart more horribly than by telling her she is not a princess, but a fat man.
I do not believe the teachers' intent was malicious. I was always quiet and obedient at that time, and there is no reason for the hypothetically bitter teacher to take out her anger on me. There is no reason to believe any of the teachers were bitter at all. They were probably just hassled women who had to figure out how in the world they were going to give hats to all these girls.
When I was younger, I took a nobler approach in reasoning with this: "better me than them". After all, if I had a princess hat, it would mean that someone else would be stuck with the bowler. I knew how awful that felt, and so I could shoulder that hurt myself, and let the other girls be princesses. A more modern view of this situation would show that I was simply too docile, and that I should have rushed forward and got what was "mine", ignoring whatever the other girls wanted.
In a technical sense, both of these views are true. Yes, I could have rushed forward and pushed my way into getting a princess hat, and yes, by staying in place I prevented another girl from being stuck with the depressing alternative. In essence, I could define this situation any way I wanted. The point is, no one decides how a situation affects a person other than the person involved. People are not static figures on a paper that go where the theoretician supposes, but dynamic creatures whose pre-defined souls make their own decisions.
Instead of letting that moment define me, I choose to define it. And at the end of it all, this is how I define that moment. It was the time when I learned to be left out. I gained first-hand knowledge of how much it hurts to be the lone "fat man" in a sea of princesses. This is education at its rawest form. Because I have seen this, I now know to look at a given situation differently, with eyes on the heart. I know how to look at the forgotten and left out, and to see the things that others ignore.