The day will forever be burned in my memory. I was in sixth grade, about one-and-a-half-feet shorter and 10 pounds heavier than I am now (I was a chubby kid). I was definitely not the most popular kid in middle school.
However, if you don’t get through middle school with one or two memories that make you cringe to this very day, you’re either lying or your memory just doesn’t go back that far.
My most cringe-worthy moment came during one of the biggest, most-anticipated days in my middle school: the class field trip to Brookfield Zoo. Like any middle schooler, field trips were an escape from daily school life and a promise of adventure. But the Brookfield Zoo field trip was the field trip to top them all in the eyes of most children who attended Prairie Hill Middle School.
So, of course, on the morning of the trip, I waited at the bus stop outside of my house, eagerly looking forward to the adventure of the day ahead. Just before the bus pulled up, my mother ran out of the house and handed me a comb while telling me my hair needed a good brush. In those days, my hair was often a thick, tangled mess that would drive my mother crazy. I grabbed the comb from my mother and told her I would fix my hair when I got on the bus.
Once the bus pulled up, I hopped on and found my own private seat across from two boys who lived down the street from me. All the middle schoolers were talking about how they couldn’t wait to get to the zoo. The plan was to disembark from the bus that brought us to school and meet with our classes in front of another bus that would take us directly to Brookfield.
Just as my bus approached the parking lot of the school, I remembered the comb in my backpack. I pulled it out and began to pull it through my long, knotty tresses. While doing so, I began to daydream of the exciting, exotic animals I would see throughout the day. Absentmindedly, I began to twist the comb through a long strand of hair until I snapped out of my daydream and realized the comb was stuck in my fringe. I began to frantically pull at the comb, but that only made the situation worse. In the end, the comb had made its way almost to my scalp.
The boys across from me had noticed what had happened and began to laugh. I, being the drama queen that I was (and still am), panicked. Our bus came to a stop in the school parking lot, and I knew I was out of time. I yanked my hood far over my head to cover the comb, and I ran to the nurse’s office.
Now, I was one of those kids who frequented the nurse’s office daily, so the nurse and I were on a first-name basis. When I entered the office, I immediately pulled my hood down and tried to explain what had happened between sobs. The nurse, who appeared to stifle a laugh or two, calmed me down.
For a good half an hour she tried to work the comb out of my hair with no success. Eventually, she called my teacher and explained why I had not shown up for the field trip. My teacher said the whole bus was delayed as they waited for me. So in a rush, my only option was to have the school nurse cut off the comb at the base of my fringe.
With one swift snip of her scissors, the nurse sent me on my way to a bus full of sixth graders who were angry that their trip of fun had gotten delayed. Puffy-eyed and fringe-less, I walked onto the bus of glaring middle schoolers. I toured Brookfield Zoo for a whole day with a haircut that never has and never will be in style.
To make matters worse, the nurse called my mother to tell her how “traumatized” I was. My mother – being the easy-going person she is – greeted me as I got off the bus that day with a “I love your hair cut, Sammy.”
My hope for all who read this is that you embrace the stories you would rather forget. Embarrassment is a part of life, and I often look back on that fateful day and laugh. I’ve told the story to my closest friends and have left them in fits of laughter as we recount how ridiculous it was.
Bottom line: What once seemed like the end of the world is now my favorite source of laughter. Welcome your awkward, uncomfortable and cringe-inducing moments. It’s those moments that make us human.