The beginning of fourth grade sucked big time for me. I was the new girl in school, short and skinny, with big feet and ears that were just a little too big for my face. My ears were just pointy enough to stick through my long, pin straight hair and wave hello. A few of the fourth grade boys had started to call me Gelfling — an elf/troll-like creature with wings from a movie called The Dark Crystal.
I do not believe this was a compliment.
No one warned me that once you turn ten, kids become much more discerning about who they are friends with. The life of playing with whomever happens to be on the playground was long gone. There were qualities one had to have; for example, excellent Double Dutch skills, quick hands for playing Chinese Jacks, yummy lip gloss, and the right pair of Chic jeans. I had none of those things.
One morning during class, the teacher announced that we would be having a fourth grade talent show the following month, right before Christmas Break. Oooooh, I so wanted to be in it! My mom had started me in dance classes the year before, and I was quite genius at it. I immediately began having daydreams of the entire school being brought to tears by the beauty of my intermediate jazz dance skills.
I signed up right away.
It only took me until lunch to become completely panicked about it. Was I seriously thinking of getting up there, by myself, and jostling around in front of fifty kids who didn’t particularly care for me in the first place? NOPE. What I needed was a buffer — at least one other person that I could convince to do it with me.
In music class, when we were learning how to play the recorder, she had told me that my fingers were really long and that’s why I was so good at it. I knew she was my best bet, and here’s why:
- She spoke to me.
- She was not popular.
- She was not an outcast.
- She paid my long fingers a compliment.
- She spoke to me.
So, the next day, I casually breezed up along side her at the lunch line and said: “I dance.”
I sensed she wasn’t reading my mind so I elaborated: “Talent show. You wanna?”
Christina got my meaning then, and said casually: “No.”
Deflated, I slinked away thinking that being an actual Gelfling would be way cooler than being a fourth grader.
Later that day, at second recess, I looked up from one of my Judy Blumes (so cliché but so real) to find Christina standing next to me. She asked me, in a hushed tone: “Why’d you ask me?”
“Honestly?”, I asked.
“Yeah”, she said.
“I don’t want to do it by myself, and you’re not as scary to me as everyone else is.”
“How come I’m not scary?”
“You talked to me in music class, and I’ve never seen you wear a pair of Chic jeans. No one really pays that much attention to you.”
“What are you gonna dance to?”, she asked.
“Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ “, I said.
“I know. I can do every single move from the video”, I said.
“Could you teach me?”
Folks, that was the beginning of the rest of my fourth grade life.
I brought my boom box to school the next day and we started to practice every day at recess. We decided to practice in the girl’s bathroom, because we didn’t want alot of people to see it before it was done. We had four whole weeks, and that was plenty of time to create the toughest, coolest, most spectacular dance number ever.
Now, Christina wasn’t the most graceful of girls — she often had trouble negotiating the sidewalk on her walk to class. But, in that bathroom, when I hit play and “Beat It” would start, girl could GET DOWN! I even taught her to stand on the tip tops of her toes, just like Michael.
With the sounds of Michael Jackson pumping out of the girl’s bathroom, it didn’t take long for people to start coming in to take a peek. After only two days of rehearsing, who should walk in, but Kimi Kawaji. I repeat, Kimi Kawaji! She was the most beautiful girl in the fourth grade, her hair was straight at the top and curly on the bottom, and she always wore Chic jeans. She waltzed in with her gaggle of girls, and stood in front of the mirror to put on lip gloss.
I decided that my masterpiece would not be sidetracked and Christina and I continued dancing like she wasn’t even there. Now in my head, I was freaking out, but I just kept listening to the song —
You have to show them that you’re really not scared.
You’re playin’ with your life, this ain’t no truth or dare.
I don’t know what came over me, but I looked Kimi right in the freakin’ eyes, grabbed my crotch, stood on my toes, and shouted ” whoo!”
At that particular point, the music stopped. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Christina had pressed stop on the boom box. She was staring at me with the most terrified look in her eyes. The moment finally began to hit me, and while my face became extremely hot, I decided it was time to slowly remove my hand of my crotch.
Then, the weirdest thing happened — Kimi started to giggle, grabbed her crotch, and shouted “whoo!”. I grabbed my crotch again. “whoo!” She grabbed hers. “whoo!”
Her cohorts started to laugh, and Christina ended up on the floor in stitches. Then, I just blurted out: “We’re dancing to ‘Beat It’ for the talent show, and we need a whole gang. You guys wanna do it with us?”
She said yes. She didn’t even hesitate. SHE SAID YES. That was the power of Michael.
The next day, she and her three friends joined us in the bathroom. Two weeks later, We had thirteen girls jammed into that bathroom, dancing around. I gave everyone choreography, and they did it! No one thought I was stupid, they just did it!
I also decided that we should all do sit-ups and push ups before practice. That’s what my dance instructor had our class do- so I figured, why not. We wanted to look tough doing this dance, so we had to build muscle. We rehearsed every day, first and second recess. They did the sit ups, I counted them out… like the drill sergeant. Thirteen fourth grade girls doing sit-ups on a dirty bathroom floor. We were like the coolest gang ever.
We all decided we needed a name. A name that inspired fear, but was still kinda pretty since we were a bunch of ten year old girls. I can’t remember the name of the girl that came up with the winner, but I’ll never forget the name — it was perfect. We would be called: The White Gloves.
After that, even more girls showed up wanting to join, but I had to cut it off at thirteen — we weren’t gonna take just anybody…
besides, there wasn’t any more room in the bathroom.
Come talent show day, we all showed up early to rehearse in our Member’s Only jackets. When we took that stage, we looked so tough– I’m sure we looked almost like sixth graders.
When that music started, and Michael started singing- our little bodies became possessed. We were snapping and strutting. We were balancing on our toes. We were moonwalking. We were pulling up the collars on our jackets, and yup, we were grabbing our crotches. I even bit my lip for a little extra sass.
After the show, a boy named Maurice came up and talked to me. He was very cute, and also, very often liked to call me Gelfling.
“You made that up?” he asked.
“Yeah” I said.
“Wow. That was … pretty bad.”
“Thanks, you too.” I said.
His talent was to spin on his head as long as he could, over and over again. I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen.
From that day on, I loved fourth grade. Kimi and I were too different to really be friends, but she said hi to me, and we’d show our hands in a sort of White Glove salute. Christina and I hung out all the time, and my mom eventually bought me a pair of Chic jeans. People talked about the “White Gloves” every now and then, and how the teachers freaked out about us grabbing our crotches.
I was no longer the outcast.
I was no longer Gelfling.
I was cool.
I was … Bad.