by Pris Haffenden
When I was a youngster, I developed a severe weight problem. It started just before I first entered school and made me very unpopular in school — taunts and tortures were delivered to me every day. This went on from first through eighth grade, continuing even after I lost all of the weight in 7th grade. Although I was a good student, I hated going to school and hated the bus trips home even more. I lived in agony.
In 1967, my family moved to Simi Valley, California. I had a chance to start over, and I vowed that I would communicate with no one. I wouldn’t give anyone a chance to hurt me as I’d been hurt for so many years. This made for a lonely existence, but I welcomed being invisible. At least nobody would taunt and torture me.
One day, after I’d been at this new school about three months, a girl approached me as I was putting my books in my locker. She invited me to join her circle of friends. I declined — this was a ruse used many times by many people in my past, and always I had found that they wanted to be anything but my friends. It was a way to lure me into their proximity so they could taunt me. I swore I’d never set myself up for that again.
This went on about five days… this person coming up, and me declining. Finally, this person, Rose Anne, grabbed me by the arm and said, “You are going to have friends whether you like it or not.”
She took me over to her other friends, about five girls. They asked about my interests and invited me to go with them for some social activities. They welcomed me into their group with open arms. I couldn’t believe it. Here, finally, was a group of people who wanted to know me, really wanted to know me, and had no interest in taking advantage of me.
I was elated! I had friends!
Up to this point, I had basically lived as a recluse, a misfit. I had no idea how to socially interact with anyone. I was so socially awkward, so inept when it came to interpersonal relations, that no one had wanted to know me.
Through the friendship with Rose and her circle of friends, I learned how to be a teenager. I learned about music, the way to dress, and how to relate to others my own age. I was headed for a life as a recluse, a “mama’s girl”, a socially backward person. These young women, and especially Rosie, saved me and made me the person I am today.
Rosie and I have remained close friends up to this day: 39 years. She saved me from a life of pain and loneliness. I love you, best buddy. Thank you.