It wasn’t unusual to appear poor where I grew up. Prior to middle school, I had only one friend who purchased her clothes from a shopping mall. The rest of us were outfitted at the farm supply store- happily.
Except for “Jenny.” I don’t think anyone had ever bought clothes for Jenny.
Jenny never looked clean. She often wore the same exact clothes for days. Her hair was constantly matted. She disappeared for days at a time. Her mother was the talk of the town. At eight-years-old, I had already heard, “Jenny’s mom won’t have any more babies after this one because welfare doesn’t increase after six children,” enough times that I believed Jenny’s mom gave birth for business purposes.
Jenny wanted to be my friend.
Fourth-grade-me knew that it wasn’t popular to be Jenny’s friend. At least I was pretty sure it wasn’t, since she didn’t have any friends.
One day I was talking with my mom trying to come up with excuses not be Jenny’s friend. I told her, “She makes up these crazy stories and says she goes places like Disney World and eats at fancy restaurants. Everyone knows she’s lying!”
There: I had an excuse. Jenny lies. My mother wouldn’t want me to hang out with a liar.