When I was in grade school, I used to cheat on tests.

Wait, you’re getting the wrong idea. I didn’t cheat off of other students. I was a straight A student myself; I didn’t need to look at anyone else’s answers.

I let them cheat off me.

See, we moved every year. I went to a different school for every grade from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Every year. I was always the new kid. I never knew any differently.

Yeah, you’d think military family, but that wasn’t it. My dad ran nursing homes, and he was the kind of guy who would go into a nursing home that was close to failing state survey, he’d clean it up, hire people, fire people, get it in better shape, and then move on to the next one. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve heard some stories (from my now divorced mother) about how my dad just wasn’t happy anywhere and he just kept wanting to move, but I’m going to keep my illusions about the nursing home thing, thank you very much.

Anyway. Back to the cheating.

So you know what happens to new kids, right? They never have a best friend. They never have realΒ  friends, period. I remember being in fifth grade, and starting a fledgling friendship with this one girl. We were eating lunch together, and we learned that our birthdays were one day apart.

I got all excited and said, “Isn’t that cool? Maybe we could have a birthday party together! My mom said I can have an ice skating party this year, and–“

She cut me off and said, “Yeah, I really don’t like you very much. I was just eating with you because the teacher said I had to be nice.”

I don’t think I ever talked to her again.

So when you don’t have any friends, and you feel like no one likes you, you can go in two directions. You can do what my brother did: spend your grade school years with a chip on your shoulder, full of knee-jerk reactions and defensive attitude. Or you can do what I did: anything you can to possibly make people like you.

When you’re a straight-A student, people want to cheat off you.

So I let them. All the time. Copy homework, look at my test, whatever.

Did this make me any friends?

Nope. But it bought me some refuge from the normal new-kid crap.

I did have sorta-friends while I was growing up. I mean every kid finds friends eventually. But mine were always the one-offs. The kids who were already outcasts from their class, so I naturally fit in with them. Maybe they were relieved to have a friend, too.

When I got to high school, I knocked that crap off. I went to a private, all-girls Catholic high school. It wasn’t like a feeder school, so everyone was new. There were all kinds of ice-breaking activities and Freshman orientation, and being a good student was a good thing, not something to make you an outcast. I had friends. Lots of them. We were geeks, sure, but we were friends.

And the funny thing was, I didn’t have to do a damn thing to get them.

I still don’t have dozens of friends. I’m not one of those people who goes out with a big group of girls for every occasion. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a big group of girls, honestly. I didn’t go to college for very long (that’s a story for another day), so I don’t have sorority sisters to hang out with. All my high school friends went off to college after graduation, and I started a corporate job, so our paths diverged somewhat.

I don’t want this to sound depressing. I’m a pretty resilient person, I can change gears on the fly, and I can get along with just about anyone. Really, anyone. It makes me very good at my job. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything. I have an incredible mom, and I’m married to an amazing man.

When I sold the book and had my first conversation with my editor, she said something like, “You have a full time job and a toddler — how do you find the time to write books, too?”

I laughed and said, “I have a really supportive husband, and I don’t really have much of a social life.”

She laughed and said, “Well, you certainly have an active imaginary life in this book!”

I started writing in late grade school and early high school. I used to tell people that I couldn’t find enough books to read, so I just started writing my own.

But once my awesome editor said that, I realized maybe it was something else.

Maybe I started writing because I needed friends.

I mean, that paid off, right?

That chick who was “just being nice”? She can suck it.



13 thoughts on “Cheating

  1. Makes you wonder how many kids the teacher had asked to be *her* friend since she likely wasn’t making many on her own. Painful years. I wouldn’t go back for the world. Who wants to peak in grade school anyway? Or high school for that matter? Save up everything you learn so you can blow them all away later. πŸ™‚

    And I’d share a party with you any day!

  2. I only moved twice growing up so I know how tough being the new kid is. I can’t imagine doing it often. I was lucky enough to move in to big neighborhood developments with a lot of kids so I got to know some before school. Which means I was able to deny requests to cheat off me. πŸ™‚

    Also, I hear the quality of a writer’s social life is inversely proportional to the amount she’s writing. So, you’re looking good. πŸ™‚

  3. Wow, some amazing correspondence between our school experiences! I had nine schools for K-12, and if I hadn’t skipped a grade it would have been 10 schools.

    I ended up hanging with the outcasts, too, but that’s where I really got my geek on so it was okay. Endless talk about books, some early writing forays, the artsy crowd–they all helped me make me who I am today!

  4. Trust me. There are downsides to growing up in the same place too. Picture this, you’re twenty one, at a bar with a hot guy and run into a girl you knew in elementary school.

    “Hey Rachel, do you remember when you laughed so hard you peed your pants?”

    Cue shame.

  5. Haha, that 5th grader was MEAN! Though I have to take a stand against the idea that you can’t have BFFs when you move a lot. I’m a born and raised military brat, I’ve lived on nearly every continent, and I have tons of BFFs from my childhood. I LOVED being the new kid – I could be and do anything I wanted because I wasn’t labeled yet. Yeah, I’m weird. And I’ll admit I tried the whole you-can-cheat-off-me-if-you’ll-be-my-friend trick once or twice πŸ˜‰ funny post, Brigid!

  6. Thanks, Kat for the hugs!!

    Michele, I had no idea you knew I had a blog. πŸ˜› Thanks for swinging by.

    Bobbie! Yes! We must have a party together. Totally.

    Jenny! Welcome! I love new people. Thank you so much for coming by. *fist bump*

    Tracey, I hope to god you’re right. πŸ™‚

    Angelica, you’re absolutely right. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Seriously.

    Ha, Rachel! OMG, thank you for some perspective. πŸ™‚

    Wow, Heather, that’s a hell of a lot of moving! (And another new person! Yay! Welcome! *fist bump*)

    YC, how’s the savviest kid around? Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, high school definitely levels the playing field sometimes.

    Brandi, I’m glad the new kid status worked out for you! Lucky!

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