Feed on

Mary Rossi

“After so much struggle and agony over my own physical appearance, I should have been that much more compassionate toward others who struggled with similar issues. The reverse was true. I had numerous flaws, but in what I thought was a clear sign of my superiority, I had managed to hide them all. I looked down on people who had acne, a stutter, buckteeth, or thick glasses. What was wrong with them? I thought: Go to a doctor, get a speech therapist, get contacts and braces–for God’s sake, just fix it as I did. Try harder. Fake it. I had no idea that financial burdens of these procedures were too great for most of my classmates’ families. I was completely and willfully ignorant of the sacrifices my parents had made–most of them way outside their means–that gave me the privilege to ridicule others. I was merciless and cruel. I gossiped as much as anyone else. I felt powerful and popular.”

Poster Child, pg. 119

In this chapter, we are introduced to Emily at the start of the next stage in her life: adolescence. Gone is the innocence, wonder, and sweetness that we have seen from her so far. The biggest loss of all, it seems, is her compassion and sense of camaraderie towards others like her. In a single passage, we can clearly see how rapidly and radically she has transformed from a brave and empathetic little girl to the perfect archetype of a bully: she is beautiful, popular, shallow, contemptuous of others, and, most of all, insecure. Her superior status amongst her peers (a status which she has worked tirelessly over the last few years to obtain) reflects her struggle to compensate for what she views as her fatal flaw. The confidence and appreciation for her own uniqueness have been replaced by a desperate desire to be normal and whole–a desire that she surely shares with the very people she taunts. And yet, despite these abundant displays of cruelty towards others, we are still able to understand her actions in a way, having been given a detailed look at her life up until now (the then). With the benefit of context, we are able to identify all of the “why’s” as to how she has become the person that she currently is (the now); we are able to sympathize her while also condemning her for her behavior. Moreover, we hope that this is merely a momentary lapse in character, that it can be chalked up to the capriciousness of youth, and that she will soon be able to reconnect with the self-loving and compassionate spirit of her former self.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.