It wasn’t until I was getting dressed that I realized my Batman costume hadn’t come with pants. I thought about wearing black sweatpants, but my mom insisted: “Batman wore tights.” My options were limited as the school bus was pulling into the driveway, so I went to school wearing a pair of my sister’s black tights beneath my costume.
The morning went by without incident, but as I stepped onto the playground at recess, I could hear the other kids chattering, could see them pointing. I backed up against a utility building behind the school as they began to scoop up handfuls of pebbles from the ground, and then Batman cried, in his tights, as they threw them at me.
Based on the real-life experiences of Jeffery Dunn
For a Halloween party in third grade, I dressed up as Cleopatra. I wore an elegant dress and a shiny black wig and my Mom carefully painted winged eyeliner onto my face. But when I got to the party, nobody knew who I was. I snuck into the bathroom, changed back into my street clothes, and tried to scrub off the eyeliner in the sink. Then I sat alone, in my street clothes and streaky eyes, until my parents came to pick me up.
Based on the real-life experiences of Jenn Carr
As the youngest of two daughters born to brunette parents, my mother’s dream of having a blonde-haired baby girl was quickly snuffed out once genetics took their course. But her limited time in beauty school made up for it—as soon as my hair sprouted black, she knew no ordinary shampoo would do. I had my own. It even said so on the bottle. I never knew exactly what was so special about it, just that it was only mine, and it made my hair pretty enough that family friends would marvel, asking my mother how in the world she and my father managed to have a blonde little girl. She would smile and shrug. But she knew.
My “special shampoo” was a concoction of professional-grade hair lighteners—all of which she dumped together, cut with some No More Tears, and packaged just for me.
It remained a bathtime staple until I was six, when I started complaining of headaches.
Based on the real-life experiences of Kimi Wilcoxon
Chicago summer: I zipped back and forth in front of my house on Rollerblades in the heat. Our new neighbors were planting a garden and paused, both of them looking, to smile and compliment me on my Rollerblading skills. Flustered, I whirled around to race away when one of my skates caught hard on a sidewalk crack.
Based on the real life experiences of Kaitlin Horst
Of course I asked Jaime to the Saturday afternoon cotillion dance—I was in fourth grade and had been in love with her my whole life, and when she said yes, I knew it meant that she could secretly see, like I did, that we were supposed to be together forever. I wore a sport coat. When my parents and I got in the door, I found Jaime and prepared to escort her during the formal processional, where everyone would be watching. She cringed when I finally touched her hand. She told me my palms were sweaty. She looked away, across the crowd, and rubbed her white glove on her dress to dry it off.
Based on the real-life experiences of Clyde Wellons
Glancing out the window one morning, I noticed one car coming closer from the left and, from the corner of my eye, saw another car speeding directly at it from the right.
At three years old, I couldn’t have known that cars drove in opposite lanes.
They were roaring closer and it was too late to find a grown-up to help, so I whipped around, slid down the wall, and prayed as hard as I could to stop the inevitable. After a few moments, I hadn’t heard any explosions or heard people screaming in pain, so I peeked out the window and saw both cars safely going on their way. I knew I had caused that. I knew I had real power.
Based on the real-life experiences of Mary Grace Khoury
When my little sister Michelle was presented with the opportunity to ride Shamu during a show at Sea World, she turned it down. And my big sister Jessica was too old. So finally, the chance came for me to ride the majestic Shamu, and I—desperate to say yes—declined out of shyness. A boy sitting in front of us was chosen, and I was flooded with regret as I watched him climb onto the huge, shiny whale. For years, I kept a Sea World photo propped against the jewelry box in my bedroom and would gaze at it, imagining.
Based on the real-life experiences of Nicole J. Wroblewski
It was my first regret.
Robert and I got into our first big argument the week before his family moved to a different state. We were both ten and had been friends since he’d moved next door, but we refused to speak to one another after our fight. On the day of the move, I fumed alone in my room, avoiding looking at Robert’s house as the movers packed up his family’s belongings. Eventually, looking at the reminders of our friendship collected in my room, I realized I was being stubborn and wanted to speak to Robert before he left, apologize and say goodbye. But by the time I looked, the house was empty, and they were already gone.
Based on the real-life experiences of Mike Trippiedi
While playing Hide and Seek at the park one Chicago summer, my neighbor from across the street and his friend ran off while I was still counting.
Based on the real-life experiences of Kaitlin M. Horst
The rumor was that everyone woke up a different gender on their thirteenth birthdays. My aunt and mother teamed up to convince me. I was fairly sure it wasn’t true, but I had no proof—everyone I knew was either my age or much older, my parents’ age, having long survived the switch. I remained secretly nervous, and they didn’t let up, until I woke up on my birthday: thirteen, still a boy.
Based on the real-life experiences of Kevin Slack, who celebrated his 27th year of being a member of the male population yesterday. Happy birthday, Kevin!