Whore. That’s what she called me. I can remember the class I was in at the time. I remember the row of seats I was in. I remember the desk I sat in. And, I remember the look on her face when she turned her head towards me and called me a whore.
Welcome Back to School!…
It’s back to school time! Of course, this year school isn’t quite like it was in the past years due to the pandemic, but the social system probably changed much. The beginning of school is a time to get excited to see friends on a regular basis again. It’s a time to get out the crisp new school supplies and don freshly bought school clothes. That first day back, especially as a high schooler, is full of expectation for the year ahead, but also fraught with worry and anxiety over how we’ll be perceived. It’s an exciting day and also a terrifying one.
I was no exception to this rule. Being an extrovert, I LOVED seeing so many people on a daily basis. I knew that going to school, especially choir, would get me my quota of hugs for the day! Having so many people surrounding me also gave me the chance to use up most of my words each day and thereby allowed me to give my family a break from what could have been (and sometimes was) constant talking. I really enjoyed the social part of school and the friendships and acquaintances I made there.
Since I was fairly personable, I didn’t really have people that outright didn’t like me. And the inverse was true too, I liked most people. I had the ability to see the good in people and the fun in people. I’d latch onto those things when interacting with them instead of the more negative hangups. This was great because I could easily interface with most people I came into contact with. It also came in handy with my many moves over my childhood. Actually, I bet it was part personality and in part, a learned survival skill! It was a lot easier to make friends when I wasn’t afraid to approach new and different people.
Well, apparently, not everyone thought well of me, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph. Every girl, I suspect, goes through the struggle of how to dress each day. What does this particular outfit say about me today? If I changed up my usual clothing style what would the reaction be? Would it be too obvious or would it go unnoticed? Do I need to really be concerned about what others think? Is it brave to just do what I want without thinking of how others perceive me? I swear, these thoughts were constant (and sometimes still are) when I was picking out my clothes from day to day. I had my go-to outfits, but one time, I decided to shift the status quo.
That particular day, I wanted to wear a dress. I had seen other girls wear dresses to school and it seemed cute and fun. I didn’t tend to spend a lot of money on clothes, so my selection was slim and not the most up-to-date styles. But one thing I definitely cared about was modesty. I always wanted to wear clothes that were attractive, but not ones that would draw unwanted or negative attention to myself. I didn’t wear deep cut shirts, mid-riffs, or too short pants/skirts. It was really important to me to honor myself and God with my clothing choices.
Well, the day that I changed it up and wore a dress, I was unprepared for what was about to come my way. I knew I was choosing to wear something a little more dressed up than the usual jeans or khaki’s, but I didn’t expect that it would be noticed by people who weren’t in my inner circle of friends. I liked my dress and I felt good about myself by wearing something a bit ‘fancy’ to a regular ol’ day at school. Sure, I felt a bit tentative about the different look, but it was only for a day. So, I hung out with my friends and we talked about clothes and ate our lunches and went to class.
Chemistry and the Mean Girl…
Class. Yup, it was chemistry class. I don’t remember what happened before, but I do know how I felt afterwards. We came into class, probably talked with friends and got to our seat when the bell rang. Then it happened. What felt like an out-of-nowhere, unprovoked comment came from the girl in the next row a few seats up. She turned to me and called me a whore. I was seriously shocked. “WHAT?!? She couldn’t be talking to me. I’m nowhere near the definition of a whore. What was this all about? Why did she say that? Why was she being mean to me? I don’t even usually talk to her! Why was she saying this to me?”
I was so hurt, confused and ashamed. I don’t remember responding to her. She probably turned around right away and class began. I was left to wonder why this had just happened. Did I do something wrong? Why would anyone call me a whore? I was a devout Christian who regularly attended Sunday church, Sunday school, Wednesday night youth group, and morning Bible study/worship at school. In middle school I made a commitment to stay a virgin until my wedding night. I mean, I attended the True Love Waits conference and signed the card! I lived out this commitment and I thought it was pretty obvious that this was who I was – the good little Christian girl.
I could only deduce that my sudden change to dressing a bit fancier that day, which included a skirt that ended slightly above the knee and wearing strappy shoes prompted this uncalled for name calling. As an adult, I could say, ‘Maybe she was jealous. Maybe she was confused. Maybe she was having a bad day.’ But honestly, I really don’t know why she said it.
What I do know is the feelings it brought up in me. Along with being hurt, confused and ashamed, I was also angry and filled with self-doubt. These feelings stuck with me throughout the rest of the day and I’m sure I talked with my Mom about it that evening. There was no rhyme or reason to this mean-spirited speaking. It just was what it was. Luckily, the word ‘whore’ is so far from who I was and who I ever planned to be that I didn’t internalize it. I knew it wasn’t a label that would stick, but the sting of it did.
Do You Know Who You Are?…
You know, high school is a hard place to be. Middle school and elementary school are hard too! Even being out in public and on social media, we run into hard things. We get called names by people who don’t know who we are. We get teased, bullied, and misunderstood on any given day. I guess the question is, ‘Do we know who we are? Do we have an assurance of our identity? Do we know the road we are committed to following? Have we made up our minds to point our life towards something and continue on even when others question it or come against us?’
As I reflect on this story from my school days, I can see how my identity as a Christ-follower kept me stable when the winds shifted. I am thankful that as a child and teen, I could make my own choice to follow Jesus and His Word. I chose to be loving, kind, modest and moral. Because I made those choices for myself, when they were brought into question, I knew where I stood. I knew that wearing a dress and having someone call me a whore didn’t mean that I was heading down some dark life path. The word spoken to me didn’t overtake me. And this feels important to repeat.
The word spoken over me – ‘whore’ – didn’t overtake me. When I could have drowned in the misery of someone thinking so lowly of me, I knew where I stood. I knew the choice that I had made. I was a committed daughter of God and virgin for my future husband. When I could have worried that there was one person out there that didn’t think highly of me, I knew who did. Not only had God given me so many friends, happy acquaintances and good family around me, but I knew how God thought of me. I was His special creation, a masterpiece made to be just how I was and He was proud of me. He loved me.
Do Your Friends Know Who You Are?…
You know, l knew that God didn’t think of me as a whore and I knew that my family didn’t think of me like that either. But, what about friends? Those are pretty important and special people in the lives of teens. At least, I thought so. For me, when I approached my friends with this story, they stood next to me and encouraged me. They knew that wasn’t who I was and they could reaffirm me when I was down and hurting.
I’m so thankful that God gives us so many different types of relationships. We always need Him. But sometimes we need family and friends too. Even other times it’s enough to have a friendly acquaintance or the person passing by me at the store give some sort of positive affirmation of the person I am. These interactions help me remember who I am. And when I know who I am, I can walk forward with my head held high with quiet confidence that I am the person I am meant to be.
You know, perhaps the most surprising thing to tie this all together is a note I received from one of my friends (who didn’t have the same value for purity) towards the end of our high school career. It said,
‘I have always respected you as a classmate and a good friend, but one thing stands out that I really respect. I have always looked up to you for this fact, … you still have your virginity and your morals. … Your morals are pretty much exactly the same as when I first met you. I will even admit that you had a great impact on my life in more ways than one. And I would just like to say, thank you’
Labels. They impact us, but we get to choose which ones stick. We are in the driver’s seat of our lives, not our friends, not our family, not the random mean kids at school. We are. We make the choices that last. We choose our paths. When we know the power of choice, we realize how very special and important this is. We can let life happen to us, or we can choose the way we want life to happen. I’m so thankful for the mentors in my life who encouraged me to make choices that lasted. They truly empowered me to take control of my life and steer it where I wanted it to go. I knew my destination – virgin on my wedding day, and I wasn’t getting off of that road for anything!
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