Charlize Theron hefted her backpack onto her slender shoulders and set her face into a brave mask. Each morning, she solemnly reminded herself that no matter how bad it got out there, she would always be coming home to the safety of her room, with her dolls and her mirrors and her head shots and her sizzle reels. She’d tried to talk to her parents once, about what was going on, but even though they tried to be comforting and sympathetic, they clearly couldn’t understand. They’d started dating when they were only six years old, and Charlize’s mom had been the most popular girl in school, not the SECOND most popular girl in school. Her father was even less helpful. He just chucked her under the chin and said, “Don’t worry kiddo, if people tease you it just means they don’t like themselves very much.” Ugh, daaaaaaaaad. Charlize Theron knew this wasn’t true, because she teased people all the time, and she loved herself more than anything. Her mom pulled up at the school’s circular driveway, and as Charlize Theron climbed the steps towards the giant double-doors only a couple dozen students surrounded her asking for her autograph. It was horrible. Would childhood never end?!
In class, Charlize sat two seats away from the most popular girl in class, making her the third most popular. At this rate she would only have a dozen boys to choose from as dates for the upcoming school dance. She used the back of her hand to wipe away a lone tear before anyone was able to see it. The teacher thought she was raising her hand and asked her if she knew the answer to the math problem on the board. Charlize answered it readily, but without any enthusiasm. The teacher pointed out to the class how Charlize was almost as smart as she was beautiful. Only four people beamed at her with admiration. She wanted to curl up and die.
The lunchroom was noisy and crowded. As Charlize Theron headed to the popular girls’ table, an ugly, less popular girl stood up to offer her place, but not the ugliest, least popular girl. Charlize sat down in despair. The day was passing in a blur. She could count the compliments she had received on two hands. The mash notes that she was passed in the hallway seemed perfunctory, as if the boys’ hearts weren’t even in it. The other girls said her hair was pretty and that she was so lucky to have such pretty, shiny hair, but she could tell that they were mostly OK with their own hair. No one asked to touch it. And she hardly got the sense that anyone was DYING with DESIRE to switch places with her. No one even seemed to wish they could just switch places with her and be her instead. Life was cruel and unfair. Charlize Theron was too young to consider suicide, but she did imagine death and the sweet release from this perpetual nightmare.
After gym class she changed quickly in the locker room. “I love your shoes, Charlize, where did you get them?” another girl asked. Charlize let it slide off her back. She wasn’t going to let them get to her. “Charlize, you’re so pretty and nice, isn’t Charlize so pretty and nice?” another girl asked to a chorus of “Yay! Charlize!” She ran out of the locker room and locked herself in a bathroom stall. There was a special circle in hell for Charlize Theron, and she was already there. Something something Dante’s Inferno.
At the final bell, done for the day, Charlize walked towards the parking lot where she knew her mother would be waiting, heavy with the truth that she still didn’t have a boyfriend. She was almost eight years old. How long did people have to wait to become beautiful, famous, successful, rich actresses with boyfriends? FOREVER? She dragged her feet, her head hung low, ignoring the catcalls of “Bye, Charlize!” “See you tomorrow, Charlize!” “I love you, Charlize!” “Call me tonight, Charlize!” and other insufferable slings and arrows. She slumped into the back seat of the limousine and dropped her head into her mother’s ball-gown covered lap.
“How was school today, sweetie?” her mother asked.
The only response that Charlize Theron, the bullied nerd, could offer was to burst into tears.