Invisible.You know those cartoons where the superhero drinks a magic potion, or puts on his superhero suit with magic powers and he turns invisible? Well, I wasn’t a superhero and I didn’t have a superhero suit, but I must have had magical powers, because I felt invisible. I had pretty much drifted through my first twelve years without pomp and circumstance. I was the baby of the family. I had willingly taken the hand-me-down clothes and toys and complained very little if at all. I wasn’t neglected. I was just the least of everyone’s worries. As I look back I’m sure my family loved me. They didn’t mean to discourage me, but they hadn’t really encouraged me either. I think my teachers were so glad that I was low maintenance at school that I flew under the radar. Let’s face it; in any given classroom you can have eight to ten students with needs straight out of a Hollywood movie script. Translation: Teachers have a lot to deal with in the classroom. From kids on meds, to kids without meds, kids that don’t get breakfast, or have school supplies, or can’t get homework done. I’m pretty sure I was the least of their worries. It wasn’t that they ignored me it was just that my needs academically weren’t as great as others in my class, and I wasn’t one of those popular kids that made me a teacher’s pet. At school, I did what I was supposed to do. I got average grades and turned in my homework, and I listened in class. I followed the rules written and assumed. I liked it that way. My motto each day was to get in, get out and not make a big deal about it. I had survived five years of elementary school under this game plan. I almost got a way with it and slipped quietly through the cracks, until the Barbie incident. I’d like to know when the rules changed. Who decided and when did they decide that kids were done with toys at age 9. My older sisters played Barbies well into their early teenage years. So, how in a matter of a decade or so was it written or unwritten in the book of how to be cool as a 7th grader that you shouldn’t play with Barbies anymore. Scratch that. To be cool you cannot play with toys of any sort. Ironically, it is okay for 9-12 year olds to play video games, I-pods, computers, I-pads, and anything electronic and expensive. Cheap electronics do not have the same affect on your coolness status. Also, if you are a girl ages 9-12 you should now shop for clothes way beyond your age and your parent’s budget. You should be into make-up, designer shoes, purses, perfume, jewelry, and going to the spa. However, playing with Barbies? Hell, no. Not allowed! Apparently I missed the press release on this imperative information. Had I known this tidbit of knowledge, I might have saved myself utter embarrassment that fateful Friday. It was your average Friday night in October. Cool, crisp air; the smell of dry leaves; tailgater’s dinner broiling, and the sounds of cheers from the stadium nearby. I was jacked up about my first official invite to the cool girl’s sleepover. I must admit I was a little naïve about the whole thing. I didn’t fuss over what to wear, what my jammies looked like or what to bring. Looking back I should have been stressed. I should have spent Monday through Wednesday trying on clothes, practicing appropriate dialogue in the mirror so I didn’t say anything stupid in front of the cool girls in my grade. What was I thinking? Why didn’t it click in my brain? I should have known when I was out of my league. I pulled on my favorite jeans. I grabbed my hiking boots, pulled on my favorite fleece, tossed a few essentials in a backpack and headed out the door to 976 Winding Oaks Lane. As I walked from one corner to the next, the yards changed from piles of leaves to perfectly manicured lawns with flowerbeds full of mums. I felt as though I had traveled to another place completely, instead of five simple blocks away. I approached the most beautiful house I had seen. It looked straight out of a storybook. Sam’s house was perfect. I rang the doorbell. This was it. A stout woman in wool trousers, with a navy sweater answered the door. She had the most beautiful pearl necklace. My grandmother wore pearls like that. I was instantly reminded of my grandmother’s smile and her pearls, and the way she smelled like roses. She smiled as I stood there, not knowing what to say, and feeling lost in my memories of grandma.“Can I help you?”“Um, yes, I’m here for the slumber party.”“Oh, yes,” the pearl lady said. “You must be Lizzy. Sam and the girls ran over to the mall to get new pajamas. They said if you arrived to let you in. I’ll show you Sam’s room and you can wait for the girls there.”The pearl lady led me through the foyer. I looked up and saw a sparkling chandelier, and ceilings so high I believed they touched space. We climbed the shining oak staircase that circled around until we reached the second floor. The pearl lady led me past an office, library, bathroom, master bedroom, another bathroom, and finally to Sam’s room. Sam’s room looked as if someone had opened a Pottery Barn magazine and reconstructed it in Sam’s house. I was surrounded by amazing furniture, funky colors, perfectly coordinated pillows, sheets, shams, lamps, curtains, and furniture most college dorm rooms sport today. I saw a desk, complete with laptop, I-pod docking station, printer/ fax, and shelves of books. There was a dresser, make-up station, walk-in closet bigger than my bedroom, and full-length mirrors all around. As I circled the room exploring this new territory and culture, I had a hard time keeping my chin from hitting the floor. In the far corner of the room, I saw the most amazing display of dolls and not just any dolls. Barbie dolls. There was a Barbie Dream House, a pool, every Barbie you can imagine from Holiday to Malibu. Ken; GI Joe, and several Barbie cars. I had dreamed of this caliber of Barbie paraphernalia. Now, I know I was a guest and I didn’t have permission, but no one was there, and I was afraid I might get bored. What was a girl to do? So I assessed the situation, and went for it.I grabbed Malibu Barbie and imagined Ken asking her for a date at the pool. I had them all set up with beach towels, sunscreen, a beach ball, and the whole she-bang. I was improving a whole spring break vacation for Ken and Barbie and clearly lost track of time. I didn’t notice Sam and the gang come in. I believe I was saying something like this: “Oh, Ken you’re sooo charming. Of course you can drive to get ½ price pizza on Wednesday.” I awoke from my Barbie soap opera dream to a room full of laughter, and the following exchange of dialogue.“OMG! Are YOU playing with Barbies?”“Sam, she is playing with your toys.”“You LOVE Ken!”“Lizzy plays with dolls!”This is where I wish I had grabbed my backpack, ran out of her house, hitchhiked to Florida, hopped a boat and never looked back. As luck would have it, I was 12 and too smart to hitch hike, and I was in over my head. I mustered all the confidence I could find, cleared my throat, and delivered the most amazing explanation for my behavior.“Hi, Sam; Sarah; Jamie; Korey. I didn’t hear you come in. Sam, your mom let me in and I just thought I would use your spectacular Barbie set-up to help me prepare for my acting class I’m taking on Saturday afternoons. This week we are practicing scenes from soap operas so I thought I’d just get some extra practice time in.”The room was silent. Did they buy it? I’ll stare at them confidently, count to ten in my head, and if no one speaks by that point, I’ll just break for the door. “One, Two, Three-talk somebody talk!”“Four, Five, Six- grab your bag, Lizzy, and get ready to run.”“Seven.”Jaime: “You’re in acting class?” Sarah: “Is that expensive?”Korey: “ Do you know anyone famous?” Sam: “Wow, Lizzy. Who knew?”I silently thanked God for dodging an embarrassing bullet, and put Ken and Barbie back in their appropriate spots. I left the Barbie station and joined the other girls by the couch and comfy chair near the wall of full-length mirrors. The next half hour was full of fashion show runway walks of them in their new p.j.s. After lots of giggles and compliments they suddenly remembered I was there.“Oh, no, Lizzy. We forgot to let you model your pajamas.”I really hadn’t noticed nor cared that I wasn’t getting to model my pajamas. I was in awe of these girls. The way they talked, moved, dressed, sang, danced. They were so free. I felt so awkward all the time. I would never have worn the pajamas they wore. I would never have jumped around my room singing into a hairbrush off key in front of anyone. I would do that when I thought no one was looking. They were confident. I could clearly see I was not.“Um, sure,” I said cautiously. “I’ll go next.”I headed for Sam’s bathroom and pulled out my pajamas. No way, what was I thinking? My pajama bottoms are pink with the word Barbie all over them, and a cute little picture of Barbie’s face. I pulled on my “I heart Barbie” white t-shirt, a present from my aunt. She has all boys and longed for a girl to lather girl stuff on. I wasn’t that girly, but I loved my fleece Barbie jams with matching shirt. However, given my Barbie moment this would just give the girls more ammunition to make fun of my Barbie Addiction. Think, Lizzy, think! How are you going to get out of this mess?PopularI never considered being “popular” an option. I think it’s either in your DNA or it’s not and looking around my family tree I’m pretty sure it’s not. My family was just regular. My dad worked for a small book keeping firm. His busiest time was tax season and he just kept his head above water the rest of the year. My mother worked for a cleaning company. She ran the front desk, booked all the appointments and made sure everything ran smooth, and everyone was where they were supposed to be. She did this at home, too. Both my parents were good, hard working people. Yet, I didn’t consider them the “Who’s Who” of my community and I certainly didn’t think this information would look good on my resume when applying for popularity at my school. My oldest sister, Caroline, was fresh out of college off on her own working. She was the brain of the family earning a full-ride scholarship to college. She didn’t really come around very much now. I didn’t know if it was because she was just finding her way or if our family embarrassed her. My other sister, Maggie has just entered college and it was a struggle for my parents to help her cover college expenses. With all this stacked against me the only thing that would allow me to rise to popularity was my association with Sam and her posse. So in order to fit into that group, there was no way I could walk into that room wearing my Barbie pajamas. Then my lie about acting class would clearly be uncovered. I knew what I had to do. I stuffed my jammies back into my backpack, zipped it up and poked my head out the bathroom door.“Uh, guys. I have bad news. I packed in such a hurry I forgot to throw in my pajamas. Would you mind waiting while I walk home and get them?”“Oh, don’t be silly. You can just wear my old ones, Lizzy.”“Really? Thanks, Sam.” Lie number two down and they bought it. I was beginning to get a stomachache thinking of how I was going to keep this up.Sam went to her closet and retrieved a pair of pajamas that hardly looked used, they were flannel, a little itchy, but they would do. I quickly changed and returned to the slumber party.The rest of the evening was spent giggling about boys, teachers, classmates, watching movies and snacking on junk food. We all hit our sleeping bags and pillows around one o’clock in the morning. Again this is where some preparation would have come in handy for me. I am a sound sleeper. So sound that sometimes I drool, snore, and talk in my sleep and have no recollection of doing such things. The next morning I awoke to a circle of girls standing over me, hands on their hips and very displeased expressions on their faces. “Ugh, Lizzy. Can you please stop snoring?” “What is that running down your cheek?”“Eeeeew! Sam, she’s drooling on your pillow!”“Are you talking about Ken again?”I finally awake from my Barbie dream and realized I am drooling and snoring everywhere. I come to unable to think of anything to talk myself out of this embarrassing moment. I mustered up the confidence to say, “Sorry, guys, just having a really bad dream, I guess.”We all took turns using Sam’s bathroom getting ready for the day. There was a knock on the door. At my house my mother would have screamed upstairs, “Breakfast: Come and get it!” Not the pearl lady. She tapped on the door in a dignified manner and politely told us breakfast was being served…. Hmmmmm? Does that mean there is a servant? Oh, boy I couldn’t wait to get downstairs to see this.Upon exciting Sam’s bathroom I could see I had again overestimated my ability to pick out cool clothes. Again I went for comfort and these girls were clearly going for style and no comfort. I could feel their eyes evaluate my outfit. I pretended not to notice and followed the clan down to breakfast. I was starting to feel like being friends with Sam and her posse was going to be a lot of work. Maybe too much work. Shouldn’t it be comfortable to be around your friends? If I couldn’t really be myself, was this popular thing going to be worth it?The pearl lady smiled as we entered the kitchen. There were no servants, but a breakfast buffet on the counter large enough to feed our entire football team. I had no idea where to start. Muffins; pancakes; bacon; sausage; eggs; fruit; yogurt; juice, and milk. I heaped my plate full as if it were going to be my last meal, and sat down at the table. I went to work on my delicious breakfast, forgetting that Sam and the gang would be watching me as I eat. After a few minutes of enjoying my breakfast, I looked up to four girls staring at me with their mouths wide open.“Gee, Lizzy, you sure can eat a lot!I swallowed hard and said, “Well, I have to store up some energy, I have volleyball practice this afternoon.”“I thought you have acting classes this afternoon,” Korey interrupted. I almost choked on my bacon. Crap! Way to go, Lizzy. you got yourself in a pickle now.“I do have acting class today, right after I get done with volleyball practice!” Good recovery, I hoped that they bought it. I actually do have practice today at least for volleyball. So at least I only lied once.“Well, then it looks like you won’t be able to go to the mall with us, Lizzy!”Whew. Good cover. I made it.“Unless you want us to meet you at your acting class on the way to the mall?” Where is that studio again?” questioned Sam.Mayday. Abandon ship. Lizzy, get out of the building.“Um, I’m kind of tired from the sleepover. After volleyball practice and acting class, I bet I’ll be whipped. Why don’t you guys go to the mall, and I’ll just see you on Monday day morning?” “Suit yourself. You’re gonna miss all the cute boys.”I smiled and stuffed my mouth full of pancakes so I didn’t say anything else that would get me in deeper than I already was.After breakfast we thanked the pearl lady, collected our things and each headed our separate ways. Meaning, the four of them stayed in Sam’s room and I walked myself to the front door and back down Winding Oak’s Lane. I didn’t mind. At this point, I needed to be alone to collect my thoughts, and do some damage control. How was I going to fix the acting class fiasco?LiesI walked quickly home hoping I could formulate a plan to undo the lie I had told. Acting class? Really, Lizzy? What were you thinking? That’s just it. I couldn’t think. My mind was swirling and I had so much to sort out. Why would I lie to them? Did I really even have that much fun at the sleepover? No. not really. If that is what popular is do I want to be a part of it? These questions pinched my brain. I was so distracted I nearly walked through the screen of our front door. I quickly recovered and made by way upstairs to change for volleyball practice. Okay. I can do this. I can solve this. I finally decided that I would go to volleyball practice and after that I would call around to see where I could potentially take acting classes. I might walk by, get some information and pretend I was an actor. Then the next time I ran into Sam, if I ever ran into Sam again, I would simply tell her that my acting class was over. She didn’t technically need to know how many acting classes I had taken, or how long they lasted. Great! Now I was justifying my lying to myself. Perhaps this is where I should have jumped off the train ride to popularity.I grabbed my volleyball bag and headed out the door. Mom dropped me off at the gym and I went inside. If felt good to take the stress in my life out on that ball. I smacked the cold, vinyl casing of the volleyball as I practiced serving. Why was I so upset about what Sam thought of me? I hadn’t cared for three years. Why should I start now? I survived my two-hour practice and headed out the gym doors. As I skipped down the front steps of the school I nearly ran into Sam and gang. “Hi, Lizzy.” Sam shouted. “How was practice? We came to walk with you to acting class.” Ugh! Now what was I going to do?“Hey guys! Wow. I am surprised to see you. Can you wait right here? I’ve got to go the bathroom?”I rushed back into the locker room, grabbed my cell phone from my bag, anddialed my brainiac sister.“Maggie?” “Yeah, what do you want Liz?”“Look, I never ask you for anything, but I need your help. I am in a real tight spot and need some help. Give me the address of any acting class or a studio nearby. P-L-E-E-E-E-E-E-EZ-E?”“Yeah, whatever. I’m studying for a big exam on Monday.” Here it is: The Final Act Studio on 5th Avenue.”“Thanks. I owe you.”I scribbled the directions down on my hand and headed back out of the gym. Sam and the gang were still there. I jogged over to them. “Aren’t you guys going to the mall?” I questioned?“Yeah, but we thought we’d walk you to your acting class,” Sarah said popping her gum.”“Great,” I replied confidently. My class is on 5th street. I strode ahead of the girls, hoping they wouldn’t ask me any more questions about my class. I didn’t want my lies to multiply. Two was more than enough for one weekend. The girls walked and giggled, discussing cute boys from school, and what they were going to where to this even or that event. I was so busy concentrating on walking that I didn’t hear the girls holler at me.“Hey Dizzy, Lizzy! You walked right past the studio!”“Oh, sorry! I’m just really tired from the sleepover and volleyball practice. I am having a hard time focusing.”I smiled and walked back to the girls. “Thanks for walking with me. Have fun at the mall. Don’t shop too much!” I joked. I backed into the door of the studio waving and smiling like a freak. They slowly walked away. I ran in and stood at the counter where I could see them through the front windows continue down the street.I threw my bag down and plopped down in a chair, thanking my lucky stars for dodging another bullet.Suddenly a voice from behind startles me.“Can I help you with something? I spun around to find myself nose to nose with a striking young boy about my age. I struggled to find words.“Hello? “ he snapped. “Do you know how to talk or are you stupid?” “Well, aren’t you a charmer? No, I’m not stupid. I’m looking to sign up for an acting class!”“Hmmmmmn. I didn’t know jocks signed up for acting class?”“What makes you think I’m a jock?”“Your pony tail, knee pads, and little sports bag. You look like a jock for sure.”“Oh, uh, I just finished volleyball practice. Look I just need some information on how much acting class might be.”“Why do you want to take an acting class? Trying to impress your friends?”“Look, I don’t have time for this. I just need some information on your classes.”The boys’ crystal blue eyes focused intently on mine and then carefully shifted out the window. Back and forth his eyes went until they settled on the floor. Finally, the boy spoke. “Acting classes are full for this term, but open up again in the spring. My uncle offersfree workshops once on month on Saturdays for students interested in theatre. We just ask that you volunteer to help us with the upcoming fall production. You may have to help sew costumes, paint scenery, pass out flyers, etc. Whatever you can do to help.”“Perfect.” Lizzy exploded. “When is the next workshop.”“Two weeks from today at three o’clock. Will that fit around your practice schedule?” teased the blue-eyed boy.“Oh, it will work. It has to.” With that Lizzy grabbed her bag and headed out of the studio practically skipping home. Tests and Tiaras7th grade is full of tests: Spelling, geography, Math, English. Yet, none of those tests compare to the social tests that we give each other. Who wears the right clothes, has the best hair, says the right things. Knows the right people. Those are the tests that some people will never pass. I thankfully avoided those tests successfully the first eleven years of my life. I just didn’t care. I just blended in. Now I was in a pickle. Not because I truly cared, but because someone else had noticed me, and now they seemed to care for me. I was about to be tested over content and skills I did not possess. As I entered school Monday morning, I couldn’t help but wonder what would transpire today. Would Sam and the gang, even talk to me? Maybe they would have forgotten all about me over the rest of the weekend. Then I wouldn’t have to take those stupid acting classing with that infuriating boy who flashed his blue eyes at me! “Whoa, Lizzy calm down!” I said to myself under my breath as I headed up the steps into school. “ Lizzy, Are you talking to yourself?” Oh, no it was Sam and the girls. Had she heard me?“Um, Hi, Sam. I was just singing.” There you go again, Lizzy. More lies.Sam rolled her eyes and giggled. I don’t believe she really believed me, but I kept moving forward anyway.I once had a teacher who would say to students, “If I wanted a class clown I would go to the circus and hire one!” Students would giggle and smile and then go about their business. There was always that one or two students though, who actually wanted the title of Class Clown. They relished in torturing the teacher with his or her antics and dramatics. Me, I always felt sorry for the teacher, and annoyed that I was missing out on learning time. Yes, I might as well as been called a geek. But today I was taking a test. This one I had never studied for, but I had A LOT of background knowledge. I had spent years watching other students create chaos and freak out on teachers. Today, it would be me creating the chaos, all in the hopes of passing the Tiara Test. Could I fool these girls into thinking I was one of them?