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(Outcasts… with Sindri M for Elska Magazine)

I have to say that I was a bit surprised when I first read Sindri’s personal story in the new issue of Elska. In it he described how he was teased at school for being ugly. I just can’t imagine why, no matter how skinny or nerdy he used to be, that Sindri was every ugly. And even more incredulous is it that kids feel the need to be so cruel. But it’s so so common.

I’d like to say that I was a righteous child who, as a product of a Catholic upbringing, faithfully heeded that golden “do onto others” rule. But I don’t think any of us can claim such innocence.

When I was ten years old there was this sweet kid in my class called Neil Pipenhagen, a skinny lad with curly blond hair who loved playing Nintendo. I met Neil when I was seven and going to a Chicago public school. At the time I lived with my unmarried mother in a flat. Neil was also the child of a single mum and living in a flat. Two years later my mother got married and we moved into a house and into a private school. At the same time Neil transferred to my new school, but he still lived in an apartment. Now I’m sure that this all sounds long-winded but it’s an important American cultural note… You see, not living in a house made Neil poor  in the other kids’ eyes, and poor is not cool.

So here’s what I did to Neil… I was going to have a birthday party and when it came time to choose who to invite, Neil was left off the list. He was my friend and I really liked him a lot, but I worried what the other kids would think of me for inviting him. I feared no one would come to my party and I would be an outcast too (I was already teetering on that status).

I remember clearly the day that I passed out the invitations. It was right before lunch period and during lunch all the kids talked about who was and wasn’t coming to my party. Then sometime in the afternoon just before Science class, Neil came to me full of tears asking why he wasn’t invited. I don’t remember what I said to him but I was deeply ashamed. I still am.

To get the new Elska Issue (03) Reykjavík, or to subscribe to a year of Elska, visit www.elskamagazine.com

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