I made my first friend by doing what all younger sisters do best — tagging along with an older sibling. But when my one and only friend Rivky became friends with Baila, our class’s notorious bully, I knew I was in trouble. The three of us played together, Baila and I sharing our friend while eyeing each other suspiciously. The real problem with Baila was that she noticed too much and asked too many questions. Well, without answers, any question was too much for me. 

She eyed my thin frame. “Do you ever eat?” 

“Only on Tuesdays,” I answered. 

“Why are you so tall?” 

“I ate the beans from Jack and the beanstalk.” 

“Why do you get out of breath when you run?” 

“Because, um, I smoke.” 

For two years we did this ridiculous dance until elementary school ended and we both gladly selected different high schools. Most of my class went to the local Bais Yaakov, but for their darling delicate daughter, my parents selected the other high school in town. The other school was trying to upgrade to become a Bais Yaakov, but they weren’t quite there yet. So they were delighted to get “one of the most chashuv names in town.” In exchange, they promised my parents the sky — they could put me in any class, I could attend school whenever I felt like it, or not… 

I relished the chance to start over with a new group of girls, and I quickly learned to use my height to my advantage: Each classroom door locked on the outside, near the ceiling, and skipping class and locking the teacher in was the most obvious thing to do. I didn’t get in trouble, having “that” family name meant secrecy about everything in my life was doubly important, but here it meant I could get away with murder. 

The black lining was Baila, who hadn’t been accepted to her school of choice and ending up joining me. Bereft of her former friends, she followed me around like a lost puppy — with a bite. 

The questions continued. My frustration grew. Finally, finally I was fitting in, and she kept pointing out my differences. She was everywhere. She was outside, asking me why I never had the energy to finish a game. She was in the gym, asking why my feet looked like railroad tracks. She was in the classroom declaring my fingers looked like a spider. Most of all, she was in my head whispering that there was a big murky secret being covered up here. 

I attended school regularly that first year, and most of the time I felt like a regular girl. One Tuesday, we were playing baseball and, for the first time in my life, I succeeded in hitting the ball. My relaxed, happy mood darkened as Baila approached. I moved away from my new friends, I couldn’t have them hear Baila’s questions and become aware that I was a phony — a pretend normal girl. This time her question wasn’t about my hands or feet; it wasn’t about my height or weight. It was the global: “Why are you so weird?”