Different is Good

On Friday afternoon, a beautiful young girl sat across from me in the counseling room.  At age nine, Lauren already has the attributes that popular society finds attractive; she is tall and thin with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes.  Lauren also has some attributes not always associated with her particular short of physical attractiveness; she is witty, intelligent, funny, compassionate and empathetic to the point of pain — something that brought her to my office on Friday.

“There are some really popular girls in my school, yanno,”  Lauren said, winking into the sunshine that fell in shadow blinds across her face.

“Would you like me to close that blind, Lauren?” I asked.

“Oh no!” she said, shifting her body towards the light like a kitten.  “I love the sun.”

“Me, too,” I smiled.  “Please go on — popular girls…?”

“Oh.  Well, yeah.  I mean, I guess they’re popular.  No, I mean, I know they are.  It’s just, well… I don’t know.  What’s your favourite colour?” 

I pulled my legs up onto the seat beside me, watching her watch me.  “Hmmmm… favourite colour.  Now that’s a hard one…”

“Why is it hard?”  she asked.

“Because there are so many colours I love,”  I answered.  “Do you have a favourite?”

Lauren thought for a moment, looking around, then down at her lap.  “This, I think — blue like this.  Or maybe green.  People are always telling me I look good in blue and green.”

“That certainly is a beautiful colour on you,” I said.  And it was.  Turquoise swirls on white cotton brought out the deep sea blue of her eyes.  “Is that why it’s your favourite?  Because it looks good on you?”

She thought about this before answering.  Honestly.

“I don’t know.  Maybe.  It might be.  Yeah, probably.”  She looked at me for approval. 

I smiled.  “Is it a colour the popular girls wear a lot?”

Lauren shook her head.  “Nah.  They wear a lot of pink,” she answered, wrinkling her nose. 

I stifled a laugh.  “You don’t like pink?”

“Ewwwwwww,” she said.  “No way!”  She shook her head violently, then suddenly looked at me open-mouthed.  “Uh oh,” she said, blushing.  “Is pink your favourite colour???”

This time  I did laugh. “Noooooo,” I assured her.  “Not even close.”

We both laughed, then were silent for a bit with Lauren looking out the window.  “Those girls…”  she began, then trailed off.

“The popular ones?”

“Yeah.”  She was still looking out the window.  “I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”

“Well, it’s like they’re all the same… you know?”

“The same?  How the same?”

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  It’s just they even all look the same.   I mean, yeah, their hair colour might be a little different, but not really – you know?”  She was still staring out the window, the lowering sun streaming gold across her cheeks. 

“Not really,”  I said.  “Can you explain it to me?”

Something in my question made her turn back to me.  After a short silence, she smiled.  “I can try.”

I smiled back at her.  “Thank you.”

“Well,” she said, clearing her throat.  “It’s like each of them is the same as the other.  When they go down the hall… sometimes I’m behind them… and there’ll be like three of them, or four or something… anyway, a bunch of them, and I can’t even tell who’s who, you know?  I mean, they’re all lined up there – the same size, the same clothes, the same colours – and they even sound the same – ughhhhhhhhhh,” she growled,  “I just HATE the way they sound!”

“The way they talk?”

“Yeah.  But no, it’s more than that – they’re all stupid.  They all act stupid, I guess, but I’m not supposed to be mean and say that, but yeah, they’re stupid!”  she began to twist a strand of hair around and around her forefinger.  “And they SOUND stupid.  And they make other people feel stupid, when THEY are the stupid ones!  They just make me sick!”

I looked at her closely.  There were no tears in her eyes.  Her cheeks were flushed, but more from righteous indignation than embarassment.

“Do they make you feel stupid, Lauren?”

“No,”  she answered without hesitation.  “Oh, they try.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Well, they used to, but not so much anymore.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I guess because I don’t care,”  she answered.  “At least that’s what Mom says.”

“What do you think?”

Lauren thought for a few twists of hair.  “I think she’s right.  Pretty much.”

“Right that you don’t care if they think you’re stupid?”

She nodded.

“But you care if they think other people are stupid?”

She nodded again;  this time with tears in her eyes.

“It bothers you that they make other people feel stupid?”

Another nod and a bite of her full bottom lip.

“Want to tell me about it?”

She shook her head, chin quivering a bit.

“Ok,” I said.  “That’s ok, Lauren.  You don’t have to tell me.”

She tried to smile.

“I’d like to ask one thing, though,”  I said.  “Maybe you can answer this for me?”

“I’ll try.”

“Ok,”  I said, smiling.  “What do you think about different?  About being different?”

“Me being different?”  she asked.

“Well, yes… but just about being different… in general…?”

Lauren took a deep breath and scooted around in her chair before answering.  “Well,”  she said finally.  “Well, different is good…. Yeah.  Different is good.”

“Can you tell me why?”

She had repositioned herself back towards the window.  She stared unblinking so long that I was just about to speak when she said,  “Yes, I think I can,”  and turned to face me.

In silence, I smiled, leaning forward to listen.

“Have you ever been to the butterfly cave?”  she asked.

I shook my head.

“Oh, you’d love it.  It’s like as big as this room – no, wait, it’s bigger — lots – taller – tall tall tall – and there’s like… I don’t know… stairs that make it have…”  she looked at me quizzically, struggling.


“Yeah!” she pointed at me, smiling.  “Levels!  Anyway, all the levels are nothing but more and more and more butterflies.  Just everywhere.  And a first, when you look at them, you think – Oh, yeah, wow – butterflies — they’re all the same, there’s just a lot of them.  But, no, they’re NOT the same.  Not at all!  Yeah, some of them you have to get up reallllllly close to to see the difference – I mean they may be the same colours, but this one will have like an orange stripe on TOP of the black and UNDER the green and that one will have a PURPLE dot in the orange but NOT under the green – something like that – but you can’t tell the difference unless you just stand real still — really really really still – and let them land on you.”

“And you did that?”

“Oh yeah!  I had two… right there!”  Her excitement was so fevered that as she held out her index finger, I could almost see a Monarch perched on it.  “They sat right THERE and that’s when I could see they were different — I mean, the same, yeah, but different… so so different!”

“And that’s when you knew that different -“

“Is good!”  she cut me off, smiling. 

I smiled back at her. 

“I mean, look at you!”  she said,  suddenly jumping out of the chair and running to me.

I had to laugh.  “Am I different?”

“Oh yeah!” she said, happily.  “Wayyyyyyyy different!”

I laughed more.  Lauren laughed too.

“And different issssssss……….?”  she leaned forward, grinning at me.

“Good!” I laughed, wrapping her up in a hug.  “Different is very, very good…”

© s rogers 19 April 2009