Damaged Goods drops on Tuesday! Order your copy today!!
Her name was Laura. She lived on my block, a few houses away. In the tiny world that small children inhabit, she was one of many people I was forced to spend time with due to proximity. It’s not that I didn’t like her – I desperately wanted to be her friend. It was that she didn’t like me.
But I was seven years old and it’s really hard to recognize that someone is using you when you’re that age. We were the only house with a pool on our block. During the summer, Laura and some of her elementary school friends would show up at our door, already dressed in swimsuits, toting towels, asking if I was available to “play.” Play meant letting them into our backyard to swim and play in the shallow end of the pool while I played by myself on the deck or in the deep end. I was a good swimmer by that point in my life.
My parents would provide the girls with fudgesicles and a treat before sending them back out to their individual houses. I thought these girls were my friends because “friendship” at that age is defined in pretty specious ways.
Then the day came when I was out for a way, pretending to be Mary Poppins with a an old black umbrella my mother let me play with. It was a sunny day, and I headed up the block toward Laura’s house. She was out, playing with another of her friends.
“Hey, can I play with you guys!?”
“…sure. But you have to give us a dime, first.”
I ran home and up to my bedroom, where I grabbed my small bank that I kept my weekly allowance of $2 in. My parents, confused by my sudden return, followed me upstairs and asked me what I was doing.
“Laura said I could play with them if I gave them a dime, so I’m getting some money…” I looked down at the silvery dime I held in my hand, knowing it would mean friendship with this popular blond girl everyone at school liked.
Mom and Dad exchanged a look at that point, and the next thing I knew, Dad had sat me down on his lap and took the dime out of my hand. “Dianna, real friends don’t make you pay to be their friend. I don’t want you to play with those girls again.”
I must have cried. I’ve never been one to take my parents’ boundaries lying down. But I don’t remember. All I can see when I think of that moment is that shiny small coin and the pain of realizing that there are people in this world who are not so nice and not so kind.
The next time the girls showed up at our house in their swimsuits, my mom turned them away, saying they would just have to go up to the public pool at the park instead. All because of one shiny, small little dime.
That day taught me an incredibly valuable lesson – that you should never, ever have to give up something of yourself to be part of someone’s community or relationship. Be willing to take up space; be willing to be your full, whole self. Churches that demand compliance, that demand you diminish the person God created you to be, that demand you give up some part of your identity? Aren’t worth it.
You are worth more than the dimes people demand of you. You are worth love and friendship and healthy boundaries. You deserve respect. You deserve to be called by the right name. And you deserve to be heard.