“Hey, what did you get for number 8?”
We had just walked out of the room after taking a history test, and the post-test discussion of questions officially begun, despite out teacher’s warnings that this was considered cheating.
“Huh? Was that the question with the weird graph?”
“Yeah, because there were two answers that made sense, and I wasn’t sure which one to put, since the firs-. ”
“Oh my gosh Emily,” my friend Jessie cut in. “You don’t need to be worrying! You’ll probably end up getting like a 105!”
“No I won’t!”
We all looked at her.
We kept looking at her. It was pointless trying to deny the truth.
Every once in a while you meet someone who is better than you at everything no matter how hard you try. Throughout middle school, Emily was that person. Getting all the best grades, becoming the teachers’ favorites, good at sports, music, art, and everything in between. In essence, she became a virtual standard for us– the standard of perfection that only she could reach, leaving the rest of us only able to look up to her and marvel. Every time report cards came out, people would instinctively swarm over to Emily and ask, “What was your lowest grade?” to gauge themselves against the hard-cut standard of grades and to see how far away they were from the ideal.
And about that history test. Despite her worries, Emily only ended up getting a 100, which actually had a negative impact on her grade, pulling her average down to a 102 in a class that offered practically no extra credit. As her friends, we found this very frustrating, as our grades weren’t nearly that spectacular. It would often feel as if we were leading a rebellion against her perfection.
“Why do you have to be so smart? You make us all feel bad!”
“This is so depressing! I just figured out that I messed up in like 5 places!”
“I know! Me too!”
“Emily, you know what? You’re too perfect for your own good!”
Perhaps one of the more clever remarks we made regarding her perfectionist tendencies was “Being too Emily-like is bad for your body!”
Her response? “It probably is…”
To top it all off, she never flaunted her intelligence or grades. And she was nice. How many other people do you know like that? (Answer: None) Was it really a surprise that we lauded her as perfect?
Eventually, our inability to see past her flawlessness led my other friends and I in a quest to find every single imperfection about Emily: a word she said, something she did, anything, as long as it wasn’t “perfect.” (which we never officially defined) The list grew amazingly fast, considering that we put super high standards that declared virtually everything as“imperfect,” including but not limited to, 1) saying “It makes me happy!” in a 5-year old tone, 2) using the word “dude,” or 3) typing “idk” in chat.
This must have been far more annoying to Emily that constant bombardments of “You’re so perfect,” as every aspect of her life was under scrutiny by unforgiving middle schooler eyes, but the rest of us saw these lists as the only way of proving Emily as human.
Thankfully, we stopped this practice after a while, although we were still left unsure as to how to cope with such…perfection in the world.
…And thus temporarily ends a story that I do not yet know how to conclude. My original conclusion was inclusive in itself, and I feel like this is a story better left unfinished.
Note: This story was originally called “Perfect,” but the name was changed since I would refer to it more as “The Emily Story.”