Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Awesome Adventures of Dana the Ninth Grader, part 6

"Wow. Fruit salad for lunch, Danana." Kellie said flatly. "I had better eat Spam for lunch, dinner and tomorrow's breakfast because I am not packing all of this down the switchbacks." She brightened. "I think I've got a packet of ketchup somewhere, too! I love ketchup with my Spam!"

Dana barely heard her friend's excitement over the Spam because her heart was still racing and she felt a little dizzy. She felt elated, concerned and proud at the same time. It was the first time she actually had a real conversation with Macho Man Chris, and she didn't say anything stupid. But she was worried that he thought that she had anorexia. Were there rumors going around about her? The thought sobered her up for a second until she realized that Chris's heart was in the right place. All the girls liked Macho Man Chris, but it was so good to know that he was as handsome on the inside as he was on the outside. She wasn't wasting her crush on some jerk.

"...Spam with ketchup, Spam with tropical fruit salad, fried Spam, Spam sandwiches, Spam on our boiled rice..."

"See you later, Kells, I've got to find Stephanie Hill." She shook her head, "Don't forget green eggs and Spam."

Stephanie Hill was a high school senior who was also an Outdoor Ed alumni and applying to study forestry in college. Mr. Branson offered credits to qualified upperclassmen to help lead and teach as well as chaperone on the class trips. Stephanie had experience as a camp counselor, and Dana considered her pretty cool. Stephanie was always surrounded with students, both boys and girls, vying for her attention--the guys thought that she was "hot" and she was like a big sister to all the girls.

When Dana finally found her, she was outside with a bucket of warm water trying to rinse biodegradable shampoo out of her long red hair. There was no shower, and Steph had warmed the water on the propane stove.

"Hey, Dana--mind helping me out here?" Dana took the bucket and slowly poured the warm water over her hair. "Hurry up, it's freezing!" So, Dana tipped the bucket all the way. "Whoa! Thanks!" Stephanie grabbed a towel and ran inside the lodge, drying her hair along the way, not stopping until she was in front of the massive fireplace. She poured a small bottle of stay-in conditioner and proceeded to quickly comb it into her locks. When she sat down to braid her hair, Dana sat down next to her on the wooden bench. Dana contemplated the fact that not only did this woman survive in the wilderness, she seemed to look good the whole time too. Stephanie pulling out a tube of lip balm just served to punctuate Dana's observation. Dana's orange knitted hat with the pompom on top of her head suddenly felt hideously tacky.

As if on cue, Steph remarked, "I like your hat--it's cute! Did you and Kellie plan to wear the same headgear?"

"Maybe Kellie did--she brought it because she knew I wouldn't"

"Good idea, really. I just brought my Mariner's ball cap." Steph produced it from her back pocket and put it on. Dana saw that it only upped her appearance, not subtracted it. "It's not as warm as yours. Wanna trade?"
When Dana hesitated, "I don't have lice or anything. And my hair is freezing. Please?"

Dana surrendered her hat, feeling weird because her mom always told her not to share hairbrushes and combs, and hats were kind of personal. The Mariner
s ball cap looked brand new, though. Dana put it on.

"The blue brings out your amazing eyes. I'll let you keep it."

"Thanks, orange is more your color than mine." Dana looked around for Kellie and saw her across the room, talking to Greg, "You can have it--don't tell Kellie that I let you."

Steph started laughing "Yeah, I'll tell her I stole it from you because I couldn't resist its awesomeness." Steph put on her new orange hat and pulled her braids under it. "What's up, Dana? Did you want to talk about something? Have any questions about your outdoor ed projects?"

"Yeah, well, no." Indecisiveness hit her like a wave. "It's not a big deal."

"So, it's easy to talk about then, right?"

"Not really. People are getting the wrong idea about me. I don't know how it got started and I don't know how to end it." Dana felt the momentum of her words moving towards the real issue. "I don't have an eating disorder. I'm not starving myself on purpose." Dana felt numb from the shock of spilling her heart out.

Stephanie sat quietly for a moment, choosing her words carefully before proceeding. "I see you are really concerned. I'm sorry. I saw you not eat not just during the meals that Kellie ruined, but you refused s'mores last night, too. I didn't know if it was because you were sick, emotionally upset or what. I remember from my health studies class that girls your age start to develop eating problems, and if this is a pattern, it's good to catch it early." Steph moved closer to Dana on the bench. "I've been a camp counselor for a long time and I've seen anorexia and bulimia before." Dana had hung her head so Steph bent low from bench to try to make eye contact. "And you are a dancer, right? Ballet? You are in such good shape, it's one of the reasons your application was accepted for the class. I'd hate to see your health on this trip ruined, or worse, because of an inadequate diet."

"Yeah, Mr. Branson mentioned that you were worried. I hate s'mores--they're too sweet. And Chris practically gave away all the fresh fruit he packed up here." Dana smiled, even though she blinked away big teardrops "I wanted him to notice me, but not that way."

"Aww, Dana, we all just care a ton about you." Steph gave her hug."Chris really loves fruit, so it was a big deal for him to sell it to you. He's a rock star, that's all."

"Yeah, he rocks." Dana dried her tears. "It's true, prob'ly, that I've got some hang ups about food. And learning to speak up. I'm figuring it out. Hey, watch this!"

Dana stood up on the bench "Listen up, Ninth grade Outdoor Ed people! I'm not anorexic or bulemic! You can all relax, now!" She laughed as the room erupted in applause and she jumped down and did a perfect pirouette.

"I want my fruit back!"

"No way!"

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