I wrote this piece on July 28, 2015, on a Tumblr blog that no longer exists. The events in it took place decades ago, when I was in middle school.
This is a story about what happens when teenage girls do not have access to birth control. It is based on my memory of actual events.
I read “They Were Both Pregnant” on Episode 046 of Words of Jen.
Middle school (or junior high, depending on where you lived) is pretty much hell for everyone. Kids who used to be nice and friendly in Elementary School suddenly develop hormones – and have no idea how to cope with them.
It’s a period of adjustment, both physically and socially, that absolutely no one enjoys. Ask any 40 year old if they would want to be a kid again. The offer sounds tempting, until they remember what it was like to go through middle school. No, thanks! Nobody wants a “do-over” of middle school.
One thing that many middle school students excel in is the ability to spread rumors about other people. Gossip is social currency, after all.
Tell a juicy secret that some unfortunate friend shared with you, and won’t have any difficulty finding people to sit with at lunch. Or, such was the case “back in the day” before Facebook, smartphones, and the internet as we know it existed.
My friends and I, like many middle school students, had difficulty discerning the rumors that were true from the ones that were flat-out lies. All these years later, I’ve forgotten about most of the rumors that spread like wildfire back then, except for one.
The rumor was that those two girls, over at that other table, were both pregnant.
I was twelve years old, in the eighth grade, and sitting with my friends at a table in the cafeteria. The place was noisy, and crowded, and the food was terrible.
These friends were girls that I’d known from elementary school, and that I got along with well enough, but had little in common with. Even so, it was a great relief to know that someone was saving me a seat at “our table.” I’d seen what happens when a kid didn’t have any friends to sit with.
“Sorry, all these seats are saved.”
None of us had the social skills to have any clue what to do in that situation. We were young, and absolutely certain that everyone else was watching us all the time. That the zit on our forehead was, in fact, as large and red as a stop sign.
Lunch period wasn’t about the food. It was about avoiding the fate of becoming the kid that the whole cafeteria laughed at. It was about spreading whatever gossip was going around that day.
One day, I brought my tray of inedible pizza and a carton of milk that I wouldn’t drink any of, to the table with my friends. After we were all seated, one of the girls shared a secret rumor with is.
“Those two girls over there, I don’t know their names, the sisters? Well, they’re both pregnant!”
This revelation was met with skeptical silence. None of us could believe it. They were too young to be pregnant, right? And what were the odds that both of them were pregnant at the same time? This rumor had to be fake.
I remember looking across the room at the two sisters who were sitting at another table. They sat there, by themselves, every lunch period.
Three or four other kids sat at the same table as they did, with several empty seats between them, but nobody talked to each other (except for the two sisters).
It was the “loser” table. No one, not even the kid who couldn’t find a seat that wasn’t saved, would dare sit there, for fear of the social consequences of doing so.
The two sisters were identical twins, and weren’t from here. They spoke some English, but rarely talked to anyone but each other.
They didn’t understand Spanish, and the Filipino kids couldn’t understand what those girls said when they spoke their native language. They were thin, tan, and pretty in ways that most middle schools girls were not (but desperately wished they could be.)
The rumor had a lot of detail to it, which made it more believable. But, the biggest reason why the rumor eventually seemed credible was simple. No one had any reason to start a pregnancy rumor about two girls that no one cared about.
Doing so wouldn’t help someone climb the social ladder and get invited to sit with “the cool kids”. Those two girls hadn’t made any enemies, so there was no reason to try and ruin their middle school lives with this sort of rumor. It just didn’t have the impact it would if the rumor were about the most popular girl in school – whoever that happened to be this week.
It turned out that one of the girls had a boyfriend who was older than we were. He didn’t go to our school, and he wasn’t a middle schooler.
“Is he a high schooler?”, one of my friends asked. Dating a high school boy, while you were still in middle school, was considered to be impressive. We were young, and the idea of dating an older boy – who might even be able to drive – sounded glamorous.
“No!”, the rumor teller said, “ He’s not a high schooler. He’s 25!”
This astounded even the most cynical of our small group. We talked over each other, asking questions in rapid fire. How did they even know a 25-year-old? Why would a 25-year-old want to date someone so young? Did their parents know they were dating a 25-year-old man?
There weren’t any clear answers to those questions. The story was that the slightly older twin had been dating a 25 year old guy “for a long time”. They had sex, and she got pregnant. They broke up after she learned she was pregnant. The 25-year-old started dating her twin sister, and now, she was pregnant, too.
I remember staring at those two girls, the ones no one knew much about. This was years before I’d heard the phrase “statutory rape”, but even then, I knew that what happened wasn’t ok. I tuned out my friend’s chatter, and the noise of the cafeteria and focused on the twin sisters.
All of my friends, so far as I knew, were virgins. Most had never had a boyfriend, had never kissed anyone, and had not been brave enough to dance with a boy at the most recent school dance.
Over there, were two girls who were our age and pregnant. It was surreal – like one of those horrible “After School Specials” come to life.
While I was watching, one of the twins got up, slowly, and with difficulty. Her stomach was much rounder and fatter than I’d noticed before. Of course, I’d never paid much attention to her before, so I didn’t really have a good comparison.
However, I was the oldest of four kids, and knew what a pregnant belly looked like. She walked/waddled directly to nearest bathroom. A minute later, her sister got up, with her own round belly, and followed her.
It was true! They both were pregnant. I felt stunned, for reasons I couldn’t understand.
I remember worrying about what would happen to them, even though they were strangers to me. How would they raise a baby when they were too young to have a job? Where was this man who was the father of both the babies?
It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that the mother of the twin sisters would probably be the one to raise those babies. I wondered if one of the girls would have to marry the 25-year-old. If so, what would happen to her unmarried sister?
About a month later, both the sisters disappeared. They were no longer sitting over there, at the “loser table”. People said that the twin sisters had both quit school.
This rumor, unlike the previous one, was met with shrugs. No one cared anymore. Everyone forgot about the rumors, and the girls the rumors were about, as new rumors replaced the old ones.