Short Story: The Awesome Ashleys

Okay, so this is the last time I post something related to the Overachiever debate – I promise! But I’m still thinking about it, and it lead me to write this short story. I never really share my writing on here, but I figured I would share this if only because it would never make sense to anyone who has not followed the overachiever debate. For those of you who are tired of hearing about this – I apologize. Like I said, this will probably be my last post on here about this. For those of you who aren’t tired of hearing about it – well –  enjoy.

Ashley A. was always very shy growing up. She only spoke when spoken to. She didn’t have any close friends. The people in her classes didn’t talk to her. Her parents became concerned that their daughter didn’t have any friends, so they sent her to a special club after school that they thought would help her make friends, as everyone in the club was named Ashley, and at least she would be able to say that she had one thing in common with everyone else in the club.

Ashley A. wasn’t sure that this would help her make friends, but she decided to try her best. Maybe she would actually be able to make friends for once.  So the first day of the club, she put on the nicest shirt she owned, and she went to the club, determined to make friends with at least one person.

But everywhere she looked, people were annoyed with her. They didn’t like the shirt that she was wearing. Some said that the green was too bright, that it hurt their eyes to look at and that it was ugly and stupid. Others said that the shirt looked expensive, and that she was trying to shove it in their faces that she had more money than they did. Still others sneered that it was probably of really cheap quality, and that their own shirts were obviously so much better than hers.

“It’s not cheap quality,” she tried to say, defending her shirt. After all, it was a nice shirt. She had worn it special for this meeting. She thought it was nice, and she didn’t like that other people were making fun of it.

“Oh, so you think your shirt is better than ours?” they sneered.

“No!” she said, horrified that they would think that. “I think everyone has nice shirts on!”

“Our shirts are nice,” the other Ashleys said, “but yours is horrible, and you’re ruining this club for the rest of us. Why don’t you just get out of here and leave us alone?”

Ashley A. was miserable. She didn’t want to go back there, but her parents were so excited about it that she knew she had to go back. So she did. She tried to look for a different shirt that wouldn’t upset them, but green was her favorite color, and that was her favorite style of shirt, so she had a lot of shirts that looked like that. She eventually just gave up and wore another green shirt, since she figured they would hate her anyway, so she might as well wear what she wanted to wear. She did wear a jacket over the shirt, though, so that the other kids might not notice.

This time when she went to the club, the people who didn’t remember her shirt from before were nice to her. She thought she was making friends. But it was getting hot in the meeting room, and all of the other Ashleys were wearing short-sleeved shirts, not jackets. She wanted to wear a short-sleeved shirt, as well. So she decided that it would be safe to take off the jacket.

But then the nasty comments returned, all of them saying that she was showing off again, that she should take her stupid green shirt and go somewhere else. Once again, Ashley A went home in tears, sad that she didn’t even fit in among the other Ashleys.

On her third visit to the meeting, she decided that she would keep her jacket on the whole time, regardless of how hot she got. If she couldn’t get the Ashleys to like her, what hope was there that she would ever find anyone to like her? So she went to the meeting, fully intending to keep the jacket on forever and just sit back and watch the others talk about fashion and show off their outfits.

But at this meeting, she met Ashley B. Ashley B. was wearing a bright green shirt, too, and the other Ashleys made fun of her, as well. Ashley A. was afraid to go up to her at first, but she finally did. She showed Ashley B. that she was wearing a green shirt, as well, but that she was hiding it so that the other people wouldn’t make fun of her. Ashley B. agreed that she would do the same, and that they could be friends and know that they, at least, agreed with what constituted a nice shirt.

The next meeting, though, Ashley A. and Ashley B. were talking when a new girl showed up. Her name was Ashley C., and she was wearing a bright green shirt just like they had been. The other kids made fun of her, and she didn’t care. She just kept her head held high.

“They won’t hate you so much if you cover up your shirt,” Ashley A. told her.

“That’s stupid,” said Ashley C. “I like the color green. I like my clothes. Why should I have to change them or hide them just to make a bunch of stupid people happy? If my wearing a green shirt makes them feel bad about their clothes, then that’s their problem. I’m not going to let them make me feel about what I’m wearing, though, and neither should you.”

Ashley A. and Ashley B. thought about this and decided that Ashley C. was right. The three of them decided to start their own club within the club. They called themselves the Awesome Ashleys, as they were the only ones awesome enough to wear green, which was their favorite color. Together, the three of them joked and had a good time. They were able to talk about fashion designs that the other Ashleys thought were stupid. They stayed in their little corner of the room, away from the other Ashleys, and they had a great time. The other people in the group still made fun of them and called them names, but they didn’t care as much since they had a small group of people to hang out with that they knew would support them. After all, they were the Awesome Ashleys, and they weren’t going to let these other Ashleys bring them down, not when they had enough other for support.

And for the first time in her life, Ashley A. had friends, and she was happy.

But then one day she showed up at the meeting and saw that Ashley C. wasn’t wearing a green shirt anymore. She had changed to a blue shirt, and she was hanging out with the people who always made fun of their green shirts.

“You’re not wearing green,” Ashley A. said when she saw her friend.

“Not today,” said Ashley C. “I wanted to wear something of quality for once. But hey, you should definitely keep wearing green!”

Ashley A. and Ashley B. were confused, but they didn’t say anything. They hung out in their corner anyway, talking about Awesome Ashley stuff and having fun. They even managed to make Ashley D., a new member to the club who also liked wearing green, feel welcome. So they still had their Awesome Ashley meeting, just without Ashley C. And they still had fun.

At the next meeting, though, things changed. Ashley C. came up to them and said, “Look, guys, you can’t call yourselves the Awesome Ashleys anymore, okay?”

“Why?” asked Ashley A.

“Because it’s not fair to the rest of the Ashleys. It implies that they’re not awesome, and that’s just mean. It makes them feel bad.”

“But they always made us feel bad,” said Ashley A.

“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have done that,” said Ashley C.

“But they’re still doing it,” said Ashley A.

“Just ignore them,” said Ashley C. “You should be proud to wear green shirts. But you can’t call yourselves awesome.”

“But it makes us feel good,” said Ashley A. “And there are so many more of them than us. What do they care what a couple of people they already hate call themselves?”

“Not all of them hate you,” said Ashley C. “Some of them just get upset when they see the green shirts because they don’t have the ability to get a green shirt, and it’s not fair.”

“So we shouldn’t wear green shirts because they don’t have green shirts?” asked Ashley A.

“Of course that’s not it,” said Ashley C. “No one’s telling you that you can’t wear green shirts. You just can’t call yourselves awesome.”

“Why?”

“Because it hurts people’s feelings.”

“But they don’t care if they hurt our feelings.”

“Don’t let them get to you. Be proud of what you’re wearing.”

“But you don’t want us to call ourselves awesome.”

“No. Because it’s mean to the other Ashleys, all of whom are awesome in their own way.”

“But you started this group,” said Ashley A. “You were the one who showed me that it was okay to wear what I wanted.”

“And it is okay to wear what you want. And it’s okay to be proud of what you wear. But you can’t use words to show that you’re proud because it makes the other people feel bad.”

“Well this is making me feel bad,” said Ashley A. She couldn’t believe that her friend was turning on her like this. “Why do you care if a bunch of mean people get hurt but you don’t care that this is hurting me?”

“Of course I care,” said Ashley C. “But this club is for all Ashleys, and you’re ruining it for them.”

“And you’re ruining it for me,” said Ashley A. quietly.

Ashley C. still heard her. “We clearly disagree about this. Look, you and Ashley B. and Ashley D. should have fun. Go talk to other people. Be proud. But don’t vocalize your pride, okay?” Then she held out her arms for a hug. “No hard feelings, okay?”

Ashley A. didn’t know what to do, so she awkwardly hugged Ashley C. back and then watched as her supposed friend joined the ranks of their tormenters.

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Posted on November 13, 2012, in NaNoWriMo, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. After that extra-long comment on the previous post, I’m keeping this short. At first, I felt really bad for Ashley A. and I wanted her to stand up and be proud of her green shirt and I thought having Ashley B. would help. When Ashley C. joined them, it was rooting for them. However, when I got to the point where it says that they formed their own club inside the club and talked exclusively to each other, I wasn’t. I think in the end, Ashley C. has almost the right idea. I don’t agree with the “but don’t vocalize your pride”, but I agree with the mingling. I think, in the long run, it will be so much better for Ashley A. and B.’s self-confidence if they can mix with other people, without loosing their sense of who they are. If their perception of themselves depends on the company they are in, they’re doomed, poor girls.
    (I get that you mean this as a direct comparison on the overachiever-discussion/”situation”, but it’s not the same so much, is it? I’m all for you and your friends calling yourselves overachievers, because writing several hundred thousands words is definitely overachieving the goal of NaNo and you should be extremely(!) proud of that feat, but as a grown-up at the Ashley club, a supervisor or whatever, I’d be very worried about the girls sitting in their corner and not able to mix…. sorry, this is slightly off target…:) )

    • I guess I don’t agree with the mingling because Ashley C. did have to change who she was to go back – in the case of the story, she took off the green shirt. She could only be friends with the bullies once she did what they wanted her to do.

      One of the other people who started the overachiever debate seems to think along the same lines you do. She wants everyone to get along with everyone and be happy. My thing, and this has always been true, is that I have no interest in being friends with people who are mean to me. In the case of the Ashleys, Ashley A. did try to be friends with the other people, and she was continually told that as long as she was who she was (and wore what she wanted) she wouldn’t be accepted.

      It’s like two nerds who have been bullied by the popular people for months, so they hang out only with themselves. I guess I don’t see the problem with that. Also, in the case of Nano – other groups have designated areas on the forums. There are genre forums and age forums. There’s a forum for military people. There’s forum for students. And there’s also an entire “rebel” forum for people who aren’t following the rules of NaNo, either by starting early or working on a novel they’ve already started or not writing fiction. So it’s not that the people in charge don’t want little groups to form; they just don’t want this group to form. People hang out with people who share their interests, and they don’t hang out with people who are mean to them and/or have nothing in common with them. I guess I just don’t see the problem with that. And I hope you don’t read this as me being mean or anything – I’m not trying to be mean, just to share my feelings and sort of explain where I was coming from when I wrote this. 🙂

      • No, come on, I’d never think you were mean! And I do get the story and totally see where you’re coming from, especially after the previous post. But I think the story and the situation that inspired it aren’t really comparable: of course you want to hang out with the people with whom you share interests – in your case, writing huge amounts of words – and that’s absolutely cool and normal and as it should be. On the other hand, if one applies this to life in general and only spends time with people who think the exact same way as oneself, it would be really boring and nothing would ever change. In life, and in society in general, I’m not in favour of exclusive groups. And you’re right, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that Ashley C. had to put on a blue shirt to be allowed in with the others, but you know what would have been awesome? If she’d worn a yellow or red or pink or whatever shirt. Or a different colour every time, whatever she felt like wearing that day.

        (You’re right about me, as in, I really want everybody to get along – meaning not be friends with everyone, but respect each other and not be hurtful to each other – but I’m also realistic enough to know that in real life, it will never work like that, so my approach is to include as many people as I can and try to find common ground between each, past the barriers of prejudice and miscommunication. In my experiences, that works.)

      • I guess the point I was trying to make was that wearing a green shirt is like writing more than 50k – not something that you have to do, but something that you should be able to do without people looking down on you. Maybe in the story I should have one of the other Ashleys hang out with them, and they tell this new Ashley that she’s awesome, too.

        The Overachiever thread isn’t about forming an exclusive group. It’s about finding a group of people with whom you can relate. The Awesome Ashleys hang out with other people outside of this Ashley group. They would talk to other Ashleys who were nice to them. But they’re not going to go try to be friends with the people who were mean to them. You can only be kicked so many times before you just stop trying.

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