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I learned a very important lesson when I was a senior in high school.  A lesson about inner strength, friendships, and power.  Come with me, if you will, to my past:

About a month before prom, after school a girlfrienemy… we’ll call her Melissa, and I were talking.  We were both in marching band together. (Yes, I was a band nerd, and a fierce self-taught clarinet player.  Not to toot my own horn, but… “toot toot.”)  Well, Melissa and I were talking about prom and we got on the topic of undergarments.  She told me that she didn’t want panty lines under her dress, but she also had trepidation about wearing a thong.  So, I told her:  “Why don’t you just go commando?”

Now for those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, “commando,” as popularize by the sitcom Friends is when a person forgoes wearing underwear.  She yells:  “OH MY GOD!  I’M NOT GOING COMMANDO!”  I say:  “Why not?  I did for Winter Ball, and honestly, you can’t even tell the difference.”  After we laughed about it, the conversation progressed and there was no more mention of going commando… until I came to school the next day.

When I told Melissa about my commando exploit, she and I were the only two people in the band room.  Most people were actually gone from the school, so imagine my surprise when I walk into the band room to put my clarinet in my band locker, and this dolt named Zeke* comes up to me, with three other idiots giggling as he says:  “Hey, Commando Kendra.”

Even though I’m dark skinned, I’m pretty sure I turned a bright shade of red, and immediately looked in Melissa’s direction.  I told her this situation because I thought she was my friend.  If I wanted her brigade of morons to know then I would have told them.  She avoided me for the rest of the day, and instead of just confronting her, I decided that it would die down.  But every single time I ran into Zeke, which was like four times on average, he would always greet me as “Hey, Commando Kendra!”

The next day, I go to school and I’m SURE this thing has died down.  I mean, how much more enjoyment can someone get out of this revelation?  Apparently two to three more days worth.  But, it started going from harmless teasing to malicious attention seeking behavior.  During the times I would run into him, he started calling me “Commando Kendra” even louder in our crowded hallways.  Or getting people to come up to me and ask me what does it mean, while he evilly grinned in my direction.

On about the fourth day of this foolishness, I walked into the band room and saw it written on the chalk board.  Embarrassed, I ran to the board and quickly erased it.  People kept on coming up to me and asking me what it meant.  Since Friends was really popular at the time, some people were immediately making the correlation and asking me for confirmation.  While I tried to put my clarinet together, holding back tears, Zeke got up, walked to the chalk board and started writing it out again, in the most exaggerated way, saying the letters out loud each time he wrote one.  I went to the bathroom to stop myself from crying, and after I calmed down, I walked into the band room, and saw that he was still standing at the board, but he stopped in mid letter, actually WAITING for me to get back so he could finish writing it on the board.

All of a sudden, something just clicked.  I just started thinking:  “Look at him!  He’s getting so much joy out of me being hurt by this.”  Then, the feeling of indignation began to set in.  “Who does he think he is?!  He thinks he’s doing something right now!  LOOK AT HIM!  WITH THAT STUPID SMUG GRIN ON HIS FACE!!!  Oh, okay, I got something for him!”

At that time my band director came out of his office and stood on his podium.  I stopped him and asked him if I could make a quick announcement.  He allowed me, and I stood on the podium and said to the room filled with about 150-200 students:

“Excuse me, everyone.  Well, I know that you’ve all heard the jokes and the teases of Commando Kendra.  Someone even wrote it on the chalk board (*points to the chalk board behind me), and many of you have been asking me what it means.  Well, I’m going to tell you what it means.  I’m called Commando Kendra because sometimes, I don’t like wearing underwear.  I didn’t wear underwear to the last two Winter Balls, I don’t plan to wear underwear at the prom, and I’m actually not wearing underwear now (*I honestly can’t remember if that was true or not, but I surely did say it!).  So if anyone else wants to know what “Commando Kendra” means, it means that I sometimes don’t wear underwear!”

I hopped off the podium and went to my seat while a loud applause erupted.  My band teacher looked horrified, and I could tell that he was putting a mental note in his mind that next time a student asks to make an announcement to find out what it is first.

I’m saying all of this to tell you that sometimes people are going to try to hold things over on you to get the best of you.  During those times that you feel helpless, and you can tell that someone is enjoying your pain, remember what Eleanor Roosevelt once said:  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  I’m not saying that to regain your agency you need to put yourself on blast (like I did), but what I’m saying is that there are ways for you to get your power back when it feels like someone has stolen it from you.

With that being said, stay strong and stay encouraged!  There are always ways to excel in these situations, and I hope that you find a way that is right for you!  I’ll tell you this though; I’d never been called “Commando Kendra” since.

Is Kendra Koger commando right now?  You’re not going to know because she’s a mother now, but you can ask her other questions on her twitter @kkoger.

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