4.23.2007

Teenage Angst: Remembered

Everyone has horror stories from their childhood. Everyone has a story to tell about how they got picked on by someone at sometime. Some are worse than others. Well, not everyone has those stories. Some of you reading this will have been the givers, others will have been the receivers. Even so, everyone can relate.

This is gonna be a long one folks, but stick it out. I promise this story has a moral.

I was a nerd in school. I was more than a nerd, I was an uber-nerd. I was the nose in her books, glasses wearing, never cared about fashion, always knew the right answer kind of nerd. Add to that the fact that I made friends with the weirdos, the freaks, the dummies and the outcasts...yeah, I was a beating waiting to happen. You could have just painted a big 'ole target on my ass the first day of first grade and sent me off to the playground.

As the years passed, it only got worse. I got boobs in the fourth grade. Not the "Oh, how cute" kind. The "Jesus, that kid is a freak" kind. The girls were merciless. I mean, sure, I got my revenge in high-school when I grew into them, but at the time it was hell. By seventh grade I had read all of Shakespear's collected works, in my spare time, for fun....painting a picture here? Yeah, not pretty is it?

The teachers loved me, usually....the other kids looked at me as something from a science fiction movie. My locker got stacked. They smeared Vaseline on my glasses. They shoved me in the hallways. I got called every name you could think of. They would surround me in the locker room and steal my clothes, make me beg to have them back. I got followed home everyday with threats of physical violence being hurled at me.

I took it all. I never said a word. I went silently through every single day of torture at school and never uttered a word. I never screamed or yelled. I never complained to the teachers. Not a sound. I just read more books and wrote in my journal. Except for one day in eighth grade. On that day I had had enough. On that day I had been pushed to far. On that day I decked one of the other girls. Just hauled off and slugged her in the nose. WHAM! Down she went. She tried to get up. I thumped her again. They were agog. They didn't move. They stared at me as if they had never seen me before. Then one of them screamed. Very Carrie.

I calmly walked myself to the principal's office. The secretary was confused by my appearance and asked why I was there. I told her. Then I sat down to wait for my mother. I got suspended from school for three days. I was sent to counseling to find out why I had struck out at a fellow classmate in such a violent fashion. When I responded to the counselor's questions honestly I got asked what I had done to "provoke" that kind of treatment. At that point I stopped talking to the counselor and was labeled "difficult". Okay then.

In high school I moved to a new city and ended up in a school where I wasn't the smartest kid I knew. In fact, there were a lot of kids that were much smarter than me. I fit in. I didn't even have to do anything. I just fit. My self-esteem improved. My fashion choices improved. I grew into my boobs. Right about the time my boobs and I came to terms with each other I got a boyfriend and life was good.

I found a voice in that place. I learned to stand up for myself. When I was sent home to my mother three years later, I wasn't the same quiet little nerd I had been in the eighth grade. Suddenly I was the "scary" kid. I was combat boots and safety pins in the wrong places. I was punk rock in a sea full of cowboy boots. This terrified each and everyone of my former tormentors. Not one of them opened their mouths to me. Not one. It was remarkable. Suddenly I was to be feared. I was a thing of awe inspiring gasps. I was "That Girl" and not in a Marlo Thomas kind of way. Girls talked in hushed tones when I walked by and the boys wanted me....oh how they wanted me. Combat boots and big tits will get you noticed in a school full of Wranglers and sports bras. I was sex and parties and sin on two legs. I was on fire.

I promised you a moral to this tale, so here it comes. I spent a vast majority of my life in public school as that kid everyone thought was weird. The one that you hear about in the news. I was that kid. I was quiet. I kept to myself. I never complained. I was friends with all the other weirdos. We sat in our own corner of the lunchroom. We read. We talked about politics. We played Dungeons and Dragons. We were each others shelter from the storm. We were lucky to have even that. We hadn't done anything wrong, we were just different. No one came to our aid. No one stood up for us. No one told the "popular" kids that it wasn't okay to be such complete and total bastards. Everyone just ignored it or worsed, asked us what we were doing to provoke it.

Some of you that read this post will adopt the "kids will be kids" attitude. The "suck it up, life's not fair" approach. Some of you will read it and think that I, and kids like me, could work harder to "fit in". That being different is somehow justification for being targeted. Quite a few of you will shrug it off with the classic, "High school doesn't last forever."

Would your perception of my experience change at all if I added details? How about knowing, for example, that the entire time I was being picked on by fellow students I was being abused at home. Not just garden variety spanked and yelled at abused, but the "Mommy Dearest" coat hanger on the back kind? Let's insert the additional detail that at the age of nine I was sexually molested for a number of months by a neighbor, and that upon reporting this to my mother I was called a "lying little slut"? Up the anty a bit, how about knowing that I went to school on a number of occassions with visable bruises and administrators did nothing? Top it all off with a nice helping of suicidal tendancies brought on by severe and prolonged depression which would later be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder.

Is your perception of the person walking quietly down the hall of that junior high, absorbing all the abuse being thrown at her by fellow classmates shifting slightly?

We brush off how much the bullying that children undergo at school can impact their lives. Not just as children, but as adults. That "weird" kid in the hallway is a person. The "whiner" or the "brat" at your child's elementary school has feelings too. Those children have lives outside of the walls of those schools. None of us is born detached from society. Children don't learn to be social, they learn to be anti-social. They learn it from us. They learn it by watching how we react to situations like the bully on the playground. If we shrug and say, "Kids will be kids," our children learn to shrug and say it too.

Monsters aren't born, they're created. As we continue to make excuses for our own bad behavior, we will continue to see it manifest itself. I was one of the lucky ones, I got out with my soul intact. Not everyone survives. Those of us that do make it out don't do so unscathed. The scars that come from long term, habitual torment at the hands of your peers last into adulthood. It effects the way you form relationships. It effects the way you treat others. Eventually, it has to come out.

Remember this the next time your tempted to pass off school bullies as no big deal: Today's children are tomorrow's adults. What lessons are they learning when you shrug it off?

6 comments:

super des said...

Excellent post. Absolutely excellent.

For the record, the first half of the blog could've been describing me. Except for the boobs. I didn't have those. But uber nerd. Right here.

knightjorge said...

Wow, someone who had it worse than me. I don't know how you got it worse when it seems like I'm the only one in my school that got it that bad. I can't imagine if my hell had been worse. I know there were nerds that had to have had it bad but not quite as publicly as what I got it. You know, all the kids mooing at me in the halls every time I would go past. The chick that would punch me in the stomach just because she could. That kind of shit. The fact that I actually involved my parents and they tried to do something about it, a restraining order that didn't do shit, was a good thing but still didn't help much. I was big. I was tough. After I while I was fed up and started fighting back, things got a little bit better.

You are so right about the scars lasting into adulthood. I'll be 29 in 9 days and I still have issues because of that crap. It really pisses me off when my peers are all kinds of over junior high and high school and it still affects me regularly. They didn't have it that bad though. I haven't been in school, well that kind of school, for almost 12 years and it still affects me. It's sad. I've been treated similarly at jobs and when you go to your boss and/or HR they pull the "Well, if it always happens to you don't you think it's something you're doing/not doing that's causing it?" Assholes! Couldn't it just be that the bastards doing it are complete fucking asses? Damn! So I don't even believe that HR will do anything if I have a seriousl complaint.

No wonder I'm so fucked up.

Anyway, I can so relate. No wonder we get along. We've been through a similar hell and we've learned that people that can't accept you as you are aren't worth it. They just aren't worth the trouble and the pain.

Okay, I'm done.

knightjorge said...

Maybe I'm not done. There's a difference between us. I wasn't a nerd. I didn't wear glasses, I was actually kind of hot, and I wasn't a big reader back then. At least not that I can remember. I didn't always know the answer but school wasn't hard for me. It seems like school was pretty easy. I didn't try to be popular, I wasn't big into the fashionable clothes, I think even then I gave off a kind of "I really don't care what you think" air. I just don't get it. I cannot for the life of me figure out why anyone would treat someone like me so poorly.

I can only think that some of that treatment stemmed from jealousy of some sort. It's not like I was popular or anything but there has to be some kind of reason, right?

I'll tell you what though. No one, and I mean NO ONE is going to treat my child that way and get away with it. I'm going to get involved like my parents did, but more so. My kids will not be subjected to that kind of shit if I can help it.

Okay, I'm done again.

Suzanne said...

I wasn't as tormented as you were, but I was a picked on nerd. As a result, I felt bad for Dylan Klebold and the other kid who was tormented at Columbine. I always thought that the moral of that story was wrong: watch out for the weirdos and monitor them like hawks instead of stop the insane bullying that causes kids to snap.

I'm glad you beat the shit out of that girl. It sickens me that you were blamed for it. I know violence - whether shooting people or punching them out - is not the answer, but what else can someone do when the answer is totally fucked up? I'm glad that it resulted in you finding a place where you fit in. The world has really screwed up priorities and goals. It's so great to find a corner where things are finally right.

viciousrumours said...

I've always just sat and kept my mouth shut when something like Columbine happens. My comments are always taken badly by those who don't know me well...mostly because I know what it's like to be THAT kid.

It's not that I condone the actions of those people, but I know what drives them to it. And you're right, the priorities are skewed.

As long as society views the bullies as the "victims" we'll continue to see escalating violence.

Gunfighter said...

Wow.

Another "weird" kid, checking in. I was known as "The Professor" when I was a kid. I used to get picked on by a kid across the street from me.

When it came to a head and my mother asked his mother to control her son, the reply was "boys will be boys"

when I hospitalized her son a short time later, his mother asked mine what she was going to do about it. My mother said "boys will be boys"