Monday, April 23, 2012
Look Back in Anger?
If you love me, it's important that you grab a cup of tea and read this. This is something you should read if you've ever wondered why I am the way I am...a bitter, untrusting and insecure bitch. When I came to Facebook a short time ago, I joined a group for the alumni of one of my grade schools. For the record, I attended public school until 4th grade. I switched to Catholic school in 5th grade. This is about the Catholic school - St. Anon School (obviously, not a real name).
Remember back when you were in school and there was that one kid that everyone picked on? That was me.
From the very first day, my life at St. Anon was extremely difficult. It started with my socks. The dress code stated that you wore your socks to your knees, so I did. Only, no one else listened to the dress code, except for a few girls. From my first few minutes in line on that first morning I was made fun of for wearing my socks up to my knees. I would like to point out that nowadays, the cool kids in my old grade school and high school wear knee socks. Only a few hours into my first day, I was called out. Our teacher, Mrs. Dunce (name changed to protect the assholes) was hosting an informal discussion just before lunch began. She asked a question to the class and I responded without raising my hand. She yelled at me and asked if kids were allowed to talk to the teacher without raising hands at my old school. I told her yes, as that was the truth. My 4th grade teacher was very into group discussions and we frequently called out answers and spoke up without the need to raise hands. Then, this girl who also attended my public grade school, but was held back a year because she was trouble, told Mrs. Dunce that her mother works for my old school and she knew "for a fact" that my teacher would have never ever allowed anyone to speak without raising their hands. Utter bullshit, but Mrs. Dunce had already chosen sides. She looked at me and said, "Miss EarthChild, you are going to be nothing but trouble for me." The rest of my first day didn't go smoothly. I had no one to talk to or sit with at lunch. All these kids knew each other since 1st grade. Even the aforementioned loser from my old school already had friends at St. Anon. My only friend there was Rita, who was a grade younger than me, so I never saw her and wasn't allowed to interact with her. Recess sucked balls as I just leaned up against the fence, alone, and watched everyone else play. Rita was out there, too, but you weren't allowed to play with other grades. Each grade was segregated and it was strictly forbidden to interact ( I had a moment of desperation in 6th grade where I merely spoke to Rita over the 5th grade/6th grade line. Got my ass reamed by one of the nuns for that one). Later that day, we filled in some stupid paper about our likes and dislikes. What's your favorite dog? What's your favorite cartoon. What's your favorite movie? What's your favorite band? Oh, this one started some of the biggest crap for me. I listed "David Bowie" as my favorite band. I was called stupid first, because David Bowie himself was not a band. Well, he didn't have an official band. Plus, Bowie was uncool and my liking him made me uncool as well. Mrs. Dunce yelled at me for writing a singer's name and not a band and told me I couldn't follow directions and I was exasperating her already on the first day of school. I explained that I didn't have a favorite band, just a favorite singer, who did use a band whenever he made albums and sung on stage. That reply was considered sarcastic. I placed a comma next to Bowie's name and penciled in, "Bon Jovi.". Then I erased it. So, I was made fun of for that. Now, I could write a 4 book series on my experiences at St. Anon - a long book for each grade. I'll make it brief for you, but remember my version of brief is...well, not so brief. I've NEVER written about this before, much less spoke of it to anyone other than Mike (my husband), so it's hard to contain everything I want to write.
As you have read, the first day wasn't great. I had envisioned going to my first day at a new school as a glorious one. I was going to make a ton of friends and have a great time. So much for manifesting. In the beginning weeks, I told my parents that things were ok, but I quickly buckled and told the truth as things got worse....way worse.
I was nominated for, "That kid who everyone pokes fun of" on that very first day. It never got better after that. Making fun of me for Bowie was pretty mild at that point. It happened, but not often. In fifth grade, I embarked on the now 20 year battle with acne. I was apparently the first kid in St. Anon to get zits and they reminded me of that fact every.single.day. Think of all the names for zitty forever making mistakes and finally coming to the wrong answer. Laughter, even from sweet Mrs. Dunce, would ensue. She would loudly ask me what was wrong with me in front of the class. Kids would push me, throw things at me, draw horrid ugly pictures and say it was me, make up songs and rhymes about me, play all sorts of tricks and just generally treat me like absolute shit. I was, of course, always picked last for teams and activities in gym class. Mrs. Dunce was one of the players. On one day, right before Christmas, we were coloring Christmas pictures. I had shared crayons with Cartman, who always treated me like hell, but I had hoped sharing crayons would make him nice for the day. I reached out to his desk to grab one of my crayons and my desk tipped over (it was one of those one piece desks), with part of it landing on top of me. There I was, on the floor, with my legs splayed up in the air and my white Gitano Girl panties with the red hearts showing for all the world to see. Not one single person asked if I was okay. Not one person helped me back up (those desks were heavy and I was hurt). And Mrs. Dunce? She rolled her eyes at me and shook her head, as if I was giant inconvenience. My Lord, writing this makes me want to go back there and slap the fucking shit out of her head. I digress. By the end of the first semester, my mom had written notes about how the kids treated me. Then she spoke personally with Mrs. Dunn. Mrs. Dunn told her she had "no idea" at all that I was having any problems. She said I seemed to get along with other kids, just that I was a little shy and quiet. My mama knew better...mommy knows her kid. She said she would talk to the kids and nip that naughty behavior in the bud. And she did talk to them. She had me step outside of class on morning and stand outside the door, while she told all the kids to play nice with me. They did for the rest of that day, and that began a new game that kids would play until 8th grade. Be nice to Jenn (well, Jen at the time) for a little bit, then crush her. They would pull me aside and tell me that they wanted to be friends. They would talk to me. Then they'd walk over to other friends and start making fun of everything I said and the fact that I even thought I could be friends with anyone. I fell for it a lot because I craved friendly attention so bad. Now, I did have one friend beginning in 5th grade. A shy kid that I originally thought was from France. She had an Eiffel Tower figure on her desk and Mike Macsomething told me it was because she was from France. We'll call her Frencie. She wasn't from France. We were friends throughout gradeschool, with our ups and downs. If I had one solace then, it was that I was friends with Frenchie. I think she got picked on because of her friendship with me. There was one time when we were holding hands in the schoolyard and we were made fun of so bad for it.
I'll share another favorite 5th grade occasion with you. Remember, my life everyday was hell. Non-stop being picked on. I was called to the blackboard to do fractions, fucking fractions, and stood there like a moron because I couldn't get it. Mrs. Dunce told me I had to stand there until it was figured it out, and went on talking to the rest of the class without me. I couldn't figure it out, no matter how hard I tried. Years later, I learned I had a math-specific learning disability called dyscalculia. Back then, they just thought I was an idiot. When lunch came, she told me I had to stand there through lunch until I got it solved. If I wanted to sit down and eat, I would have to figure out that math. In the middle of lunch, another teacher walked into the room and asked why I was standing at the board. I told her Mrs. Dunce said I had to stay there until I solved the problem. Mrs. Dunce, knowing she could get into trouble, acted all shocked. "Jennifer! You should have known better than to stand there. Sit and have lunch." As I sat down, one boy started to inch his desk back until it hit my desk. He kept doing it until he moved my desk backwards into another desk and was pinned there. I loudly told him to stop and I got yelled at for that. Mrs. Dunce said nothing to the boy. Another fun occasion was the school book fair. We all went to the library to buy books. When we were done, we were to return to our classroom. Some kids had gone up before me. When I walked into the classroom, Mrs. Dunce was talking to those kids and I walked in just as she was saying, "So what is wrong with her? Why is she like that?" I wondered who they were talking about as I started reading one of my new books. Dick stood up and started listing all of my "bad points" (which he made up). Dick was notorious for kicking the back of my desk all throughout social studies class with Sr. Joseph. He would poke me in the back with his pencil, put things down my shirt, pull my hair and remind me, for the 5th time of the day, that I am one of the ugliest people alive. Dick told Mrs. Dunce that I poked him, told him he was ugly and that I was always a bad person. Mrs. Dunce looked at me and asked me, "Why are you like that? What is wrong with you?" I spoke the truth, "I'm not mean. Everyone else is mean to me and if I say anything mean it's because they started it." (5th grade logic). She told me, "That doesn't make Christ happy." As if shit-talking one of your pupils makes Christ happy. Another story to warm your heart to Mrs. Dunce. Her daughter, Tiffany, went to that school. She was a year or two younger than us. She was a snotty little kid who thought she was so great because her mom was a teacher. She would come into our classroom everyday at the end of the day to meet her mom. One fine day, I had my head buried in a book -we were sometimes allowed to read before class dismissed - and she said something to me. If you know me, you know I'm hard of hearing. I honestly didn't hear her and went on reading. She went to her mom and told her I was rude to her. Mrs. Dunce looked at me and said, "That's just because she is jealous that you are so much prettier than her." Cunt.
Sixth was almost no different than fifth grade, but my skin got worse and the name-calling got a lot worse. A lot. Line dances were popular in gym class and anyone who had to hold hands with me would cover their hands with their sleeves. Now, I know this is common with boys sometimes, but everyone did it and made a big show of it. If you forgot to cover your hands and touched me, you were called on it. "Eeeeew, you touched Jenn. You're going to catch her zits." I was still pushed, shoved, kicked, stepped on...blah blah blah. I got braces that year which made life SO MUCH BETTER. Not! Mind you, other girls with braces were cute. I was simply hideous. Our teachers that year were a bit odd, though no one as near as bad as Mrs. Dunce for me. One teacher, Sr. Damien was the devil incarnate. I'm not kidding. She was pure evil. She looked like a gigantic killer Cabbage Patch, but she wasn't as cuddly. She was from the old school nunnery, where it was okay to get physical with students. Her favorite pastime was to have kids stand outside the room while holding all of their textbooks. Or, in my husband's case, they would have to kneel on pencils while holding their arms full of textbooks out to the side ("like Christ on the Cross). She was the devil. One day, I had turned a page too loudly during class. So, out to the hall I went with all of my textbooks. She then came out to scream at me and then started pounding on the books in my hand. I told my parents that night and my mother ripped her a new asshole the next day. I mean, mom must have taken her old Catholic school nun aggressions out on Sr. Damien that day, because she went for the jugular. Never had a problem with her again. I don't have too many horror stories from 6th grade. Just the same old everyday bullying. Lunch recess sucked ass. Frenchie went home for lunch so I had no one to hang out with. I would just lean against the fence and wait for her to come back. There was this kid in a few of my classes...he was fat, sloppy and he smelled bad. He got made fun of, too, but not as much as me. He still ended up having friends. Plus, he always fought back. He nailed a few kids back then. I never bothered with him. He never bothered me at all. I felt bad for him, being all fat and sloppy. His mom used to make him wear suits on picture day. No one else did that. His name was Mike. Apparently, years later, he beefed up in the muscle department (his pastimes are lifting 300+ pound objects and then telling you about it) and marry some really hot chick and have the cutest kids ever (hint: she is writing this).
We're coming back to David Bowie. My fandom for the dude deepened, thanks in part to the Ryko re-releases of his old albums back in the early 90's. I was immersed in the 70's Bowie, especially the glam rock persona, Ziggy Stardust. That's the Bowie with all the make-up and the frilly, sparkly clothes. It was tradition to decorate our creative writing books with magazine cut outs and other pics. I decorated my book with pics of Bowie. I also decorated all of my folders with his pictures. And that, my friends, made me a "dyke." Not only was I the ugliest creature to ever live, but I was also a stone-cold bulldyke according to my classmates. I was called a lesbian, carpet-muncher, fag-lover, whore and dyke everyday. You see, in order to like that fag David Bowie you HAD TO BE a complete dyke. So then the girls would make special points to tell me I made them uncomfortable because they were afraid I'd come on to them. I was also told that Bowie was a complete fag who was going to hell for being a complete fag and that I'd also take a trip to hell because of my love for his complete faggy-ness. On top of this, I was even uglier and I didn't know how to do my hair all cool and shit. That was a bad thing. And, ah yes, the usual bullying tactics were still in play...pushing, shoving, kicking and, of course, always the last picked in gym class. This year also sucked because Rita moved to Virginia. I had no one to walk home with. But, yay, I did make a few new friends. There was Kim, who I actually knew from years back. Then Sara, a so-called nerdy girl who wore her socks up to her knees. And Karen. Karen was in the grade above us, but was friends with Sara. I walked home with them on most days. Karen was a tough girl and I always felt safe if she was around. I had a nice reprieve for lunches that year because I didn't have to go out for recess. Bless dear Sr. Michael. Until 7th grade, lunch recess was always horrid because I was always alone, leaning against and fence or wall. In 7th grade, I got a "job" cleaning the desks at lunch recess. I never had to go outside.
By 7th grade, the attitude you all know and love began to take shape. After listening for 25 minutes about how horrid-looking I was, I would roll my eyes. Then I was called an ungrateful bitch. Joan would always try to stare me down. It was quite funny, actually. One day, she was talking about a relative in Staten Island. My mom and her family are from there. Looking to make friendly conversation, I told her that my grandmother and other family members lived there. She asked where my grandmother lived and I told her it was by one of the train stations. She bust out laughing and told everyone that there were NO trains anywhere on Staten Island and I was just making it up to fit in and be cool. The next day I brought in a map of Staten Island and pointed out the train tracks on the legend and told her I hadn't been trying to fit in, I was just stating a fact. I was called a rude, disgusting bitch for that one. Ahhhh. People would take my books out of my desk and write nasty notes or draw gross pictures on them. 7th Grade was when I started crying myself to sleep every night. I would pray and beg God to please end the harassment. To please clear my skin. To PLEASE let me have peace at school. The harassment never ended, even to this day, nor did my skin clear up. I still believe in God, but I do wonder "why" sometimes. That year, a girl in my class decided she truly, madly, deeply hated me for an unknown reason. So, she organized my fellow lovely classmates to meet in this little patch of land on my way home from school. The object was to "beat the living fuck" out of me. All day, most kids came up to me and told me I was getting my ass kicked after school. Eh, I shrugged it off. On the way home with Karen, Kim, Sara and maybe Frenchie, I noticed the very large gathering of kids waiting in that field. I had spotted them before they saw me. Even Karen was nervous and it was decided that I should go back to school. I turned around and walked to one of the crossing guards. I told her what was happening and she gave me a ride past the fight spot in her car. If you're wondering why I never took action with the principal, it's because it was useless. I learned in 5th grade that telling those in power what was happening wasn't desirable. I was told, "kids will be kids." Plus, when I relayed my issues, it just made the kids hate on me even more.
That year was the WORST for school pictures. I made the fugliest face ever. No, seriously. I was ridiculed for that one. Then, at the end of the year, the teachers thought it would be great to do some sort of yearbook type thing. They sent around a form with a list..."Most likely to be a ballerina. Most likely to be a truck driver. Most likely to be a veterinarian. Most likely to be an actor. Yadda yadda." You were supposed to fill in your picks for who would most likely be what. I actually took it seriously. I voted myself for veterinarian. (whoops) and was complimentary towards my classmates. The idea was scrapped when the teachers began to get the papers back. I was voted several times for truck driver and garbage man. Then there were the fill ins. Most likely to be a failed Clearasil actress. Most likely to still be ugly. Most likely to be alone forever. Most likely to be a nobody. Most likely to be a stripper. Most likely to be a bum. I did get one compliment that year. Bernadette told people if my skin cleared up and my braces came off I'd be really pretty. She was always nice to me. My braces came off a few years later, but the clear skin and pretty never came. And my teeth went back to crooked-dome and the braces left permanent staining on my teeth that has to get re-covered every few years when I can afford it.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::time for a pee break::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Oh my Gawd, still the ugliest alive. Still picked last. Still kicked, punched, pushed, shoved. No protection from Karen as she was now in high school. Lunch wasn't that bad because I sat on concrete posts with Sara and a couple of other "nerds." Funny story...the eight-graders were allowed to play soccer and ball during lunch recess. One girl kicked the soccer ball in our direction. It grazed Sara's hair and hit me square in the face at full force. I couldn't breath for a few moments there and my face stung for the rest of the day. The ball's kicker came over to Sara and made a big show of asking Sara if she was okay and completely ignoring me and my beet red face. Cunt. A nasty boy, Kip, sat next to me in one of my classes. His desk was pushed up next to mine and he would always hit my elbow. He's stare at me and just say, "eeeeeeeeeew. Why did God make you? You are so disgusting" Kip and his brother walked home the same route as me. My mother walked me home on some days in 8th grade because things had gotten so bad. Kip and his brother would follow close behind and make fun of both of us. My mom, too. And they spit on us.I wouldn't cry if they were hit by a bus. And there was Fester, who sat next to me in social studies. He, like, Kip would sit and stare and comment on my "beauty." One day he called the classes attention to "look at Jenn's zit - it's so big. Oh my God, I've never seen one so big." Fester had the same affinity for spit as the twins. Oh, and I was still a "dyke" for liking David Bowie. I was even worse because I wore a necklace that said, "David Bowie." ( I'll tell you, it was his music and reading about his life that helped keep me sane those years._ Sometimes, gym classes were held outdoors and we'd play baseball or soccer. I didn't know how to play either game...still don't. I'm not a sports person. I had no clue what each position is on the baseball field. So, we played baseball outside on warmer days. I was selected to be...um...outfielder? I was somewhere out in the field. I missed a ball because I had NO CLUE what I was doing. One of the girls on the field started yelling at me, telling me I was stupid and asked what they hell I thought I was doing just standing there. So, in the middle of the game, I told her to fuck herself and I walked off the field, while everyone yelled at me for doing so. The gym teacher asked me what I was doing and I said, "I'm so sick of this shit," which is something that could have gotten me suspended. She, knowing what I had been through all those years, just said, "I know," and told me to sit down. I didn't have to play baseball again after that. I became more sarcastic and talked back more that year. And then we graduated. We had our 8th grade trip to Hershey park where me and Frenchie rode the log flume and the roaring rapids 95858765897234905748957 times and I actually felt like a normal kid. We had the eighth grade dance where we wore those hideous dresses with the puffy sleeves and rhinestones Graduation was fine and I was so happy to leave that place.
Thus ends that part of my story. It is amazing to note that I always had good grades in St. Anon. I mean, I am a genius, but the fact that I could remain focused on academics through all of that is pretty awesome. I called out a lot in 6th and 8th grade to avoid the bullying. I'm very lucky to have had a very loving and stable family life. Plus, the very few friends I had were good friends. And there was Bowie. He needs cred, too. I want to mention the good family life, friends and Bowie because I want to touch on something very dark. I often fantasized about killing a good majority of my classmates. I had several violent scenarios worked out in my head. In my head is where they stayed. I knew better. I believed killing people was morally wrong, but it was "fun" to think about. Plus, they were never worth the trouble I would have gotten into. School shootings were unheard of back then. I often wonder what would have happened if I didn't have that stability and love in my non-school life. What if I left school each day to come home to an abusive household? Would I have been something like those Columbine kids? Would I have taken action? Instead of fashioning my now famous brand of sarcasm and dry wit, would I have fashioned weapons and plots and acted on them? Sometimes, I think my classmates need to thank me. For all that I was put through, they came out relatively unscathed.
If you wonder why I recount this....sad. It's not a case of "kids will be kids" and "everyone gets bullied." I am not being dramatic when I say I was tormented and tortured. My life at St. Anon was a living hell 95% of the time. I can't "just get over it." As much as I want to feed you some Dr. Phil crap about overcoming adversity and putting the past behind me, I honestly can't. Those experiences had a profound effect on me. I learned not to trust. I have had some major issues with trust since then. I have a very very very hard time trusting friends, no matter how deserving they are. I always wonder when the other shoe will drop and when my friend will turn on me. And the few times it did happen in later years cemented my insecurities. In fact, it just happened again quite recently. It's hard to learn how to completely trust people, when those who demand your trust are the ones putting the knife in your back. Thankfully, my true friends completely understand this and love me anyway. I do try to work through these issues. There is so much scarring on my psyche and sometimes I don't think all of it will be washed away. Things didn't get 100% better after St. Anon. High School wasn't the greatest. I didn't have many friends and didn't socialize much. I stayed on the outside of social circles because I didn't drink and, therefore, was never invited anywhere. But, there wasn't much torment. I was made fun of on occasion, but nothing as vile and evil as St. Anon. And when I was made fun of I talked back, and I could be nasty. I got a rep as a bitch, because I was one. It was a self-preservation thing. People know if you fuck with me, it'll come right back at you. I know some of the bitterness I have is held over from my days at St. Anon. To this day I still get made fun of. Random people still call me ugly and whatnot. Sometimes they get ignored. Sometimes I am not nice...and I can be vicious, thanks to my Catholic grade school education. Even recently, I have suffered betrayal at the hands of so-called friends. There are days when I feel like I'm just not going to catch a break. There are days, and more often recently, where I say, "I really don't give a fuck what people think of me anymore," because I really don't.
Sometimes being bullied is something you are able to get over. Sometimes it drives people to violence against others or even themselves. Sometimes, the bullied eventually become bullies and start the whole cycle over again. It's easy to put the blame on the victims and tell them to put their big girl or big boy pants on and get over it. That sort of attitude doesn't help anyone. We need to understand that incidents of bullying can have a big effect on kids as they grow into adults. Some people see me as a very confident person and admire that I seemingly don't take much crap from anyone, but there is a layer of insecurity to me. I try not to let it get the best of me, but it happens sometimes. I am trying to make that insecure part of me become smaller and smaller.
As for my former classmates - a lot of those who bullied me don't have happy tales to tell now. Quite a few of them went down some very troubling paths. Some have died. There is a part of me that feels a smug self-satisfaction when I hear one of my tormentors has ended up in jail or is a complete loser. Another part of me feels completely sorry for them. I have reconnected with a lot of my old classmates on Facebook. People who weren't my friends back in St. Anon are now my friends on Facebook. Why? What happened to me suck and should not be excused. You'll never hear me say something like, "they were just being kids and this is a normal part of growing up," because that attitude will never solve a damn thing and it takes the voices away from victims of bullying. However, I have grown up and they have grown up. I have a choice to hold on to all of that anger or to release some of it. I am not the type of person who can sit and stew in a big boiling pot of anger. It's not me. I'll never dismiss my experience, but I have learned to let go somewhat. Many of them have privately messaged me or even publicly spoken to me and told me they were sorry they said/did things to me or remained silent as they watched others hurt me. I have accepted those apologies and moved on.
Bless you if you have made it this far. This is not a story to evoke pity from anyone. It's a retelling of my experience and an insight into what sometimes makes me tick. It's just one of those pieces of my psyche puzzle.