By Wrapping Paper of St. Paul, Minnesota! Thanks, Tim!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back to School

It's the middle of September, and kids have been back to school for a few weeks now. And although it's been a good number of years since I've wandered those halls, I still remember the excitement I'd feel about starting a new school year. I'd be filled with hope for probably about two weeks and then, right around this time every year, my days would devolve into a panic-filled nightmare of name-calling and mockery. The kids had formed their bonds and the cliques were in place. And invariably, I was not in them.

Although High School was definitely the worst (mainly because the bullies from Grade School started getting bigger, enabling them to be physically as well as mentally abusive) the Grade School bullies were pretty terrible in their own right.... and I get the feeling the little girl who left these NeighborGoodies down in the laundry room is having a tough time with some bullies of her own:

It probably started off innocently enough--a little gentle teasing about her lunchbox, perhaps:

A whale on a lunchbox is never a good idea. Not even "Shamu and His Crew" could help her now. Even if this girl wasn't overweight, the kids at my school were so adept at teasing, they almost certainly would have tormented her until she developed an eating disorder:
  • "Hey Shamu, is that a picture of yourself on your lunchbox?"
  • "Hey Shamu, where's Jonah?"
And the all-time classic:
  • "Hey Shamu: Oink, oink!"
Well... nobody said the bullies were smart--that's kind of what made them bullies: They were just too dumb to know any better. And, of course, the best way to raise your low self-esteem is to lower that of your peers. So, as soon as they sensed any bit of discomfort, they locked onto their target--mocking any and all aspects of you: Your hair, your clothes, your teeth, your food, your ears, nose and throat, doctors, parents, siblings--Anything they could see on or near you was fair game--including your objects.

Soon, little Shamu comes home sobbing, demanding that everything pink and cute and girly she so wanted during her back-to-school shopping excursion must now be replaced with generic plain items so as to not draw attention to herself.

No more Hello Kitty Pencil Cases... more sparkling puppy planners...

...especially if it contained cutesy sparkly stickers...

...and an equally sparkly calculator inside:

2+2 = Misery

She got rid of all of these things because she couldn't bear to be reminded of anything happy. Even the change purse had to go...

...those grinning faces just reminded her of her taunters--All red and round and...smiling. What a bunch of fuckers!

And although I'm kind of surprised she didn't keep her "Body Bag Barbie"...

...I must say I'm not surprised at her sudden rebellion. When we're young, and it seems that all anyone wants to do is harass you for being different, you just want to fade away, become invisible. But as we get older, the lucky ones realize we should celebrate our differences. Sure, those young years were painful, but they made us who we are. And just as being a bully back then probably helped our tormentors ignore their own issues and insecurities--by bringing ours to the surface, they helped us deal with them early on, so we could move on and be productive, hilarious members of society.

And now, we're smart enough to know that they were, and probably still are, full of self-loathing.

So hold your head up high, Shamu! Soon the bullies will be the Jonahs inside of you!



Ludovica said...

I was really moved to tears by the hypothetical tale of little Shamu, and that whole scenario was so affecting, in what it said, and in what it did not say too, so let me offer another possibility,
Hmm.. is it not possible that this young lady (for such she must be) has grown to the age of discernment, when lunchboxes are replaced with a trip to Starbucks for lunch and the tawdry & hideous plastic detritus of twee gender stereotyping and faux princessery must be burned, flogged or painted black. Street-Kid-Crack-Ho Barbie didn't look like that from the shop. Shes got that late night underpass crystal meth vibe happening..

This is the work of a smart kid breaking out of the low achiever "Please don't grow up to overshine Mom and Dad" niche they prepared for her. She has rejected her ugly cheap plastic "Road to Nowhere but Walmart" accessories... Let us hope shes swapped them for something a little classier.
It's a great moment when someone realises that .. just occasionally, less... is more

f*rtigova said...

poor little muffin! not shamu, you! the thought of cute little fourth-grade-sized you cowering under the weight of those twerpy little bullies' heckling is making me want to laugh and cry at the same time. you're verycute! and veryfunny.

Big Jeff said...

Her pain is our gain. Keep it comin'! YEAH!

Anonymous said...

aw ... that breaks my heart. As a child I was teased for being different - however - it wasn't outright bullying. I was lucky - I was very stuck in my ways and sure of who I am.