How the hell did THAT happen?
Nowadays I’m an arsehole and no one likes me, and I cry myself to sleep every night.
I remember just not “getting it” as a kid. I was neither cool nor uncool. I sat at a lunch table with friends, the misfit toys and artists of my high school, and anyone, be they outcast or not, was welcome to sit with us and eat in peace. I pretty much liked everyone. Well, there were people I didn’t find interesting, and people who clearly felt I was a lowly worm unworthy of their collective fantastic and super special attention, but life was too short to dwell. Frankly, since my father died and left me without an ally under my own roof (he and I were alike and understood each other and were both rather introverted artistic types, but my mother, who loves me and vice versa, still has trouble understanding me and has only in recent years toned down (a wee bit) on the “why can’t U B normal?” messages), no amount of external stupid teenage wangst and peer-gifted bullcrap could really phase me. I was in mourning, and I had to be, frankly, a bit of a drag to be around. I’m still a drag when I am sad. I’m sorry. I don’t bounce back quickly from heartbreak. Maybe I never will. Alas, my friends get the brunt of it, as they have to hear about it, and hear about it, and HEAR about it, and deal with me acting out and being, well, a big bummer. Gee, what are friends FOR?
To be fair, I return the favor when someone else has to talk about it, and talk about it, and TALK about it….
Anyhoo, I did have a few memories resurface. This is something that doesn’t happen often, and they may well disappear into the void again if I don’t write them down, so here goes. Good thing that I’m beyond embarrassment at this point in my life.
So I’m about eight or nine years old. Maybe a little older and still clueless. I’m unclear. The art building we visit on occasion is attached to The Big Kids’ Lunchroom. Somehow the information filters through my fuzzy little blonde head that the quarterback, the football star, captain of the team, is Karl Surname Not Given To Spare Him GoogHoo Harassment. I decide that I NEED the quarterback’s autograph. Yes, seriously. How uncool! So little me, armed with a deliciously stinky marker and a napkin, trot up to Karl, who was very tall (or I was very small), and pipe up that I want his autograph. To his credit, once he figures out what I want, he graciously does sign my crumply napkin, and I am DELIGHTED. What a cool guy, you know?
Then I grew up to hang out with for-real famous rockstars. It was destiny.
My peers looked at me like I had three heads when I returned to the art room, proudly brandishing my prize. I realized I had made a social faux pas and passed it off, belatedly, as a fantastic practical joke. Few were fooled. I writhed in shame. The napkin vanished, never to be seen again.
Lessee. Then there was the time, mere weeks after my father’s death, when I am back in town visiting my best childhood friend, who happened to be going to my old school, which I would end up returning to as well as a high schooler. I’m sitting with her in her classes, a privilege I honestly don’t recall anyone else ever asking for or getting later on and one I’m not sure why I had, and the class clown decides that I was absent for a year because I got pregnant and went off to have a baby.
I tell him–and the ring of interested ears pointed our way–that I was there because my father committed suicide. Which is the truth (though there is a little doubt, because there were a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood, and for a number of other reasons that are too heavy to go into at this time that involve oddities like my dad’s left-handedness and the location his body was found and so on), and Funny Guy flat out refuses to believe me. He demanded details, insisted on his baby theory, and thought he was being FUNNAY. I’m not devastated enough, or something. Thus I must be lying. In truth, I had a well-learned veneer of emotional armor by that time, and little anyone could have said would have made me show any emotion beyond polite and pleasant blankness to a tormentor.
In a barn.
I typically avoided being the butt of the worst pranks, but on one memorable occasion, I got caught but good. I was about thirteen, and riding the particular bus that would get me to piano lessons, and I didn’t know the slightly younger kids on this bus well enough to be wary of them. They were playing some game and I was mostly ignoring it, nose in a book, as usual, when one cute little bright-eyed child decided to tap me on the shoulder. I indulged them. It was some “fortune” game, they claimed. You take a pencil and draw around a quarter, then take the quarter and, with eyes closed, roll it down your nose and put it back down on the paper, draw another circle around it using a pencil, etcetera, and repeat this until the rube eventually realizes they have pencil marks down their face or you puke up a lung from laughing at them. Because drawing a circle with a pencil around a coin with a serrated edge rubs massive quantities of graphite into those grooves, and rolling the same coin down your face leaves dirt stripes. I arrive at my piano lesson, nose back in a book, and my piano teacher takes me by the elbow and shows me my face in a bathroom mirror. Oh my. They got me good. I would have probably laughed along with them, had I known.
I had some arsehole teachers, too. Maths has always been my downfall. One day in class, I resolved a problem ALL BY MYSELF, using a technique different from the one taught in class. I was SO fucking proud. This maths stuff, maybe I can do it after all! The teacher listened to me after class, in his office, sipping vodka from his coffee cup, and he suggested that I demonstrate my fabulous method to his next (higher grade level) class. Oh man. I was terribly shy. Still, after he pressed, I agreed, and he told me to sit out in the hallway and he’d call me in. I sat in the hallway for about a half hour before I realized he was actually making fun of me. Then I slunk off.
Another teacher took us on a field trip. I didn’t drive then, rarely did more than sit in the backseat with my nose in a book when driven anywhere, and my grasp of math was, as noted, not the best. My understanding of cars was worse. My mother’s car had a gear shift on the steering wheel, and my older friend had a car with a shift between the front seats, and I was positive that meant she had a manual tranny, for example. Because I was Car Dumb back then, too, instead of just Maths Dumb. He announced that we’d arrive back at a certain destination at a certain time, and I couldn’t figure out how he knew this. When he did indeed get us there at the designated time, I was fucking astounded. ZOMG! Magic!! Of course, now I routinely estimate my arrival time when traveling, using that handy “miles per hour” thing. And I don’t have cruise control. Like he did. I didn’t even know what cruise control was at the time! DERP. It took me hours to figure that out, but only long after enthusiastically raving to people who knew better–because they were all rich kids with their own personal new-ish cars, all of which probably came with cruise control–about how cool his ability to predict our exact arrival time was.
A third teacher meant well, and I was always one of those kids who liked talking to her teachers. Still am. I’d make conversation like a little adult, and was generally respected by MOST of my teachers. I made the mistake of telling one (a new guy) that I’d had a nickname at my former school. It wasn’t entirely complimentary, I’m sure, but I hadn’t cared because I liked it. They’d called me “Kitty.” Now, this was a case of me sharing something as an anecdote, and not me hinting that I actually wanted to be called “Kitty” ever again. However, this man, trying to be nice, and respecting my assumed wishes, promptly addressed me as “Kitty” in class. Holy shizz! I quickly set him straight after class, but the damage had been done. I got shit for that “Kitty” comment for THREE EFFING YEARS, people. And, yes, some chick who was either taunting me (or clueless, but since she was dating one of the worst offenders, I know how I vote) gave me a Hello Kitty something-or-other Secret Santa gift that I opened in front of the whole class, which made them all howl with derisive laughter. THREE YEARS after the original shame. Yeah, you fucks, thanks. Give it a damn rest. Christ almighty.
Imagine the struggle I went through between being polite and thanking someone for a nice gift and not thanking someone for making a laughingstock out of you yet again.
I’m sure there are more, but they haven’t been dredged up yet. Stay tuned.
I really was a tough little nut to crack, as a kid. I learned early on that paying any attention at all to bullies or people teasing you, or trying to fit in was not worth the effort. I was perfectly happy, with or without a buddy on hand, as long as I had a book or a pencil and pad, so I could read or draw. I could go selectively deaf at will. I didn’t give a crap about kiddie drama, or even, later, teenie drama. Who liked who occasionally filtered through my wall of obliviousness, but for the most part, I didn’t give a crap. And I didn’t trust my peers not to be little shits. Sometimes I guessed wrong, perhaps, and peers trying to genuinely be nice were waved off defensively, but I don’t remember that happening often.
I went through a brief phase where I made an attempt to wear the same fashions as my peers, but the fashions didn’t suit me at all. I gave it up as a bad job after about six months, but we weren’t made of money, so my outfits slowly mutated into a strange (and not much more flattering) combo-platter of the old stuff and the new stuff. I even wore my dad’s old Air Force jacket around, with tight jeans and turtlenecks and ankle boots, which is an indication I’d given up on ever being found romantically attractive while still in high school. I loved that jacket.
In short, I dressed like a sixties hippie, listened to sixties music, and a little eighties stuff, and punk, fought off the Olde Savannah pseudo-Brit accent I’d been raised around that made me so different, and ignored the world. I didn’t hate anyone. I didn’t think I was the cat’s PJs. I just had other things on my mind. Polite, distant, somewhat welcoming if you were nice, quiet except with friends, not interested in getting drunk, not attracted to any of the tards of the opposite sex I went to school with (or the same sex, actually), and either doing art stuff or reading or writing. That about sums it up. Polite loner.
I even wandered off alone when a small group of kids got tapped to go to London. I had had enough of the togetherness, my best friend was being a buttpain about being homesick (I suspect now that she had a touch of agoraphobia) and my sympathy was starting to just piss her off, which was good, because I was just about OUT of it. I had a head cold and was grumpy. The group had an outing to go see a play. I wandered off alone (not unusual for me) and wound up in SoHo. Not a good spot, really, for a naive teenager. I had the time of my life. I knew exactly where I was. Blessed silence, no chattering. No whining about wanting to go home. No casually exclusive behavior from the other girls, who all decided they were BFFs, and bonded as loudly and enthusiastically and as constantly as possible in front of me and my best friend, who were clearly not included in this buddydom. (She took it harder than I did, frankly; I was over all that shizz by then. Your loss, people. I’m pretty nifty.) So here I am, looking at naughty shops and eavesdropping on Real British People and looking at cool architecture and basically just reveling in the whole idea of being in fucking ENGLAND, man! Bliss! But, luck of the angels, my group found me, coincidentally wandering in my general direction after their evening outing, they never really noticed I’d been gone, and I had not a lick of sense, because I was more miffed than relieved.
My freedoms, let me SHO U DEM. O, never mind, I do not have any anymore.
I’m still a bit of a loner with a nose in a book, or an art project at hand. I still dress as I please. I still like stuff few other people like. I still don’t care if you like me or not, it’s really none of my business, but you’re missing out if you decide you don’t. That’s not ego, it’s fact. I’m a good friend…if you let me be one. Nowadays I force myself to be an extrovert when I have to, and I can be an opinionated cuss and alienate those who love me, but people who know me know that even if my opinion disagrees with yours, I don’t think your opinion sucks. I reserve the option to hear about your learnings on the subject: your learnings, SHO ME DEM. I don’t take disagreement as personal dislike. I don’t understand people who do.
Thus do I stumble.
I can be a ranty grump, but I mean no harm. Besides, if you let people know what you love best, that’s your weak underbelly. If my time in the teen warzone (and a punitive parent who frequently denied me my deepest yearnings and interests to “teach me a lesson,” and downplayed or teased me about other things) taught me anything, it taught me to be private about what I love most. Silly me, I keep breaking the rules in my blog. When will I learn?
It’s okay. We’re all in the same club. My homies!