When I was in elementary school, I was quite the feisty and active child. In college I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and I probably had the hyperactivity portion of the ADD in elementary school, too. It would be nice if I still had the hyperactivity because maybe then I’d have the energy to accomplish something, and it would have been just dandy if I didn’t have to suffer through over 12 years struggling in school before being diagnosed. I get by, though. I still get myself in trouble (I occasionally blurt things before thinking), but it’s not too bad.
What I’m leading into is that I was a kid full of beans—probably pretty annoying to others. At some point, and I’m guessing that point was after my sister was hit by a car and nearly died (it’s way more complicated than that, but that’s for another time), spent two weeks in the hospital, then had to endure months of surgery during which she had to have all of her food liquefied which she then sucked through a straw (I could go on, but again, it’s for another time), I began to develop underlying anger and probably guilt that most likely affected my behavior. Underlying anger and guilt came in the form of a little coal that was always hot, just waiting for someone to blow on it, toss a little tinder on, and fire it up. I remember getting pissed off really easily when I was a kid.
I also remember being bewildered when one of my best friends—my first best friend, really—randomly stopped speaking to me. When I approached her on the playground to see why she was ignoring me, she was visibly afraid.
“Why are you ignoring me? Are you mad at me?” I asked. Her eyes darted around as we stood on the sidewalk between the school and the playground and she replied, “Janie* said she’d beat me up if I was friends with you.”
“What?!” I replied, angry, hurt, and confused, “Well, I’ll beat her up!”
I don’t remember my friend’s response and I don’t have much memory of her after that. I was the true target of the bully who threatened my friend; her goal was to alienate me. I don’t know what I did to her, if I even ever did anything to her, but she was constantly trying to intimidate me. She was bigger than me but I wasn’t afraid of her. Just irritated and perplexed. I had my little ember of don’t-mess-with-me growing inside and it was an excellent tool. One day, Janie told me she wanted to meet after school for a fight. Her friend (a girl I used to be friends with!) was coming, too.
“Fine,” I snapped.
Janie said, “We’ll meet by the bushes in front of school,” referring to the yellow forsythias, “You’d better be there,” she growled.
“Oh I can’t wait,” I said earnestly, for I was filled with righteous anger that needed to be taken out on someone who desperately deserved it. After school I waited and waited. I walked around the bushes, through the bushes, all around. I waited and became even angrier because Janie didn’t show and I was ready to kick her mean, ample ass.
I finally gave up and walked home, glancing behind me as long as I could still see the school, and making sure they didn’t appear after I left. I never saw them.
The next day at school, Janie came to me and said, “You weren’t there yesterday!” and probably called me a chicken.
I turned on her and snarled, “I was there. I waited and waited. You didn’t come.” She looked at me her blank blue eyes, “Then let’s do it today.”
“You had your chance.” I said, and walked away. I wasn’t going to spend each afternoon waiting for someone who was all talk.
She gave me less trouble after that, but she still picked on me and tried to intimidate me every once in a while. By the time we got to high school she was over her weird obsession with me and we pointedly ignored each other.
Now I know hers was classic bully behavior. Alienate, intimidate, threaten. I am proud to say that I stood up to her and didn’t take her shit. I wasn’t completely fearless—I didn’t want to get hurt—and my feelings were certainly hurt by her actions, but I did stand up to her. I am still disgusted by her behavior and maybe she had issues, I don’t know and frankly I don’t care. My coal of anger burned down eventually. Yay me…kind of.
In middle school there was another girl who decided she didn’t like me. I don’t know what it was about me that attracted bullies or aroused random hatred, or if that’s just a common thing that happens to girls I don’t know, whatever. I know girls can be mean. I’ve had my rare mean moments, times when I’ve made mistakes which of course I am mortified about now. I don’t do mean too well; it’s unnatural for me.
Anyway, this chick decides she doesn’t like me. I didn’t even know her that well and certainly wasn’t mean to her. One day I see her in the cafeteria looking at me and whispering with her friends. Then next thing I know, a boy I had known since elementary school bumps into me with lemonade, which sloshes on me a little. He mumbles an apology and wanders away. At first I didn’t think much of it as I wiped off the few splashes of lemonade and went about my business, but I did notice the boy talking to the girl and her giving him something that looked like money. A few minutes later someone bumps into my back again, and this time I feel the cold wet going all down my back. I turn angrily and it’s the boy again. He looks sheepish as he stands there with the empty yellow lemonade cup mumbling another apology. Then I knew that she had put him up to it. This girl who he had only recently met when we started 7th grade was able to make him, who I had known practically a lifetime, spill lemonade on me till he got it to her liking. I was bewildered and hurt (that was also the last time I spoke to him). I went to the bathroom and tried to get the sticky lemonade out of my hair. I wanted to go home. I didn’t understand that girl’s problem was with me, but one trait I inherited from my PawPaw (besides my love of cussing) was the ability to hold a grudge, so throughout middle and high school, that girl was on my shit list.
Another time in 7th or 8th grade, I was taking a shortcut home through a construction site. Near the school there was a spot in the woods, just off the path, where kids would stop to and from school to smoke and such. For whatever reason, I was alone that day, and stopped to peek into the woods to see if anyone I knew was there. It was deserted except for cigarette butts and empty beer and soda cans. I stepped back onto the path and saw two girls who were rather intimidating and who were always together. I wasn’t friends with them because they could be mean, and who wants to be friends with bitches like that? They saw me and came toward me. Ah shit, I thought.
“We’re gonna kick your ass,” one of them announced mildly as they approached. Not menacing, just a statement, a test perhaps.
“Okay,” I said, dropping my backpack and feeling absolutely terrified inside, “let’s see you try.”
“We’re just kidding!” The taller one laughed. “What are you doing?”
“Going home.” I replied, still eyeing them warily, my hackles raised. They chatted a minute with me then I went home, glancing back over my shoulder with my adrenaline pumping. If I had showed fear, I believe they would have (tried to) beat me up. I always kept my distance with those girls, because like wild dogs, they were unpredictable.
In high school, it’s easier to get lost. I am happy to say no one bullied me there. I was sometimes picked on, but not bullied. It’s funny because my mom was cleaning out the attic and I had saved a bunch of notes from my school years, one of which a girl was pissed at me about something that happened between me and my boyfriend and was like, “I’m not afraid of you.” The 36 year old me was wondering what the 15 year old me did to prompt her to say that, because clearly, she was afraid. Ha! I wouldn’t have hurt her. I was more of a yeller. As I read the note I vaguely remembered some little drama that happened, but what I remember of the girl was that she made me laugh and I briefly hung out around her when her boyfriend and my boyfriend were friends. Got that? And, just let me tell you, I had a grand total of like, four boyfriends in high school, none lasting very long and none getting too far with me. Sorry fellas! I tended to panic.
I was kind of a scary girl, I guess.
PS I am so tired I must apologize for the lack of thorough editing. zzzz.