It’s hard growing up being the odd man out. You know what I mean… if you had glasses, or wore the wrong shoes or ever showed anyone that you were reasonably intelligent in your childhood, then odds are, you were singled out as being the resident, geek, nerd, weirdo, strange, odd and otherwise, just plain “not one of us”.
My experience is probably no different than yours. I have worn glasses for as long as I can remember. This was no big deal when I attended private school from kindergarten through second grade. Lots of kids wore glasses there, and lots of kids were smart, and lots of us wore jumpers and tights, instead of jeans and t-shirts.
It started when I left the private school to go to a public school for third grade. See, I didn’t like my second grade teacher, she was mean and she yelled a lot. I think she was pretty new to working with kids and didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a kid. She was far too busy being an adult to bother herself with such matters. Why she chose to teach second grade is still beyond me.
I remember one time, she yelled at us for practicing making cursive letters while we were printing… which seemed pretty similar to yelling at us for drawing during art class as far as I was concerned. Maybe I was the only kid who got it, I don’t know. I do know, that my action in making my cursive style letters was the correct one. My children are being instructed to make cursive letters when learning to print so that cursive is easier when they are ready to learn it. It might not have been the popular teaching method of the time, but obviously, it works, or they wouldn’t be using it now.
I think you can see why, on the last day of school that year, I announced that I would not be returning for the next school year. I decided that things would be better for me at the public school. My parents had planned to leave me in that school for at least another year, but when I came home and told them what I had said, that was all she wrote.
On the first day of school, third grade, nineteen-eighty-something, the tone was set for the rest of the school year. I was wearing my jumper and tights and was sporting a brand new pair of glasses that were red. I loved them. I walked into that classroom and the teacher had me stand up and pointed me out to the rest of the class. Two girls at the back of the room snickered at me as I sat down at my desk. Later in that school year, I would have pencils poked at my spine from behind, I would be embarrassed and have no friends, I’m not even sure I remember what I learned that year, unless it was some basic math and some cursive writing, which we’d already learned in second grade at the private school.
That wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was the dreaded bus stop. Only two houses down from my own, was a place on the side of our street that had a spot where the dirt had been kicked so many times that there was a permanent rut. This was the Johner for the bus stop. Every morning, before I left to meet the bus, a boy was already standing there waiting. His name, was John Wolfe. Now, John was your average looking kid. I think he may have even liked baseball, and like all kids, but boys in particular, he liked to one-up everything. Even if he didn’t know what it was, he would say that he had one, just to prove that he was better than you. He was one of those kids who needed to learn, and likely did learn later, that stuff is not so important as the people who surround you.
Every morning, he came to the bus stop, proud that he was not a girl, even more proud that he did not wear glasses, nor did he have any friends that did. He wore your basic jeans and a t-shirt, not jumpers and tights or skirts or dresses, nope, not this guy. From day one, there was an understanding between us. John did not like me, and I did not like him and we liked it that way.
Every morning, I dreaded walking to the bus stop because I knew John would be waiting with some ridiculous insult that would set me off. Sometimes, it was the inane, and expected, “Hey look! It’s Four Eyes!”. Others it would be rude insults about my mother, never my father mind you. My Dad was a big guy, he grew up in the neighborhood and was well-respected. My mom was an unknown quantity that he felt he could safely make guesses about. “How’s your Mom doing? I saw her turning tricks down on the corner last week? Has she got any new diseases yet?” and sometimes, it was things like, “Hey four eyes! Wanna suck on my knob?”
Between John, Jenny, Jenny and Melissa, it was a pretty terrible year. Over the summer, I saw John and Melissa and Jenny, but not the other Jenny as she lived much further away from me.
John drove my best friend and me insane. Every day, he would come over and bother us as we were playing in my grandmother’s front yard. He’d call us babies, make jokes about our mothers and about Jimmy’s little sister and about my grandmother until my grandfather came out and sat on the front porch. Only then would he shut up and go away.
When fourth grade started, I’d had enough. I walked down to the bus stop on the first day of school. I was determined not to take any more of his crap for another year. I strode down there and waited. Just as the bus started coming down the street, John made a comment and this time, he shot low. It was about my dog. Now, granted, Beau was a French Poodle. He was about as loveable and cuddly as a porcupine, but over the summer, John’s Husky had gotten a hold of Beau and viciously mauled him.
I will never forget the sight of that poor, little, white dog covered in blood all over. John’s parents saw the fault of the situation and paid for his visit to the vet as compensation, but John was still mad that they’d gotten rid of the dog. He didn’t understand, and if I’d been in his shoes, I probably wouldn’t have either.
Now, you have to understand that people are okay to pick on in my world. People can stand up and defend themselves, John could have said whatever he liked about me, about my parentage and about my friends and I would have simply told him off. The dog was about as low as a person could get in my world, especially after what his dog did to that poor little guy. I mean come on, it wasn’t even a fair fight, Beau only weighed fifteen pounds, and the Husky was at least seventy. In no stretch of the imagination, is it possible for such a confrontation to be fair.
“My dog kicked your dog’s ass.” was the comment. I stared at him, I know that my eyes must have turned gray as I gave him the coldest look I ever remember giving a human being. I didn’t say anything. I just started fighting.
Now, what I didn’t know was that John’s parents told him that if he hit a girl, he was the lowest form of scum on the face of the planet. John didn’t fight back. He just stood there and took it. The only thing that stopped my onslaught was the bus pulling up to our stop. John ran home, I got on the bus. The school was abuzz with the news of what had happened by the end of the day and suddenly, I had a lot of new friends.
This is not to say that this stopped Jenny from picking on me. I think she had a crush on John and was furious that a girl, least of all me, had taken him on and survived, but I was in luck. Jenny and I would not share a classroom for another year.
I was not accepted in any fashion until high school. I dropped a lot of weight and got a new wardrobe. It wasn’t popularity, but it was acceptance. The teasing was over. We had grown up and become more mature. John moved away when we were in ninth grade. In high school, I never saw Jenny, though she appears in the yearbook. Rumor had it, she dropped out as soon as she turned sixteen and got pregnant.
Me, I moved on. I met a wonderful guy and life went on. I have never been completely accepted by any group of friends. Usually, I just have one or two people that are very close to me. The rest kind of hang around when they want to and I leave it at that.
The thing is, you simply can’t move through life not accepting yourself. Others are not always going to accept you and understand who and what you are. Who needs them and who cares? The perception of you that matters is the one that you have of yourself. I went through rough times as a child, all kids do. We get through it. We grow up, those that antagonize us and hurt our feelings are gone when we become adults. We never have to worry about them beating us up again. It’s a wonderful feeling.