Friday, January 28, 2005

Why I'm Screwed Up

This could fill volumes, but I'll just give you a foretaste.

This is for Gretchen who was so kind as to share her story about her kindergarten grudge.

I have a first grade grudge. It's something I ponder every time I pass my first grade teacher's house, a run down yellow Victorian that just so happens to be a few blocks from my parents' home (which is only a few blocks from mine).

I don't have a ton of self esteem, granted. I know I can sometimes percieve slight where none was intended. Which is why I've mulled over this again and again through the years, wondering if I only thought this woman had a thing against me, or if she did, in fact, have a thing against me.

Starting firt grade when you're five, and with the highest standardized test scores in the diocese was probably where things started to go down hill. She never really treated me like I was part of the class. I was "that other kid." And I already felt like the outcast kid--everyone was older and taller. I was also kind of talkative. I liked to talk to the grownups, and the nuns actually held conversations with me. Looking back, I think this was a no-no. But thanks to this teacher, I learned that adults wern't to be trusted, no one really cared what I thought (something it's taken me 20 years to get over), and that not only was I NOT a unique snowflake, but I was BENEATH all the other snowflakes in the blizzard, and was therefore subject to whatever vileness they dished out (well, mom had something to do with that, but that came just a bit later, after her snap with reality).

One thing I remember, it was October. It wasn't hot like summer, nor was it too cold. It was just right, which is good because I didn't own a sweater. It was after lunch, and the sun was hanging just above the houses surrounding the church parking lot. The church was a large, looming German Victorian/Romanesque structure but the sun was in a bad spot so there was no shade. The sky was on fire, and there was no escaping the light.

And we were in the parking lot getting a change of the daily routine of teaching all the other dummies in my class how to write and read (1st grade, like much of my schooling, was a waste of time) to see some presentation by the local EMS department.

They'd brought out the stretcher, and were asking for a volunteer, to show us how the straps and neck restraint worked. Of course, I raised my hand like every other kid in my class, but they picked the skinny blonde girl, Jaime (a name forever burned in my mind due to another teacher betrayal, but that wasn't coming until 3rd grade--see the yet to be posted Sponge Story). I figured hey, whatever. I never got picked for anything... especially not since I'd gotten into first grade.

Cupping my hand over my eyes, I used it to block out the sunlight. Kind of jelous that I'd never be twiggy and blonde, I pondered how my little arm was getting tired, and I really hoped they'd finish up with whatever stupidness this was, and then we could go back in and get our bookbags and go home. Home meant I could take my scratchy socks off. They were a yucky knit nylon and green to boot, and I could almost feel the smell that must have been building up under my black and white saddle shoes that my mom thought were so gosh-darned cool but were really the suck, compared to the other girls' patent leather Mary Janes.

And suddenly, out of nowhere and interrupting my elaborate daydream about somehow conveying to my mother what was cool and what wasn't, my teacher was beside me, and her arms were folded over her chest. She leaned down next to me, sticking that powder and blush-covered face repleat with frightening Roman nose right next to my cheek--ok--she was in my face, actually. And it was then that dear Ms. Hall (whom I now suspect was only a year out of teaching school, and not as tall as she seamed) informed me that I could put my hand down, they certainly wern't going to call upon ME for anything. It was the scolding tone that made me feel sick and resentful at the same time. Yes, I'd have been thrilled if they'd have called on me, I was five had never seen the inside of an ambulance before. However, the fricking sun was in my eyes, lady.

Novemeber and my birthday came and passed. I turned the acceptable first grade age, my mother had made totally inadequate cupcakes (I can't remember if they were iced or not--attention to detail wasn't one of mom's strong suits leading up to her going totally nuts on the occation of my brother's second birthday), and I tried my best to fit in. Actually, there was a quiet despiration to this quest. I was chubby and I had a mullet. Oh yeah, and I was the poor kid. Three strikes and you're a loser.

The nice girls let me play with them, but they let everyone play with them. There was always a sense of inclusion by default, not because they wanted me there. I was never invited to anyone's house after school, so that reinforced that idea.

I can't quite recall what was going on that winter day. I remember it was cold on the playground, which was really just the street between the church and school blocked off with little orange cones. My chubby little legs were sticking out of my green and white tweed skirt and my feet were turning numb long after the other girls had begun wearing green curderoy pants that my mother didn't have money for, but more importantly informed me that she couldn't 'see the point in spending the money' upon.

And they were picking on me. I'd spent a year in kindergarten, I was rather used to being called names because of my weight, my hair, the stain on my collar, whatever. However, the kids were usually not brazen enough to do it IN FRONT of a teacher.

That day, the boys and the two bad girls, Jaime and Shannon, who hung out with them (Shannon hung out with the boys TOO much it seamed--she showed up to the first day of 9th grade eight and a half months pregnant) had found some new way to pick on me. It must have been something extremely personal because I'd already resigned myself to being picked on for my appearance. Whatever they said, they'd gone too far.

A little bundle of sniffling hurt and indignation, I marched up to Ms. Hall and informed her that everyone was picking on me and being mean.

And dear Ms. Hall was kind enough to ask me in 'that tone' what I expected her to do about it. It was then that she informed me that I was no one special, so I could just go ahead and get that chip off my shoulder.

Mom thinks that she thought that I 'deserved' to be picked on or 'deserved' to be 'put in my place' because she was resentful over being saddled with a five year old that the nuns just loved to death and called their 'little theologan,' which means nothing to a five year old who doesn't know what the heck a theologan is. Either way, she was mean and nasty and cruel and did her best to let me know she thought I was dirt and less than the other kids which I personally feel is a betrayal of the teaching profession.

And that, small children, is why I'm a bitter, angry, screwed up adult.


Blogger Gretchen said...

Wow. You're bringing to life a whole new world for me. I hope that there's some hope somewhere in your story too. :)

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:( i can relate. i'm sorry.

11:55 PM  

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