When I think of my childhood, I swear all that stuff happened to someone else.
I call up those cringe-worthy memories from elementary and junior high school, and even though I feel a pang of “what the hell was I thinking...?” it still feels like it happened to someone else. Like recalling a movie watched years ago.
The only explanation I can come up with is Time x Transformation. Most of these memories take place so long ago, I'm simply not the same person I was then.
All through elementary school I was the super quiet kid. When I tried to open my mouth, I usually stuck my foot in it. One time, my parents came back from parent-teacher night telling me my Science teacher wants me to participate more. As in, raise my hand and answer questions. This was something I avoided because.... WHAT IF I WAS WRONG!?
Anyways, I tried. We were studying earth (dirt, not the planet), and I recall the subject was something about soil, humus and other organic matter (this was the 1970's so it was all hippy-dippy Save The Planet stuff. Kinda like today, but with bell-bottoms and dirty hippies. Also, humus not hummus. Hummus is that tasty, tasty chickpea mash. Humus is dirt.)
So the teacher asked some question about types of organic matter. She got the usual textbook answers fed back to her, but there was one answer nobody else though of: peat. So me, thinking I'm all clever, raised my hand and answered, “PEAT”.
Yay me, right?
Except it didn't go down that way. See, I was the quiet kid, remember? So I didn’t speak very loudly OR clearly. Thus, everyone in the classroom thought I said, “PEE”.
I assume the combination of shock that the quiet kid actually said something, combined with what they thought I said, caused a general meltdown in the classroom. I don't think the laughing stopped for fifteen minutes. It felt like days.
Junior high school was slightly better, but one special incident stands out. My English teacher had a bro-mance with the Math teacher (I often wonder about those two now...) and they loved to play jokes on each other. So one day, my English teacher Mr. Bevans got bored during a reading assignment, and in order to entertain himself, decided to be a dick.
He had one of those pointer thingies – it was a thin stick about two feet long, with a rubber tip on one end (ahem), and a screw for hanging it up on the other (ahem).
So Bevans told me to take his “new” pointer over to the Math teacher, Mr. Murray, apparently to show him what a freakin awesome stick he had. Whatever.
So I went to Mr. Murray's room and showed him the pointer.
“Why?” asked Mr. Murray.
“No idea.” I said. It's their stupid game - he could fill in the blanks himself.
With that, Murray snapped the rubber tip off the pointer, removed the screw from the other end, and handed it back to me. Then he told me to leave.
I got back to Bevans' room, handed him the pointer and told him what Murray did. Bevans got angry (or pretended to be), and told me to go back to Murray and get the pieces back, OR ELSE.
I was all of twelve years old at the time, and completely clueless. I should've told both of them to suck it, then gone to the principal's office and explain how these two douchenuggets use their class time.
But no. Only the bad kids talked back to their teachers, right?
I went back. And yeah, Murray refused to give the pieces back, and kicked me out of his classroom again. I seem to recall the bell rang for the next class period, and that's how I got away.
My friends told me later that Bevans was cackling to himself that I was “so meek and mild” that it was entertaining to watch me squirm.
By the time high school came along I managed to creatively dodge this type of bullshit, and on a few occasions stand up for myself. In college it got better. After that was a series of my first real jobs, in my twenties.
One of those jobs was a rep at a bank, where I had to explain lending documents to customers all day long. This was an exercise in daily abuse, so I went from quiet to snotty fairly quickly. I would stand up for myself alright, but without the wisdom of knowing when to shut the f@(k up.
But I learned, and I got better at picking my battles.
This was especially useful when one psycho customer threw a chair at me, then said he ought to “punch me in the face” (I'd like to say I was being a bitch at the time, but all I did was walk into the room and introduce myself). This idiot was angry about his closing fees, and so decided to threaten the first bank rep who walked in the room.
I stared at him quietly, giving him just enough time to absorb that fact that he was being a dumbass. Then I decided it wasn't worth the potential bodily harm, and got a bank officer to go talk to him. It was a good decision – the customer ended up leaving in handcuffs.
I think somewhere along the line, events like these changed me. The more experience I got with assholes, the easier it was to stand up for myself. Or it just got easier to be bitchy. Sometimes I can't tell.