Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"My Mother Once Told Me...

OK, so I got this fantastic book written by author Judy Reeves called, A Writer's Book of Days. It's full of great, inspirational advice, but it also includes a handy practicing tool that I'd like to use in this blog. She gives you a topic for every day of the year. You're told to write down the topic at the top of your page, then just start writing the first thing that pops into your head. A few days ago the topic was "My Mother Once Told Me..." This is what I came up with:

My mother once told me that when boys make fun of me, it's because they really LIKE me! Actually, Mom said that much more than once. It became her go-to mantra whenever I would arrive home from school in tears, having just been the victim of another hurtful comment from a male classmate. There was one boy in particular, let's call him Billy. Billy wasn't particularly attractive, nor was he athletic, smart, or exceptionally witty. But Billy compensated for all his shortcomings with VOLUME. He was attention-starved, loud, and mean. Since he didn't posses a vast library of humorous anecdotes to entertain his audience on the bus, he went with an alternative method. He'd simply pick some poor kid out of the crowd and mercilessly tease them. We victims soon learned that to fight back only served to fuel his fire, so we remained silent.

Billy's nickname for me was "Ugly." Not very creative, I admit, but I can assure you it was lethal. Every morning as I boarded the bus I was greeted with, "Hi, Ugly!", much to the delight of the other eleven year old passengers. My delicate little pre-teen soul was obliterated. I somehow managed to spare him the satisfaction of seeing my tears on the ride to school, but they flowed like a river when I reached my bedroom back home. I remember sitting on my bed, head in hands, trying to understand how spewing hurtful words at someone could be considered so entertaining.

I confess, I still don't get it. I have friends that LOVE the ridiculously popular American Idol. Many of them have told me their favorite part of the whole season is during the first episodes. This is when the hopelessly talent-free singers warble hideously in front of three judges. Everyone gets an enormous laugh when the judges ream the vocally-challenged contestants with personal insults and hurtful, stinging criticism that is far from constructive. Everyone just shakes their heads and collectively giggle as they watch the performers leave, weeping, from the room. Ratings soar.

Last year, my husband submitted a dorky picture of us to a photo contest in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They wanted a "Show your Cleveland Browns Fan Spirit" rendering, and ours was truly ridiculous, but fun. We didn't win, but they apparently filed our photo away. We know this because they posted it on their website recently to advertise another upcoming "Browns Spirit" contest. We were thrilled! Thrilled, that is, until we saw the comments other readers had written beneath. Here were fellow fans, all of them grown adults, spewing the most hurtful, disgusting filth, all in response to our silly little picture. I think it even would've made poor Billy gasp.

I've decided officially that Mom got it wrong. Billy didn't like me. He was probably dealing with his own self-worth issues and decided the only way to make himself feel better was to make my life miserable. I actually saw Billy again at my ten year high school reunion. He was bald, pudgy, and drunk. At one point in the evening he actually grabbed the D.J.'s mike and told an inappropriate, off-color joke. No one laughed this time. We had all grown very bored of Billy's foppish behavior. My wish is that we, as an advanced society with human compassion, can all do the same.

Thanks for reading!!


Jennifer Taft said...

Joan I remember that period where the evil Billy tortured you. I remember feeling so helpless, because I couldn't do anything to make it better. Most importantly, your writing took me right back there. You do know how to spin an interesting tale and keep your reader engaged. Bravo on a wonderful start!

Anonymous said...

Good one, Joan. I have often wondered about folks who remember their school years as "the happiest of their lives" as well as those who delight in the mean-spiritedness of others. The happiness that comes from finally learning to dismiss the jerks is really freeing.

Oh, I don't know if you saw this one but for a similar incident with a different outcome check out this one --

You rock sista! S

Mikey Miroewski said...

love the writing. i too, am a closet author. my mother also told me the "they like you" thing, but as i got older she explained that people say mean things because they have their own issues and for that brief second, it makes them feel better. i still believe that 45 year olds still do the same. also, if you want me to kick "billy's" ass, you know where to find me. mikey

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