Back to school has always been one of my favorite times of the year. There’s just something about ball point pens, loose leaf, and marble notebooks that set my heart aflutter. But while I loved school I hated the other kids. Well not all of them, just the bullies. Nowadays bullies and their aberrant behavior are taken seriously: therapists are called, charges are pressed. But back in the day it was every kid for herself.
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When it was bad I’d tell my mom, but she couldn’t be in school with me every day. I’d tell the teachers but they weren’t helpful at all. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. Bully kids usually have bully parents. Nobody gets a masters degree in education to catch a beat down in the faculty parking lot.
And so, we all lived in fear from kids like “Susan.”
“Susan” was a girl who had the breath-taking ability to hit you ninja-quick at the exact moment the teacher blinked. She’d say vile things about you and your mother, and was completely un-phased by the logical retort: “But you don’t even know my mother.”
Apparently though, it’s hard to be a bully and maintain good grades. And my school didn’t believe in social promotion. Oh how “Susan” cried when she had to repeat the fourth grade, again. And I learned a new word schadenfreude.
Revenge was sweet but short-lived because I soon realized that when the new fourth graders got “Susan,” we fifth graders got “Kenny.” “Kenny” was 13-years-old, big for his age with five o’clock shadow, and a bad attitude. He was the kind of kid that made you think, “Hey, maybe we should give this social promotion thing a chance.”
It’s safe to say that “Kenny’s” behavior did not lend itself to the pursuit of academic excellence. You see, it’s hard to focus on fractions when you don’t know whose turn it is to be randomly punched, kicked, or choked out with the drawstring of your own coat. And not at all satisfied with only sabotaging his own education, “Kenny” soon had the other boys in the class convinced that the proper path to manhood was to manage the trifecta of being a badass, a jackass, and a dumbass. Oh, he was a born leader that one.
But there is a bright side to bullying. If you survive it, it’s great preparation for life. It teaches you that life isn’t fair, safety is an illusion, and that you go to the bathroom by yourself at your own peril. When I was in second grade I saw a classmate get jumped in the bathroom. I stopped drinking liquids during the day and didn’t use the school bathroom for three years. The attack of course was provoked. Earlier that day in class the little girl had made the mistake of answering the teacher's question correctly after one of her attackers had answered incorrectly. Lesson learned?
Bullies are the reason I became a comedian. I got picked on for many reasons: I wore glasses, I was smart, I did my homework, you know, crazy stuff like that. By sixth grade I was tired of the torture, but what to do? Getting bad grades to impress the riff raff was not an option. I come from a West Indian family (Jamaican on one side, Bajan and Trini on the other). Bringing home anything less than an A+ is grounds for justifiable homicide.
Since I didn’t know how to fight, I figured my best plan of action was to distract with humor. I thought if I could poke fun at myself before they could and make them laugh maybe I’d make it to high school where there were no bullies.
All I wanted was a cessation of hostilities, room to breathe, and the chance to be myself. Humor gave me that. It still does.
I also thought adulthood would make it all better; that growing up would allow me to escape the pain of childhood and the torment of troglodytes all together. And it did until FaceBook. I recently received a friend request from “Susan.” I had hoped that Karma had found and dealt with her by way of a tragic and grisly accident. But no such luck. Apparently bullies grow up too.
She friend requested me with the message, “Hey, remember me?” Yeah bitch, I do. You’re the reason why every back-to-school season I treat myself to a marble notebook and write down the names of all the people who made my childhood more difficult than it had to be. Top of the list? You.
It’s moments like these when I wish FaceBook had a hate button.
I was tempted to check out Susan's Facebook profile but I restrained myself. What if I found out that she'd become a teacher or worse of guidance counselor? I'd be compelled to now jump a grown woman in the bathroom or, failing that, beat her up in the faculty parking lot. Instead, I just hope she’s enjoying all those crazy shoe pictures she’s been mysteriously tagged in lately. Share.