Intro: The Pen is mightier….
6th grade. 1994-ish
Social Studies – a relatively interesting class. I think we were talking about something health related, like “don’t-do-drugs.” I was listening to the consequences of smoking with rapt interest: lung disease and nicotine addiction. Who would want horrible things like that?!
A girl named Jackie sat behind me. She was always mean to me for no reason. Well, when I asked her why she was mean, she said, “Because you’re SO annoying!” which baffled me because she couldn’t elaborate. Later I heard that I had ADD tendencies and tended to butt into other people’s conversations around me, so upon learning that, okay, I suppose that counts as annoying. I didn’t mean anything bad by it, though. It’s what you do when you’re lonely and you want to fit in. I didn’t want to wear jeans and cute short tops like the rest of the girls. Maybe it was because I was a goodie-goodie, and I got good grades. Maybe Jackie was annoyed that teachers liked me. She kept putting her feet on the back of my chair. Her feet stuck through the hole in the plastic in the seat of the chair, poking my butt.
So I politely turned around and whispered, “Jackie, your shoes are touching my butt. Could you please stop?” She just stuck her tongue out at me. I turned back around. A few seconds later, she nudged me again. I turned around again. “Could you please stop kicking my butt?” I tried again, nicely. My mom’s advice echoed in my head: “Tell the other kid that he or she is hurting your inside feelings.”
That might have worked in first grade, but not against Jackie. I could never defend myself verbally. If someone called me something mean, or said I looked dumb or my name was dumb or whatever, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t possibly say something mean back. People aren’t supposed to say mean things – it’s very hurtful and continues the cycle of pain, right? So I always ran to the teacher.
Maybe Jackie didn’t like me because I was a tattle-tale. I lost all my battles, but I won most wars, because the teachers punished the offending kids. Haha.
“I’m not TOUCHING your BUTT!” Jackie whispered back, with a smirk.
“Yes, you are!”
“No, I’m not!”
“Is there a problem?” the teacher asked finally, pausing in his efforts to separate the class into mini-groups to do a team activity.
Jackie and I exchanged glances. “No,” we both said.
“Then please be quiet,” the teacher said.
She put her feet down. Peace. A few minutes later, she gave me a very hard nudge on my butt. On purpose.
I turned around. “If you don’t stop, you’ll be sorry!” I threatened. She smirked. I fingered my pen, wondering how I was going to back that up. What could I do? What? Then I thought of something….
I spun around and stuck my pen through the hole in the seat, drawing juicy black lines all over the top of her beautiful, white sneaker.
“HEY!” she shouted, leaping up. I laughed about three good “Hahaha”s before swallowing nervously. The teacher’s voice suddenly boomed, “Roxanne, Jackie, come up here now.”
My classmate’s eyes shot fireballs at me as we both stood in front of the black board.
“Okay, class, continue working quietly in groups,” the teacher instructed. “Okay, girls, what happened?”
“She drew on my shoe!” Jackie screamed.
“She was kicking me in the butt over and over again,” I said, “Even though I asked her very nicely to please stop.”
“Did not!” Jackie retorted.
“Yes, you did!” I retorted back.
“Well, she called me a bitch!” Jackie accused, looking at our teacher.
“What?! I did not! That would be mean!” I protested, also looking at him, with my innocent eyes aghast. I didn’t know exactly what a ‘bitch’ meant, but my mom had told me it was a mean insult and I should never say it. She sometimes taught me things on a need-to-know basis.
“She also called me a whore!” Jackie cried.
I blinked. “What? What’s that?” I said.
Jackie’s jaw dropped straight open.
“I couldn’t have called you that. I don’t even know what it means! What’s a whore?” I asked our teacher, who was shaking his head.
“Go sit down, both of you.” Mr. Smith ran a hand through his hair. “Roxanne, you sit over there. Jackie, you sit over there. No more putting your feet up on the chairs.”
“But! It wasn’t me!” she protested, angrily.
I smiled triumphantly. Yes, I often won the battles. The teachers tended to believe me because I never lied.
“Mr. Smith, what’s a whore?” I asked him after class.
“Go home and ask your mother,” he said firmly.
I shuffled away, discontent. Why wouldn’t he just tell me? It must be something SO bad.
Fast forward a few hours. I burst through my front door.
“Hi, honey!” came my mom’s voice from the kitchen. She was preparing me an after-school snack.
“Hi, Mom! I called back, dumping my backpack off to the side. “What’s a whore?”