This woman is not only new the the JH scene but new to our scene as they just moved into the area. Her daughter didn't make the Volleyball team and she said after hearing his message at the Winter Sports Meeting she felt better about it.
Mr. Microphone always gives a legnthy intro to the meeting like we are all new to the district. Then he talks about how hard his job is as there are 1200 students just int he 7th/8th grades, then about how he came from a larger district where he was band director and that was an even bigger challenge....I'm not kidding. Very predictable. Takes two and half hours.
When it was time to acknowledge the volleyball team this woman said she was cringing because he started the introduction with "These girls have come a long way. There were a lot of social issues with this group - they just didn't get along. Right girls?"
She said you could have heard a pin drop and all 12 girls were staring at the floor looking like they wanted it to open up and swallow them whole. Oh but he didn't stop there, she said, and went on to say they worked hard as a team on and off the court and he did praise them for coming together in the end. This mother was horrified.
But I have not been able to get that out of my mind. Why? Why is that still rattling around in there I keep asking myself? What is it that is bothering me? Knowing I am stuck for the next two years listening to Mr. Microphone blabber on each quarter when all he has to say is Great Job athletes and call them up for their certificate?
Nope. That's not it. And this morning it hit me. Well, actually the door hit me in the head as I was half asleep getting #1 son off to school and carrying two laundry baskets upstairs, but I digress. It hit me that what was bothering me was that I wasn't bothered by what he did. I was actually thinking - that may just be what some of those girls need right now. To feel the shame of their actions on a public stage. Maybe they will think twice the next time.
When I was maybe in third grade and attending a catholic elementary school the class bully was a girl. (Even the boys were afraid of her) She decided that she wanted to pick on one particular girl, but in true bully fashion, she didn't do it herself. She got all of us to do it. She planted the seeds of disgust and watered them with innuendo. And when that wasn't going far enough, she found me. The weakest link. And she played on my need to get in the group, feel connected, be a cool kid - and she told me what to shout across the playground.
We were immediately hauled into the Principal's office. He let us have it, particularly me. (rightfully so) Lesson learned. But it would be a few years before the Bully got her hands on me. Fast forward to 8th grade and the JH Washington DC trip. For those of you not in the Midwest, it used to be iconic and every JR High kid within 8 hours of DC got two nights on a bus and 4 days in Washington DC. Now I love DC don't get me wrong, but that trip was literally hell on wheels. 250 thirteen year old kids traipsing around DC with a handful of chaperones.Ugh. Boys- you ain't missing nothing.
On the first leg of the trip the overnight bus to DC the bully decided that the boy she liked was giving me too much attention. Not wanting to lose her non-existent boyfriend she started a rumor about me. Remember this is LONG before cell phones, because I am old. And the one and only time that anyone from the 6 buses could even talk was the rest stop in PA at 4 am.
But she did it. By the time the bused rolled into DC not one of the 250 kids on that trip would speak to me. No one. They all avoided me like the plague. Her cronies then did things like sidle up next to me and say "Speak of the She Devil". They would accidentally run into me, push into walls, or off a curb into traffic. Where of course I would get screamed at by a chaperone for being stupid. (Midwest parents in the 80's)
By the end of day one I was confused, humiliated, exhausted, defeated, I just wanted to leave. For weeks before the trip the teachers had threatened up daily with good behavior or they would put us on a plane and ship us home at our parents expense. Right then I was all for it. But still a good catholic white girl taught to always shut up and take it, I did nothing.
Day two got horribly worse. I started my period for the first time. Thank you ladies for that collective sigh, it was exactly like you imagine. Alone in DC, no knowledge of WTF just happened (Midwest parents in the 80's) blood on my clothes, toilet paper waded up in my underwear, and my sweater wrapped around my waist all day. Now I truly wanted to die and thought I was.
Day three they put us on a boat and shipped us over to Monticello. When we arrived there was a lot of jockeying around as they had to split us up into very small groups for the tours and we were there with 500 other 8th graders on their trips. Not even thinking conscientiously about what I was doing I went straight to the bathroom when we arrived as I had been doing every where we went so far on this trip not that any adult noticed. When I came out of the bathroom I looked around and didn't see anyone I knew and for the first time in two days, I could breathe. I could just be. Then these beautiful girls with gorgeous southern accents came up and one of them said Hello. To me. I must have looked like a deer in headlights because they all started to giggle and one of them said "I thank you scared her half to dith!"
In the next three hours I would very little about Monticello but I learned all about my new friends from North Carolina. We talked and laughed and giggled and they gave me tampons and pads and showed me how to use them. They trash talked the bully and her crew and said if they ever ran into her they would kill her! That's when it suddenly dawned on all of us - I wasn't one of them.
Oh shit! They saw the panic in my face and we immediately went to a teacher. We simply said I think I lost my group. They contacted a park ranger or house ranger what ever they are and sure enough. My group had been sitting on a boat for and hour and a half counting heads, interviewing students, and finally getting the whole story from one of the girls who couldn't take it anymore. I was whisked away from my new friends who saved my life and sent back to the boat of bitches. I wanted to die again.
Oddly enough, when I got back to the boat I was suddenly the big TB. Total Badass. The rumors were flying that I had said F'it and run away. That I had been found hitchhiking back to Ohio (off an island people really? 13 year-olds). But the best was that the Bully had found me alone and beat the shit of out of me and left me for dead. That one cracked me up.
The rest of the trip went very differently, that night at the dinner theater everyone wanted to sit at my table. Which didn't matter because they had assigned seats three months earlier, but as we sat in the dark eating cold chicken waiting for 1776 to start I had time to think about everything that I had been through. And the fact that the boy next to me kept trying to slip his hand up my skirt. I wasn't won over by the girls who were suddenly "not" her friend any more. I wasn't stupid. They wanted to be cool so badly that they would change who they were for the next best thing. I learned that lesson at 13. In a way I was lucky - in a way it made HS even worse.
I never did find a group of friends and haven't to this day. I don't trust people easily and rarely see friendships as lasting. I also learned that week to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Which I think I took too literally and ran with my enemies for way too long.
My point to all of this....if even one of those girls was truly horrified by being called out in that gymnasium that day. If even one girl figures out that she does not need to tear others down to get ahead - then was it worth it? Because I believe that far too many woman, still think being cool is the only thing that matters - that being mean is the only way - and that taking care of each other isn't on the agenda.
I remember thinking at thirteen, Doesn't she know how scared I am? How awkward I feel? How much I want to a friend too? 34 years later....how far have I come? How far have you come?