School Bullying: Me and “W”
Now I would never have thought that me and “W” would have something very private and personal in common. I mean, I’m a poor, toothless old man getting wrinkly and she’s a young, rich and beautiful woman known all over the world. In the wake of the Newtown school slaughter, maybe this story can help kids who are bullied at school – and maybe lead them to respond differently from Adam Lanza, the shooter.
Seriously, though – as kids we were both the targets of school bullying. You look at some of these kids who were the targets and you have to wonder, “Wow, are these bullies out of their mind?”
Not me, I was a natural target for bullies. I was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – literally! Pratt, KS is enclosed on the south by the Santa Fe railroad and on the north by the Rock Island railroad. I lived on North High Street, just within site of the “bad side” of the Rock Island line.
We were dirt poor and the clothes I wore to school were old, sometimes-patched hand-me-downs from other families. My ears stuck out, so I was called “jug ears” even by my stepdad.
I was the school “egghead” (now called “dork” or “nerd”) who loved making model rockets while the other boys were into hot rods. I didn’t have a car at all. I jumped the freight trains to get to school quicker. I loved reading and science; in 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik I started a card file of all the rockets, missiles and satellites I could learn anything about. Later I learned some of the information I had gathered from around the world was actually classified.
No matter how hard I tried to fit in, I was always an outcast, standing ignored at the edges of the group. When I said something, it was if I’d never spoken – or worse, I was interrupted as if I wasn’t even there. The Invisible Egghead.
In grade school I was always the one who won the summer reading contest. But by the time I entered 7th grade (we called it junior high then instead of middle school), my grades began falling. I started stealing stuff – usually candy from the Safeway or Dillon’s store which I’d take to school and hand out in the stupid belief it would earn friends.
I was a royal klutz – awkward and very un-athletic. One of my most humiliating moments was during a 7th grade basketball game when I actually got the ball, then ran to the wrong end of the court and scored a basket for the other team. I wanted to shrink to nothing and disappear.
Instead of being the small fish in the big pond, I fell in with the “bad crowd” hoping to be a big fish in a small pond. I started smoking. I withdrew from all but a handful of neighbor kids.
One day one of the popular kids came up and patted me on the back like we were buddies. Can you imagine, at age 12, walking around with a sign taped to your back that says, “Kick me, I’m queer!”?
I quit Boy Scouts because (a) I was raped by one of the “basketball stars” at Scout camp and (b) I was raped by the Scoutmaster, a deacon at my church who had 12 daughters but preferred little boys.
Things like that can really screw up your whole life, not just childhood. It’s not easy talking about this, but after 67 years I know who I am and I have confidence in my own sexuality and worth as a human(and no, I’m NOT “queer”!)
I share these painful memories because I know some of you are going through the same thing. When I was a kid in the 50’s there wasn’t anyone to talk to about it like there is today, so I thought I must be only “wuss” in the world.
If you’re going through school bullying, let me tell you about this beautfil woman you know; I’ll call her “W”.
Few people who were bullied ever get a chance at revenge, though they do fantasize about it. “W” is one of the lucky few who have been able to get back at a bully, even in the smallest of ways.
She was beaten up and taunted in middle school by students who said she looked like a boy.
She recalls, “I was wearing an old Salvation Army shop boy’s suit. As I went to the bathroom I heard people saying, ‘Hey, faggot’. They slammed my head into a locker. I fell to the ground and they started to kick the s**t out of me. I had to have stitches. The school kicked me out, not the bullies.”
Although “W” remembers the incident clearly, one of her bullies conveniently forgot when, years later, she ran into her at a coffee shop and asked “W” for an autograph.
Apparently, “W” did not forgive or forget, responding, “‘Do you remember me? Remember in seventh grade you beat up that kid?’ And she said, ‘Kind of’. And I said, ‘That was me. Go f*** yourself.’”
You know her as Winona Ryder.
©2012 by Jim Moore. All rights reserved.
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