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(Un?)happy childhoods

Following in the courage of other friends who have spoken of how nerdy they were as children, I too will be honest with you now. When I get praise, when I get told I'm funny and cool, part of me is sincerely bemused, because part of us always sees ourselves as the 10-year-old we used to be - and in my case, that 10-year-old was a scrawny, weird, silent dweeb.

I'm not sure what went wrong. I was fairly normal up till middle school, though due to skipping first grade I was a year younger than everyone else in my class, and was always small. But in elementary school that didn't matter much: I had friends; I had good times. Then, due to the way our town's school districts were set up, I went to one middle school and practically all of my friends went to the other. And overnight, cliques sprang up. Cutthroat hallway politics took over. I had no one to hang out with. I don't know what it is about middle school, but kids are mean.

Seventh grade was pretty much the low point of my life. I was pathetically unfashionable, even for the '80s: I couldn't seem to decide whether to wear childlike pastel nerdy clothes, or teen-sexpot denim jackets and mascara (again: '80s), so I wore both, in ill-advised mixtures. My shoes were never the "right" brand - boys would snicker to each other and look at my feet in class; that's how much these things mattered. Bullies stole my lunch tickets. Careless (or malicious?) classmates actually knocked me over on their bikes when I was walking out of the building one day. Yeah, knock down the little 80-pound girl - don't you feel brave now? No one ever apologized and I didn't have the nerve to say anything. Get up, dust off, move on. In fact, I didn't say much to anyone, in school, ever. I lived in an agony hoping not to be called on. My friends, when I finally got a few, were practically the dorkiest people in school. I say this as one of them. We were total weirdos, and we didn't even have much fun with it - we were too busy being tormented on all sides by the rest of the students.

I see now lots of ways I could have been less of a freak: relax more, talk to people more, do not do the secret-admirer-letter routine to boys you like (who only respond by, eventually, telling their friends about it, and sending you a "leave me alone!!!" note), do not wear mascara when you're eleven.

So I got to high school, where, amazingly, the boys were actually nice enough to hold open doors for me on occasion. Even though I had once again gone to a different high school than most of my friends, and had to start over again at the new Lunch Table O' Nerds, I had hope. I had shot up about six inches in 9th grade, bringing me from well below five feet to a more respectable 5'1" or thereabouts, and was starting to look pretty. It's no wonder, after my middle school experiences, that I latched onto the first boyfriend who ever presented himself: a handsome, smart, popular, jealous, immature jerk of a fellow who I didn't have the courage to break up with for 2 and a half years. Yay.

But you know - through it all, I knew that my parents loved me, and that my little sister would still hang out with me and giggle over dumb things with me, and that when I went home, no matter how awful school had been, I would be sheltered and taken care of. And that made a huge difference. I didn't even have the courage to speak to my parents about the nastiness of my peers, usually, but their very existence was a tremendous comfort. Thank you, parents. And for other parents reading this: do not despair. Your kids love you and need you. Be there, and be steady, and one day they will grow up enough to be pleasant company again.

That's all we have time for today. Have a good Friday, my fellow misfits.

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( 43 comments — Leave a comment )
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bluesound
Feb. 6th, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)
My friends are the strangest bunch of people, but they're great company.
bluesound
Feb. 6th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC)
Re:
Oh I nearly forgot, childhood sucked.
Re: - mollyringle - Feb. 6th, 2004 12:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
misanthropoid
Feb. 6th, 2004 08:36 am (UTC)
I've brushed over most of my negative childhood memories with a thick, nearly impenetrable coat of years. I can appreciate the courage and the instrospection that go into putting your own here for all to see.

Thank you
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re:
Heck, these were only a couple of them. We're just scratching the surface! ;) Nah, others have had it much worse than me. It just always seems so unfair at the time.
dirae
Feb. 6th, 2004 08:58 am (UTC)
My sisters dressed me up like a reject from a Flock of Seagulls video casting call. That did not sit well with the people I grew up with, thus I was always "the freak". Even today, when my mother or sisters run into someone that I only marginally knew in school, the response they get is: "Oh yeah... Kim - she was the freaky ones wasn't she?" Oddly enough, the freakishness became alluring and by 10th grade and people were drawn to me because I was different from the rest of them (I had straight hair in the realm of the permed coif). But, I kind of treated that with a flip of the wrist. I had spent most of my life on the outside to the "group" - it made me (and continues to make me) value the people I count as friends more. I became self-assured and self-reliant and by the time those people wanted me to be part of their "group" - I didn't need them. That aloofness only seemed to engage people more - *shrug*. It was an odd time, but not a tragic time for me. I always remembered a line from The Outsiders: "Things are tough all over." As much of an "outsider" or "Goonie" as I was, I figured there was always someone worse off than me (and believe me, Stinky Charlie tendered more the taunts than I ever got). Thinking in that manner made me treat everyone the same until they really did something to hurt me (then the curtain was closed on that person - they just ceased to exist).

[Anyhoo, I only speak to one person from my school days (not counting Kevon). All in all, they don't matter. It all had little bearing on my life as a whole.]
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:23 pm (UTC)
Re:
Hee hee. I love those pics. It's funny, because my other idea for a journal post was to make the confession that I rather like gravity-defying hairdos, even though we're out of the '80s. (It would be a pictorial essay, with Robert Smith key among the examples.)

Anyhow, you're definitely right: it doesn't matter anymore, especially as I live in a different state altogether these days. And if I'd had more time on this post this morning, I was going to add that there were certainly people worse off than me, and that one of the things I regret most is that I sometimes seized the opportunity to snicker at them or gossip about them, simply glad to feel "cool" for a minute. Too bad "cool" apparently meant being a bitch to everyone...heh.
rachel2205
Feb. 6th, 2004 09:51 am (UTC)
Poor you. I think school has been wretched for everyone nearly at sometime or another.
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:24 pm (UTC)
Re:
It is indeed. And I didn't have it as bad as some, to be sure. I just wanted to confess that I used to be a complete dork, rather than just the partial dork that you guys know. :)
elfmagic15
Feb. 6th, 2004 10:31 am (UTC)
Learning to deal

step one- get five oranges
step two- write peoeples names on them
step three- get a hammer

lol, well i guess you can see where this is going :) *grin*

Sigh, everyone has angst, its how we pull through it that counts
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:25 pm (UTC)
Re:
Heheh. Sounds therapeutic! May need to try that with certain personalities I know these days...hmmm...
impetuousnote
Feb. 6th, 2004 10:51 am (UTC)
As a person just coming out of her school years, I can relate. All of my schools were very small, though, so everyone knew everyone. I was the short, happy, good-girl type until I reached Jr.High. That's when my geeky, awkward hair/clothes wannabe bad-girl phase started. Let's just say most pictures from that time frame have been hidden in a galaxy far far away.

I'm glad that through all of those painful experiences, you've turned into a happy, creative, well-rounded individual. Do you ever wonder where those bullies are now?
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:26 pm (UTC)
Re:
Yeah, I do wonder. I hope they're telemarketers. Getting hung up on and yelled at left and right. Ahem.
;)
Re: - elycia - Feb. 6th, 2004 10:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: - mollyringle - Feb. 8th, 2004 08:40 am (UTC) - Expand
mekkio
Feb. 6th, 2004 10:53 am (UTC)
I'm there with you. I had Jersey mall hair, a bad overbite covered by braces and an Irish boxer's nose, (see pudgy). Man, did I get picked on throughout Catholic school.

But you know what, I haven't heard hide or high from any of those kids in yyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrssss. So, yeah, it hurt then but who cares now? I'll probably never see those kids again.



mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)
Re:
Yay for '80s hair! :D

Yeah, it totally doesn't matter now. I daresay it made us deeper people, in fact. I just wanted to confess that I was not always this normal...if any of you were under the impression that I was normal. :)
(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:13 pm (UTC)
Cruel little things, children
Oh Gawd. You've brought the whole preadolescent routine back to me poignantly. What a lot of shit to deal with. My sympathies. *grinds teeth* I was lucky, I was homeschooled, so I missed a lot of the horror. But I did have TARGET written all over me (wears Birkenstocks, likes folk music, talks funny) so I got my knocks when I poked my nose into society.
Once two friends and I were talking. The friends had both gone to school. They were swapping awful experiences, saying (monotone) "Yep, that was bad, yep, uh-hunh, been there," and I was like "Oh my GOD! That's so GHASTLY! How could you LIVE through it?!"
Guess which one of us was homeschooled! ;-)
Love,
April the Geek
mollyringle
Feb. 6th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Cruel little things, children
Haha - says something about the school system, that's for sure!

Glad I'm not alone in my mild dorkiness. :)
ishyface
Feb. 6th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC)
I was a nerd too!
Although, like you, I didn't realize it until seventh grade. That was when I joined French Immersion, and the French kids were always set apart from all the other kids. None of my friends were in Immersion, so I had a bad time of it. Not necessarily a tragically difficult one, but not fun either.
A lot of it was probably my own fault, because I was (and really still am) quite paranoid and introverted, so I didn't approach anyone if I could help it, in class or out. I was that weird creepy kid who sat in a corner and read. Not only that, but plain and badly-dressed. We're talking rotund freckled girl who wore neon legging, had braces, and cut (or tried to) her own hair. Somehow that bothered people.
Like you, I just kind of lived on hope that I'd never be called on, because when I was there'd be those malicious giggles. I spoke strangely- I read more than I talked back then so when I opened my mouth I sounded archaic and I still had traces of a British accent- and they (they being mostly the trendy made-up stripper-chic types) poked fun at me for that. It got to the point where I refused to go outside at lunch, because I was afraid that people go on with it there, and hid out in the bathrooms instead. Then when I actually started making friends, they latched on to the fact that they were boys and spread rumours that I was... er... doing unsavoury things with them. (And these were twelve-year-olds, mind. So much for the innocence of childhood.)
Bullying was never physical for me, and it never went as far as it did for some other people I know, but it still hurt at the time, and it made me ashamed of what I was. Luckily, I can now say that I'm a nerd and damn proud of it. :)
As for the trendy stripper-chic types, most of them are potheads and hiphop fans now. In comparison I feel that I've turned out rather nicely.

~Jehane
mollyringle
Feb. 7th, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC)
Re: I was a nerd too!
Oy, I know what you mean. For kissing my boyfriend in the halls in high school - just kissing, and just my boyfriend - nasty popular girls called me a slut behind my back. Jeez.

The popular kids, when they get to the real world and find that they're no longer kings and queens, often seem rather lost and stunned. But the rest of us - ah-ha, for us things have improved! That is why perhaps it was better to be a nerd. :)
Re: I was a nerd too! - ishyface - Feb. 7th, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: I was a nerd too! - mollyringle - Feb. 8th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I was a nerd too! - ishyface - Feb. 8th, 2004 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
nithy
Feb. 6th, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC)
Well, if people are swapping friendless childhood stories, here's mine:

I had 3 friends in elementary school. And these were not all at the same time. The first moved away the summer after kindergarten. The second dumped me after a month. The third I befriended because she was alone crying in a classroom during recess, and she didn't have any friends. I only found out later why she didn't have any friends. It turns out she was a total bitch. I was also (and I say this without exaggeration) the smartest person in my class, and everyone knew it, and it didn't help. Do you know how traumatic it is to have the guidance counselor come into the classroom once a month and talk about how everybody should like everybody, and nobody liked me?

I actually made friends in middle school. I had people to eat lunch with and talk to and do things with. Middle school may have been the happiest years of my life so far. Then I moved to a podunk town for high school, and everybody had been friends since kindergarten. I had no friends during the whole first year of high school. The clique that finally took me in out of pity eventually told me that they were afraid of me. High school was the worst four years of my life.

I'm in my second year in college, and I still don't have many friends. I've never been on a date. I've decided to become a hermit.
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:44 am (UTC)
Re:
Aw, don't worry - things get better. Heck, actually, I don't have "friends" that I go out with now either. There's my husband, and my sister and her husband - but they're all "family," of course. Some of us are just quieter, and sometimes that's just fine.

Oh, and I hate counselors. Mom used to set up meetings with me and whichever kid was bothering me, to meet with the school counselor and talk it out, and I hated it. Agh.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 7th, 2004 01:34 am (UTC)
hmm.

I've never really been that good at dressing with the trends. i like to do my own thing.

Thats why i like the school system here, where almost all schools have a compulsory school uniform. just one less reason to be singled out from the crowd.

I only finished school in november, and in that last year and a half i fell into a group of people who, although not-like minded, were all a little strange. we got on fine and had some great times. i felt that with them, i didn't even need to try to conform and i became a lot more relaxed.

it was great.

that said, the seven years of primary school were pretty hellish.

i'm just glad it's over.

~christine
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
Re:
Throughout school I actually wished we had uniforms so that I wouldn't get made fun of for what I chose to wear, since apparently my choice was always wrong. :)
mildred
Feb. 7th, 2004 02:49 am (UTC)
I was such a geek from the ages of about 9 to 13, and not in a good way. I wore large pink plastic glasses, at one point with a chain to stop them falling off. Ugh. I was a swot in school, and a goody-two-shoes. Fortunately, I had a small group of like minded swot friends, and we all stuck together and never got any trouble.

When I was about 14, I did an about turn into "alternative culture" and became pretty much the school outcast. Again though, with a group of similar friends it was easy to ignore everyone and just have a laugh. We foung it amusing - there were rumours about all of us flyig around the whole school, older children were scared of us after the Columbine thing cos we wore black... Heh.
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
Re:
Hehe - hey, you know you're good when people actually get scared of you!
chapatti
Feb. 7th, 2004 09:18 am (UTC)
Oh, I hear you...
That could be me writing!
Things are the same everywhere, it seems... except that if I had had the possibility of homeschooling here, I wouldn't have set a foot in that... that vile high school again.
Let us all rejoice for being out of that hell, and for turning out quite all right in the end!
... and since some of you have already reported the karma starting to come back to the bullies, maybe we're all going to get some super-duper karmic retribution now ;) (I wouldn't mind becoming a successful, critically acclaimed author, for example... *hint hint* *nudges karma*)
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:46 am (UTC)
Re: Oh, I hear you...
I'd be more than willing to share that karmic fate with ya. ;)
jedmiller
Feb. 7th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
Thank you for remembering to capture that awful cocktail of cluelessness and cruelty. The only thing worse than not knowing what you don't know is knowing that the bullshit other people are perpetrating is wrong, but not having the savvy or the self-confidence to answer it back with anything.

Funny thing is, when I hit 17 or so and began to answer back a little bit, to give the people who thought I was absurd a taste of their own medicine, they liked it. As if disrespect was the coin of the realm among craven little hormonal poseurs. Because, I guess, if you deep-down feel you're full of shit, you only trust the people who treat you that way. You assume that if someone has the moxy to answer back, they might know something you don't.

What a playschool charade.
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:48 am (UTC)
Re:
Interesting point, and very true: they never tell us to answer back or fight back, except occasionally when a dad tells his son to hit back if he gets beat up - and that's un-p.c. these days, so even that doesn't get said much. But twisted as it is, it works: they see you have a bit of strength, they get mildly impressed and might lose interest in picking on you.

What doesn't work is telling the school counselor about the problems, or whoever it is you're supposed to complain to. Every kid instinctively knows that squealing never won them any friends.
jazzypoet
Feb. 7th, 2004 09:04 pm (UTC)
That was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing some of your thoughts and memories, Molly. *hugs* We would have been friends in middle school and high school, too....of that I am certain. :-)

Bless ya! Have a wonderful Sunday....
Kimma
mollyringle
Feb. 8th, 2004 08:50 am (UTC)
Re:
I would have been a much happier kid if I'd known you at that age, I am sure. Thank you! Have a great Sunday yourself. :)
Re: - jazzypoet - Feb. 8th, 2004 01:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
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