[Some of these memories are out of order because I want to get them down when I think of them and I’m in the mood to write. I’m putting links to the posts on the page titled “Memories” and I’m trying to put them in the proper order over there.]
So, I was the new kid in school. I was more than a little bit nervous having been bullied, and essentially run out of, my previous school. Add to that the social conflicts of the months before and I’m surprised I wasn’t more of a wreck. Was I calm or was I just pretending to be calm? It’s hard to know. One thing I did know was that human beings are like sharks who can sense blood in the water. Show vulnerability and you’ll be attacked. Show power and people suck up to you. Pathetic, but all too often true. The night before, I spent a long time thinking of what to wear, erring on the side of the bland. Once I got a feel for the school, for its cliques and social circles, I could perhaps dress in a more flamboyant manner. For the first day, however, bland, but not too bland, was in order. Don’t look rich. Don’t look poor. Look up-to-date, but not cutting edge. Did girls there wear make-up? I didn’t know. A little lip gloss, a little mascara. No heavy eye liner, no visible rouge. The song “I Don’t Like Mondays” played on the radio as I got dressed.
My mother dropped me off at the back of the school. There was a steep hill and I sat on the grass waiting for school to start. It was quite a long wait. Finally, students started gravitating to the school and congregating around the door. There were some glances in my direction, but I was waiting far enough away that I didn’t attract much notice. The bell rang, the doors opened and I began to descend the concrete steps. As I neared the other students, I heard whispers. “Who’s that?” “Is she a new student?” Those whispers followed me down the hallway, up the staircase and into the classroom. Because I’m slightly near-sighted, I prefer the first row in a class because then I don’t need glasses. However, sitting in the first row has social implications, so I couldn’t sit there until I had an established reputation or else I’d get the reputation of an ass licker. I sat in the middle, slightly off to the side, near the windows but not next to the windows, the most socially neutral spot in a classroom by my estimation.
I settled in my seat. I placed my notebook on my desk, but slightly angled, off to the side, ready, but not too ready. See, everyone, I’m not a nerd but not a goof-off either. Suddenly, splat, something fell on my desk. I looked down in front of me. On the imitation wood-grain laminate of the desk was the unmistakable, square outline of a condom still in its wrapper. Laughter went around the room. Adrenaline made my thoughts speed up and time stand still, just as it might during a car accident or an emergency. I’m sure you’ve had this experience. It will take you far longer to read the account of my thought process than it took me to think it. It all happened in a few seconds. This was the moment I against which I was bracing myself all morning. The moment I would be tested. Fail this test and you could be sent to social hell for a month, or, in a worse case scenario, for as long as I was at the school. Responding correctly was of the utmost importance. The laughter told me that everyone had seen the condom land on my desk, so brushing it off and pretending I didn’t know wasn’t an option. I knew why it was a condom. I may have been developing my own ideas about sexuality, but I still had to live in a world where people held very different beliefs. The desired reaction on the part of the person who tossed it was that I would yell “Eeew” and make a big fuss. Everyone would laugh and proclaim me a prude or a baby. Socially, I could probably live that down, but there had to be a better response. I toyed with the idea of calmly pocketing the condom, but then they would call me a whore or a slut. Now, that might never be lived down. I needed to turn the tables on the prankster, put the focus on him, not me. I picked up the condom between my thumb and forefinger, stood up and held it aloft above my head like I was the Statue of Liberty. I turned around and slowly and scanned the room. “I believe someone has lost something,” I said, loudly and clearly, as if maybe, just maybe, I was being helpful.
There was some poking going on among several boys a couple of rows behind me. One of them came forward, “Um, yeah, it’s mine.” I handed him the condom and he slunk back to his desk. Everyone burst into laughter. I had turned the tables. I sat down as if nothing had ever happened. I heard a whisper, “She’s cool.”
After everything I’d been through, I was feeling more than a little pleased with myself. “You got that straight, man,” I thought. “Butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. Now don’t fuck with me.”
You have a great memory for detail and certainly did the cool thing. I was pondering what I would have done and I think I would have slunk into my seat but I cannot be sure. I generally say to much or act to assertively but in this case I am just not sure what I would have done. What grade were you?
Ninth. Thirteen going on fourteen – I think.
You have such a good memory. That was a classic act. You did well. Am not sure of what I would do in a similar situation
It was a pretty dramatic moment for me because, at least symbolically, it was the moment that I went from being marginalized and even bullied a little bit to actually being a popular girl. I was starting to get wise about human nature. Not wise enough, unfortunately, because a few months later I got accused of witchcraft. Whenever I read things about people getting killed for practicing witchcraft in other countries it always gives me chills because, as crazy as those accusations sound, the people who made them were in earnest. Fortunately, in the U.S. most people don’t believe in those things anymore so most people just shrugged it off. Still, it was kind of creepy.
That class needed a tough skin and you seem to have been so level headed. I must say it has been a pleasure reading these memories
Not at all. The kids there were a whole lot more sheltered, less sophisticated and less cosmopolitan than the kids in my previous school. Mainly, the were pretty nice, though I have to confess I quickly started to view them as a bit naive. I mean, what could be more naive than thinking witches exist. I was able to diffuse that by having a nice conversation with the girls in question. I bet that now that they’re adults, probably with college age children, if they were reminded of that episode they’d probably feel silly.