Monday, April 26, 2004

My grade school years had been one long, and often, depressing road. From the beginning, I found myself often shunned and rejected by my peers. My academic prowess was downplayed- I got called all of the typical names- nerd, bookworm, teacher’s pet- one would almost be led to think that doing well in your classes was a vice, and not a virtue. I was jeered and teased regularly. For better or worse, I was the type of child to believe what I was told- being a good citizen (& a good Christian) meant following the rules, it never occurred to me not to. I was not particularly mischievous, so I was lumped in the category of a goody two-shoes. It seems that not a day went by when I didn’t encounter some type of snide remark, juvenile prank or mean-spirited innuendo. It is an odd thing to have your sexuality questioned before you even hit puberty. Church services were held during school hours once a week. During one particular service, all students were required to hold hands with each other during a song. My pal Joe sturgis happened to be sitting next to me. The song was kind of boring, and I ended up daydreaming for a few minutes. When it was over, all the students let go of each others’ hands, except us- the both of us forgot to let go of each other’s hand for about 30 seconds to a minute- I forget exactly. When I snapped out of my semi-slumber, I let go- but not before someone noticed. ‘geoff jackson’ (not his real name), new to the class, had apparently spotted us and couldn’t resist the temptation to start a rumor. During recess, I was talking with Jan Bilboni about something or other- then he made that ‘flip-flop’ hand gesture to me. I had no idea what it meant at first. But then he told me, and another source of grief was made manifest. Where I succeeded academically, my athletic prowess left quite a bit to be desired- despite being tall, I was never the best at basketball, football or baseball- and that became another sore point. Whereas a classmate like Guyford- who got good grades and was pretty good in sports- was regarded as “brain-as-popular-jock”, I was always “brain-as-object-of-scorn”. About 50% of the time, I would get picked last in games during recess- and the other half I wasn’t picked at all. I never took to rejection very well- over the years it never got any easier to deal with- I would find myself bursting into tears. Most dismissed it as a sympathy ploy- I would contemplate for hours trying to fathom some reason why people would want nothing to do with me, when it was clear I had caused them no harm. It was as if my human dignity was tied to being able to sink a jump shot, do the latest dance, or knowing the lyrics to the latest songs. I was, effectively, on the lowest rung of the social ladder. If there was ever a moment that I felt that I belonged, someone made sure to remind me otherwise. Only in escapism did I really feel valued- whether that was doing schoolwork, listening to music, reading comics, watching sci fi TV & movies. I didn’t realize it at the time, but slowly, gradually, I began to withdraw.
My grade school years had been one long, and often, depressing road. From the beginning, I found myself often shunned and rejected by my peers. My academic prowess was downplayed- I got called all of the typical names- nerd, bookworm, teacher’s pet- one would almost be led to think that doing well in your classes was a vice, and not a virtue. I was jeered and teased regularly. For better or worse, I was the type of child to believe what I was told- being a good citizen (& a good Christian) meant following the rules, it never occurred to me not to. I was not particularly mischievous, so I was lumped in the category of a goody two-shoes. It seems that not a day went by when I didn’t encounter some type of snide remark, juvenile prank or mean-spirited innuendo. It is an odd thing to have your sexuality questioned before you even hit puberty. Church services were held during school hours once a week. During one particular service, all students were required to hold hands with each other during a song. My pal James Snemis happened to be sitting next to me. The song was kind of boring, and I ended up daydreaming for a few minutes. When it was over, all the students let go of each others’ hands, except us- the both of us forgot to let go of each other’s hand for about 30 seconds to a minute- I forget exactly. When I snapped out of my semi-slumber, I let go- but not before someone noticed. George Johnson, new to the class, had apparently spotted us and couldn’t resist the temptation to start a rumor. During recess, I was talking with Jim Bottando about something or other- then he made that ‘flip-flop’ hand gesture to me. I had no idea what it meant at first. But then he told me, and another source of grief was made manifest.
Where I succeeded academically, my athletic prowess left quite a bit to be desired- despite being tall, I was never the best at basketball, football or baseball- and that became another sore point. Whereas a classmate like Garrick- who got good grades and was pretty good in sports- was regarded as “brain-as-popular-jock”, I was always “brain-as-object-of-scorn”. About 50% of the time, I would get picked last in games during recess- and the other half I wasn’t picked at all. I never took to rejection very well- over the years it never got any easier to deal with- I would find myself bursting into tears. Most dismissed it as a sympathy ploy- I would contemplate for hours trying to fathom some reason why people would want nothing to do with me, when it was clear I had caused them no harm. It was as if my human dignity was tied to being able to sink a jump shot, do the latest dance, or knowing the lyrics to the latest songs. I was, effectively, on the lowest rung of the social ladder. If there was ever a moment that I felt that I belonged, someone made sure to remind me otherwise. Only in escapism did I really feel valued- whether that was doing schoolwork, listening to music, reading comics, watching sci fi TV & movies. I didn’t realize it at the time, but slowly, gradually, I began to withdraw.

No comments: