When I think back to my formative years, mostly middle and high school, I am reminded of three boys. Those three boys didn't realize it at the time and probably don't realize it now but they formed part of me, the part that regards all men today. Those three boys taunted me, tormented me and generally made me feel like I wasn't deserving of positive attention. Kids can be brutal, as they say.
Josh* and his best friend Jeremy* used to make fun of me and my best friend all the time. We ran into them once at the mall, where all the kids hung out, and practically followed us around to taunt us. Getting on the elevator at the mall was the clearest memory. They made it a point to get on the elevator with us just to be horrible and awful to us. Our hair was stupid, our clothes weren't cool or expensive enough, we were just lame. It sucked because these two boys were in the "cool" crowd and we were below them. They made that last point very clear.
I never made it into the cool crowd, not even close. On the flip side, I don't think I ever went down to the "loser" crowd either but my foot was hovering over the loser line, for sure. I had a few friends that were cheerleaders, some of the geeky kids I called friends and for years I hung out with the guy everyone thought was the James Dean of the school (last I heard he was in prison). I never did fit in with any particular group, drifting around aimlessly. I was in choir which I really enjoyed but that, of course, made me lame to most. I never knew what I could do to make it up the ladder to be cool.
Josh died a few years ago, unexpectedly, and I was just heartbroken for his family. I see his dad on a regular basis because of my job and I always asked how he was doing. His dad and I talked about how mean his son was to me once and I felt a bit better when he told me this Josh was like that to everyone. It wasn't just me that he directed his awfulness at. I never told his dad that Josh was half of the reason I tell my oldest son, on a regular basis, to be nice to everyone all the time, no matter if they are in the cool crowd, the lame crowd or in between.
I actually have seen Jeremy around the area a few times. He's hard to miss, really. He's been in a wheelchair for most of his life. I realize that he probably was a very angry kid and took his aggressions and anger out on others but I don't give him a pass for the awfulness. Many people are dealt an awful set of cards and if they make the choice to be awful than they must accept the fact that people aren't as likely to give them the benefit of the doubt, not that I didn't try. I stopped trying when Jeremy would mow me over in the school hallways with his wheelchair and laugh. Of course I couldn't do anything because he would use the handicapped card. It was widely suspected that he could in fact walk but choose not to. I now doubt the validity of this because I've seen him in his chair.
I saw Jeremy just a few weeks ago. I know he's got a family and he's married. I hear he's still in the neighborhood we all grew up in and I also hear he's doing well. In a way I'm glad because I know he was angry, I would have been too. His carefree preteen and teen years were stolen from him. If I ever get a chance, or the nerve, I intend on telling him how he affected my growing up. He's the other half of the reason that I tell my oldest son to be kind to everyone, no matter what.
*Matt, the third of the boys, just friend requested me on Facebook**. He's got a family now, that looks to include daughters. I'd like a chance to tell him how to prevent his girls from having a negative self body image. Matt was highly interested in the fact that I had boobs at such a young age. It was 5Th or 6Th grade when he would run past me and pop my bra in the back. Once he also grabbed my breast and laughed hysterically as he ran away.
My mother used to point out that I would only wear exceptionally baggy clothes with barely any skin showing, never showing cleavage. I don't think I realized that the reason I dressed like that was a direct result of how Matt was to me. I was a kid with boobs and a bra and my friends were still 6 months to a year behind me and that's a lifetime in kid years. He made me feel ashamed and embarrassed and I just wanted to blend into the background and never be seen. There's a picture of my in high school that sums up my wardrobe back then. I had jeans on, a t-shirt and a man's long sleeve flannel shirt buttoned almost to the top. I remember this shirt so clearly because it was a mans size 2XL and I was maybe a size 8 back then. You can imagine how much excess fabric and shame I was carrying with me.
I get anxiety when I think about Jeremy, Josh and especially Matt. I see them in all the kids that make fun of Derick. I see them in the cocky kids at the mall. I see them walking home from school taunting others. I have had a hard time really getting past their mark they left on me. It's not easy even though it was so many many years ago.
I survived you, I'd say to them. Despite you I made it and I think I've done a good job. Because of you I'm teaching my children better. I'm teaching my boys to respect women and honor women and be respectful of women. I'm breaking the cycle with my boys.
Also, I'm letting you go, you three boys. You won't hover over my anymore with your issues. I won't let you cloud my view of people anymore. I'm moving on and leaving you behind, where you belong. I only hope that your children are taught better.
*Not their real names. For you readers who know me and know these people please keep their names and details private, please.
**I denied his friend request.