Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Just a reminder to be kind, I guess...

On my drive to work each morning, I pass a middle school. This morning as I passed I saw two people crossing the street, near the crosswalk. A mother walking her daughter to school, I assumed, then instantly questioned my assumption. That girl can't be in middle school--look at her. She was a big girl, tall and chunky, wearing a backpack. She looks way too old! And why does she still need her mother to walk her? And instantly I felt ashamed of myself.

I flashed back in time to my own prepubescent years. I was a chubby girl, though not especially tall (that came later), and I was often perceived to be older than I was. I had friends, older by several months, but very small-framed, who had the opposite problem. "You can't come into this PG movie--there's no way you're 13!" (I guess adolescence sucks for everyone!)

The most humiliating experience of this sort for me was the summer before I turned 12 (my birthday's in the fall). My aunt would occasionally pick up my younger sister and me and drop us off at the town swimming pool for the afternoon, along with our younger cousins, who we were in charge of watching. In exchange, she'd pay our way into the pool, and give us money for snacks. She generally counted it out--just enough for each of us, and no extra, so the younger girls would know there could be no begging for additional candy. There was a price break for kids under 12, and that's the amount we each were allotted. The lifeguards were all generally boys in their late teens/early twenties and they took turns doing the different tasks--sitting in the chair, assigning baskets for our clothes, taking the money at the door. Well, this day the door guy was an ass. We handed over our money, as usual, and started inside. "Wait--you!" I turned--me? "Come back here! You didn't pay enough." Yes, I did. I gave you the same amount everyone else did. "There's NO WAY you're under 12." I was mortified. I was very shy, HATED any sort of negative attention or being pointed out for being different in any way, and he was practically yelling. People could HEAR him! They were staring! I wanted to die. I'll be twelve in September, but I'm only 11 now. "I don't believe it. Look how big she is--does she look 11 to you?!" I was very near bursting into tears--I didn't know what to do. I didn't have enough money to pay the adult price. Why was he doing this to me? Fortunately my aunt was lingering in her car until we were safely inside, and noticed something was up. She came marching over, demanding to know the problem, and then read the guy the riot act. He clearly didn't believe her, but wasn't up to dealing with an irate adult (only man enough to pick on little girls, apparently), so we were allowed in, and by the end of the afternoon I was mostly having a good time. But I never forgot it, or the way he made me feel.

What kind of person does something like that to an insecure young girl? Someone young and full of himself, I suppose, and probably riddled with his own insecurities. Or maybe he was just an ass then, and is an ass now, wherever he is. I like thinking that he's old and pasty and flabby and unhappy, drinking Coors on the sagging couch in his rundown trailer, after getting home from work at his low-paying, unfulfilling job, before going to bed to dream of that summer he was a lifeguard--all young and tanned and muscled. Wasn't that the best of times?

So I remembered that this morning, when for a brief second I thought "that girl can't be in middle school." And then my heart ached for her, for having to be that girl. And I wished I could pull her aside and tell her that in just a few years, looking a bit older will be an advantage. I started to going to bars with my friends in college when I was 19 and never ONCE got carded! Who's laughing now? Hee! And public school will be behind you and there's a whole world out there where you're free to choose the people you associate with, for the most part, and that world can be your motherfuckin' oyster!

Well, until you start to get gray, and need reading glasses, and sometimes your hip hurts and your knees creak and....but that's a post for another time. Or not. Who cares about those things, really--I'm all young and fabulous and vital on the inside, right? Right? (I'm imagining a chorus of "hell yeahs" right now. Ha.) Thanks. That's what I thought.

13 comments:

-R- said...

Hell yeah!

3carnations said...

Nice post. I was a chubby girl, too, but not tall in the least. No one ever mistook me for being older, back then or now.

There was a girl I picked on sometimes, but not for her weight (wouldn't THAT be the pot calling the kettle black). I still think of her sometimes, and if wouldn't make me a complete psycho, I would try to track her down, although I'm no longer in my hometown and she probably isn't either. Her offense - She was dirty. Her hair had those shiny comb marks that you get when you've gone several days without washing. We were 12 years old (what is it about that age?). Maybe she didn't know better. Maybe her family couldn't afford soap. I don't know. But it hurts me to think of how mean I was to her.

You weren't really talking about kids picking on each other...But for some reason I needed to get that off my chest.

3carnations said...

I would try to track her down and apologize - I left that part out.

lizgwiz said...

r, thanks!

3c, I knew what you meant. :) That is an awkward age, there on the cusp between kid and teenager--we don't really know how to be yet, I think. I'm sure we can all look back and remember times we wish we'd been kinder.

Stinkypaw said...

Right! ;-)

Mary said...

Ah, middle school. Does *anyone* treasure their middle school years? I've never met a single person who could say, "Boy, I just LOVED middle school! Best time of my life!" I tell you, sometimes I see girls who are obviously going through that horrifying age & I just want to assure them that it really does get much better after graduation. Really. MUCH better.

maliavale said...

My heart hurts for your 11-year-old self. What a cruel asshole. Totally agree with the Coors assessment (especially since it's the worst beer on the planet)!

georgeious said...

right on, toots. i'm feeling it.

dirty, fat, bad teeth, trashy early bloomer in the boob department. ahhh, how i miss being that dorky. hehehe.

lizgwiz said...

stinkypaw, thanks! I appreciate your affirmation. ;)

mary, I know! I want to make a PSA for all the gawky girls out there.

malia, you're so right. My dad drank Coors when I was little. I kept begging and begging to taste it, and when he finally let me, I spat it out all over him. As an adult, I see no reason to change that initial opinion. ;)

george, I'm afraid I can't identify with you on the early boob trauma--I'm still waiting for those suckers to grow. Hee.

stefanie said...

Ugh. I am with you. I hope that jerk is fat and unsuccessful now. I want to think that he honestly just didn't realize what he was doing or saying, that for all he knew you were a sneaky 13-year-old trying to save a buck. It was still a totally sucky thing to do, though.

lizgwiz said...

stef, I suppose I could be gracious and assume he was just being a diligent city employee, trying to ferret out fraud wherever he could. But to hell with that, he humiliated me. Ass! Hee.

Mary said...

I bet that was the only position of power he ever held. And that even today there are times when he sits back with his bottle of Coors Lite and thinks on the days when he Ruled the Pool. He probably still puts it on his resume & everything.

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