Saturday, January 08, 2005

Middle school lameness

I am 11 yrs old, starting 7th grade -- "grade 7" actually, since this was in Canada -- at a new school.

This is not the school where all my friends have gone. That school was nixed by my mom, because during the summer we had attended a screening of some family movie there, and it had been a madhouse. Kids were running around, throwing wads of paper, yelling, etc during the movie. Mom was extremely annoyed with the lack of adult supervision and determined then and there that her son would never attend that school. I understand her thinking and I don’t blame her, but in retrospect I wonder if grade 7 might have been something other than the most miserable year of my life if I’d been able to go to school with my friends.

But I digress. My point is to pick a story of social misery for your enjoyment.

Gym class (Fizz-Ed, if you’re Canadian).
Having skipped 1st grade, I was younger than the others. I was also physically very slow to mature. I was the oldest of my siblings. Bottom line: although I’d seen my father getting out of the shower a few times, I had never seen a teenage boy naked. Now for the first time, we’re dressing down for Phys Ed, and I am astounded to see numerous post-pubertal 12-yr-olds. I am surrounded by pubic hair and gigantic male genitals. It is a shock. I had assumed that kind of thing didn’t happen until a guy was about 20 yrs old. And so the guy across the bench from me looks up to find me staring open-mouthed at his crotch. He gives me a sneer and snarls, “What are you looking at, fag?”
For the rest of the year, this guy harasses me. In the bathroom he threatens me, calls me a faggot, etc. And I am clueless – I don’t know what “fag” means, I don’t know why he has chosen me to pick on, I don’t understand why he’s always angry at me. He’s muscled, hairy, aggressive. I am small, childlike, and weak. It is unpleasant.

One day my dad drops me off at school on his way to work. At 11, I’m emotionally still a little boy, and since my family is very huggy/kissy, all my life I’ve kissed my parents hello/goodbye/good night/etc. This morning I give my dad a smack on the lips as usual, and get out of the car. A group of students sees the kiss, and as I go by them into the school they begin to call me names: fag-boy, etc.
This adds to my gay reputation in the school, at least with some students. If I had actually been gay (and aware of it) I think it would have been dreadfully hurtful. As it was, it was bad enough, but I didn’t even know what homosexuality was at that time – all I “knew” was that kissing my dad goodbye was something stupid and risible and bad.
From that day on, I stopped kissing or hugging my father -- on some level I assumed that at a certain point for men all physical intimacy must be construed as sexual, and I associated hugs and kisses with being a child.
I was an adult before I was able to process and understand what had happened, and it was difficult to re-establish some level of physical intimacy with my dad. I don’t know what he thought – he didn’t come from a kissy family, so maybe he didn’t miss it. I hope it was not hurtful to him, but I fear it must have been. I regret very much that I allowed myself to believe something that robbed me of closeness with him.

Although I was years away from puberty, I already felt a strong sexual attraction to girls. I had no chance with them, but I dreamed of the day they’d notice me. One girl in particular I found extremely attractive. It would have been nice if the one that most appealed to me had been one with unconventional looks and hidden inner qualities, but it wasn’t so. The object of my admiration (okay, lust) was of course one of the most conventionally attractive and sexually mature girls in the school. Her boyfriend was huge -- a sports star and popular figure named Glen. In the hall one day, Glen says, “Hey man, lend me 50 cents.” I give him 50 cents, partly because he was so big, but mostly because of brilliant reasoning along the lines of: “If I loan Glen 50 cents, he will like me. If Glen likes me, probably his girlfriend will like me, and before you know it she and I will be together.” Or something. Whatever it was, it was pathetic.
The next day I said to Glen, “Hey, do you have the 50 cents I loaned you?”
Glen looked at me and said, “What 50 cents?”
So, it didn’t work out exactly as I had planned, but at least it was still pathetic...


At Sun Jan 09, 07:48:00 AM PST, Blogger No_Newz said...

That's so sad! Kids are cruel little sons-a-*&%$^#@! My son is in 7th grade, and now I wonder what types of things he goes through. Hopefully it's nothing like you described.
Lois Lane

At Sun Jan 09, 04:58:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

Aww, what sweet memories. Alas, I too was a year younger than the rest. Seventh grade was one big angst attack but I guess it's that way for everybody. Of course, it's also the time when the girls are usually taller than the boys. Naturally, it was during this time that the school system decided we should learn to square dance! -- I wish I were kidding.

At Mon Jan 10, 02:12:00 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bryan, I loved your post on Middle Scool Lameness even though it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Seems like I was usually the object of ridicule rather than the generator (is that right?) Anyway, it's good that you're still here to tell about it, and it's a catharsis for the rest of us.


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