Thursday, March 18, 2010


I'm reading a novel about a 12-year-old girl. (Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O'Neill. It's one of the best books I've ever read.)

This book is reminding me of what it was like to be 12: young enough to play with toys, but old enough to want a boyfriend. Not that I had the slightest hope of having a boyfriend at that age.

When I was 12, I was a scrawny, shy, stringy-haired, four-eyed nerd. I attended a junior high school in an affluent neighbourhood. Most of the kids lived in mansions and wore only designer clothes. My step-dad had just been fleeced by a con artist, so my mother bought my clothes at Honest Ed's, which is basically a giant dollar store. There was no way that I could fit in.

I got teased every single day. The other kids hated me for being awkward and vulnerable. I represented everything they were most afraid of in themselves. I got straight A+ grades in everything except gym class. They called me "brown-noser" and sneered contemptuously.

It was the 1984-85 school year. I wanted to wear better clothes, so that the other kids would like me. I got my hands on a neon pink, bat-wing-sleeved, oversize sweatshirt. If anyone else had worn it, it would have been totally cool. When I wore it to school, the kids shielded their eyes, pretending to be blinded by the bright colour. I was so uncool that I destroyed everything good about that shirt just by wearing it.

My best friend was another scrawny nerd. They called her "bone-rack" and stole her glasses.

I had been bullied in my grade school, by a few kids, but things got ten times worse in junior high. Almost everyone hated me at my new school. Kids would laugh at me or yell at me in front of the teachers, but the teachers never even seemed to notice.

I missed a lot of school because I started getting terrible stomach aches every weekday morning.

I don't miss being 12.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

Heck... those kids must have been dumber than a box of rocks if they couldn't see the greatness that is Sparkling Red!! I'm sure beauty, wit and grace simply oozes from your pores nowadays!!

Windsor Grace said...

Dude. I was bullied in middle school. Because I was weird and different. And then, some how in high school, being aloof became cool. I'll never understand.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Twelve was the age when my parents moved across the country, threw me in a new school knowing no one, where a few of the popular boys had crushes on me and all the popular girls hated me. Thankfully, I had an ounce of self-confidence to get me through that time.

LL Cool Joe said...

And just look at you now? A beautiful, confident woman.

I wasn't popular at 12 either. Actually I've never been popular!

Jameil said...

Good grief. That is horrible. I was the person yelling at the bullies. There is no reason to be cruel to people and I was always very adamant about that as a child. My sister and I were both popular (her even more than me since she was a cheerleader and a lot nicer) but with a strong sense of right and wrong. If you want to read another great book for teens/pre-teens, the Georgia Nicholson series has several including 'Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.' Very funny.

Jenski, PhD said...

Oiy. That's awful. I was tubby with a perm and braces when I was 12; I also liked to rock out the stretch pants and tunic look. I escaped ridicule and bullying though, so for that I am grateful.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Thank you! Excuse me, I need to go mop up all the wonderful ooze...

Windsor Grace: Fortunately by 10th grade I was in a better place, socially. I thank God for the whole "Revenge of the Nerds" 80's movement that made it kind of cool to be uncool.

Nilsa: Wow, that must've been tough! It sounds like you handled it really well.

LL Cool Joe: Thanks! I did eventually become popular, but I've never fully accepted that as an identity. In my mind, I'm just a nerd who can "pass" for a cool kid.

Jameil: Bless you, I wish you had been there to yell at my bullies! The world needs more people to stand up for the meek.

Jenski: 12 seems to be one of those ages where there's no middle ground when it comes to appearance. You're either horribly awkward, or one of the rare few who are breathtakingly beautiful. I used to look at the girls who had clear skin all the time, and wonder how they managed to pull that off.

DarcsFalcon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DarcsFalcon said...

For me it was 13, and moving from one coast to the other and not fitting in with the new kids. It was culture shock in more ways than one.

I don't know why kids are such jerks, especially around that age, but they are and it's not just "kids being kids."

I'm sorry you went through that too - being bullied. It really should NOT be a part of growing up.

Ily said...

Young teens can be so evil. I remember never quite fitting in because I was "the Spanish girl" but no one made fun of me in front of my face. Still, it didn't feel good being so different from all the other kids, so I hear you.

Glad you're enjoying the book. I'll have to check it out.

powdergirl said...

I remember the first time I saw 'pack mentality' turn a bunch of otherwise normal kids into bullies.

To my very young at the time eyes it did look like self loathing to me, the kids who followed the bully leader looked like they where terrified that if they didn't go along, they'd be the next victim on the king/queen bullies hit list.

There's always a ring-leader, right?

I was pretty young, maybe third grade, at the time,but it shocked me that they could be so fearful of ridicule that they would do something so obviously base and so terribly obvious as to side with something they knew was wrong. And it made me want to never be like that.

Of course, I wasn't perfect either.

I said a mean thing in the 1st grade about another little girls wardrobe, I didn't really mean to be mean, it was more an observation, hell, I was only 5, and I didn't even say it to her, I said it tom my Mom. I said that her clothes were not as nice as mine.

My Mom made sure I had only one pair of pants available to me the next morning. They were hideous, a bit too short, mauve(for the love of all thats holy), and made of some unholy, itchy, pilled, and snagged fabric, and they had a stitched seam down the front of each leg right when stitched seams down the front of each leg was so not done.

Certainly nobody teased me about those pants( I've always gotten off easy), but I felt vulnerable in them just the same.

It was a good lesson in empathy.

And I STILL don't know where she got those godawful pants!

Sparkling Red said...

DarcsFalcon: It must have been so hard to move all the way across the country at that age. At least I always had my familiar, comforting room and neighbourhood to come home to.

Ily: I hope you do get a chance to read the book. It's non-stop prose poetry. It makes my head spin. I'm in love with that book.

Powdergirl: God bless your mom! And you, for having such a caring conscience that your little transgressions from grade school are still with you. Maybe the saying should be "Before you judge someone, walk a mile in their pants." ;-)