Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's All In A Name
See that cute little guy above? He has to go through life with a nasty name like Rat. Nothing cute about that. Lets just say he just got a bum rap in the name department, and deep inside there is a good and pure soul, just waiting to get out. It could be, because I can relate, dude. I spent some of my adolescence with that same name. Sort of.
I was over at The Gancer today, where blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater does his schtick and was inspired by his post about bullies to tell you my story. Check him out and tell him I sent you!
I was 13 and in the 7th grade. In my town, the Junior High (as we used to call it back in the "olden days", now it is commonly referred to as Middle School) brought the four elementary schools from different parts of town together. There were lots of new kids coming together and meeting for the first time. In my home room there was a group of boys I didn't know and they were heckling me and trying to get my attention. I can't remember exactly what I said back to them or what happened, but I do remember this one kid in particular ending the scene by calling me a "Pit Rat". I still *shudder* when I think of it, because some how that rotten kid managed to make sure that every boy in the Jr. High referred to me by that name.
It caught on so quickly that even kids I considered my friends began avoiding me like the plague and shouting out my new name in the cafeteria and in the bus line. The damage had been done and I was marked with the Scarlett Letter of names. Those formative years were HELL and I can remember even my own brother who was in High School, four years ahead of me, casually throwing the nasty name at me around the house. It was bad enough that at 13, I had braces and was going through an "awkward stage", but now I was a social pariah and my friends handled interaction with me wearing kid gloves.
I think the breaking point was when I was riding my bike home from a softball game one day and my neighbor's, these two, white trash, butt ugly, greasy twins, who had more than a few inbred, genetic defects like more than one row of teeth (I kid you not), shouted out as I rode by them, "Hey, it's the Pit Rat!" That was it for me. ROCK BOTTOM. I think I cried for a week after that.
But this story has a happy ending.
Like all good fairy tales, the braces came off and the ugly duckling soon became the Freshman Swan when entering High School, and the name was fast forgotten. The good news is that even though I went through HELL, I wouldn't change that experience for Tom Brady's hand in marriage. (and you know how much I love my Tommy). I truly believe it made me a stronger and better person. It made me look at my peers for who they were and not what they looked like or what they were wearing and certainly not for what gossip said about them. Because of this, I was able to befriend kids from all the different social groups, never forgetting a kindness shared with me when times were tough.
I remained with the "coolie" social group, even though they put me through hell, but my new status gave me power and a genuine compassion for others. I later found my social navigation, based on a solid foundation of real, with kids from every realm of the social strata, made me the target of envy from those same people who had name called. And what happened to that horrid kid that started it all? He spent his High School years drenched in his anger, cast out from everyone by his own choice.
I'm sure you're wondering, with my positive lesson learned and with my new status, did I forgive that kid? HELL NO! I never resorted to name calling, but believe me when I say he never DARED approach me or any party where I was in attendance. It was an unwritten rule with him and I. It was even evident when both he and I won the "Class Devil" superlative for the yearbook and he did not show up for the picture. He knew better and I had a big smile on my face for that shot, happy that this gander had cooked his own goose.
As I told Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, some years later at the High School reunion, he approached me and told me that the reason he gave me the name in the first place was because he liked me and I rebuffed him and embarrassed him in front of his friends. I listened to his story, because after all those years, he must have felt the need to atone. But like I said over at the Gancer, if justice is sweet and swift, today he is living in a trailer park with his 250 lb wife and his six, dirty scrappy little kids.