When I was little and going to school, I was what you would call tiny. I was shorter than all the other kids and that sometimes made me the scapegoat of their jokes and teasing. I can remember in kindergarten, there was this kid, Basil was his name, and he would always push me up against the fence and cause me grief. At first I complained to my mom and not my teachers, because that’s not what you do (at least back in those times you didn’t), plus I was super shy and unassertive in myself. Eventually, though I’m not sure how, I figured out that maybe cracking a joke, or being self-deprecating, seemed to lessen the blows. It’s then I figured out, at that early age, that humor could be a useful tool to me.
Around that time the town had decided to close to school that I was going to and so I had to go to another school, a little further away but not really and that’s where I met Keith. Keith was another bully. I didn’t know why then that they focused on me. Now I now it’s probably because they felt powerless in their own homes and such but back when I was in first grade I had no concept of that. I just knew that they were really being a pain. Keith was more malicious than Basil and my humor didn’t really seem to work on him all that much. I lucked out in this case due to another kid in class, who I remember was into the Boy Scouts, his name was Chris, and he stood up for me – when no one else in class did. In fact, he took it upon himself to sort of be my bodyguard. I’m not sure why he did this, but was glad he did. I learned later that he had an older brother who was special needs so maybe that played into it. I sometimes wonder what happened to Chris. He was always looking out for me, even up through high school. I tried looking for him a while back but came up empty. I had heard he had fallen on some hard times though so I hope he came through alright. I would easily return the favor if I could.
Speaking of high school, it was more of the same, although by this time I pretty much had my routine down, and there were other nerdier kids than me that were easier targets. Again, there was this one kid on the first day of probably being a freshmen that would give me a hard time. Actually made me move to a different table than the one I had originally chosen, but I ended up hanging out with kids that were more in my clique eventually and it was all good. I don’t remember that particular kids name but I do recall he had been held back more than once. Sort of like he’d been in High School for seven years already (I’m exaggerating, but it probably was something like that). Looking back now, I feel pity for the kid – probably had a rough time of it all. But like I said, back then, you had to look out for yourself. Some of the kids in my clique had come to call me “Cookies” because they thought I was so small that when I went to the counter to get a cookie, the lady would have to reach across the front of the counter and look down to see what was going on down there (me). Of course, this was a gross exaggeration – I could reach the counter just fine, but I learned to roll with it and just laugh it off. I’m not sure if I found it hurtful at the time. It was more of a playful teasing than a biting remark, but those things do stick with you. Thankfully I think I’ve learned to look past those events, although who knows, maybe deep down there’s still some insecurities. We all have them, right?
I hear it’s not like that there nowadays. I even learned when I visited the old stomping grounds last year as they were knocking down the old place to build a new state-of-the-art school, that they have a mediation room, where if two kids have a problem with each other, they go to this room, with an arbiter or some such, and work out the problem! Come a long way since fist fighting after school in the parking lot. Luckily I never got into any of those. I had learned to keep my nose clean and use humor to get me out of scrapes. Now I’m not saying I was a laugh a minute comedian, or class clown, but I had used self-deprecating humor enough to know how to navigate through life at that time. I’m proud of myself that that little 5 year old kid that I was had learned and used that lesson to help himself, and on his own.