Even after thirty years, they can still get to you...

I was reading through the day's email in the privacy of my own family room when they jumped out at me.

"Hi!" the perky letter read. "I'm organizing a reunion for anyone who's ever gone to our school, including elementary, junior high, and high school.

"Do you recognize any of these names from your class? They're already signed up!"

Michael C--. Joe M--. Danny S--. Yvonne R--. Toni K--. Marie M--. Nancy D--.

They're not kids anymore. Like me, some of them probably have grown or nearly grown kids of their own. Maybe, like me, they have grandbabies.

I thought about that reunion. I thought about hauling back and slapping the fakely polite how-nice-to-see-you-again smiles off the smug faces of those bitches. I thought about the sword hanging decoratively on the wall behind me -- and how it has never been blooded. How I'd like to skewer Mike and Joe and every mother's son of them. How I'd like to see their guts wrapped around every tree in the forest. Lord and Lady, how can I still *HATE* these people so much after all this time?

I didn't go to the reunion, except in my imagination -- and in my next book. Guilt-free, money-making revenge, folks. Get to be a published author, and you can kill them in excruciating detail on paper without the 'authorities' ever pointing a finger at your hit list. And imaginary blood doesn't have to be scrubbed out of the carpet....

I've read most of the stories and articles here. I could have written many of them.

I was seven and in second grade when it started. I was the only literate child in a class full of morons who were still sounding out C-A-T. It didn't help that I was the smallest in the class, female, and too sensitive for my own good. When I got my glasses (hey, look, I can *see*!) the hazing really started. "Four-eyes." "Blind as a bat." "Ugly." I made my first mistake -- I cried. That made me an easy target for the next six years of hell.

I've forgotten much of it -- but not enough. Name-calling on a daily basis, I remember, but not most of the names. Making fun of my name, the clothes I wore, the way I wore my hair, the books I loved, the way I talked. Threats of beating me up, but nothing ever really carried out. Constant minor physical harassment -- pulling my hair as they passed my seat, poking me with pencils, spitting on my seat when I had to leave it, stepping on my heels as we walked in a line out for recess. Having my books and homework stolen. Being chosen last for everything, and my 'classmates' whining to the teachers "Why do we gotta have _her_? She'll just make us lose." (and after 4 or 5 years, they were right -- I tried to make them lose.) PE was the worst, especially in junior high. Being forced to strip and shower with them was torture of the worst kind, and additional harassment was inflicted by the teacher. "You're not even trying. Do it again (and again, and again) until you live up to my (impossible) standards." I had my glasses broken and my eyes blackened three times by a softball to the face. All 'accidents', of course -- so what if it was thrown as hard as possible by a boy standing only 5 feet away? "What did you do to make them mad at you?"

And the other teachers? I know some of them felt sorry for me, but the principal tied their hands, just as he did my parents'. "We think it's best if we let the children work out their little difficulties themselves."

We worked it out, all right. When I turned 11, I hit my growth spurt before any of the other girls, and was finally their size. As I was walking in front of the principal's office, one of them came up behind me and yanked out a chunk of my hair.

I snapped. The momentum that built up as I whipped around to face her let me bury my fist in her belly. She turned the loveliest shade of purple...it was worth the suspension!

The physical harassment stopped, at least from the girls. Instead they turned to ruining the one friendship I had. One day Debbie just stopped talking to me. I don't know if they threatened her, or if they told her some sort of lie that I'd said something awful about her. She never spoke to me again.

We moved shortly after that. The new schools were enormous consolidated schools, 900 or 1000 kids to a grade instead of 30. I was a loner after that, but not a target.

I was lucky. I escaped that hellhole of a town with my sanity intact. Most of *them* are still stuck there -- those who aren't stuck in jail. They're still stuck in that insular, twisted mindset that lets them believe that they're the greatest gift the Christian God ever gave mankind, and that they live in heaven on earth.

It does get better with time. "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." You will not be a loner, a victim, your whole life. Childhood and adolescence are not 'the best times of your life.' Those who feed you this tripe never walked in your shoes, and aren't living the best times of their lives now.

The best time of your life is waiting for you as an adult. There are other adults who will respect the qualities that make the jocks and cheerleaders call you 'geek' and 'nerd'. The talents you have that they lack can be given free rein once you yourself are free.

(And as a side note -- if you enjoy 'weird' things like books and research, science fiction and fantasy and medieval tales of chivalry -- check out www.sca.org. Some of our most respected members are teens who have found themselves in the New Middle Ages of the Society for Creative Anachronism.)

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