That explains a lot

This is one of those entries that I’m going to write and I’m never, ever going to want to read it again. Either that, or I’m going to edit it and wonder what everyone else is thinking when they read it, if they indeed can sit through an entry about where an emotional scar came from.

Via Tiff a WaPo article about a study on how gifted kids are especially targeted for bullying.

I’ve had a peripheral affiliation with a school violence prevention group for years, thanks to incurring my share (and some others’) of psychological boo-boos during those tender school years. And I hate how kids can just destroy each others’ self-worth — lord, the real world does that enough; let the kids just have their youth, their dreams, their idealism as long as they possibly can.

And for all those who always told me I was smart enough to figure out how to get over it?

“Regular kids get bullied, too, but gifted kids are bullied based on their school performance, which makes the child’s strength into a weakness” and a potential source of shame, said (Sylvia) Rimm.

Now that, that I can identify with. I don’t know that I’d call myself gifted anymore. I don’t know that I’d call myself average, either, because I’ve come to regard that with distaste as much as I wonder if it isn’t a compliment, some days. I know we all go through phases where it seems like nothing’s fair and nothing you do is ever going to be right, so why even bother.

But at one time, I was special. I believed so much in myself; I had little concept of limitations. Financial limitations, sure, but that drove me from an early age to know that if I could just figure out how to go to college, I could overcome that. So I studied and just did everything in my power to sparkle. I wanted to be known, seen, loved. I wanted great things for myself so that I could make even greater things possible for others.

And then the seventh grade hit.

It was ninth grade that destroyed me, though. Tenth pretty much blew, too, now that I think about it. I’ll spare all the details but I found that when I wouldn’t let people cheat off my tests, when I wouldn’t do their work for them, when I wasn’t all that interested in helping them to get the kind of grades I was making when I was the one studying and doing extra-credit projects and otherwise losing sleep and busting my ass and doing extracurricular activities to boot and all they wanted was an easy A, I became the target of their wrath. I don’t know what they had to do that was so important that they couldn’t commit to learning something — I guess whoring around and tormenting others must take a lot of practice time.

I wrote it off at first — I didn’t have time for stupid shit. But your only escape from the ring of idiocy of these mean assholes (who have lots of friends who are other mean assholes) is to be in advanced-placement classes. But you don’t have those all day. You have study halls and gym and lunch hours. Gah. I learned to take summer gym with all the other nerds so that we could all take academic classes instead of a full year of phys ed with the assholes (because there was always a clique in each class).

It was only in my classes and activities that I could sparkle — to be around other misfits who made me seem normal. 😉 I was a “popular” one in that group — joker, prankster, outspoken brat — our fun came from trying to outsmart each other in conversation. Dork fun, I guess. I didn’t love it — I longed to be a normal teenager, but I just wasn’t. Sure, I loved makeup and clothes and boys; I just daresay they didn’t love me back.

Anyway, I’ve digressed; I really don’t like this subject. I didn’t like feeling belittled for something that others should have envied. I didn’t like having it announced that I got the only A in the class because I would end up with gum in my hair within 10 minutes. I remember being truly confounded that people actually hated me for being in the top 1% of my high school class (somewhere around freshman/sophomore year; most of the mean assholes dropped out by junior year, thank god). I hate to this day overhearing comments — I am a skilled eavesdropper because I need to make sure I am not the subject of conversation.

Back then, I did what a lot of us do — I quit raising my hand in classes where I didn’t exactly go unnoticed. I kept to myself. I didn’t laugh at the clever jokes the teachers made that went completely over the morons’ heads. I didn’t make eye contact with the teachers. I didn’t answer when called upon even though my hand was down and everyone knew I would know the answers. I shrugged a lot. My posture went straight to shit. I saw a lot of disappointment in the eyes of my teachers as they wondered if I hadn’t been caught up on the reading or that I hadn’t done the assignment or, worse, that I hadn’t been paying attention. Because teachers have the power to make your life miserable if you aren’t there mentally.

These days, behavior like that to which I succumbed is cause for intervention — for searching lockers and bags, for wondering if this is going to be the kid who shoots up the school or the kid who takes the bottle of pills to kill herself.

From the article:

Often, psychologists say, gifted children who are bullied turn their rage and despair inward. Among them was J. Daniel Scruggs of Meriden, Conn., a slightly built 12-year-old with an IQ of 139.

Scruggs was tormented for more than a year by middle school classmates who shoved him off the bleachers, affixed “Kick Me” signs to his back and made him eat his lunch off the cafeteria floor. Many school officials knew about the abuse and failed to intervene, state investigators found. On Jan. 2, 2002, the boy walked into his bedroom closet and hanged himself.

Lesson learned? Dumb assholes will live forever and reproduce like fiends to give the world more mean little assholes. Many smart kids really, truly think it’s their fault or else they don’t know how to stop the madness without calling more attention to themselves, so they resolve the problem the only way they think they can.

I was the target of so many people for so many things, I pretty much gave up on any sense of normalcy. I spent a lot of time writing in my journal and eventually writing fiction and poetry and stuff. The lonely person’s friend, the writing utensil. If I’d only had a blog back then, hoo boy. 😉

But while I remember being emotionally exhausted at the end of every single day, I know I awakened every single day hoping that the day would come when I could give all those half-witted bastards some sort of smackdown.

And in a way, I did. Remember, I was hot shit among the smart kids. And they elected me their leader. No, seriously, guess who got National Honor Society president? (Let’s forget the disaster THAT endeavor was, however!). I remember when it was announced over the loudspeaker at the end of junior year, cheers erupted. Cheers! For me! My friends on the newspaper and in another group I volunteered with, my fellow smarty-pantses, people older and younger than me who’d heard of me and who’d had classes with me.

Even the remaining handful of mean assholes congratulated me. Not all of them, of course, but some of the louder-mouth loudmouths gushed — saying they’d known all along that my brains would take me far in life.


Funny how life changes on a dime.

I gladly accepted kind words. It didn’t make up for years of being assaulted verbally for anything from my (off-the-charts) test scores to my (clearly not so acceptable) appearance, but it helped.

And I wasn’t about to get sentimental, either.

I remember at graduation, everybody was all boo-hooing and shit. I personally had just had some really good friends make my life hell and I’d just made amends with them, mostly just to get through the rest of high school with some allies, even if those alliances were fragile at best.

But anyway, graduation. Weeping, heaving, sobbing. But not me. Boy howdy, not only was I not going to ruin my makeup, but I had nothing to cry over. Leaving them? Not having to tiptoe past people every day of my life, praying that they didn’t see me or else that they’d run out of insults? I’d said goodbye to the class of 1992 somewhere around 1987, thanks.

But it’s weird, though. I still get my insecure moments like anyone else. And nobody — and I mean NOBODY — challenges their own judgment more than I do. Because it’s not like you can walk around with your IQ scores (just not the SAT scores — those were horrid), telling folks, “See? I was smart once! I was never the prettiest girl in the room and definitely not the thinnest but I’m somebody! I have some redeeming value!”

Don’t think I don’t tell myself that very same thing about 20 times a day.

The problem with challenging your own smarts (and knowing you actually *have* some) is that it’s really easy to doubt yourself. When somebody asks why you weren’t in a meeting and you swear to God that you never knew about it, you end up racking your own brain wondering how you didn’t know. Were you told and you forgot? Did you write it down somewhere? And then you find out that no, it was just that you weren’t copied on the memo. No big deal. But gawd, that moment of thinking that someone else is looking at you like you’re stupid is just torture. I take that very personally. I think most of us do. I think lesser persons let it go because they know you can only change the future, not the past. Or, rather, that’s the reason WE eventually let it go — others just don’t care as much as we do.

It’s like the perception that just because you’re too (insert whatever physical characteristic applies), that says something about you. On the “Grey’s Anatomy” message boards, for instance, people are bitching because they think Callie is “too fat” for George. I remember the same shit when “Titanic” came out and waif-like Catholic school whores on the bus would bitch how “fat” Kate Winslet was.

Which, she never was. And neither is Callie. And I abhor how the perception is that big girls don’t deserve love. Believe me, I’ve been singing that song to myself for 20 years now. I don’t need these teen-pregnancy-statistics looking down on ME with pity.

It’s funny, though, the dichotomy — at least, in me. Being put down for being smart made me (temporarily) want to hide it so that I could blend in with the unwashed masses. But being put down for enjoying food (because it can’t talk, clearly!) makes me think, “Enh. Fuck off.” I hate how people look at you if you are going through a drive-thru or if you hit a vending machine or have an ice cream cone in your hand — people gape like you’re going to explode all over them or something. Like the button on your jeans might pop and blind them. (Well, that last part MIGHT have some truth to it. … 😉 )

It’s almost like a rebellion, in a way, to enjoy your life despite being (insert adjective that makes people hate you). And since high school, I’ve never been one to pass up an opportunity to make people uncomfortable. In fact, I’m KNOWN for it. It is EXPECTED of me. Even though I overthink everything I say/do, the moments when I make people question things they hold true somehow makes life so much more delicious.

Don’t get me wrong — I still wonder if, based on certain details only, that’s why I don’t have the things I want in life. And even though I question my sense all the time, it is the last thing I would blame for not having those things. It’s like the pressure never goes away to automatically want to go into hiding rather than step into any sort of spotlight — because when people see you, you become a target, for better or worse. You might attract unwanted attention when you stick out your neck. But I am hoping — and I guess I always have — that if you reach out your arms, someone will be good enough to grasp your hands and pull you out of your own self-inflicted vortex of insanity … and pull you out the other side.

To borrow a thought from Sabre, I look forward to being on that other side. I just hope I get enough of a tug to lift this pudgy pork roast ass to the heights my heart has been longing to hit!

7 Responses to That explains a lot

  1. Sabre :

    School was so bad for me by 8th grade that I had told a teacher to fuck off, started smoking, and got caught up with the wrong crowd. By high school, I was on the D/F honor roll, baybee. With dozens of teachers up my ass whenever I bothered to show up about how I was “wasting” my “potential” by not “applying” myself. I finally got into enough trouble that I was considered a lost cause and dropped out.

    I will never, ever, go to a reunion. I hated those people with a passion that burned, and I could never make myself be nice to them. Football players wanting me to write love sonnets to cheerleaders (which I did for awhile, FOR PAY GDI… someone had to buy my drugs), boys who thought I was easy because I lived on the wrong side of town, and the cheerleaders who sneered at me because I was poor. Fuck them with a glass encrusted baseball bat.

    You are one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and I am honored to know you. You will get to the other side. If I have to drag you with me kicking and screaming, we are going there dammit!

    And screw anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good ice cream cone. Jealous bastids.

  2. The Goddess :

    I knew you had a lil bit of rebellion in you Sabre, but now it’s clear why. I want to go beat up your demons with that glass-encrusted baseball bat, because you’re so spectacular and I hate when good people have to get hurt. And I hate it even worse that we never really heal from all those transgressions that happened when we were so fragile and impressionable.

    Even though I think we’re both (and all of us out there reading, of course — I don’t ask you to open your wounds but I know everyone’s got a “Me, too!” moment happening) dynamic, amazing and strong people now, I always wonder what I would have been like if I weren’t conditioned to fear so much and to hate myself at such random moments. I rather like not fitting in, but I would rather that be by my own choice than by whatever some ignorant, illiterate bully tried to ordain that might subconsciously affect me till this day.

  3. karmajenn :

    And here’s my “me too” moment – or rather the entirety of middle school. Once sixth grade hit, it wasn’t OK to be smart. At all. I was teased and bullied constantly. I never hated myself more than those years, and I STILL feel like it was a turning point in my self-esteem. And, like you, I have to wonder how different I would have been had I not been conditioned by my peers that doing well was something to be ashamed of.

    And you know what? It’s not just as kids. Just looking around at a lot of blog comments these days, it appears those bullying brats are still nursing their own low self-image by blasting other people for their accomplishments.

  4. trouble :

    I wonder if that was the case for me, as well. i was in school before gifted programs, but I was one of the brainiacs back in those days. it made it hard to fit in.

    I learned, though. I learned to downplay my smartness to fit in. Went to college, joined a sorority, dated a lot of idiotic men and pretended that they weren’t THAT stupid. I was lucky, though. I went to a small, liberal arts college and almost everyone was pretty smart. Most weren’t as smart as me, but I was used to that.

    Downplaying my intelligence has come in handy ever since. Men don’t like a woman who’s too much smarter than them. I laugh easily, am funny, good-natured, those are the things I focused on to survive. I do a lot of training, and have learned not to use too many big words, to be folksy, to use self-deprecation as an asset.

    Welcome to my world.

    My daughter…super intellectual. Way smarter even than me, and i scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. In 3rd grade, she was reading on a 12th grade level. I’ve fed her intellect, but when she started being bullied in 3rd grade because “she used too many big words,” I bully-proofed her. Taught her how to rip someone’s guts out, verballly, and make them look like an idiot. She only had to do it a few times with the bullies, and then they left her alone and went on to easier meat.

    She’s in 6th grade now, and moves up to 7th grade in the fall, but I’m not worried. She’s tough, and she can hold her own. I made sure of that.

  5. Tiff :

    What is it about junior high? I was picked on before junior high, sure, but 7th grade was the year my best friend ditched me to be popular. I was fortunate that I had such a strong out-of-school support system (it sounds corny, but I’m really thankful for my church youth group), but it didn’t get better until I switched schools altogether and went to a fancy-pants private school (yay scholarships!) which cultivated an atmosphere in which everyone was encouraged to excel at whatever it was they wanted to excel at.

    And while I hate thinking about the shitty time I had in junior high, I feel like I have to hold on to those feelings at least a little, not so I can be bitter… but so I can recognize them in my kids when the time comes, and make sure they have the kind of support I did. They probably won’t believe me when I tell them that I remember what it’s like, but they don’t have to believe me as long as it’s *true*.

  6. Chris :


    I was the funny guy, but not the mean funny guy. Everyone liked me. Jocks, geeks, the tweeners (which make no mistake, i was a tweener), the super popular. I had no kliq, because the humor, often a facade to hide many many disturbing things, including my thoughts of self-destruction. Certainly my Goddess’ tales of woe and horror makes mine seem like a cakewalk. You just want to go back in time and say hope you like where you are in 10 years (or any amount of years you like). We’re better off for knowing who and what you are now, and they can put in their false teeth, put down the meth pipe, pucker up and kiss your sweet ass.
    I have a couple very good friends I grew up with and went through h.s with and have kept close ties with them. Thats about all I need from my past, outside of the occasional news tidbit or obituary (yes, obituary), to tie me to George Washington H.S.
    As for you goddess, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. You just wish, like we all do, we could travel back and talk to ourselves when we were, say, 15. And say, stay strong, you’ll be ok….and next time they say something, slap the taste out of their mouth. Look how awesome I am at 31. Stay the course.

    Glad you did 🙂

  7. trouble :

    Chris…I love your idea. 🙂 I may have to blog about it at some point.