Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Typing Out Loud: Bullies

This hurts my heart. I hope I never see Will go through this.

I'm encountering a civil war of sorts in the adult skating community, where it appears one is bullying the other. It is shocking, as an adult, to witness this behavior in a sport that is supposed to be fun as well as supportive.

But I guess I'm in my life-is-beautiful-prom-queen bubble half the time and don't always see things as they are.

I had a few bullies in my day. In grade school, there was Angela, who basically picked on and started fights with everyone. Her favorite thing to say in the morning was "let's all ignore [insert girl's name here] today," and watch as the psychological damage slowly unfolded until that girl would go home by the end of the day in tears, wondering what the hell happened. Could have been the wrong color barrettes. Could have been she hadn't been isolated in a while. Could have been getting a better grade on a paper.

I rarely participated in this nonsense, so the isolated girl and I usually formed a two-person front against her. In those times when it was my turn, I usually stood alone.

Her underlying motivations varied. She was an unhappy person, who valued physical beauty above all else, ironic considering the burns on her body due to an accident. I remember her showing us modeling head shots that were taken and sent out in hopes of getting some work. She never did.

For obvious reasons, we grew apart once she changed high schools. We shared a distinct bond based on growing up in the same neighborhood together, but we didn't value each other as friends.

Ah, but teenage years are ripe with Life Lessons and Angela was replaced with not one but TWO, Kelly and Susan. Want to know why I was so offensive to them? I was polite to teachers, and in their opinion, I was a suck up, an unforgivable sin. They made fun of my clothes in assembly, which in hindsight is highly illogical since we were all in classic Catholic school uniform and dressed more or less the same. They would follow me in the halls, singing the Styx song "Lady," a bland love song they turned into a taunt.

Their mockery was apparently infectious, since it spread to Dave in English, who would pull my bra straps, whisper hateful things, throw little balls of paper in my hair, make fun of me loudly when I got less than an A. This one hurt, because he was the grandson of Mrs. O, our next door neighbor, and one of my playmates when we were younger. He would come over on Friday nights to visit, and a neighborhood game of tag, statues or hide and seek would break out. He could have made the transition from a small grade school to a big high school easy on me, but he betrayed our friendship. I think his actions, unexplained to this day, probably hurt most of all.

Funny thing was, no matter how much he hurt me in school, I never tattled to his mother or his grandmother, sticking to some sort of unspoken kid code. Why? Probably because if I had, things would have only gotten worse. No one likes a tattle tale, esp. a 15 year old one. That too explains it, I was growing up and wanted to fight my own battles.

So how did I get out from under their grip? Kelly had drug problems, and went to rehab, never to return. Without her partner, Susan lost interest in me and ended up quite friendly at a class reunion, striking up conversation as we pitched in to clean up after. Dave too had some substance abuse issues, which I think may have humbled him, as we went from hostile to mellow.

The prom my junior year was liberating, as I was on the prom committee and showed up to do some post-party clean up. A group of mean girls (nothing else describes them more accurately) were half-heartedly helping, and sticking paper flowers on each other. Smiling, I joined in. The exaggerated horror on their faces that I dare ingratiate myself in their group was striking, as they ripped the flowers off themselves and went to another part of the auditorium to clean up. Instead of that heated, embarrassed shame for being caught trying to be in with the in crowd, I got pissed and suddenly, I realized I didn't like them anyway. I was caught off-guard by that sudden realization, and laughed out loud as the burden of popularity was lifted from my shoulders. This caused that group to turn, stare and declare me "so weird!" That made me laugh even more.

Oh, I fear for Will, bullies are everywhere, and in all shapes and sizes, from employers to telemarketers to salesmen to little boys at the kid zone that want the toy you have. Almost all I have encountered are battling some demon that is kicking their ass, so they are looking to return the favor. I want to protect him, but I want him to learn to make his own way, however he see fit. He's such a happy kid, I don't want his light dimmed, but I want him to be strong and be his own person.

It's hard to stand alone. But sometimes, you must.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's Right in the World: Talk Like a Pirate Day

Argh ye scaliwags, I'm here for me treasure!

So I donned my gold hoops, a pair of knickers (really, yoga pants), a pirate hat and grabbed one of Will's stuffed animals to claim a dozen donuts at Krispy Kreme in celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Why? It wasn't really for the donuts. Although the one handed to me fresh off the line was amazing.

It's about being silly. Celebrating what's right in the world, that an every day American can waltz into a donut shop, bark "Arrr!" at a cashier who then hands over a treat. That I can go about my day with a stuffed animal on my shoulder and people will look at me as if it were a matter of course. It's about finding the fun in everyday life.

I also know there are people I know who would shudder at the mere idea of stepping outside their comfort zone, even if the prize is free donuts. I know I had misgivings about being an adult woman driving across town to the only KK in the area. Was I going to be laughed at, mocked?

Well, even before I got out of the car, a little girl saw me, with parrot, and excitedly pointed me out to her grandma, who was wearing her knickers and an eye patch. They met me at the door, saying how clever I was to remember the bird, and the staff were looking for things like hooks, swords, parrots and the like to complete the pirate look to seal the bounty deal.

The patrons were well impressed. The staff? Methinks a tad weary of "arrs!" and "ahoys." When I gave the girl at the counter the above speech about claiming treasure, she merely handed me a box and moved on to the next customer. Meh.

But how fun. How silly. And certainly, most definitely, one of those things that is right with the world.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Art Matters: Little Treasures Everywhere, for the Taking

Take a book, leave a book.

My first encounter with a free lending library was many years ago at a hotel in the UP, while Dave was at a snowmobile club meeting. While he was at his all-day talks, I was left to my own devices at the hotel which featured a hot tub, pool, free Internet (a novelty in the late 90s), and a library full of free books left behind by vacationers to enjoy for the moment, or take home to pass along. The novelty of a communal library without the hassle of a library card was delightful, and in respect of the sharing nature, I helped myself to one instead of greedily hoarding as many as I could carry. I don't remember the title, but I did pass it along.

Where I passed it on to was a geocache, or modern day "buried" treasure. Geocaching was a phenomena of the early days of the Internet that continues in popularity today. People would hide treasures in plain sight, usually in a canister, plastic shoebox or some sort of treasure chest. People would look these treasures up on the website, and using a GPS, attempt to find them. I remember leaving this book in a "library" cache, an exclusive leave-a-book-take-a-book military ammo box.

There were other treasures to be had while geocaching, and I scored through the years jewelry, toys and trinkets. We had what we called out cache bag, full of happy meal toys, bug tags, bug spray, the GPS and maps printed from the sites. The most thrilling find was our first, on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, a hard one we didn't know was hard until we acquainted ourselves with what all the symbols meant. Unfortunately, we haven't gone on a hunt since we moved back to Michigan 8 years ago.

But I'm ready for my next treasure hunt, and that would be discovering a local Little Free Library. A Wisconsin man came up with the idea in honor of his literature loving mom, and simply put a cabinet out on his front his house filled with books with one rule: you take a book and you leave one behind.

Since that inception, the Little Free Library has grown in number to more than 10,000 across the US. All you need to get started is erect a secure cabinet on your property and encourage visitors to participate. The little libraries have as much personality as the owners themselves and can run on themes. My guess is if I were to be able to post one at home, it would be a Little House library to start.



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Playlist: Birthday Hits!

Hey Betty, spin the latest beat from the Hit Parade on your hi-fi!

My first recollection of a favorite song being a big hit on my birthday was The Knack's My Sharona on my 10th birthday. I loved this song so much, I begged for and got the vinyl as a present.

Before anyone thinks, "woo, sophisticated tastes for a 10 year old," know I carried a Little Twin Stars wallet in my pink Hello Kitty purse until I was 13 old enough to know better. (I got sapphire earrings for that birthday, and I still have those too.)

For a good while, what song was #1 on my birthday mattered to me. In later years, those songs served more as a bookmark for a place in time. I'll focus on the early years for now.

On with the countdown!

1975 - Get Down Tonight, KC and the Sunshine Band: I went way back to birthday number 6 because a.) I remember my sister loved KC; and b.) this song blistered live at Muskegon Summerfest.

1977 - Best of my Love, The Emotions: A disco-era movie soundtrack staple, and also a great groove from my VD present, Can You Dig It? box set.

1979 - My Sharona, The Knack: love. See story above.

1981 - Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie: What was I, twelve? No boy on the horizon, or even my radar, T (Feb. angst!) has probably just started 7th grade with me then. Good song, but as far as duets go, I'd take Billy Preston and Syreeta's With You I'm Born Again.

1982 - Eye of the Tiger, Survivor: oh hell yes! Power chords! Power moves! It's got Rocky, Tigers, classic rock and lives on in the annals of adult figure skating (of course). Bex will snap to attention the moment this plays.

1983 - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Eurythmics: cool and creepy. It baffled me at the time someone as beautiful as Annie Lennox would diminish her beauty on purpose, but now I get it. By creating a mystery around herself, she created an aura around the song, and made the focus about the music. Of the 80s new wave bands, their catalog endures.

1986 - Venus, Bananarama: take an icky early metal song and remake with an English dance-pop band? The girls looked beautiful, the song was catchy, and they were able to do what Blue Cheer could not, make this song sexy. Yeah baby she's got it.

1987 - La Bamba, Los Lobos: I loved this song and the movie and the soundtrack back then. The movie, however, has not aged well at all. This remake has. I bugged my friend Jill, who was fluent in Spanish, to translate. It lost none of its mystery or charm.

1989 - Cold Hearted Snake, Paula Adbul: It was more of a song of the summer that crept up the charts and finally hit number one my first week at college. A standard at the clubs, it was a dance floor filler as student bodies mingled. I didn't identify with the lyrics since I was grappling with a breakup I instigated (Feb angst!). Maybe I was the cold cold cold hearted sssssssssssssssssnake.