Billie’s Bullies – Part One

(Originally posted Thursday, January 31, 2013

I listened with interest one afternoon as Princess Primrose told me about an anti-bullying project she was working on for the PR course she’s taking this term. I say ‘with interest’ not just because I’m her mother and, as such, that is my mandate, but also because I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject of bullying, and was anxious for her to conclude her thoughts so I could share some of mine.

Now when I use the word ‘expert’ I don’t mean to cast myself and an authority. Nor do I claim to have devised some new means or method of managing bullies or assisting their victims. Rather, I’m simply stating that I have had a few run-ins with bullies in my day and have survived, as evidenced by the fact that I’m still here–at least as of the date of this entry.

I don’t know if it’s typical for bullies to prey on kids of their own gender, but in my case all of my tormenters were female. As I type this I can almost hear the Jarhead saying “Of course they were. Girls are twice as vicious as boys are.” And I’m not saying he’s wrong–or that it has nothing to do with hormones–but clearly PMS alone does not explain it or we would not have any male bullies.

Apart from their gender and shared goal of making me miserable, the girls who bullied me over the years had little in common. Although three of them were in my own grade at the time, the other four were all older than me by a couple years. At the same time, two of them came from poverty stricken homes, while the other five were girls from–as one principal put it after expressing his surprise–good families.

Now you may be asking yourself several questions at this point. For example, you may be wondering where I lived and why there were so many bullies there. You may also be wondering what kind of school I went to, and why the faculty did nothing to stop it. On the other hand, you may be wondering what the hell I did to cause seven different people to hate me over the course of one short childhood. Then again—and especially if you know me—you may be wondering how it is that I wasn’t routinely harassed and hounded by a dozen or so more.

The shocking reality is that I went to nine different schools in the thirteen l-o-n-g years of my elementary and high school education, and thus spent more than my share of time as The New Kid—or, literally, a moving target. I attended three of the nine twice—meaning I moved away and moved back, once within the same grade—so I didn’t have to deal with being The New Kid every time my family relocated. On the other hand, in sixth grade I attended three different schools so it all kind of evened out.

I encountered my first bully when I was six years old and a first grader in Mrs. Roehl’s class at Milaca Elementary School. I was a walker—meaning, I walked to school. From the Key Row Apartments at 4th Street NW to the old Elementary School building on Central Avenue it was about a nine block walk (which is a much greater distance than you would let a six year-old go by herself today; but this was 1973) and you could save some time and energy by crossing through the park between 2nd and 1st streets over to Central Avenue.

That is, unless you came face to face with the Gilmer Girl…



Impatience and Virtue

(Originally posted Friday, January 18, 2013)

Not long ago I found myself standing powerlessly by the front window waiting for a technician to arrive and ascertain the cause of my electrical outage. I was still working at the time and had been required to take the morning off so the tech could gain access to the house, if necessary, and in between listening for the power to spontaneously return, I found myself muttering one of the oldest clichés of all time: Patience is a virtue.

I was speaking ironically, of course. In truth, I think patience is not a virtue but a vice—peddled by those who would have us all calm down, r-e-l-a-x, and forget that other people are wasting our time and controlling our lives. While it may be helpful in small doses, like the roast I let sit in the oven one evening as I waited for the Jarhead to unchain himself from his desk, patience can be grossly over done.

In fact, I would go one step further and say that IMPATIENCE is more virtuous than patience. For without impatience, many of our technological advancements and modern methods of living and doing business would not exist.

Take for example the instant camera. Were it not for the impatience of its inventor Samuel Shlafrock, we might still have to wait weeks—even months—to share pictures of ourselves on vacation, our cousin’s wedding, or the golf ball size hail from last summer’s thunderstorm. Ditto—and then some—for the invention of one-hour photo printers and digital photography.

A similar argument could be made about the work of Alexander Graham Bell, who clearly lacked the patience to await news by telegram or post, and Percy Spencer, father of the beloved apparatus that lets us thaw, cook and reheat entire meals in under ten minutes and allows us to soften butter for cookie dough in 25 seconds flat. And don’t get me started on the inventors of the fax machine, the personal computer, or the Internet or we’ll be here all day.

Now some might say that were it not for the patience of all these gift individuals, none of our modern appliances, tools, and other devices would exist.

But we’re not going to go there because it would completely unravel my thesis.

Debunking Astrology

(Originally posted Friday, January 4, 2013)

My kids exist for several reasons, not the least of which is because I wanted children and my husband (hereinafter referred to as the Jarhead) couldn’t make a convincing argument as to why we shouldn’t have them. And although the impact their existence will have on the U.S., North America, and the universe are as yet to be seen, they have already made significant contributions to the world and my understanding of it.

For example, together they have helped to disprove the validity of astrology. Being both born Virgos and yet having NOTHING—and I mean NOTHING—in common in terms of personality, taste, interests, or temperament, they are living proof that the positions of the stars and planets at the time of one’s birth has not thing one to do with who you are or what you can or cannot accomplish. Although they are both sharp and funny (I am their mother, so you can take my word for this, of course) and a touch moody, these similarities probably have more to do with genetics and the home they grew up in than with which of the twelve houses Saturn was in when they came down the chute, as it were.

On the other hand, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the circumstances surrounding one’s conception may play a role where the heavenly bodies do not.

Case in point: Our eldest (hereinafter referred to as El Noble) who was conceived after nearly a year of careful planning, temperature tracking, and hand wringing, is deliberate, disciplined, and methodical to the point of obsessive. He keeps lists, tracks every dollar he makes and spends, schedules when he will clean his shoes, and has a white board in his room laying out his goals for the day, week, month, and beyond. To say this kid is organized is like calling Stephen Hawking a smart guy or Stephen Colbert a funny fellow. When he says he’s going to do something, you know he’s going to do it, as well as when, where, why, and how. And whereas one might assume from this that he is also uptight, unfriendly or inflexible, in truth the guy is easy going, warm and gregarious.

Meanwhile our youngest (hereinafter referred to as Princess Primrose) who was conceived about five years later when I was obviously paying more attention to my college coursework than I was contraception or hormone cycles, is dynamic, dramatic, and disorganized. She has nine thousand pens and drawing pencils in her room in case she loses or gets bored with the one in her hand or the thirty in her kit; keeps piles of sketch pads, legal pads, and note pads for ostensibly more than sentimental or ornamental reasons; and goes on writing, drawing and gaming benders that can last for days. Her room is a disaster; the car she drives is a fire hazard; and if one were to gather and hang up all of her clothing, you would swear on a stack of Vogue magazines that it was stolen from the closets of four different people from four different planets. She has held a job for over a year with the same company and is doing well there, but that’s about all the structure the girl can handle at once.

Okay so maybe the circumstances of their conception had little to do with how these creatures turned out. Maybe if I could’ve talked the Jarhead into having a couple more we’d have wound up with a disorganized kid who was painstakingly planned or a structured kid who came as a total surprise. Or maybe we would have gotten more of the same.

Either way, I would not have been disappointed—or any less amused.