Tuesday, September 1, 2009

OK, Fifth Grade Bullies

For the most part, I think I am doing OK. It is not until I have to talk about it or explain to someone what is going on that I have to put my hands in my pockets. I have to reach for something to do because all of a sudden I am quite aware that my face has started to contort and that I might start to cry.

It’s always much worse when the person I’m talking to has that look on her face, the one where her eyebrows are furrowed in and her eyes look moist, as though she has just been where I am. I recognize this look. It’s the same look my fifth grade teacher Mr. Stephens gave me that time I had to explain to him why I had burst into ragged sobs in the middle of the story telling circle.

In between desperate breaths of air, I gulped out that just moments before, I had been out on the playground minding my own business and discussing proper jump rope form with my friend Katey. All of a sudden, and without the slightest provocation, a sixth grader walked by us, his fingers holding the outer corners of his eyes slanted up. As he walked by with his eyes pulled taut, he chanted "ching chong ching chong." Although it made me freeze, I also remember thinking that it sounded nothing like Khmer. Katey must not have noticed any of it and so I tried to pretend like I, too, hadn't noticed. At the sound of the bell, away we went, back inside to sit in circles in cross-legged positions. I don't know whether it was the ching or the chong that did it, but all of a sudden I could feel the burn ripping through my insides until I couldn't hold it in any longer.

As I told him what had happened, Mr. Stephens' eyebrows furrowed together, and he nodded. As a man with a delicate, extra swingy walk, he must have endured some grade school taunting of his own. His eyebrows told me that he understood, but the more he looked at me with concern in his eyes, the harder I cried and choked.

In an effort to make things better, he wrote a note to my mom, detailing the incident. He ripped the note off his pad of paper, gave me another look with eyes belonging to Bambi's mother, and told me to give the note to my mom. I nodded, but as soon as school let out, I pulled it out of my backpack and tore it to pieces. No way was I going to let her feel the burn too.

Now, if only taking matters into your own hands was still so easy.

8 comments:

Lyndsay said...

I know what you mean. I've been through a few rough times where what 'did me in' the most was having someone respond with genuine concern. I could hold it together until somebody hugged me and then I'd lose it.

I'm Kim, by the way said...

I so know that feeling. You're fine until you encounter someone who won't help you maintain that charade anymore.

(Pointless aside: My 5th grade teacher was a Ms. Stephens.)

kat said...

It's crazy, isn't it? That sometimes you really want to talk to someone about your situation and how you're feeling, but the concern on their face is enough to make you lose composure. I hope things settle nicely for you- until then, keep your chin up and know we're cheering you on!

On another note, racial comments are silly. I once worked at an Italian restaurant as a hostess, and upon seating a couple, they praised me on how great my english was (despite my telling them I'm born in the US) and questioned why I chose to work at the Italian restaurant while there was a Chinese one close by... On another occasion, I worked at a Japanese restaurant, and my guests tried to convince me that I WAS Japanese and could indeed speak it (despite my parents being Filipino)...

oh silly world!

Razzberry Corner said...

Talking about sad personal issues always makes me teary. Sometimes I'd rather not discuss them, since it's not always appropriate to cry in public! Take care, girl!

Little T said...

I am so happy that you have this blog to release those thoughts and emotions. Your blogger family is here. No fears. Those 5th grade bullies don't stand a chance with us. For some reason, even though surely most of the world has been touched by Cancer in some way, people are strange in how they handle it. My family has been hit with Cancer so many times we have coined phrases like "chemo brain" to keep us laughing through hard times. It is hard to do but finding humor helps to pave the way for rest, recovery and renewal. Maybe try laughing in their faces next time? Or give a good cry...I have found that to be most effective at stopping all of the questions. It is ok to get down as long as you get back up.

Erin P said...

I lived like that for years. My marriage, my life was falling apart, but I kept up the veneer that everything was ok. But all it took was for one person to notice and ask with kindness... After quite a long time of that, I felt like I was just going to fall apart. What motivated me was my little tiny boy. I knew I had to do something to NOT fall apart for him, so I started seeing a counsellor (psychologist)--mostly just to make sure I wasn't really losing it (and to get it back, if I had started losing it). ;-) It helped quite a bit, actually. They help you understand your feelings and reinforce your sanity--and give you ideas to help the s.o.
I wouldn't go back to those days for anything in the world. I so hope you get through this quickly. You're an incredible person.

2busy said...

With furrowed brow, I say "Hang in there..."

2busy said...

With furrowed brow, I say "Hang in there..."

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