We are starting to pack in preparation for the move. My husband brought down a box of my old yearbooks, including my junior high school yearbooks. I sat down with them to decide whether to keep them.
Junior high was fraught with difficulty for me. I had almost no friends in my peer group. I was physically awkward. As I recall, I was not an academic superstar (above average, but not noteworthy). The people I got along with best were my teachers. I was, in many ways, mature for my age, and my teachers either liked me or were kind enough to spend their time talking to me. I know that there was some genuine liking.
I'd spend as many hours as I could in the band room with the two music teachers who gave instrumental lessons. They were great guys. They would sit with me and other students, smoking and telling dirty jokes, as if we were just one of the guys. Almost everyone loved our band instructor, Mr. Ric (his nickname). He was demanding, but funny as hell and yet, very supportive and encouraging. There was absolutely nothing sexual about the off color jokes. I would swear on my mother's grave that this guy would die rather than do something inappropriate with a student.
I was depressed a lot of this time. I just was. It was the beginning of puberty and my hormones were percolating and my peers were treating me like crap. I sat around and wrote terrible poetry and copied quotes and poems and song lyrics that I thought were "deep" into my commonplace book. I slept a lot and spent a lot of time in my room.
But one of the things that struck me when I went through my yearbook was the stuff written by one history teacher. I had him for history for two years, did reasonably well in his class, and was also in a club he supervised that took a lot of field trips, some of which were overnight. For some reason I was always trying to get into the inner circle of students he liked, and I never could. I re-read what he wrote in my year books, and it was actually pretty nasty. Yet what came back to me quite vividly was some of his behavior when our club took trips.
Remember, this was junior high, 7th through 9th grades, approximately ages 13-15. His "inner circle" always included the young women who were the prettiest and the most physically mature, and he would slobber all over them. He would sit next to them on the bus and crowd them, and when we were outside resting or eating lunch, he would tease them into letting him put his head in their laps.
At the time, it felt wrong, but I was ready to make excuses for him. He didn't actually DO anything, right? He was just TEASING. But looking back on it now, I'm really aghast. He was not exactly a pedophile, but he was definitely a creep hitting on underage girls who were under his power. I can't tell you how they felt about it - they weren't my friends, I was not cool enough to hang out with them - but it's definitely possible that they were skeeved and uncomfortable. Back then, I doubt it would have generated much heat if anyone complained. Possibly a warning. But today, today it could be a big deal.
And the whole thing leaves me feeling angry and disgusted. Angry because he picked and chose his favorites based on sexual attraction, and disgusted because he was a creep in his forties who openly cuddled up to minors under his control. It's almost forty years later, but there it is. I still feel it.
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, because I actually still have a lot of anger towards people, both adults and children, who treated me as less than because of my looks, or my weight. I actually think it was mostly the weight, because while I am not stunning, I'm sort of cute when I'm not fat. Family, peers, prospective employers, love interests - it began before I was five and it will probably continue until I die. And I'm not only talking about people who chose not to be my friend, or give me a job, but the incredible cruelty I experienced at the hands of people I had never done a thing to hurt. Until late junior high, I was a poster child for naivete, continuing to believe that if I was kind to others they would eventually be kind to me. Time after time that proved untrue, and left me wounded and just fucking bewildered. I could not understand why people behaved this way.
I and the public know/what all schoolchildren learn/those to whom evil is done/do evil in return
While I love that poem, W.H. Auden was wrong. Not everyone wronged does evil in return, though these days it's easier to get a gun and try. (While I eventually learned to hate the people who treated me badly, I never thought about killing them. Leaving them behind was enough.) One of my high school friends suggested attending our reunion, and I told him I would rather have a root canal, without anaesthesia, while having a pelvic exam done with instruments straight out of the freezer. The last thing I want is to see any of those people again.
So, Mr. L, I should have said it 37 years ago, but go fuck yourself, you perverted creep. If you are still alive, I doubt teenage girls let you anywhere near them, but if they do, I hope someone reports your ass.