Friday, July 23, 2010

My Life in Pink - Part 2

It was about halfway through first grade that I first got harassed. A boy in my class named Josh suddenly took considerable offense at my My Little Pony lunchbox and took it on himself to snatch it from me and throw it in a garbage can. When Mother heard about this, she was fit to be tied, and tried to demand that Pop accompany her to my (and my brothers’) school to make clear that we wouldn’t tolerate this sort of thing. Pop said, “Oh, for crying out loud, Linda!” and proceeded to yell so long and loudly at her that even Scott and Magnus were frightened. Hadn’t all This Nonsense (which I understood to mean Mother’s encouraging my femininity) gone on long enough? If she thought Pop was going to confront the principal of my school with her, she must be smoking something, whatever that meant. Starting the next day, Pop said, he wanted to go back to having one daughter. Mother would cut my hair to a boy’s length and put together a wardrobe for me of clothes Scott and Magnus could no longer get into.

The sound of Mother crying made me and Magnus cry too. Only Scott, taciturn even then, remained dry.

The next day was a Saturday. Pop took the boys to their Little League baseball practices, and Mother cut my hair, but not very much. When Pop and the boys came home, she had to retrieve what she’d cut from the garbage to prove she’d cut anything at all. When Pop fumed, Mother reminded him he’d specified only a boy’s length. That could mean anything from really short to the length at which the grunge rockers Karen liked to watch on MTV wore theirs. Pop asked Mother why she was busting his balls. I had no idea at the time what that meant. I don’t think any child should ever be looked at by his father as disgustedly as Pops looked at me.

On Sunday night, with Karen actually home for a change, we had a family meeting at which Pop laid down the law. Starting the next day, Scott and Magnus had better plan on coming home bloody every afternoon as long as I continued to be given a hard time. Pop would prefer that the blood all over them be my harassers’, but if it were their own, that was OK too. Whatever else we may have been, we were, by God, a family that stuck up for each other. Karen’s pointing out through angry tears that we hadn’t seemed to be such a family a few months earlier, when a bunch of girls in her PE class beat her up one morning in the locker room, got Pop so exasperated that he stormed out of the house. He was doing more and more such storming lately. Karen yelled at Mother about never defending her, and always making clear that Karen was an embarrassment, and then stormed out herself. It felt as though all the trouble had started with me, and that was very upsetting.

The next day at school, Scott bloodied the nose of the boy who’d insulted my lunchbox, and got suspended. Mother and Pop had to come in for their meeting with the principal after all.

Nobody made fun of me now. They did something a lot worse — gave me the cold shoulder. I had no one to eat my lunch with. Neither Scott nor Magnus wanted any part of me.

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