"Live Teddy Bears"
STICKS AND STONES
15 September 2005
It was a lovely day. Sunny, but not hot. There was a very slight breeze blowing.
It was the perfect kind of weather for sweeping the leaves that have begun to fall from the trees out in front. The fruitless mulberry will hold its leaves for awhile, but the other tree (the species of which I cannot remember) has been doing its best to fill the driveway with lots and lots and lots of leaves.
First, I put the big garbage cans back where they belonged. This was garbage day and the huge bins that the city provides us had lined the street all day. Tomorrow is the day that the city comes along and picks up yard clippings, leaves, etc., which is actually one reason why I hadn't swept leaves yesterday. (Nice service--don't even have to bag the leaves; just leave them piled on the street by the curb.)
As I swept, I was surprised at how many leaves there were. I knew they had been collecting, but what with being spread out all over the carport and driveway, I could ignore exactly how many there were.
I was really getting into my work. I had a huge pile of leaves in the street and was working on clearing out the edge of the lawn when it happened.
A kid riding his bike down the street on the other side called out, "Hey, fatso!"
Instantly I was back in grammar school again, the butt of everyone's jokes. "You can't do that; you're too fat." "Hey--that can't be Bev; she's not fat enough." "Don't eat that, you're too fat already."
Sixty-two year old woman suddenly feeling like a 6th grader again because of some punk kid who thought he was being funny.
It's a shame that we don't realize that the old addage "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" is wrong...wrong...wrong.
The sticks and stones my cause a temporary injury to the body, but the "names," repeated over and over again, get into your psyche and stay there forever. All it takes is something simple like a kid shouting out "hey fatso" to take me back to 7th grade and Jimmy Wohl talking about how fat I was.
I never type the word "dessert" without remembering how stupid my father made me feel when I misspelled it. It was a night when I decided I didn't want dessert and my father acted shocked (there's that reinforcement of the fat kid) and said he wouldn't believe that *I*, of all people, would be turning down dessert until he saw it in writing.
And so I wrote it down for him: "I don't want any desert."
Ha-ha-ha...such a funny thing. How stupid Bev is that she can't spell dessert.
Well, the derision worked. I have never misspelled "dessert" again.
When we started having kids, the one thing I really made a concerted effort NOT to do -- I don't know if I was successful, or if I left emotional scars I don't know about -- was to call them names. I knew that it was ineffective to tell anybody they were fat or skinny or uncoordinated or stupid or -- my trigger expression: "too emotional" (my father always said I was too emotional when I reacted to his tirades with tears) or any other name that we sometimes hurl at each other in the heat of anger. There was this little switch in the back of my head that (I hope) prevented me from doing that.
It pains me when I'm out in public somewhere and I hear a parent calling their kids "bad" or telling them they're stupid, or some other name. I want to say, "years from now when that child is an adult, that 'identity' you've just given him is still going to be in his head and will come back when he least expects it."
I got past the name calling. It only lasted a few seconds, but it did hurt and it did take me back. But I am 62 years old and a bit better able to handle the slings and arrows.
And...besides.... he was right.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
I miss springtime in Australia