So Gay

The cashier, who was straddling that fuzzy facial hair bracket and could have been 15 but also maybe 19, punched a series of buttons on the cash register.

Maple McOatmeal
Medium McLatte

“Wait? How do I put in the Fat Free?”

He fumbled. His fingers hovered above the pad of buttons, his eyes darted up and down.

Several lines of customers shifted in their boots.

“This is so gay.”

This? This cash register?
This morning rush of customers?
This inability to find the Fat Free button?
This McJob?

Not sure. Maybe it was all so gay.

Ugggggggh.

Don’t you hate it when it is all so gay? When the actual buttons on a cash register are so gay that their gayness actually gets in the way of your ability to, like, THINK? When customers are just…gay…gay to stand in line and pay for food which covers your paycheck? I mean, that’s gay, right?

I mean, frankly, I was worried that the GAY was going to actually GET ON MY FOOD, this whole place was feeling so gay. It was downright uncomfortable to be patronizing an establishment I knew to be so full of the gay that it was DISTRACTING the cashier from doing his duties.

And because we could all understand, no one said anything to the cashier about disparaging a whole demographic who were SINGLE-HANDEDLY responsible for his inability so gay to find the button so gay.

If things got any worse in there, like if McLattes were not even able to accommodate the Fat Free, we might have had to go and scapegoat other marginalized peoples. Because if problems escalated, we might have also had to hold accountable the So Retarded, the So Illiterate, the So Undocumented, the So Autistic, the So Flat-Chested, the So Bankrupt. And let’s not forget the So Backslidden and the So Uninsured. It was all their fault. I mean, can they even live with themselves for interrupting business as McUsual?

I finally got my McBrekkie but as I made my McExit, I pondered talking to the McManager about my concerns about how gay things had gotten at Register 2. How concerned I was for the working conditions befitting the cashier such that he was forced to constantly hurdle the gayness, in the midst of stacking the trays and taking the cash and not letting the fries spill. Because if he felt that the only person he could mutter his grievance to about This being So Gay was a paying customer, then maybe he was having a hard time being heard. Or maybe that’s just how he perceived it.

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The Bully Project

Up until the age of about 10 years-old, I led a very charmed life. I wanted for nothing. The byproduct of a very stable and privileged girlhood for me was a very smug outlook on the world. This is not to say that my parents nurtured a taciturn child. Quite the opposite. But I perceived life as very black and white. It would take me many years to understand the shades of gray. I did not understand what it was to struggle, and therefore, when I saw others struggling, I did not think to help, and, in some cases, I made things harder for kids who struggled.

Put simply, I was a rich bitch.

There was one boy in my grade school that I particularly tormented. I will refer to him here as R. I would razzle R. for having a big head. I would mock his upbeat walk. A part of me relished opportunities to put R. down. A more hushed part of me felt wretched and wished I could just give this boy the kindness that he deserved.

When I turned 10, I was in the same homeroom as R. The landscape of my life was rumbling, tectonic plates were shifting under very bedrock of this little life. My dad got sick; my parents got separated. My mom went back to work. My baby brother’s special needs emerged in a glaring new light. This rich bitch was in reaction mode. I wasn’t doing homework. Notes got sent home to my parents–I was acting the fool in school.

I remember R. incurred plenty of my adversarial behavior.

On the last day of 5th grade, we learned that R. was leaving the school that he had loved because we had made his year so awful for him.

I did not understand the scope of the pain that this boy with the upbeat gait had endured, but I knew that I was responsible. I had made someone leave a place A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL where he should have felt celebrated–or at least safe–to be himself.

R. was away for sixth grade.

He came back in the seventh grade. We were on Student Council together. I went out of my way to show him kindness and decency, and I enjoyed working with him.

But I was different by then. Because by then, the tables had turned. I was harassed while riding the school bus, forced as an 8th grader to sit every afternoon with the 4th graders (if you want to know a social coup for an entitled 8th grader, there it is). My junior high years were mostly challenging, although I had a very dear best gal pal and we were unsinkable as long as we had each other.

***

The high school years that followed were filled with deep sadness. I would never re-live high school, not for all of the Coach bags in the world.

However, as isolating as those years were, I was not bullied. I was very disillusioned about life’s priorities but I had wonderful people in my life that helped to keep me afloat. I never had to doubt that the people who were “friending” me were really my friends. I never left school fearful of the rumors that were going to circulate on people’s walls that night. Not once did I have to see incriminating pictures of myself from some weekend exploits circulated for strangers to see. I never woke up feeling sick to my stomach that today was going to be another day of hurtful text messages about me. You could not pay me to re-live high school as a high schooler today. Not for all the cash-stuffed Coach bags in the world.

***

I had the opportunity to apologize to R. recently. I wrote him an e-mail before our grade school reunion. He didn’t write back. But he did come to the reunion, and I spent some time hearing about his life. He is in the military; he does some chaplaincy work.

I don’t know if R. received my apology in the sense that he accepted it. But I do know one thing. I know that R. is happy in his life now, and that I couldn’t be happier for him.

I also know that I will be telling my kids about R. and the other Rs of the world and how they deserve our kindness and our love because, in short, it makes us happy to see others happy.

***
You can post your Bully project here.

#thebullyproject

***
Here I am at age 10, rocking my super cool shades, at Idlewild Park with my sibs and my surrogate sibs.
Photobucket

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10 Loves for a Cold January Day

1. I love a tightly-written essay. Preferably by Roger Rosenblatt.

2. I love homemade strawberry marshmallows (strawshmellows).

3. I love my kids’ smiles, unforced, unabashed.

4. I love the feeling of all the tension washing out of my system in a hot shower.

5. I love Zooey Deschanel’s cadence and inflection in “New Girl.”

6. I love Michelle Obama.

7. I love helping a student solve a puzzle with his/her writing, or with language in general.

8. I love finding an old letter from my husband.

9. I love the Montessori method.

10. I love looking at this picture from four Januarys ago….

IMG_1609

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