Age 16, Vancouver, Dominatrix shirt.
Long before high school, there was the horror of grade four. And grade seven.
These two years traumatized me, especially the latter, for I was 11/12, gawky, completely defenseless, and therefore, the easiest target. I was also the youngest.
I had huge glasses, a weird scar, crooked teeth, frizzy hair that I never brushed, terrible make-up, pimples, and no style.
I was called a cacophony of names and whenever out of the classroom, it was an onslaught. I rode my bike to and from school, even at lunch time – I lived a block away. I wanted to get out of there as fast as humanly possible. My teachers always knew what was going on, and this is why during class was a fairly safe time.
The summer before grade 8, I went to summer camp with the only friend I had – and even though I was not bothered with the same bullshit as in school. I was still easy to corner and got teased incessantly for new reasons. I ended up loathing camp, refusing to ever return.
During that summer I buried myself in magazines for the first time. I actually learned some grooming skills. I started to care a little bit about how I looked and it progressed the more I read. Fashion magazine became an obsession, and as I got older, I got to buying about nine on a monthly basis.
In high school I started out well – it was daunting, but at first, things were calm. I attribute it to everyone just settling in, because after a few weeks, all the shit from elementary school followed me into a bigger, nastier crowd. It was also coming into the classroom with me – people never hesitated to harass me as I sat at my desk, and even though I was starting to look better, my sensitive nature was like a green light for jerks.
I was a good student. Once all the in-class bullying started, though, I began to skip class. A lot. I never got detention for it, either. I’m not sure how. My grades dropped – I didn’t care. I became obsessed with music. In grade 8 I latched on to late 80s and early 90s gangsta rap, along with any sort of perverted hip hop I could find. You’d never have pegged me for being into it – I was never without my walkman and once when I had run out of batteries I skipped class to go get some. My mother was horrified at my musical choices and tried to confiscate my cassette tapes, but my absolute agony at having it taken away made her relent. Listening to some of those things now shocks me – however anything “bad” about it never affected me at age 12. I just found it amusing, and I liked the rhythm.
In grade 9 I changed completely. I got into Guns N’ Roses and quickly changed into an elitist about music. I thought if you used anything other than REAL instruments, it was sub par and not music! I started growing out my bangs and got a leather biker jacket. There was still another part of me that wanted to fit in, and I tried a little to conform based on what I looked at in magazines.
Those things were never what people in my school were doing much of (I grew up in a small town) and so any time I tried to emulate the beauty I saw in those pages, it looked ridiculous to people in my school. I quickly gave up. I think I tried for about a week to “fit in” by what I wore.
At least in high school I had some friends. Only one of them really had the same interests as me, but we had a falling out in grade 10 and she went to another school. People still harassed me, but not as much. I barely went to class and usually had my walkman on. I started to cultivate a hard stare, and if anyone did bother me, my defenses started to show.
All I cared about was music and boys. I would look at them all from a distance. No one in my grade was my type – I liked the metal-heads and the skater boys (especially them!) with the long hair. They were all oblivious to me (I think) and I had no courage to do anything about it.
When I skipped class, I read, quite a lot. I would go downtown to raid the indie music shop. I would draw, take photos, and write. Often I’d sneak into the computer lab and write stories. Sometimes I’d write my little ass off until 9pm when they closed the school.
Age 15, downtown Vancouver at Zulu Records.
I don’t know if it was just a build-up of rage, or if it was that combined with aspirations to be like the badass female musicians I looked up to – but around grade 10 was when I started to be a wolverine.
The first time I ever stuck up for myself was grade 7 when I screamed NOOO at someone egging me on to kiss some gross dude. The second time was grade 8 when I slapped the guy beside me in class as he was getting up to tell my guy friend I wanted to fuck him (a lie! I was 12!). I slapped someone else, too, for an unknown reason. I think I just did it to feel like I could. In my imagination, I would try to picture punching someone, and even in my head I failed. So when I finally knew I could, and I wouldn’t get laughed at, I think I just wanted to replicate my “beginner’s luck.”
That was the last time I was ever violent, though there was one time at the bus stop that I took something the wrong way and started making kicking motions and flipping out at this acquaintance of mine. Talk about spaz. This may have been the pinnacle moment of I-Can’t-Take-it-Anymore! I dunno, but remembering that just now…it seems likely.
I started losing friends, too – maybe I said inappropriate things to make myself seem better than them – who knows. I was really meek inside, but strong, too. I am still that way – ultra sensitive but also rioting constantly. Endless internal warring – not just against myself, but society as a whole.
In grade 11, I really embraced being the outsider. I dyed my hair, wore all black, skulked around with a scowl. Once rumours spread that I had secret piercings, people began to think I was crazy. They started to leave me alone. I finally knew that being “different” = “nuts” and that “nuts” = being left alone.
Age 17 with my friend Tami.
I reveled in being the outcast at this point. I was outwardly vocal about my strange preferences, and equally dismissive and mysterious about whether rumours regarding me were true or not. After the piercings thing, everything died down. I was as weird as I wanted to be with no one bothering me – THIS, in a small town high school, was amazing.
I enjoyed my solitude but I also was lonely. I eventually had a close friend in a grade below mine, and we went to concerts together and lusted after the same wild musicians. Ultimately, though, I was on my own. I spent so much time filling myself with the things I loved. The time I did not spend in class I spent learning the things that mattered to me. I barely attended school, but somehow I passed all but one course (math 10, which I promptly ruled over in summer school). I did go to the classes I enjoyed but they were all art-related. In grade 12, all of my electives were art or photography or graphics, except for Western Civilization (I’m still not sure why I took this as it bored me – I also took English Literature, the only class i ever dropped).
Also in the final year of school, people never provoked me. Despite that, I still carried my defenses. I do to this day (it’s not really an easy thing to let go of). I still feared it. I still do.
In my schools, there were popular people, but not really popular “cliques.” If there had been I would have been badgered much worse than I was, I’m sure. The hassle I got was from the general populace – it could have been from anyone.
There were definite groups, and I hung out with a bunch of people who didn’t really fit in with any of them – we weren’t nerds, or theatre geeks, or freaks – we were a weird mix. I’m surprised I didn’t jive with the people who got stoned and went to punk shows – I was the lone goth kid in school until I hit grade 12. I was never really drawn to druggies and slackers – I hated school but I loved to learn. I dealt with my angst by writing and drawing.
I’m glad I was never popular. I’m GLAD I got picked on. It made me withdraw, it made me see what most people are like. It made me want to get away from the mainstream bullcrap that most people end up doing.
Why? Even when people are not “popular” they just drift through school in a nonchalant way, they tend to buy into what they are told – go to school, college, get job, get married, get house, have kids, have debt, go insane, have crisis, get sick from bad lifestyle + stress, go into more debt, wither away, get degenerate disease, die.
It’s practically ingrained in us from day one – we watch our parents, we watch TV, we read magazines, we get taught a particular curriculum that teaches everyone the same thing, and we are all pushed in a similar direction – to be drones. To respect “authority” instead of becoming authority! Over ourselves!
I’m glad I was not popular – I am glad I was the outcast. I was able to start seeing the underlying threads. I’ve never been convinced of this so-called life – the one that most people seem to aspire to.
Shunning the majority of school made me smarter.
I had more time to pursue my real interests, and my natural curiosity and love of learning (we all have it!) came back x 10000.
Being bullied made me stronger + able to speak my mind, to defend myself, and to defend OTHER people (and animals).
Being an outcast made me enjoy my own company.
It also allowed me to observe how most of the world operates and why so many people are unhappy. When you move with the flock, you tend to do what they do. When you’re left on your own, you see all the alternatives.
Being a loner made me introspective.
I still got a little lost along the way. I still got into the whole “work force” as I did not know my real options, I had low self esteem and crippling depression and anxiety (from both an unhealthy diet + all the stuff I just mentioned) – also I was told most of my life to “be realistic” when it came to jobs, money, life – I still am told this now, but I don’t listen. I am finally at a point where I feel strong enough, whole enough, and complete enough to really go after anything I want.
You really have to believe in yourself (how fucking corny….) – but really. What is the other option? You gonna believe everyone that tells you that you have to be “realistic?” In who’s reality? Theirs? If you choose to believe them, then they are right. If you choose to believe yourself, you are also right – whether you say to yourself “I can’t” or “I can.” Personally I want to prove everyone wrong, and prove myself right.
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand (not a Rand fan, but love this quote.)