I inadvertantly wore purple today.
I honestly hadn’t remembered that today was earmarked to wear purple in order to raise anti-gay bullying awareness. All I know is that I went looking for a snuggly shirt to wear this morning, saw the light purple hoodie on the floor and said “Score! I win!” It was only afterwards at work that I realized that something was going on. Probably when my supervisor remarked that he hadn’t realized what day it was either, but boy wasn’t it great that he’d had the urge to wear a purple shirt.
Maybe it was a subconscious thing. Picking up on the vibe.
Kids are stupid gits. It’s a good thing that babies are cute and women generally have that whole “Biological Imperative” thing happening, because if the terrible twos weren’t warning enough, the teen years would probably convince most parents to give it up & take up ant farms or cat herding.
I grew up in a small town. I started with two disadvantages. First, I was an “outsider”. I moved when I was nine years old, starting grade 4. By then, amazingly enough, most of the social pecking order was already established. I went through high school with people who were still bitter over their breakup in second grade. Yes, I’m being serious. My second disadvantage was that I was (and, regrettably, still am) fat. I don’t wish obesity on any kid. I’ve probably mentioned in the past that I was a pretty active teen. I swam in the river in the summer, skated on the rink in the winter, rode my bike practically everywhere, and had a real passion for playing basketball and softball. Still, I was larger than the other girls, and while I tried to be the “funny fat girl”, I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to keep to the stereotype 100% of the time.
Particularly when people realized that the easiest way to hurt a person like me was to point out just how far removed from “normal society” I was. I had co-workers at a local fast food restaurant who probably could have been brought up on sexual harassment charges for not only teasing me about my lack of boyfriends, but also openly taunting me about sexual matters. Nope, again I’m not kidding. It went beyond “16 and never been kissed”. There were times when it was downright graphic. The only reason I kept the job? I wanted to go on a school trip for Spanish class that wound up getting cancelled due to the drug wars in South America.
Bad enough I had adults doing this, but one day I arrived at school to find that someone had scrawled the words “Meredith is a lesbian” on my locker. Luckily it was in pencil rather than pen, and of course my name was spelled WRONG. I tried to keep it together & wipe the words off, but pretty much lost it, running for the ladies’ room. A friend of mine noticed the boys at the end of the hall laughing their arses off about this & apparently gave them hell. My friend was the shyest girl in our class.
I went to the nurse’s office, then went home. I really didn’t feel well. I think the school nurse wanted to make an issue of it, but again, my shy friend stood up for me. I don’t think my parents ever knew. She even cleaned off my locker for me so I wouldn’t have to see it the next day. Somehow, I managed to put it away & get through. It was tough.
My parents wondered why I was so bloody glad when we moved in my senior year. Sure, I had some friends, but a fresh start would be wonderful. And it was.
You see, being a teenager or young adult is difficult enough as it is. You’re dealing with hormones, and a social group that may or may not accept you the way you are, and all sorts of expectations from school, parents, and friends. The last thing you need is to be judged for your sexuality…or lack thereof. Apparently my problem was that I didn’t date. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I had crushes on at least three memorable young men in high school, none of whom returned the sentiment. Nobody ever approached me to ask me out, either. Add to that, this was the end of the 80’s, beginning of the 90’s. The sexual revolution had happened, but it was the straight sexual revolution. Androgyny might look cool on David Bowie or some other British pop star, but you sure as hell didn’t want to give off some kind of “homo” vibe around the normals (not that I could…I was pretty curvy). It wasn’t until well after I’d dropped out of college that it became “cool” to be “bi-curious” (you kids don’t know how well you’ve got it today, really).
I think that what I’m trying to say here is just what I opened up this can of worms with. Teenagers and young adults are a bunch of assholes. The guys I went to high school were, and their younger siblings and/or children are now merrily repeating the pattern. And like any other “new and improved” model, have escalated and upgraded the impact of any humiliation and shame that they can muster.
Hell…some of those people were probably even wearing purple today. I wonder what will happen when there are no purple shirts and special days to remind everyone that making an issue of someone’s sexuality – their most personal feelings – is wrong? To be very blunt, nobody deserves this kind of treatment, whether it’s because of sexual preference or because they’re just different on some odd level that the status quo feels is worthy of scrutiny. The fact that my (admittedly minor) experience still makes me angry 20 years later just goes to show what kind of impact this behaviour has.
All I can do is hope that there are more people like my friend Heather, the shyest girl in class, who yelled at bullies, cleaned a locker, dried some tears, and ran interference with the school nurse. Maybe I didn’t say it at the time, but the world needs more people like you. You rock, chiquita.
(and now a very poor picture of Teh Kitteh blissed out on laundry. Because there’s really nothing much funnier than a cat who somehow thinks that your bath towel was dipped in catnip when she wasn’t looking. Really. Sometimes I wonder about her…)