#reverbbroads – Sticks and stones…

What did people tease you about growing up?

Heh, a better question would be “What didn’t people tease you about?”…

My days of childhood teasing started in preschool.  Thanks to genes that run on my mother’s side of the family, I had unusually large ears.  And of course, they stuck straight out from my head like para-sails, ready to whisk me away at the slightest sign of a breeze.  Even my long hair was not thick enough to cover up these puppies.

Of course, I was subjected to the usual childhood cruelness, being called everything from “Big Ears” to “Dumbo”.  I remember walking home from school one day when I was about 5, and some kid I didn’t know riding down the other side of the street shouted something about my ears.  I was less shocked about the comment as I was about the fact that this person could even SEE my ears from that distance…

My mom had the same issue, so she knew how that kind of merciless teasing felt.  When she was 19, she decided to have surgery to have her ears pinned back.  Realize, this was back in the late 40’s, so we’re not talking the simple “in and out” surgeries of today.  When I was about 6, she had the same done for me, which in the 70’s required a hospital stay.  Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of plastic surgery, I’ve always been grateful that my mom took that initiative and did that for me.  It may not have saved me from teasing in general, but it was one thing no one ever teased me about again.

Life was pretty calm for me up until middle school, where some sort of teasing time bomb was released on me.  To this day I still don’t quite know what I did to deserve a lot of the crap that came my way back then.   I suspect it was because I was an easy target.  I’ve always been a sensitive person, both to my own emotions and the emotions of others.  It didn’t take much to make me cry, and that one fact alone was enough for someone to easily exhibit power over me.  It was my one weakness, until one day one of my classmates (strangely enough, a person known throughout our school for his abilities to emotionally destroy people at any given moment) said to me “Mary, you gotta stop taking everything so seriously.”  I don’t know what happened, but it was like a little light bulb went off.  I realized how I was being manipulated, and suddenly knew now to counteract.  From that point forward, everything changed.  I no longer cried when I was teased, but instead I laughed, either at the genuine comical nature of the situation (let’s face it, some practical jokes ARE funny, even if they’re done to you) or at the perverseness of the pathetic attempt that was being made to belittle me.  That one little act, changing a cry to a laugh, changed my childhood forever.

Through the rest of my school years, I was rarely teased.   The few that tried found I was a lost cause pretty quickly.   From that point forward, my life was forever different, and I’m grateful to that one person that helped open my eyes, even if it was unintentional.  My oldest son is 6 and has just started learning about the world of teasing and how it affects people.  I hope I can pass some of this wisdom to him, even if it’s still not cool to listen to Mom about these things.  You know, because we parents have no clue what it’s like to be a kid, right? 😉

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