First, a little music to set the mood……because I’m really going to try for rationality and detachment here. It’s not gonna be easy, because everything about this just triggers the old blue blaze of rage and pain that I felt as an ostracized, bullied child. Every time I got shut out or picked on, that blaze is what I felt. And I don’t like admitting that I still feel it every time I see someone else get shut out and/or picked on. You’re supposed to get over that old kid stuff, you know?Only, here’s the sad part: You don’t. You really don’t. And if you’re honest with yourself, you admit it. And if you’re really REALLY honest, and painfully so, you admit that this shit goes on everywhere. Okay, I admit it: This shit goes on everywhere. It goes on in supposedly liberal, enlightened, democratic-socialist CANADA, for God’s sake. I know, because it happened to me.And no, it didn’t happen for the same reason as it happened to Constance McMillen. I’m not gay. I didn’t have a prom date at all (at least not for MY high school’s formal), much less one of my own sex. I was a shy, introverted, bespectacled, skinny, pale, redheaded, frizzy-haired, unathletic, unhip, unhot, too-damn-smart-for-my-own-good geek. And in a small town, where the narrowest definition of “cool” prevails, someone like that stands out. And standing out is unforgivable. The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down. Yadda, yadda, yadda.And yeah, I got hammered. All through grade school and much of high school, I got fucking hammered.I won’t go into any specific incidents. I’ve already been triggered enough for one damn day. There are more of them than can be named, anyway, and it made going to school nauseating. And this was for a kid who enjoyed classes. A kid who really wanted to be a doctor someday; a kid whose teachers kept telling her she really ought to be a writer. Being seen enjoying the use of your own brains is apparently utterly unforgivable in a place where conformist mediocrity is prized, other than of course in athletics. So I got hammered. And I continued to stick out anyway. I bent, but would not be hammered down. I tried to hide my brains: useless. (I still got high 90s in French without even trying. I could have slept through that class and still aced every test.) I tortured my hair with a curling iron, to straighten and feather it into some semblance of fashion: useless. (One small whiff of humidity, and foof it went.) I got contact lenses, so people could finally see that I had a pretty face and not just four eyes: useless. (They were in the habit of seeing me through their own distorted, invisible funhouse lenses. Nothing I did was going to shatter those.) No, the only thing that saved me from the whole thing was graduating. And going to university in a modest-sized city, where things were bigger all around. And learning to be myself, instead of some cookie-cutter knockoff of every other ditzy chick with Farrah Fawcett wings in her hair. It meant accommodating my curls, accepting my introverted, geekish nature, and learning to flip the bird at convention (and sometimes, at conventional people). And it meant becoming someone radically different not only from what the others were, but from what I had been and thought I should be.Even a nervous breakdown and the realization that I wasn’t going to make it to med school wasn’t nearly as bad as being forcibly flipped out of the pond like I was all through my grade- and high-school years. Even realizing I’d fallen hopelessly in love with a gay guy, and being damn near suicidal at the ripe old age of 20, was a piece of cake compared to being shut out. I could get over my thwarted dreams, go beyond the misplaced romantic interest (he’s still my best friend to this day–how ’bout THEM apples?), and even get past the desire to just go to sleep and never wake up. But this? No. It follows you silently everywhere.I thought I had gotten away from it at university, good fucking riddance to small towns and smaller minds–only to find myself suddenly struggling with all the unresolved pain, anger and stark terror of those days. And sometimes, in the dead of night, when I should be asleep but just can’t, I still have those moments where I forget who I am, who I’ve worked so hard to become. I even forget that the town has grown, and is not the same bigoted little place anymore. All I remember is what I have yet to overcome. And what I have to overcome is that poison cruelty that seems almost inherent in people. The same that prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to say that hell is other people. It’s not inborn; it’s learned. And it gets passed down through generations. Each one gets beaten by the previous one until it bears the identical scars. Then it turns on the next and starts beating on them until they, too, bear those scars…So when I read the obscene self-justifications that some people go through, presenting themselves, the bullies, as the poor little victims of a nasty, gay revolution–well, why not just wave a red cape in front of me and every other excluded kid? I mean, it’s not as if you’re not just asking to get your sorry asses kicked, is it now?And yeah, I would so love to kick every ass of every person who ever did this to another. Doesn’t matter for what “reason”. I don’t give a shit for your justifications; spare me the “explanations”, I’m in no mood to hear any of them. Don’t bother to comment here; I’ll either delete it or declare you a Wanker of the Week, depending on whether my mood is fair or foul. You cannot explain or justify this. I know what you did. It has a name: CRUELTY.Cruel isn’t cool, and I’m not fucking cool with anyone who’s cruel. I want to kick cruel people’s asses, ALL of them. I’d wear out my trusty old cherry Docs doing it, no doubt about that. But we’re not supposed to kick ass; we’re supposed to be meek, mild and forgiving. We’re supposed to grow beyond all that. We’re supposed to Forget. I mean, it’s only a silly prom, fergawdsakes. For a bright kid with a future, it’s supposed to be just a stumbling-stone on the road to Better Things. It’s only important to those who peaked in high school. That ain’t me, right?Well, fuck it. I haven’t forgotten. And I’m not sure I’ve forgiven, either. The fact that a fake prom so far from where I grew up has the power to trigger all my buried outrage and bring it crashing back like it only happened yesterday, is a testimony to the power that cruelty has. It has the power to make me forget, or at least minimize, the fact that I did go to a prom, in another town, with a guy not from my high school. He liked me more than I liked him. He was not the guy I’d have gone with, had I been “cool” enough to be offered a choice of dates; still, I showed him mercy, because he was an even bigger geek than I was. He didn’t know what a loser I was to all my peers. To him, I was actually pretty. For his sake I put on a brave face and a beautiful outfit. How elegant I looked in my own hand-made royal-blue strapless moiré dress and my mom’s black elbow gloves (a damn sight better than these tacky little prats, that’s for sure.) And yeah, I made the dress myself. Pleated overbodice, six-inch-wide sash, floor-length skirt, the works. And the black organdy ruff
led shawl, too. See what happens when you apply yourself in Home Ec, girls? And don’t you guys wish your girlfriends were hot–and SMART–like me?But this makes it hard to remember that. It has the power to make me forget that I’m not the ostracized kid anymore, that I quit being that kid even in my last year at high school, where I began to morph into an adult whom other adults actually like. It even has the power to make me forget, for a moment, just how strong I really am. And that strength didn’t come out of nowhere; it came out of being that excluded, bullied kid. Maybe it’s made me a better adult, a better listener, a more worthwhile person to talk to and with?Maybe.One thing it definitely HAS made me is glad that I don’t fit in, after all. Because if fitting in among the bullies who made my youth hell is such a prize, I don’t want it. I’d have to turn into a piece of shit just like them. What’s that old saying? “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat”, I believe is how it goes. Nope; no rodent here. Just a human being who doesn’t need to pretend superiority. And one who admires the hell out of Constance for taking you all on and showing you all up. She’s got more class in her left pinky-nail than all of you have in your collective, pathetic, self-justifying carcass.So yeah, bigoted kiddies, knock yourselves out claiming that you are the bullied ones, being shat on by northerners, gay revolutionary ACLUers, and people from the two coasts and God only knows where all else. Whine your sorry asses off about how everybody else looks down on you (as if YOU had a monopoly on pusillanimous shitheadedness!) Go play your smarmy phony victim card until it wears the hell out.And it will, soon. Because it’s flimsy. And because the rest of the world isn’t stupid; it knows what lengths you went to in order to make sure your precious widdle prom was queer- and crip-cootie-free. That much secrecy takes planning and co-ordination. It takes a lot of complicity. It also takes massive amounts of cowardice. Not one of you kids had the stones to defy your parents, your school board, or your picky-picky peers; you are all a bunch of fucking wimps! You think you avoided “drama” by excluding Constance and her same-sex date, and a tiny bunch of disabled kids? HA! You just brought it on yourselves, ten-thousandfold. You deserve the shitstorm that you’ve got coming now. And I, for one, will be pointing the finger at you and laughing when the verdict comes down against you. Because I love seeing the shoe go on the other foot, and pinching. It’s not nice, I know. But it is satisfying. And it is so very, very richly deserved.Sucks to be you, kids. Here, have another song. And try learning how to dance without that graceless booty-humping you did at your “drama-free” prom, ‘kay? That shit’s no cooler than your overt, deliberate cruelty was.