How I Became a Terror of the Second Grade Playground
Kids can be cruel. Socialization tames most of us eventually, but at my elementary school playground of the early nineteen fifties, only the presence of teachers prevented us from devolving into savagery, and the teachers couldn’t watch everyone at once.
I am and was a wise ass. To be more precise, a sarcastic wise ass, with a keen ear for stupidity and a quick tongue to comment on it. In my later years, I learned to temper those biting words. They still jumped to my lips, but I suppressed them. I might not be today alive if I did not.
But I did not have these filters back then. I spoke impudently with no thought of consequence.
Perhaps worse, I’m a bit of a goof. I’m astigmatic, near-sighted, and a little bug-eyed. I never liked sports as much as I liked to read. I’m not a large person, and I was quite skinny then.
In simple words, I was obvious bully bait.
And yet, I was not a target. Other kids who were much like me were targets, but I was immune. I could even intervene when others were bullied and make the tormentors slink away. I had, you see, a reputation.
An undeserved reputation, but no one seemed to know that, so the devils that might have otherwise brought misery to my early school years left me alone.
Part of that was because for the first few years, I was one of the misfits, the tough kids, the kids with undiagnosed learning issues. Dyslexia, attention deficit, alcoholic parents, children of bitter divorce, abused kids, hungry kids: all manner of damage was often unseen or ignored back then.
My disability was my eyes. I couldn’t see the chalk board. My teachers thought my intelligence was low. I hid my burden because the taunts of “Four eyes!” would have been another marker of weakness. I cheated on the eye exams, hanging back to memorize each line.
Eventually I got caught out, and had to wear glasses. Worse, at the insistence of my mother, I was given an IQ test and the result of that caused my immediate transfer to the nascent Gifted and Talented class. If I had not been bully meat before, surely I would be then!