… comes around

A friend of mine told me that this weekend was her 20th high school reunion.  Immediately, I was transported back to mine, back to one of the best nights of my life, back to when someone who had bullied me showed everyone else his true colors.

My hometown was a wealthy suburb, a place where rich, well-schooled, successful folks go to raise their families.  A town filled to the brim with liberals who mostly commute to New York City, just a short train ride away.  A town of folks that raise their kids to be liberals too.

My classmates and I were at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, old enough to protest the Vietnam war but not old enough to serve.  Old enough to remember and mourn the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Jr., to have seen the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.  We participated in protests, celebrated the Women’s Movement, went braless through high school, and believed that all you need is love.

My family landed in town when my father bought a run-down Victorian house, sight unseen, in 1963. Kids in the neighborhood thought it was haunted; we moved in on Halloween.  My two brothers, two sisters and I started school the following Monday.

Within a week, I had ruined my life.

You see, in 2nd grade, every Friday at my new school, we had Show and Tell.  I bet you did too.  But I bet you didn’t, well, show and tell quite like I did that very first week.

You remember Show and Tell, I’m sure.  Everyone gathers together on the floor and everybody raises their hand to perform; three or four kids are chosen every week.  They sing songs, tell jokes, juggle.  That first week I anxiously raised my hand, but the teacher didn’t call on me.  I performed anyway.  There in the middle of the circle, I wet my pants.

I do not recommend “showing” in this manner if your goal is to one day be voted “Most Popular.”

I don’t remember what happened for the rest of the afternoon.  I don’t know if I went home early, if my classmates got wet and ran screaming from me.  I have buried that memory.  I do know that it started four years of hell.

Tommy was the lead bully.  He dubbed me “Weenie Girl” and teased and tormented me through 6th grade.  He was truly cruel, and tried to keep others from being my friend.  I hated him.  I saw him less as we got older, but he was still a classmate when we both graduated in 1974.

But by the time of my 20th reunion, I had more or less gotten over my shame over the incident.  And I did it with a very public therapy session.  One night, when I had had way too much to drink at a bar, I climbed onto a table and told everyone in the bar my hilariously funny/sad story – how I ruined my own childhood during Show and Tell.   I had always feared that someone would find out and ridicule me.  Instead, there I stood, making the room love me, as I showed them the humor and the pain.

It had taken me years, but I had to admit it was funny.  I mean after all, I didn’t do it during naptime.  I didn’t do it during storytime.  I didn’t pee while learning long division.  I wet my pants during Show and Tell!  Why hasn’t anyone put that scene into a sit com?

So on the night of my 20th reunion, when I saw lead bully Tommy heading towards me to say hello, I had forgiven him.  Completely.  And although I thought of all the things I could say to the nasty bully, I smiled politely, chatted amiably to him and his wife, and moved on with my life.  It was a proud moment.

But the night got better.  Much, much better.

You see, Tommy was the MC of the evening.  It was his job to introduce particularly successful classmates, tell who was living in exotic places, and what surprising career choices had been made by a few.  He showed pictures of us when we all still had hair, when we were thin, when we were young.

And Tommy did a good job speaking to that extremely liberal crowd of editors and publishers, doctors, public interest lawyers.  People who still wanted to save the world.  Good people, people with heart and soul.  Liberals.

And then it happened.  Towards the end of the evening, Tommy stood up on the dias and started to wind things down.  And he said to my extremely PC friends and classmates:

“My wife told me not to tell jokes tonight.  But I’m just going to tell the one.”

“Why is a man like a linoleum floor?”

Tommy paused for effect.

“Lay him right the first time;

walk all over him from then on.”

The room went silent, as one by one, each head turned towards the dias and each person either thought or said aloud:

“What an asshole.”

And after realizing that everybody agreed on that one point, I cracked up.

Hell, I’ve known he was an asshole since 2nd Grade!” I said.

I’m pretty sure that when I am taking in my last breath, I will still be smiling about that night, knowing that in this life what goes around really does come around; sometimes it just takes a while.

The scene of the crime

51 Comments

Filed under Childhood Traumas, Humor

51 responses to “… comes around

  1. I… um… thought his joke was funny.
    But, I am an asshole.
    I’ve know that for awhile too… made peace with it. It’s just part of being Republican. We are all selfish, greedy, assholes.

    • Well, not all of you … Some of you are simply holding incorrect opinions!

      I don’t think you’re an asshole, DJ

    • Oops. I had to catch shrimp on the stove and hit send by mistake.

      I don’t think you’re an asshole. I don’t even think Tommy is anymore. I think I might get along with him were I to meet him today. I do think he is tone deaf, though. You need to know your audience, and he wasn’t in tune.

      But I am not above feeling glad that he fell flat. This weekend, if he attends our 40th, I will continue being nice to him. And I will not, I repeat, WILL NOT, ask his wife, also a classmate, “whatever did you do THAT for?”

      Canonization cannot be far behind.

  2. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    After all I will be subscribing on your feed and
    I hope you write again soon!

  3. Writer AJ Harte

    Thank you for sharing this after my bullying post! What a great (not so great for your 2nd grade self of course) story.

  4. You’re a better person than I am. Reading this I thought, how could she be nice to him?! Witnessing that was sweet, I’m sure. You did good.

    • As an adult, he is actually nice. A special education teacher, of all things! I think I would like him if I met him now.

      I also learned that being nice to assholes is better than treating them shabbily — because it makes them feel like absolute crap.

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  6. twindaddy

    Karma, huh?

    • Absolutely. And I smile thinking about it every single time.

      The thing is, I’m pretty sure that Tommy doesn’t even realize that he bullied me, at least based on how he acted towards me that night. But I know he was an asshole. (He is now a special education teacher at our old high school, so I am guessing he is a mostly reformed asshole.)

  7. Hi Elyse! So glad I followed your link here from El’s blog on bullying. This is my first time reading your blog, and it was a joy! I love it that you had forgiven Tommy completely by the time you attended this reunion! I think it makes all the difference in the world! The bully lost his power! You gained freedom! I once heard a man say that when we don’t forgive someone, it is like we are in a prison…and we are wearing the key around our necks. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than the one being forgiven. I don’t think forgiveness comes as a natural thing for a person to do, because it is SUPER~ natural! When I start praying for my enemies, asking God to bless their lives, then I can no longer hate them. In fact I begin to love them unconditionally. Talk about freedom! Wow! Blessings to you, Elyse!

    • Thanks, PJ.

      I’m not sure if I had really completely forgiven Tommy. I say that entirely based on the elation I felt when he made a total jerk out of himself in front of everybody.

      But still, thanks. It is still a good lesson even if I am human.

  8. What a great story! Bravo for shouting it out in that bar!

    • Alcohol helped.

      But it was a wonderful moment, actually. It was the biggest trauma of my childhood, bar none. I had hidden it, denied it, hated myself for it. But I learned that everybody has those traumas in their lives, they vary, but everybody has done or felt something that they would change in a heartbeat if they could.

      Telling the story freed me in many ways. But seeing Tommy totally humiliated? Way better.

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  10. Big huge smiles Elyse!!! Thank you!!

  11. Love, love, love! What would have made it beyond karmic is if he peed himself.

  12. Ain’t it fun when Karma walks up and b___-slaps someone? Yes, yes it is
    :) MJ

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  14. Thanks for visiting! I’m enjoying catching up on your blog.

  15. Great story, great blog. Lots of truth here. I am the person who cannot go to a class reunion, probably because the entirety of my high school years seem to be made up of wet underwear (figuratively anyway),
    Thanks for directing me to this story!
    Love it.
    Les

  16. By now, I bet no one but me remembers, as my 40th reunion will be in just a few years. But he laid my demons to rest that night, that’s for sure!

  17. Grade 2? Well,holy moses, I am honoured to be in the company of such a wise soul. Too bad he never was. Sucks to be him. LMBO :)

  18. Thanks for spending a skunk free Saturday morning with my blog!

  19. Well written. Such sweet revenge and he did it all to himself. What goes around comes around. True colors.

  20. I decided to leave it behind that night — for so many reasons. I had survived being bullied, I had greeted my nemesis without malice (well, without malice that anyone could notice, anyway,) And I was polite, nice to him and his wife (who by the way was ALSO a classmate. A highlight of the night was when I said to her: “You married Tommy,” and NOT following it up with “WHY?” She was always really nice, so of course I couldn’t.

    I think that nowadays he is probably a nice guy, one that I might like sans history.

    But the silence that followed his joke was priceless!

  21. Great post! The stuff that traumatizes us in school is so hard to leave behind. But saying Bye-Bye finally is so sweet! (and so is a little revenge.)

  22. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Second grade must be a transitional year of some sort. My son began to exhibit his ADHD that year, and I have heard over the years that THAT year is the most memorable (for good and bad reasons) of their elementary school years.

  23. observantbystander

    So glad to find your very well-written blog! We both grew up during the same time period and my “moment” happened in 2nd grade also. Well said, Elyse.
    I’ll be reading more of you…

  24. I am absolutely happy to have seen it. And happier still to know that I didn’t cause his downfall! It was wonderful!

  25. Ahhh… karma. It was a long time coming, but aren’t you glad you were there to witness it?

  26. hehehe, love it! Excellent writing, too!
    Lisa

  27. Absolutely — among the sweetest.

  28. What great poetic justice! I was holding my breath, waiting for lightening to strike the dude or something, and then chastising myself for wishing him harm by saying to myself, “God don’t like ugly, girl.” (I have to admit that I cheered in the end.) Excellent writing. I’ll be back.
    http://www.howthehelldidienduphere.wordpress.com

    • Thanks for coming — and that’s exactly how I’ve looked at it in the 19 years since! Poetic justice. And I know that I played no part in Tommy’s downfall. It is so damn good to feel superior to one’s enemies! Besides, I’m glad lightening didn’t strike him — imagine the stink! It would certainly have ruined a good party.

  29. JSD

    I’ll bet that was a sawe-e-et moment!

Play nice, please.

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