I am the youngest child in our family. I’m sixty-two years old, at present, which makes me somewhat of an older younger. Senior citizen younger? Anyways, no matter how old I grow, I will always be the youngest child. This is an OK thing……
Being a youngest child gave me an edge in the world outside of the white stucco house on Tunney Avenue in Northridge, California, where my sister, brother, and I were raised. Having two older siblings provided protection from some of the more feral children who resided in our middle class part of the world. I especially appreciated having an older sibling while in my middle school years……
Seventh grade, age 13, at John A. Sutter Junior High, was intense. Violent confrontation was always a daily possibility. Seventh grade boys and girls at Sutter were called “scrubs” back in 1963. It was considered fun for the eighth and ninth grade school bullies to take a tube of red lipstick and smear it all over the face and clothing of a seventh grader. Once some bully girl and her buddies had scrubbed you and you had endured that sort of public humiliation, you might have had the chance to never be bothered again by such an encounter. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the unlucky kids who had more than one bully standing in line to harass them for just being a seventh grader?
I never got scrubbed. This was because three of the meanest, bad assed bully girls in that school had a crush on my brother, Tom. Back then he was into sports and jocks were adored by all. It probably also helped that my brother inherited my father’s charm factor. You don’t go and beat the crap out of the sister of Mr. Prince Charming and expect the old Prince to notice you in a good way….
Those eighth and ninth grade bully girls at John A. Sutter were fearsome and fearless. Or at least that’s what I thought. My goal at that time of my life was to just make it through the day unscrubbed and alive. The bully girls seemed like a formidable wolf pack to me. I can still, fifty years later, recall the feeling of dread and that elevator going down too fast drop of my stomach when I passed one of them in a school hallway. That was before I learned they liked my brother a lot……
The bully girls were all culturally Mexican American except for one of them, who wasn’t. They all came to school with hair ratted into massive bee hives or immensely full bouffant flips.
A few of the tougher, probably-gonna-end-up-serving-life-sentences-in prison, sort of girls had bleached their hair to a colorless white that was called platinum blond. According to the adults in my life, only bad girls on the way down the wrong path in life bleached their hair…….
Me, I had the fuzzy, over processed perm from Hell, courtesy of our neighbor, Rachel, who owned her own beauty salon and liked to ensure that the curl she put into the naturally straight hairs on my head would last an eternity or two or at least a full school year. My hairdo back in those days had quite a bit in common with a wad of steel wool…….
The bully girls used lots of bobby pins and giant economy-sized cans of hair spray. Their comb of choice was the metal rat tail. This comb wasn’t just a comb. It was also a weapon.
The bulliest of the bully girls made it a point to hone the ends of their metal rat tail combs to a razor blade sharpness making the comb both a hair styling tool and a weapon to use in case things got out of hand and war broke out amongst the bully girl gangs. I’ve always been thankful I never saw anyone use one of those sharpened combs in battle…….
Heavy makeup for all bully girls was essential. Liquid foundation followed by a dusting of translucent face powder to hide the freckles and pimples, blush to color the cheeks, eyes rimmed with black liquid eyeliner, eyelashes thickened with flaky, midnight black mascara, eyelids highlighted with blue or green eye shadow, and white lipstick. I never did understand why the white lipstick…..
Anyways, I figured I was soon gonna be dead or, probably, wishing for death within the first week of my life at John A. Sutter. I don’t believe that I did anything rash like making peace with God and willing all my earthly goods to anyone. I just experienced a great deal of that kind of stressful sense of impending doom that I wager all my fellow seventh graders were also experiencing in their first days at this new school……
It was on day two, seventh period gym class, when I realized that I could possibly survive being a seventh grader. That’s when I met up with Maria Delgado, Patricia Jimenez, and Mary whose last name I can’t remember. Three eighth grade girl bullies who searched me out on the gym field to introduce themselves…..
OK, so this was one of those memorable life experiences. One where all my senses were involved in the moment. It was a hot day and the scents of sun baked tarmac, grass from the boys baseball field, and someone’s Jean Nate lemony body spray were strong in the air. In thirteen minutes the bell ending gym class was gonna ring. My plan was to hurry to my locker, get dressed in my street clothes, and make my way to the bus that would take me out of this hell hole they call John A. Sutter…..
They approached from the left of us. My friend, Margaret, the shortest girl in seventh grade, saw them at the same time as me. Two Mexican American eighth grade bully girls and one other who wasn’t headed in our direction.
“Ah crap,” was what I probably was thinking. I recall experiencing a feeling of cold dread run down my spine. Margaret, bless her short little heart, stood by my side, unwilling or, more probably, frozen in terror at the sight of known bullies heading in our direction. We were two peace loving seventh graders whose cruddy luck was to probably be beaten down and then scrubbed senseless with a couple of tubes of Max Factor Ruby Red before Miss Davies, the seventh grade girls gym instructor, would notice the incident and come and rescue what was left of us……
“Are you Tom Morgan’s sister?” The lead bully girl asked.
“Yeah,” I answered politely.
“My name’s Maria Delgado and this here is Patricia Jimenez and that’s Mary whose last name you have forgotten over time, but whose face you will remember for all eternity……”
“Howdy,” I said to them. “This is my friend Margaret. Please, please don’t kill us…….”
OK, I didn’t beg to not be killed. I probably did think it, though.
“I like your brother.” Maria Delgado told me.
“So do we,” Patricia and Mary chimed in.
“If you guys want you can eat your lunch at our table from now on cause there’s a lot of mean bitches in this school an’ they don’t none of them mess with our girl friends……….”
That is verbatim what was said to me, peoples. The words of an unexpected eighth grade bully savior that so strongly impressed my mind that I’ve never forgotten each and every word. The words that rescued me and Margaret from all potential future brutality at the hands of the rest of the John A. Sutter Junior High School bullies. Oh, and it also gave us access to a convenient table in the cafeteria……….
So, what’s the point of my current rant? The nostalgia was cool. Recalling the warm fuzzy feelings I carry in my heart for my siblings and how their presence on the planet oftentimes smoothed the bumps out of life’s mucky road towards adulthood was a nice mind trip. Finding some sort of humor in having survived seventh grade was expected. I’ve gotten through a number of crappy life moments by being able to sense the humor in any given situation. However, the memory of being in terror of going to school because I was scared shitless of being bullied non-stop wasn’t such a good memory.
I didn’t like being bullied. I doubt anyone does. So, I’m going to do something about it. For my part, I am going to be a vocal advocate of zero tolerance of those who bully anyone for being different. I’m also going to be more careful about my own actions. Sometimes, we adults bully without realizing we are doing it.
I’m going to share some resources with you all that will help us be more on top of what we can do as individuals and groups to stop the bullying in schools and on playgrounds. Every one of us can do something today to end the meanness. Maybe, our efforts will make a difference in what a future seventh grader will recall when she is sixty-two…..
Here are those resources:
Stop Bullying.gov: a website for all ages with information on what we as both individuals and groups can do to stop the cycle of bullying in our communities.
National Bullying Prevention Center: another excellent site that provides current reporting on the ongoing movement to end bullying in our nation’s schools. Some excellent videos on the subject are available here.
Prevent Bullying–How to make a difference in 15 minutes. Excellent information on positive ways you can help to discourage bullying.