Wednesday, October 24, 2012

BULLYING TOUCHES US ALL

Last week I spoke to a friend of mine from college and learned that she is in working with the YMCA in her community to inform and offer guidance to kids who have or who are being bullied.  I wrote the following and sent it to her in hopes that my story could serve as an example of just how the effects of bullying are something that never really leave those of us who have experienced it.

FOREVER SCARS

When I was a young child I wasn't obese but I was chubbier than the neighborhood children and, on occasion, was made fun of for that reason. I still don't "get it," what the payoff is for saying cruel things with the express purpose of hurting someone's feelings. Is there some feeling of success or triumph knowing that you've made another human being feel they are inferior?

I've got to say I thought it was a cruel joke that my name was Patty and it rhymed with fatty. I can still hear: "Fatty Patty two by four, can't get through the kitchen door" ringing in my much older ears even now.

My life at home was very nurturing and loving, but as it concerned the buying clothes ritual was...suffice it to say, not helpful to my already painful neighborhood experience. I was never big enough to fit into a Chubby size dress but too big to fit into a "normal" size. Disheartened and disappointed, mom would counteract my sorrow with a trip to the dime store counter to get a hot fudge sundae.

The ridicule didn't just stop with just the neighborhood children, I felt it every time there was a choosing of teammates for a competitive PE activity as well. At school there were whispers and I was well aware that I was less than. Through all of my grade school years I was a shy child, soft spoken and quiet, feeling inferior to others except a few close friends.

When I got to high school I hid my inferiority complex and decided that this was a brand new start and that I wasn't going to let my weight define me. I made it my business to be friends with a variety of people from the most popular to the nerds. This I did with the express objective to enjoy high school and not it ruin what I knew was a time in my life to become my own person, not like everybody else, genuinely interested in everything and everyone.

I discovered boys and wished like every girl in high school that they would take an interest in me but accepted that I was their good friend, not girl friend material. I threw myself into my two strengths, art and music. I designed posters for special events and was cast in a couple of the school musicals. I was even cast in a lead role. Buttercup, in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore. I was thrilled to get the part but had to again struggle with the fact that this character was...chubby, round and fun loving.




In my freshman and sophomore year, dances came and went, and I did the special hairdos for all of my friends who were invited and waved from the window as they went and I didn't. I started singing with the dance band at school. That led to the senior prom committee inviting me to sing with the band at the senior prom. I got to attend and could invite a date. I had one fixed up date with a boy from the pre-seminary high school and invited him and was surprised when...he actually accepted.

My senior year was really a fun year. I decided that I was never going to be one of the skinny girls and got involved in as many activities that a good grade point would allow.
The senior prom was coming and all my friends were asked but not me. I remember having a conversation with one of the religion teachers I had grown close to and he said the sweetest thing to me, something I didn't believe for one minute but he said so sincerely: " You're so well-liked by everybody and such a fun person, the boys don't ask because they're sure you've been asked already. They just expect you'll be there".

About a week before the Senior Prom, convinced that I wouldn't be asked, someone from my home room, a guy I loved to laugh and talk with asked me to go with him. He wasn't anybody that I was attracted to but such a great guy that I said to myself, " It's my senior year. I sure don't want to miss the Senior Prom so I'm going to accept." Since mine was a parochial school and dancing was not allowed on the school premises, the seniors had to plan their own dance, arrange the place, the band, the theme and the refreshments. We didn't have a voting at school for Prom Queen and King and their court. This was done the night of the dance by passing pieces of paper and pencils so everyone could write down their choice. You can imagine my shock when they told me that when all the votes were counted, I had been chosen Prom Queen. I was beyond speechless. I couldn't believe it. The little girl who was bullied on the street corner, Patty Fatty, the girl referred to as pleasingly plump had actually been chosen.

Now you'd think that that was the beginning of a new life, a life of confidence and self-assuredness, but you'd be wrong. Those memories are still there. I'm sixty-seven years old and I still feel like that chubby girl on the street corner listening to those cruel childhood taunts, who had to have her mom make her clothes because nothing store-bought fit, the one who was picked last for teams because she was inferior. For a long time I believed that no matter what I accomplished people would says, "She's done a wonderful job on this. It's too bad she's fat." It's as if everything is less of an accomplishment because I don't look thin enough.

My inequities were primarily body image issues, but many years later my son, at the time a boy of seven came home in tears because he said day after day he was made fun of because instead of being interested in playing baseball at recess he wanted to put on a puppet show. There's nothing worse than seeing your child with his feelings hurt and feeling unwanted. What I told him then was that kids are cruel because they experienced that same cruelty themselves and they relieve some of their own hurt by inflicting it on
someone else. Maybe that's true, I don't know, but it helped him to wipe away his tears and look at the next day with a new level of understanding.

In closing let me say, I can't blame bullying by other kids as the complete source of all my insecurities, but for me it was a big part. Yes, we can blame the media for constantly bombarding us with images that perpetuate the idea that we all have to look emaciated to be accepted, even loved. And I'm not saying that bullying ruined my life. What I am saying is that cruel thoughtless words spoken to or about another person are never forgotten. All the hurt and sadness that those words inflict are "Forever Scars."


Sunday, October 14, 2012

I ALMOST FORGOT...

In my haste to share with you all about the 45 year reunion, I neglected to post the poem I wrote in anticipation.  It was a labor of love? comedy? delusion?reality?  Well, whatever it was the "girls" got a kick out of it and so did I.  After all, if you can't laugh at yourself...  Here it is:

DELUSION/REALITY
by Patty Lynn

(As I anticipate meeting my old friends, I'm lost in thought recalling some college memories. My thoughts are fragmented and erratic, as they usually are these days... I wonder why? O, well. I say to myself:)

I can't believe how long it's been
Since we girls were together?
Time passes and it leaves its mark.
So what if I look...weathered.

(I come upon a table of "older" women
and being lost in my own scattered thoughts and not remembering if they've told me their names, I say:)

You gals are so dressed up tonight.
Did you tell me your names?
And, by the way, where did I park?
Did someone hear a train?

So tell me, who are you again?
You're all such cute old ladies.
I'm here to meet some college friends.
What are you, in your eighties?

I haven't seen my college friends,
Don't know how long it's been.
So tell me, is it hot in here?
I really need a fan.

Do you have this, it's something else?
First hot then cold again.
I know I've seen you all someplace,
But gosh, I don't know when.

Wait...wait...it's coming back to me.
Can you gals be my friends?
You say it's been some forty years?
DELUSION...now it ends.

(I say to myself:)
C'mon, Pat, face REALITY,
We're all a trifle older.
But we're still sexy, we're still hot;
Our fire's not out, it smolders.

Despite our wrinkles, gray hair, too,
It's great to be together.
The emails have been good 'til now,
But face to face is better.

At last the time to play catch-up
On forty years...and then some.
Wish I could make our time stand still
And hold you all for ransom!

My jokes aside, I'm thrilled we've come
Our memories to surrender...
Of by-gone days, of college girls,
Blest friendships we remember.

(45 years? Yikes!!! Are you kidding me?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

THE BEST MINI-REUNION EVER!!

As I shared with you in my last blog, I was going to Chicago this past weekend for a Homecoming of sorts.  It actually was Homecoming Weekend at the college I attended, Concordia Teachers College, but this mini-reunion was a small bunch of gals getting together after many, many years, 45 to be exact.  I still have a hard time saying those words because it seems so incomprehensible that that many years have gone by.  But it is what it is and when you graduate in 1967, the year 2012 is exactly 45 years.
Yikes!!

A couple of the gals and I have seen each other since graduation but most I truly hadn't seen in all this time. That's why this was so special.  I celebrated my 67th birthday on the day of our reunion so that made it even more of an excuse for a celebration  The amazing thing about getting together in our mid-sixties was that we all found that we still liked each other though our stories (marriages, divorces, children and grandchildren) were different.  After the fact I pondered that we had come almost full circle, first college girls with career aspirations, the hope of meeting "the one," and children, now found that was all behind us.  We shared our health issues, creaky bones and stiff bodies, caring or having cared for elderly parents, the death of a parent or parents, grownup children and in some cases grandchildren. Though our lives had been different, they were similar too.

We hope to get together again after a few more years have passed.  I think it's a good idea that we do, sooner than later, as I secretly hope that we do before some of us have completed the full circle, if you know what I mean.
Funerals are not the best circumstance to see old friends.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!

You'll never guess what I'm doing this weekend.  I know, I know, livin' the dream, livin' the dream.  Of course, that's true of most weekends.  That's right.  Frank and I live an exciting life.  But, you know what?  This week it's true.  Well, at least for me, anyway.

A group of my old college friends, women, most of which I haven't seen in 45 years (you heard me,) are getting together Saturday night to attempt to catch up on all the things that have occurred since we all graduated from Concordia Teachers College in 1967.  Incidentally, this is Homecoming weekend at Concordia but I'm only able to meet up with them for happy hour and dinner afterward on Saturday. 

For a long time I wasn't sure I could make it, the last back surgery having taken place so recently and not knowing how I'd fair.  But all went well there and, just between you and me, I'm beside myself with anticipation.  The passage of time and aging in general are great equalizers. No one is trying to impress anyone, just being ourselves with no pretense.

This group was never one for pretense anyway.  Their a wonderful bunch of girls, ahh, women...I mean...ladies.  But it really does boggle the mind that that much time has gone by, most of us have married, have children and in most cases grandchildren.  At 21 this was not on our radar, just the anxiety of our first teaching job, how we'd do and maybe hope we'd meet someone
down the line, maybe get married and have a couple of kids someday. Now we've all lived those somedays and all that is behind us.  It's a lot for me to wrap my mind around. 

What I've got to remember is not whether I can wrap my mind around all this or not, but rather what a blessing it is to connect up again, reminisce, share and just enjoy each other's company.  What a privilege it will be to see these good christian women, again.