I’m glad I wasn’t hot as a teenager.

Growing up, I was not only chubby, but also an early bloomer. This meant that I was naturally taller than the other kids my age and grew breasts sooner. In the sixth grade, when the other girls still wore t-shirts with glittery puppies on them, I shopped in the women’s section and experimented with taping down my breasts like Roberta in Now and Then. Spoiler alert: don’t.

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I also happened to have a mother who swung between the extremes of neglectful and overindulgent, letting me go without a bra and put on extra weight in the first place, only to eventually fight the insurance companies to fund my breast reduction at age 15.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and 90 pounds lighter than a year before, that I began to consider diet and exercise just a part of life for all people and not just those who struggle with their weight. My high school years were spent watching TV, playing the Sims, and enjoying Elevensies and Fourth Meal, before they were cool. My favorite outfit was pretty much stolen straight from She’s All That, consisting of combat boots with ribbons for laces, overalls, a turtleneck, and thick black framed glasses. I wasn’t morbidly obese at the time, but I wasn’t Rachel Leigh Cook, either. Since I was never great with makeup and still prefer portable drug store options, 15-year-old Belle was pretty strictly a concealer and lip balm gal, on a fancy day. In short, I was never that girl who wore Abercrombie and Fitch.

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It. Was. Awesome.

Y’all, I got to do the high school thing without any of the “I have nothing to wear! I’m not going!” crap that I’m faced with on a daily basis, now. I was a lot of things in high school. I was smart, funny, driven, mouthy, relatively responsible, creative, loyal, and insightful. Being hot, having people appreciate my appearance first, was just never a priority for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely consumed with my appearance, today. I often rejoice over the fact that I’m officially old enough to be mistaken as an overworked stay-at-home mom, on the rare occasion that I go out in an oversized t-shirt, Star Trek pants, and flip flops. When I’m at work, however, it’s all A-line Zooey Deschanel dresses, cardigans, and full makeup and jewelry. I have to be a professional, these days, and that takes a lot more work.

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Still, even at my most dolled up, I’m not what an average guy would refer to as “hot.” I have nice legs, hair, and clear skin. I’ve also never seen my own ab muscles and don’t know how to use foundation. I’ve never been comfortable in a bikini, even outside of my own standards of modesty, because I’m still… soft. Extreme weight loss comes with stretch marks, no matter how you do it and honestly, I don’t really mind. Yes, yes, I’d love to be 20 pounds lighter and it’s certainly a goal, but this is good, too. In fact, it was good at 24. It’s awesome now.

Y’all, I am officially at a point in my life where everyone is soft. The girls I envied in high school, who could put away 4,000 calories and still maintain their lithe, athletic figures no longer run five miles a day. The one who wore that prom dress with the slit cut to her waist only gets to exercise when she’s chasing her two kids around the McDonald’s play yard. We’re all wearing mom jeans now and I have fifteen years of experience on the high school hot girls. When I look back at my nerdy girl, awkward years photos, the nostalgia isn’t tainted by envy. There was only one way to go from Carrie White bleeding in the locker room showers and that was up… or you know, to prom with fire. Fortunately, I chose the former and I am in my hot years, now.

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I’m not going to my ten year reunion.

Gail sent me the guest list, via screen cap on Facebook, because we are our generation.
Me: “Nate Walker and Keith Thompson? I’d rather be part of the human centipede, it sucks less ass.”

Lacy: “Are you going?”
Me: “Nate Walker. Country club. Hors d’oeuvres. It’s like a Mad Lib from Hell.”

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My response was likely expected, considering I started publicly insisting that the class of ’06 could kiss my ass if they thought I was paying to see them, the day I found out that the class of ’05 was charging for their reunion. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I actually expressed any genuine interest in attending my ten year reunion, was ten years ago, when I couldn’t wait to see how everyone turned out.

I’m apparently alone in this line of thinking, however. Everyone is adamant that I’ll regret not going. With the way Jake talks about his high school days, you’d think he went to fucking Hogwarts, he had such a magical experience, so naturally, he wanted me to go to my own reunion. He even offered to pay for everything. Though Catherine and I did attend the same high school, we kind of didn’t. It wasn’t until after college that the two of us started bonding and though we were friendly enough in our earlier days, we didn’t even run in adjacent crowds. While I sat with the drama kids, band nerds, and AP students on the auditorium steps, Catherine regaled her friends with tales of her groupie weekends with local Christian bands. We weren’t hostile, but we weren’t besties, either. Surely Gail would sympathize with me, though, right? I mean, we had all of the exact same friends and nemeses, the same misfit hobbies, a near identical lack of regard for basic fashion. Nope. Gail was even looking forward to the reunion, before deciding that she really didn’t want to go play the role of The Girl Whose Baby Died two days after what would’ve been Grace’s birthday.

So, why am such a Negative Nancy about all of this? Well, it’s certainly not that I hate these people. On the contrary, I’ve really enjoyed looking at pictures of their crazy college days, their wedding dresses, and their new homes. I’ve read all about their infertility battles and wondered how exactly someone manages to take an artsy picture from the bathroom floor, where they’ve supposedly just been vomiting. I’ve both awwed over their baby pictures and scoffed over the cost of the new high chair. All of this is precisely why I’ve no desire to actually speak to any of my old classmates, though. What could they possibly tell me that I haven’t already read, in detail, because nothing is private anymore? I’ve spent the last ten years watching everyone from high school grow up and get over themselves and start their lives… all from the comfort of my own home. So why on Earth would I pay (or let Jake pay) $70 to do the same damn thing, while wearing pants? Facebook has rendered the high school reunion completely redundant, even if I don’t consider the fact that almost no one that I would like to catch up with is going… for all of the same reasons.

“You should go and show everyone how skinny you are, now!” – All of My Aunts

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It’s really quite sweet that they see me this way, in comparison to my 18-year-old self and I’m sure a lot of people will attend with a similar mindset. I could wear a cute dress and bring my hardworking oil man along, flaunting my master’s degree and Supervisory Librarian position to all of those people who bullied me, but… I just don’t care enough about what these strangers think, to put in all that effort. Instead, this weekend, I’m going to celebrate my one year anniversary with Jake. I’m going to wish my Gramma a happy birthday and check on my best friend to see how she’s coping with the grief she still feels. At some point, I’m sure I’ll get on Facebook and smile over the reunion pictures, glad that everyone is having a good time. I don’t need to peek behind the curtain and make new memories of old acquaintances, though. I’m just too busy with the present.

 

Three Ways Public Education is Doing Your Child a Disservice

Gail: So, remember how bored you were earlier?
Me: Lol. Yes.
Gail: Maybe you should’ve read some blogs. I have a GREAT one I’d suggest, but it’s only been updated once this month.

Gail, you hear these stories in person. You have a problem… says the woman who has watched nearly 30 hours of One Tree Hill in the last three days. GO NALEY!

It’s summer, y’all. Finally. That means no more 60 hour work weeks, usually opening with three 12 hour days in a row, where I’m required to be pleasant and awake. It means I have time for all of the car trouble that ended, literally, two days before the last day of school. It means I can sleep (… or not… GO NALEY!). I can cuddle and walk the dog after he doesn’t even blink an eye when I scream about how cute he is while running half naked through my apartment and ninja kicking nothing. And you know what?

I am so… fucking… bored.

I’ve cleaned my apartment, crocheted two hats, read two books, gone grocery shopping twice, developed a disturbing Flappy Bird addiction, had Niki over for one of our crochet and junk food nights, organized the kitchen cabinets, and washed every sheet and article of clothing I own… in five days. That’s in addition to The Great One Tree Hill-athon of 2014.

Sooooo… I’ll tell you what I’ve been telling the aforementioned dog (other than “I COULD JUST EAT YOUR FACE RIGHT OFF!!!!!!! HIIIIII YAH!”):

“I’m sorry I’ve neglected you, but now that school’s out, you are going to get sooooo sick of me.”

Speaking of school…

… as schools all over the country let out for an antiquated three months that were originally intended for tending the family farm, but are now just utilized in unlearning any real progress made during the school year… I bring you Three Ways Public Education is Doing Your Child a Disservice.

Now, if you read my blog, you know that not only am I a librarian, but I also have a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and substitute teach daily. Those are my credentials for this rant. Do I have a proposal to fix our public education system, as a whole? No. I really don’t. At least, I don’t have a solution beyond the exposure of each individual problem; because the more aware we are of the issues, the better we can combat them. For example…

Smart Devices
I know, I know. Kids these days and their phones, amiright? It’s an issue on everyone’s mind as they just send that one text message really quickly.

I’m not even going to suggest that the issue of device distraction is one confined solely to the younger generations. Just Monday, I was at lunch with my dad and actually said “Yeah. My generation is the problem. Dude, put down your phone!” Gail once compared the average first world relationship with technology to talking to someone in a crowded hallway, but I feel the need to add to that. It’s more like talking to someone in a crowded hallway, where there’s an orgy going on, and an adorable kitten trying to jump from one impossible destination to another, and 14 of their very best friends from high school telling them all about what they’ve been doing with their lives, but more importantly, fawning over your friend as he shoves picture after picture of his cat, his flat tire, his lunch, and that trailer for 22 Jump Street in their faces. My point?

Why are we allowing this as we teach our children?!?! I’m a substitute teacher, so I have it pretty easy. I only have to demand the attention of my students for the first five minutes of class, as I call roll and explain the expectations for the day. Regardless, you know what I constantly hear?

“He’s here. He’s just wearing headphones.”
“What page is this on?”
“Is this due at the end of the hour?”
“Wait. What worksheet? We have a worksheet?”

Parents, I know that you take a lot of blame for what’s wrong in public schools today, and honestly, that’s not fair. It is not your fault that your child, who has an aptitude for math, cannot seem to finish Hamlet. It is, however, your fault that your child brought their smart phone to class. It’s your fault if your child has 24/7 Internet access in his pocket, which he can use to access pornography (oh, yeah, that’s happened in class), watch Netflix (often shows he shouldn’t be watching), and ignore every single instructor to listen to his music and chat with his bestie all day long. 

I understand that Columbine and Sandy Hook make this a scary world. No. Really. Try spending a day in a public high school that’s just close enough to the country to know that at least 75% of these students have access to guns, but also just crowded enough to know that at least 50% feel like they don’t belong (also, just because it’s high school), without planning your reaction to gunshots. However, parents can contact their child just as easily with a phone that only has the ability to call and text. It does not need 24/7 Internet access, which a child does not need to learn. Unless…

Teachers, I know that you take a lot of blame for what’s wrong in public schools today, and honestly, that’s not fair. It’s not your fault that this student refuses to do his work, because he knows his parents will wreak havoc if you even try to confiscate his phone. It is, however, your fault if you create an assignment that requires the use of a phone. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a teacher leave a note explaining that the students are allowed to use their phones to look up information. God forbid you ask them to create something original, from their own minds, rather than regurgitate a Google search. Wouldn’t it be terrible to ask this of every student, rather than it being a perceived punishment to those with parents who’ve chosen not to allow their children to even own smart devices or those who can’t afford them? So yes, some parents are part of the problem for allowing students to bring these devices, but many teachers exacerbate the issue by creating a need for them. This need for smart devices makes a moot point of any efforts to control their usage. At this point, most schools have simply given up. The handbook now says phones are allowed. Students have the wifi password. They legitimately cannot concentrate without music playing…

… and teachers accomplish nothing. 

A Lack of Autonomy
During the last week of school, in desperation for the largest paycheck possible, I did the unthinkable. I substituted first grade.

It was horrible. My tubes tied themselves.

While I love the smart-assed, foul-mouthed, know-it-all teenagers, I just don’t get the appeal of small children. They tattle on each other incessantly. I can never figure out why they’re crying. They can never figure out why they’re crying. Even though they don’t even know me, they want to hug me and desperately want me to like them. They’re loud and sticky and it’s just too much pressure!

One thing that didn’t really phase me, however, was that these seven-year-olds had to be guided through everything. Each and every assignment they completed had to be checked by me, personally, before it was turned into the right box, which I repeatedly had to point out. All of the directions had to be read aloud. I had to answer numerous questions for which I knew they could find answers. Despite the fact that this was the only elementary school class I substituted all year, however, it was pretty par for the course.

When I substitute high school, I have to wait a few minutes to take attendance, or I’ll have to send a minimum of three students to the office, to let them know that they are, in fact, present. These kids know what time class starts. Most of them have their own cars, because Shetland’s a reasonably wealthy suburb, we have terrible public transit in the South, and children are just too fucking entitled. They have to be at the same place, at the same time, every single day. Regardless, principals walk through the halls and call out for students to get to class.

These students are, at most, four years out from having to file their taxes on time, submit that college application, or turn in financial aid forms. Still, I have to remind them when their papers are due and tell them exactly where to put them. They’re expected to read street signs, but ask for instructions, that are written on their papers, repeatedly. A third of them can join the armed forces, but they get daily reminders to hand in their enrollment forms.

I’m going to take off my teacher hat and put on my librarian hat for just a minute, y’all, and tell you that is no wonder I got several calls after April 15th, asking if we had tax help. Tax day is the same every year. It’s not a surprise and the W2’s you get in the mail, not to mention the hundreds of television and radio ads, are glaring reminders.

Customers want someone to stand next to them and guide them through every step of a job application. They don’t even want to try to work the copy machine, by themselves.

My good pal Ward actually asked me how to do laundry one day, at 22. 

I know we want to guide and protect children, but this is going too far. This ridiculous coddling of America’s youth is creating adults who cannot function. When you combine this with the problem of each child carrying a device that they think has all the answers, they feel there’s just no need to retain anything. We need to set higher expectations for our older children. I should be able to tell the difference in autonomy from a seven-year-old to a seventeen-year-old. One has more than 10 years until he enters the real world and the other has less than one. A corporate boss is not going to politely ask anyone to put the phone away six times per shift. She’s not going to wait five minutes before considering her employee late. The federal government is not going to let an overdue “assignment” go without a penalty.

Ribbons/Awards for Everything

I actually graduated from Shetland High School. On my graduation day, I even wore the Valedictorian cords… along with 23 other people. That’s right. The honor that used to be reserved for the individual who worked the hardest, is now bestowed upon a couple dozen, who also did well. I got a plaque, too.

If you Wikipedia millennials, we’re also referred to as “Trophy Kids,” because we pretty much coined the “participation trophy.” The other day, I was watching the basketball game in a bar, when a man across the room cheered for a free throw. I drunkenly shouted “Did you just cheer for a free throw?!?!” and my company informed me that I’d be paying for an bar fights I started. So, I redirected my ire at the screen, where the crowd was also cheering for no reason.

“Stop cheering! We’re not even doing anything! Fucking trophy generation!

Even drunk, this is one of my pet peeves. Now, don’t misunderstand. I am firmly in the millennial generation. I, too, received trophies for showing up. My dad just promptly informed me that that wasn’t a real trophy, because I didn’t win. I also received red ribbons for remaining drug free, at six years old.

What the hell, America? Why does a six-year-old get a red ribbon for remaining drug free? That’s like giving me a medal for not drawing social security. Why did we ever start awarding everything? It makes it all the more crushing when these kids don’t get awards for mediocre, because they always get awards for mediocre. Just last week, my cousin proudly posted on Facebook about how her son was the only kid who didn’t get an award in his second grade class. He was so crushed, that she went home and printed out two fake awards for actual accomplishments and told him the school had forgotten to give them to him. So, the kid who refuses to read, now has an award for reading. That was the perfect opportunity to explain that, if he wants something to signify hard work, he’s going to have to work harder. Not only does this cause these children to grow into the kind of adults who expect raises for the bare minimum level of work, it dwarfs genuine accomplishment.

“No, but I was the real Valedictorian,” isn’t a sentence that should have to be spoken. The title should still mean something. When I was around five years old, I actually remember explaining to my mother that she would be impressed over anything I drew, even if I just scribbled on paper. My dad? Well, I’ve already told you about his favorite sentence, when I was growing up. “That 93 is pretty close to a B. You’d better get that up.” You know what, though? When my Red Foreman Daddy brags about me? I know he’s proud. We owe that to children: legitimate pride.

“KARMA IS NOT A THING!”: The biggest lie they told us in high school.

So, I know that I am not supposed to take joy in another’s misery. I get that. I also know that I am flawed, as are all human beings.

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot. I’ve told you before, but I was just an easy mark. My parents weren’t giving me any guidance on how to treat people, or dress, or even wash myself there for awhile… so school pretty much sucked. While I was, indeed, a target for many, three bullies stuck out, in particular. Starting in the fourth grade, there was Sal. Sal was the boy who threw chunks of brick at my dog and I, while screaming obscenities daily, as I walked by his house. When he had friends over, they were extra sets of hands. If they took up for me, he accused them of having a crush on me, so they’d hurl a rock extra hard to prove him wrong. Ah, childhood.

Along with Sal, there was Chuck, who joined him on the roof several times, once middle school started. You know that bully that just doesn’t quite fit? He’s short and goofy looking, but still a mountain of dicks? That was Chuck.

bullies a christmas storyIn general, after the 9th grade, the bullying tapered off. My friends and I had our very own lunch table in front of the auditorium and none of the cool kids wanted to join our spinning contests or learn how to knit, so they mostly let us be. I’m telling you, if we’d just been born five years later, after being weird was cool…

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Ugh! I have an exact fucking copy of this picture from when I was 16. Only I looked a lot less hot and the black framed glasses and that film camera I carried everywhere were just “nerdy.” Suck my dick, pop culture.

Anyhoo…

There were still a few scattered moments, but I don’t even think Sal bothered me come 9th grade. He sort of just faded away. Chuck, though? Chuck was quite the persistent little shit, and decided to go free agent, as he spent our entire 10th grade year taking things from under my desk and hurling them at my head, in Geometry class. Every. Single. Day. Even in our senior year, it was not unheard of for Chuck to continue his antics. It wasn’t just me, either. Six years after Gertie Lake wet herself in our 6th grade reading class, Chuck still called her Gertie Leaky Lake. That’s not even clever for an eleven-year-old, and I’d be willing to bet money he calls her that at the 10 year reunion.

Speaking of which, what are Sal and Chuck up to, today? Because I research for a living and I’m an epic Facebook stalker, I can say that Sal and Chuck are living the lives that all of those teen movies swore to me Sal and Chuck would live. Sal is a felon, who does little beyond recreational drugs and Chuck is working as a cook with no plans to move forward, if the last eight years are any indication. I don’t know that they’re miserable, but I certainly don’t envy them. Now, Carl, the guy who used to fool around with Malik on the weekends, then call him a fag and toss his CD’s all over the school parking lot? He’s a registered sex offender who’s lucky to have finally been transferred out of that Texas prison. Indeed, Rachael Leigh Cook would be proud.

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Do not even get me fucking started.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that we all had our bullying moments. I know I sure did. I don’t care if you were sweet as pie, there was at least one time when you made someone else feel less about themselves, even if it was just for not being sweet as pie. You know what, though? We grew up. I am fully willing to admit that the girl who had a screaming match with me in Algebra class is an adult now. She’s a Facebook friend and I like seeing her happy. The friend who turned on me in the eighth grade and intentionally made my life hell? He’s close with his family now and has a full time job, which he enjoys. The girl who mocked me for dressing as 2020 on decade day? The last I heard, she was a dance major. The girl who threatened to cut me at the seventh grade dance? Okay. Maybe I’ll just stop there. 

My point is, I don’t wish bad things on every single person who ever said something mean to me. I’m happy that they’re happy. I’m also making a disclaimer, because I’m about to Dramatic Rant… about Nate.

Nate was… hmm… how shall I put this?

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Nate: age 2.

Sal and Chuck, while walking penises, clearly didn’t have the best of home lives. I get that now. I mean, really, what parent lets their son sit on the roof with his friends and hurl rocks at passerby? At the very least, these people didn’t play an active role in their children’s lives. Neglectful parents, or parents who reward meanness with laughter, create bullies. It sucks, but that’s the way of the world. Nate, though? Nate was a child of privilege. He was cute and funny and made good grades. Everyone loved Nate.

Except me. For the last two years of elementary school, just as Sal was working up a sweat, Nate just hit the ground running. Living on the outskirts of town, I was the third to last stop on the bus route, meaning I spent about an hour a day on it. Through some misfortune, though I never recalled seeing Nate live nearby, he was the very last stop, so he spent that entire hour with me… calling me fat… and ugly… and stupid. The kid would sing songs about my weight. He’d get the kids who lived near me, who’d known me my whole life and played with me when we were little, to sing along. It was epic. One day, after overhearing me confide in a neighbor about my parents’ pending divorce, Nate acted concerned and asked “Your parents are getting a divorce?” When I sadly told him yes, he got right in my face and laughed hysterically. 

I kid you not. The truly disturbing part of all of this was that no one believed meI told friends about the bullying, even the guidance counselor, and they all swore that he was just the nicest guy. It was bizarre. Looking back, the idea that this kid could go from All American Boy to the fucking Chucky doll… it’s really kind of creepy. Like, “Honey, where’s the kitten and why are you covered in blood?” creepy. My kid would be in therapy. Maybe he should’ve been. Maybe he was going through something.Who knows?

So, the other day, just out of curiosity, I decided to look up Nate. I knew he’d come from fairly wealthy and supportive (apparently blindly so) parents, so I doubted his fate would be teen movie worthy. I assumed he’d be dating someone seriously, probably just beginning his career, maybe married… you know… normal.

But no. Facebook done me wrong, y’all. “I HATE SOCIAL NETWORKING!!!!!” screamed the blogger… in a restaurant with Gaily.

Me: “I want you to guess what his wife does. Just guess.”
Gail: “I don’t know.”
Me: “She’s a fucking model. The boy who tormented me, for two years, is not supposed to marry someone whose Facebook profile has the words ‘Ended work with Miss America’ on her profile! Freddie Prinze Jr. fucking lied!!!!”
Gail: “So he married a hot chick. Who cares? What does she actually do for a living?”
Me: “I just told you! She’s a model!”
Gail: “I thought you were kidding.”
Me: “NO. She was seriously in the top five for the state. Her profile actually said ‘Ended work with Miss America Company.’ KARMA IS NOT A THING!!!!! Ugh. At least he grew up weird looking.”
Gail: ::looking at picture:: “He looks totally normal to me.”
Me: “It says he’s a builder. Maybe he’ll fall through a roof or something. No. That’s terrible. I don’t actually wish harm on him.”
Gail: “You do know that a builder isn’t the guy who builds the houses right? My uncle’s a builder and…”
Me: “Shut up! You’re such a bitch! I need more supportive friends!”
Gail: ::laughing:: “I mean, he does dry wall and he’s really unattractive.”
Me: “He does too look weird. See?”
Gail: ::looking at new picture:: “Yeah, okay. He looks weird there.”
Me: “So, how much does a builder make?”
Gail: “You don’t want me to answer that question.”
Me: “NO. He is supposed to be making mid-range wages, bitching about his wife, and longing for the glory days from high school. Your elementary school bully is not supposed to be fucking Christian fucking Grey and married to Miss America!!!!”
Gail: :laughing:: “Calm down. Is that all she does, though? She doesn’t have another job?
Me: “I don’t know. Let me check. … It says she works at a retail shop.”
Gail: ::looking at phone:: “Huh. The good news is, this dress is half off. The bad news is, it’s still $542.”

So, there it is. That’s the biggest lie they ever told us in high school. All those movies where the wealthy popular guys become losers? Horseshit. They take the charisma and charm that convinces elementary school guidance counselors that they can do no wrong, and they rule the fucking world with it.

* Disclaimer: I wish this guy no actual harm. Freddie Prince Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook, however…

Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!: Why I was a bully.

When I was little, I had many of the personality characteristics I have now. I was determined, prideful, creative, intelligent, funny, competitive, and obsessive. I was and am very much my father’s daughter.

All of these characteristics, however, occasionally manifested in negative ways. In fact, as an adult, I can see that there were definite times when I was just a bully. The very word “bully” declares my behavior excessive, of course, but nothing I did was newsworthy. All of my antics were relatively standard teen movie moments, but it was still cruelty. I’m not proud of it. I don’t tell those stories to get a laugh and I know people who do. I, however, analyze what made me act the way I did, particularly when I hear story after story after story of children pushed to the brink over bullying… because bullying ain’t new, folks. Cain bullied Able for crying out loud. Perhaps, since the act hasn’t much changed, maybe the reasons behind it haven’t either. So here it is, from a former (occasional) bully.

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I thought it was funny.

I grew up in a really sarcastic family. Just a few years ago, my cousins (who are my age) spent a good 20 minutes encouraging one of the little kids to blow out a candle that was battery powered. They thought it was hilarious.

battery powered tea light
They were so totally right.

The same little kid was informed that if he acted up, all of the mounted animals in the house would come alive and eat him.On that note, I had to have been seven or eight when I figured out that the rest of the deer was not, in fact, on the other side of the wall, as my dad insisted. When I was little, I would cry when the horses died in westerns and my dad would laugh at me. This is the same man who convinced me he was driving me to the orphanage to leave me with Miss Hannigan from Annie when I’d act like a brat in the car. For realz, yo. I was raised by sadists.

scary deer mount

We’re still all like this, and for some reason, we expect the kids not to pick up on said meanness and sarcasm and think that’s what funny is. That’s precisely what I did. Why, exactly, was it funny when my dad pushed me into the pool, but not when I shoved my cousin without warning, only for her to fall against the side and remove a layer of skin off her leg? Why was everyone so mad at me? Why wasn’t it okay when I went through my weird pinching phase, even though my dad and uncles did that kind of stuff all the time? How come I couldn’t call people fat when my aunts could? Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!?!

Not only do we tease each other relentlessly, we’re also really open with criticism, some worse than others. I once watched my aunt stand directly outside her 9-year-old daughter’s dressing room and loudly tell my grandma Kay that her little girl was “getting a belly on her.” We have a ladies-only party called The Water Buffalo, every year, because all of the women are big. My grandma Kay told Bea, just last Thanksgiving, that my hair “looks more interesting” than hers, because of the highlights. I adore my family and I think we’re all fucking hilarious. It’s not that anyone’s trying to be cruel. That’s just how we interact.

As an adult, I take these things with a grain of salt and acknowledge that none of this is how normal people interact. I save my barbed humor for Gail, Jane, and Niki and have no other female friends. As a child? Well, I didn’t quite get why I couldn’t tell someone those shoes were ugly or that that hairstyle looked stupid. Why didn’t anyone like me?!?!

I was bullied.

From about the second grade on, I wore a target on my back. Not only was my humor mean, but with divorcing parents, who were too preoccupied to keep track of my personal hygiene, it’s no surprise that I was the smelly kid for awhile. The day I realized I needed to wear deodorant was the day my dad snapped “God, Belle, did you not put on deodorant today?!?” In his defense, we were very much the household where the woman had that discussion with her daughter and the man with his son. As time went on, I was left in charge of my own eating habits, so I put on weight. I was an even bigger target… see what I did there?

I once cried in my Gramma’s arms for hours when a popular boy, who regularly called me fat, upped the ante by laughing at me, because my parents were getting a divorce. I’d never done anything to him. This kind of thing had made me intensely defensive and sensitive. I remember a pair of popular boys whispering in the lunch line, when I was in the fourth grade. I got really upset and yelled at them to stop talking about me. They insisted it wasn’t about me and I only got angrier and angrier. Who doesn’t want to be friends with the emotionally unstable, fat, smelly kid?

crying girl

By the time middle school hit, I had resumed regular hygiene, but was still surly and sarcastic, with a terrible self-image. So, when the popular boys in my neighborhood started throwing rocks and bricks at me when I walked by, I took that anger out on other people; as I also did when a popular girl sang Who Let the Whales Out as I walked down the hall. That chick did not even know my name. In retaliation, I made fun of everyone that was considered popular, even the people who were never mean to me. They could’ve been my friends, but that would’ve required I risk more rejection and I’ll tell you right now, a chunk of brick to the thigh does not cause strictly physical pain.

So, my hostility toward anyone popular lasted, quite frankly, straight through high school. If everyone liked these people, it must be because they were putting on a new persona with each of them. After all, everyone liked the people I just mentioned. No one believed they would do those things. At this point, it was really just me keeping us from being friends. While I still had the same fucking 6th grade bully on my back in my damned senior year – I just looked him up on Facebook and jeez, he is still a dick – the majority of popular people didn’t refuse to be my friend. I just wasn’t that approachable and pretty much refused to talk to them, because I assumed they would be mean to me. I isolated myself with Jane and Gail and a handful of other loser friends dressed up in tiaras for an AP English class. Fuck those other kids. We were having a spinning contest at lunch.

I had a lot of creative energy.

I was the smart kid. You wanna know a quick way for all the juniors and seniors in your chemistry class to think you’re a kissass? Study with your AP friends and get a 93 your sophomore year, when everyone else is failing. Even better, walk across the gym to receive a certificate for having the highest grade. Yeah… those kids were mean to me, especially considering the fact that I was completely mute in that class. Come to think of it, they did the same thing in geometry… and French… and history. Huh. Maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

nerd girl at computer

Now, do not misread that last sentence. I did not target people I didn’t like. I targeted the town. I quoted people I didn’t like. I will say that most of these people had actually bullied me, but it still wasn’t a very nice thing to do. No one wanted to kill themselves over it and the people who did get really upset were being melodramatic, because no one had more than one quote. I am certain. More than anything, I wrote stories. I wrote a story about the drug bust during Red Ribbon Week, the time the little person did jumping jacks as a novelty during the assembly, the hypocrisy of the cheerleaders being allowed to break dress code. I had a voice and people were listening to it!

Today, I realize that this showed some real potential. I didn’t just like to write, I was fucking great at it. I made well thought-out arguments and I was funny. If someone had helped me channel that creative energy properly, perhaps with a school discussion board, a school newspaper, a debate team, I could’ve not only saved some hurt feelings, but honed a skill. But, no. We didn’t have those things at my high school because our funding went to football, cheerleading, football, soccer, and football; despite the fact that our academic team went to nationals and we had one of the best bands in the state. Welcome to the Midwest, y’all. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I decided to start a blog with my friends, targeting my hometown of Shetland.

No one corrected the behavior. 
When I was in the 6th grade, I got my first real crush. His name was Nate and he was friends with everyone, including the rock throwers. He was so nice, though, even to me. I figured it must be because he was madly in love. Alas, I was wrong. Utter heartbreak. Soooooo, naturally, I responded by telling everyone that he was an asshole, throwing things at him at lunch, and instant messaging him constantly. With encouragement from a friend, I even played a part in dousing him with soda at a school dance. What?!?! THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE BOYS LIKE YOU, BITCH!

carrie blood

This is the absolute worst bullying story in which I played the antagonist. dread the day my child has any interaction with someone who has my mother for a parent. My treatment of Nate got so bad that his mother called mine to tell her to get her daughter to back the fuck off. She only did so after getting on Nate’s AOL account to message me and warn me that she’d be contacting my mom. I actually told her “She’ll take my side.” I wish I could apologize to this lady today, without sounding like a total lunatic. I was awful. You know what? I was also right. My mother did take my side.

What the fuck?!?!?! Why on earth did she let me treat someone that way?!?! I was 12 years old! I was a child. I didn’t understand that was the bully in this situation! I thought this boy was just another kid sitting on a roof and hurling rocks at me and my dog. It hurt a lot more this time, though, because I had a crush on him and thought he’d liked me back. I thought he was being intentionally cruel and had told everyone he knew that he’d turned me down. I was being rejected again and handling it poorly. At the very least, it should’ve been made clear that I was to have no contact with Nate ever again after my letter of apology. Honestly, some counseling would’ve been the best result. The aforementioned reaction to “nah, let’s just be friends” is a sign of some deep emotional trauma. I clearly had severe self-image issues and should’ve been put in an environment with kids my own age, where I felt consistently safe, like a religious class. Church youth group, a once a week visit with the school counselor, and a demand that I never treat another person the way I treated Nate may have kept me from taking up cutting myself that year. Guidance. That’s what I needed. I was obviously ill-equipped to figure that shit out myself.

My home life… sucked. 

My mother was either extremely hands-off or extremely hands-on. The former was a joke about neglect and the latter was a joke about abuse. Told you I was funny.

You know what I had to look forward to after a long day of middle school kids throwing things at me? A mom who either set absolutely no boundaries or tried to set boundaries by hitting me in the head with a step ladder. Those were her two settings. To this day, I can’t believe the neighbors never called DHS. It would have been for the best if they had, because my father would’ve gotten custody. As it was, I either did whatever the hell I wanted or I got dragged across the floor with a dog leash. That shit happened. If I had gone home from a day of fat jokes, to a place of warmth, where I knew I was safe and loved, maybe I wouldn’t have been such a shit to everyone else. People my age talk about how much they hate being adults and I think it’s the bomb. No one hits me as an adult. That’s almost guaranteed. How fucking awesome is that?!?!

My point is, if hadn’t had to defend myself at home, perhaps it wouldn’t have been my default at school. Maybe I would’ve been more willing to subject myself to the vulnerability that it takes to make new friends. Maybe I would’ve known how you’re supposed to treat people you value. Maybe I would’ve been okay with the idea that someone didn’t like me if I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that more people did. I needed support, structure, and protecting, because I was a child, damn it!

A couple of days before my freshman year, I got online and asked someone in a chat room how to make friends. That has got to be the most depressing part of this article. Fo sho. His advice was “You can’t force anyone to be your friend. You just have to be nice to people and it happens.” I had to have someone online tell me to be nice to people if I wanted to make friends. It sounds like such an obvious piece of advice, but there’s a reason I still remember it. I didn’t understand that my humor wasn’t humor to some people. It was just hurtful. No one taught me to fit in with anyoneso I didn’t have a support group of friends until high school. I was creative and didn’t have anyone channeling that interest somewhere productive, rather than harmful. But most importantly, I was the occasional bully, because I didn’t realize it. I never would’ve called myself a bully when I was in school. Granted, no one died, but I either didn’t realize I was being hateful, or I felt that it was my only option for retaliation. No one corrected the behavior, because no one was paying attention to me or providing me with the structure a teenager needs.

So there it is. I guarantee all of the newsworthy results of bullying have the same roots. We like to fancy teenagers as requiring less energy than grade school kids, because we’re all lazy, self-indulgent, and irresponsible. We’re plugging youth into technology to get them out of our hair, only to look up from our own gadgets and see they’ve simply reformatted their normal teen antics. After all, the Mean Girls phenomenon ain’t new. There’s a friggin’ movie named after it. The trend has just escalated because adults have allowed it to do so, by giving children unlimited access to the Internet. That’s the difference. Fewer parents are paying attention.

parents on phones

Note: I may not have my own teenagers, but I do have a degree in secondary education and years of experience working with teens.

Go suck an egg, People Of Walmart

“I have a brilliant idea! I’ll get on Amazon and order the creepiest sex toys I can find. I’ll have them shipped to Terry; based on his response, you’ll know whether or not he’s into the weird shit!”


Gail at the words “brilliant idea.”

Over time, my unreasonable, stick-in-the-mud, best friend has refused to even listen after those two words. Um… it’s not like I actually tipped the truck when were 16… nor did I get a thank you for that one. Geez. Also, I believe the brilliant idea to spread the word that Esteban had herpes totally worked in Gail’s bullied 15-year-old favor.

You’re welcome, Gail. You’re welcome.

A couple of years ago, after losing 90 pounds, I had another one of my brilliant ideas. I decided to take up running… and P90X… in the same week. It was not a brilliant idea for my back, however. I saw a doctor… a physical therapist… took a lot of prescription drugs… and finally met with a chiropractor. For months, though, I could not move. There were nights when I couldn’t stand long enough to cook Easy Mac. It was horrible. So, during the trips to Wal-Mart to grab a pre-made salad or a new phone charger, I was doing well to have my top and my bottom covered. Forget about underwear, I deserved a trophy if my feet weren’t bare. The pain was so excruciating that I legitimately understood people who kill themselves from that kind of chronic torture… and I’m a religious gal.

Then there was that brilliant idea to go to graduate school and work two jobs. There were nights, when I would find myself at Wal-Mart at 3:00 in the morning, buying my groceries for the week. Considering the fact that I’d just finished and submitted an annotated bibliography or a literature review, I wasn’t wearing a fucking prom dress, either. I probably wore various pajamas… like this lady on People Of Walmart.

people of walmart

Things she could be texting….

Should I get him Nyquil, or just the Pepto Bismol? The Nyquil might help him sleep. 

I’m just in so much pain. What is the strongest over-the-counter medication? 

I have not slept in three days. If I don’t get this project turned in tomorrow, this was all for nothing and my printer’s out of fucking ink! 

Go suck a bag of dicks, People Of Walmart! Why is it that I read or hear about a child committing suicide every week, because of cyber bullying, but People Of Walmart is wildly popular? At 16, I started a Xanga about Shetland and the ridiculously hypocritical things that went on in my hometown of 15,000 with its 22 churches. I didn’t target any one person and spent more time on stories about the town than anything, but some people still took it personally and I hurt some feelings through social media. This was, however,…

1: before the term “cyberbullying” was coined or defined
2: totally Gail and Jane’s fault as well
3: the work of children

I’ve said it before: my generation was a technological experiment. We grew up in a Lord of the Flies version of the Internet, more-so than today, because our parents had no idea what the hell we were doing. So, when I took a yearbook picture of a cheerleader holding her arm out in front of her and placed it next to Hitler heiling Germany… well, there really wasn’t anyone there to guide me. The cheerleaders weren’t very nice to me. They always made snide remarks toward my friends and I for coloring during assemblies and wearing feather boas to school, regardless of the fact that the latter was an AP English assignment… almost always. They made fun of me and I made fun of them… and it wasn’t nice. I know that as an adult and I’m sure they do as well.

PeopleOfWalmart, though? This website is dedicated to adults insulting people they don’t even know. That old lady in the nightshirt may not have the mobility to pull on pants and she sure as hell never screamed at you to get a life in Algebra class. Are we, as a society, seriously telling these kids to “do as we say, not as we do”? Cyberbullying is a huge concern among Americans with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Teachers are warned that their embarrassing pictures will likely end up online. Children are dying. Teenage boys were shooting up schools long before internet bullying and it ain’t gettin’ better. If it’s not good for the kids, why is it good for us? If watching an advertisement for the new Kindle Paperwhite makes me scream “I WANT THAT!” with my Kindle Paperwhite in hand, then what affect does sneering at someone for a poor fashion choice on a website about sneering at someone for a poor fashion choice have? Is this not an advertisement for a lack of compassion? Does this not encourage me to act catty toward people I don’t know in real life? Does the encouragement from others to be cruel not slowly degrade my character?

This is not the first time I’ve ranted about People Of Walmart and I’ve gotten many rebuttals in the past. They usually go something along the lines of…

“Have you seen the things those people are wearing? If you go out in that, you’re asking for it.”

Wow. I think I’ve heard a similar defense in rape cases. I’m not saying an embarrassing photo is the equivalent to rape, but that is still a disgusting excuse for publicly humiliating someone: she asked for it. It’s her responsibility not to be embarrassed online, not our responsibility to use technology for the better. Maybe she doesn’t realize she’s gained 15 pounds this summer. Maybe she’s hurt and those footy pajamas are all she can stand wearing. Maybe she just likes dressing like a goth kid from that South Park episode. Who fucking cares? It’s her prerogative to do so. That girl with her panties showing? Maybe the polite thing to do is whisper in her ear “ma’am, you need to pull your shorts down a bit,” rather than whip out your smartphone, as a good 90% of the redundant contributors to PeopleOfWalmart have chosen to do. If you absolutely have to be catty about the woman with back breasts, fine. Take a picture, send it to a friend and have your moment. We’ve all done it, but there’s no reason to do it globally, encouraging and receiving encouragement from the masses in your moment of spite.

Don’t worry. I have not conveniently forgotten my own… abrasive sense of humor. I will say, though, it’s usually directed toward people I lovewho know I’m kidding and enjoy being around me because I

1: … make them feel like the nice friend.

mother teresa
Gail

2: … am just as mean as they are.


Malik

3. … am just as mean as they are deep down, and they just don’t want to admit it.


Jane

Despite my barbed comments toward my friends, I don’t target online, those who’ve done nothing to me. Even my bad date stories use pseudonyms. I’m sure I’ve been the subject of someone’s “What is she wearing?” text conversation… and that’s fine, as long as that photo stays off the internet. I’m also sure I’ve been someone’s “… them bitches be crazy” story and that’s fine, too, if my name isn’t involved. People Of Walmart posts pictures of actual people that could be easily identified in their most embarrassing moments for all the world to see. It’s not bullied kids taking the passive aggressive revenge stance, either. It’s not confused and misguided teenagers leading this massive effort in cyberbullying. It’s the adults who tell them not to, because they fucking know better.

Why did I ever go back to high school?!?! : The lamentations of a substitute teacher.

shortalls
Circa Every Day of Junior Year

I graduated high school in May of 2006 and immediately began my undergraduate degree, which I finished in May of 2010, only to immediately begin my master’s degree. I’m graduating in a couple of weeks and a PhD can suck my furry dick. For the last four years of this, I’ve been making ends meet with substitute teaching (primarily high school) and a steadier evening job, which is now at the library. The beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I’m sorry. Let me rephrase. The only beauty of substituting is its flexibility. I work when I want to work, which is pretty much all the fucking time so that I can get through the summer without taking on another job. For the most part, it doesn’t require a lot of actual teaching and is really quite dull. The kids do their work and I write this blog on my laptop. If they’re not going to do the work, that substitute who gets mistaken for a high school student is not going to be the one to change their entire outlook on education. As long as they don’t distract other students, I leave it be. Now that my substituting days are coming to a close, due to summer and having finally finished graduate school, though, I can admit to a fact that I’ve been trying to ignore: substitute teaching kind of sucks balls.

cute puppy thing
I don’t know why this showed up when I Google Imaged “sucks balls”, but it’s calmed my rage. Also… SAFE SEARCH.

I love teenagers. I really do. Everyone else has washed their hands of them, but I adore them. They’re hilarious and obsessive and so excited about life that it just catches. They’re on the cusp of their own futures and someone needs to help them make the important decisions. I want to be that person. That person, though, is not a substitute teacher, regardless of age or life experience. They don’t like their substitute teachers and they aren’t very nice to them. Therefore, I am getting completely burned out on subbing and it’s pretty damned obvious, because:

I don’t see a future in this.

outlook not so good I used to keep this notebook full of detailed information on each teacher for whom I subbed, for future reference. I wouldn’t only include what lunch the teacher had, but also what I thought of their classroom management skills, how rowdy individual classes were, and if the lesson plan included word searches or a real assignment that kept the kiddos occupied. It was a great resource when accepting jobs. I’m not sure when it happened, but the notes got shorter and shorter. Gradually, the full single-spaced page went to a few sentences with comments on how cold the room was, when my planning period was, and whether or not I should accept another job with this teacher. Now? When I bother to take notes:

Mrs. White – Middle school
Hell no

Mr. Smith – High school
Only if you’re going to be evicted

Ms. Smart – High school
Hell fucking no. Just get evicted.

I no longer talk to my kids like a teacher.

cool teacher

Four years ago, I took the utmost care to speak to my kiddos as an authority figure. Now?

I have a favorite student who hangs out with his friends in my apartment complex. He’s a good kid and regularly calls me “girl” and shows me his manicures when I get my mail and I think he’s a total dear. The following conversation took place in front of a classroom of tenth graders.
Student: “Hey girl! I might see you later tonight!”
Me: “Um… that sounds SUPER creepy without any kind of clarification, just so you know.”

I looked up to see a teenaged boy casually massaging the shoulder of the girl in front of him.
Me: “Um… that’s really odd. Could you stop?”

“Okay. Your assignment is on the board. I don’t mind if you talk quietly as long as you do the work. I don’t want to hear your music and if you guys could just not be mean and suck, that would be awesome. Teachers have feelings too, you know.”

“Alright, y’all have a great spring break. I don’t wanna see any of you on the news.”

I let shit slide.

cell phones in class                                                           

I used to be quite strict. Now? Well, it’s not total anarchy, by any means. Just today I lost it when a student told me that making him move seats was “bullshit” and snapped “Then get out. You don’t talk to me that way and you don’t talk to people that way. Go.” However, if it doesn’t hurt or offend or distract anyone, I don’t really care.

Student: “Can we listen to music?”
Me: “As long as I can’t hear it, I don’t care.”

”I’ll be right back. Don’t set anything on fire, please.”

“You guys, stop throwing stuff. I’m not asking for a whole lot here and not throwing stuff is not that hard. See. I’m NOT THROWING STUFF right now. It’s easy.”
They were surprisingly receptive to this.

“Could you please put your pants back on? Thank you.”
He did have on basketball shorts underneath… I think.

Student: “Can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “No. You can go the bathroom.”
Student: “But can I go to the vending machines?”
Me: “You can go to the bathroom and I won’t pay attention to whether or not you come back with chips.”

I tell teachers when they suck.

Out of control classroom

My bachelor’s degree is in education. I’ve been substituting for four years. I know what poor classroom management looks like both on paper and in actuality. When I started this gig, I’d still hoped to eventually teach, so I walked on eggshells and was careful to leave any bad notes blaming the students for their behavior, not the teachers. Now? I just don’t give a fuck. I’m not going to sub for the teachers with poor classroom management (therefore demonic students) ever again anyway. Still, subbing remains a substantial portion of my income and teachers talk, so I’m not exactly burning bridges, so much as throwing lit cigarettes onto them.

“There wasn’t an assignment to give them, so I told them to work on something from another class quietly. Most classes were terrible.”

“This was one of the most disrespectful classes I’ve had. They ignored me when I asked them to quiet down and wouldn’t quit throwing things.”
This teacher actually punished the class severely for this behavior, becauseof my bluntness. They’re a joy to sub for now.

“They were horrible. I’ve never substituted for such rowdy students or had them be so disrespectful to me. Multiple teachers had to come into the room to tell them to quiet down, along with a principal. I have never had to have a principal come into a room to get the students under control in four years.”
I went to high school with this guy. His wife made a Facebook post a couple of weeks later about stopping by his classroom to find his students playing soccer in the room and how he was the best teacher ever. No. A teacherteaches.

Today, I covered a class with the note on the board saying “Choose a partner and…” I don’t even know what it said after that, because it doesn’t fucking matter. It’s a FRIDAY IN APRIL. The worst thing a teacher can do to a sub is tell the students ahead of time that they can work in groups if they don’t have to do so. The teacher isn’t the one who has to deal with the total fucking anarchy that is a high school class working in groups a few weeks from the end of the school year. So, when I saw this guideline, I immediately erased it. The kids worked quietly for half the hour and when one student asked what it had said, I told them that they could work in groups for the rest of the class.

Student: “So we could have been working in groups this whole time?”
Me: “No, because I decided you couldn’t.”
Student: “But she’s our teacher.”
Me: “And she’s not here right now. She’s not the one who has to deal with it and shouldn’t have put it on the board in the first place.”

Yeah… there’s kind of this unspoken rule that you don’t call a teacher a fucktwat to her students. Oops. Fortunately, I wasn’t her official substitute, didn’t introduce myself and just filled in for the hour, so I was able to anonymously leave the following note.

They were good, but it would be easier to handle if they didn’t already expect to work in groups. It’s a lot easier and more effective to offer that as a reward than as a punishment, particularly this close to the end of the school year. I erased it from the board and told them they could work together after deciding if they could handle it.

This was perfectly polite, but when I went back to cover for the last hour, another sub wrote that I must’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed… because so many female teachers are so fucking catty. I was trying to let her know, nicely, that it’s difficult for a sub when she does this.  I wasn’t rude, but even substitutes apparently have to fall into this Mean Girls teacher stereotype. So, thank you, anonymous substitute for giving me another reason to hate this industry. After four years of substitute teaching, I’ve completely lost faith in public education as a whole. I don’t even know if I want my own children after enough kids have called me a bitch and or announced that I need to get laid. I end most days by ranting to my Gramma or Gail about how I’m going to cut out my own uterus and set it on fire or how my tubes have just tied themselves. I had the following text conversation with my dear little sister, Bea, (who’s a senior in a neighboring town) this afternoon.

Me: You guys are all little bitches. High school students suck. Fuck off all of you.
Me: Love you. 😀
Bea: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

I can’t fucking do this anymore because high school kids are mean, public education sucks, and so many teachers only teach because they never wanted to leave high school in the first place. Maybe I did wake up on the wrong side of the bed, because I work two jobs and I just finished the most stressful semester of my life. Maybe I do want to dramatically look at the sky and yell “WHY?!?!?!” every time my alarm goes off and I have to be at the high school in thirty minutes. So, just in case, I threw away the entire note, including what the other subs had to say, just to be a pain in the ass and channel my own inner fifteen-year-old. I’m not going to be the unpopular girl in this teen flick while the mean girls snicker. I had enough of that in my overalls, turtleneck, black-framed glasses, ponytail, and ribbon-laced combat boots during the first four years of high school. Why did I ever go back?!?!

mean girls