Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bullying Part Trois: Smiling Eyes

Bullying is certainly not limited to kid on kid. Where do you think kids learn it from?

When I was in 3rd grade, I had a teacher named Miss Davis. She was a big brassy, bawdy broad with an Ethel Merman voice and I loved her. I also thought I was one of her favorite students. I did excellent work in her class because I wanted more than anything to please her.

Funny, I can't remember what started it. There was a group of us kids goofing off in some way that irked Miss Davis enough to punish us. So, during recess she marched the six of us over to the Four Square court and made us stand around the painted circle with our legs and arms spread. All around us life continued. Other kids were playing. Some were coming over to see what we were doing. She let them laugh and point at us before she chased them off. It was chilly. Granted, it was fall in Manhattan Beach, not Ohio - but it was foggy and cold and damp. The bell blessedly rang and we thought the punishment was over.

As the playground emptied and it got quiet, we continued to stand there. Our little arms and legs shaking from cold and the strain of our stance. Before she released us she asked us all to smile at her and apologize. One by one we did it. Me too. But she wouldn't let me go. "You're not smiling with your eyes, Marion." By this time I was shaking so badly, my teeth were chattering. But some of that shaking was from anger. I had apologized and smiled - with my mouth...met the criteria. But my eyes must have made her uneasy because in them she saw a soul that refused to be broken. So she made me stand out there, in the growing gloom, shivering and shaking. My lips were sticking to my teeth. I could see my house and the kitchen window and the silhouette of my mother...watching. Yes! My heart leapt. Any second I expected the front door to fly open and my mother to come to my rescue. But she didn't. She stood and watched. Like Betty Draper but without the cigarette. I wanted to give up but knew I'd die before I gave this bitch my smiling eyes.

Miss Davis finally gave in and let me go. My arms and legs felt heavy and wooden as I walked back into the classroom. I hated her after that.

When I came home my mother slapped me.

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