WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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An Open Letter To Adolescents Who Are Seen As So-Called “Losers”

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Ezra Miller and Emma Watson from “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” (2012); I SO wish I had friends like these in high school, the way their characters, Patrick and Sam, accepted and befriended Charlie, played by Logan Lerman. Photo courtesy of musingsofabookshopgirl.blogspot.com

 

THIS IS A REVISED VERSION OF AN ARTICLE I DID ON THE SITE HUBPAGES.COM IN 2010.

AS I FEEL THE SUBJECT MATTER IS RELEVANT TODAY AND ALWAYS WILL BE, IN LIGHT OF A NEW SCHOOL YEAR STARTING I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO PLACE THIS ON THIS BLOG.

 

If you are a tween or a teenager who isn’t seen by others as popular or “cool”, read on…

Greetings Young People,

Assuming that my calculations are correct, you have started a new school year after a summer that I’m sure seemed to fly by.

I’m also fairly positive that many of you, if not most of you, have been dreading the start of school like the plague because you’re seen by far too many of your classmates as different in the way you look, behave, or in the way you march to the “beat of a different drummer”.

And I imagine those differences have led to some bad times.

You have probably spent years being called a “dork”, a “geek”, a “loser”, or a combination of those names.

Kids may have done some blatant harm to you such as push you into lockers or throw things at you,

The opposite gender shudders at the thought of standing anywhere near you,

And I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting all by your lonesome at lunch, or with other so-called “geeks”.

 

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Something that broke my heart every time I saw it, which was quite a bit during my time working in the education field. Photo courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

 

Or perhaps you’ve been the victim of cyber-bullying, where people have called you all sorts of vile things on the Internet for all to see, which seems to be a popular thing to do these days.

Most likely, you’re probably like I was at your age, mostly alone and lonely because you’re seen as strange; hardly anybody wants to hang with you, and the ones who do pay attention to you do so in ways that induces feelings of inferiority and other negative feelings.

Believe me when I say that during the bulk of the seven years I spent from sixth grade through my senior year of high school, I was a lot like you as for quite a bit of my first month of 10th grade I stayed home in bed because I didn’t want to be shunned or abused, which is how I felt many of my fellow students interacted with me in calling me stupid, ditching me, and letting me know in no uncertain terms that they had no desire to even get to know me, let alone become friends with me.

I know how it is to be bullied and disrespected, causing strong feelings of inferiority and depression as a result.

I would also like to let you in on something…

 

YOU ARE NOT INFERIOR IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM WHATSOEVER.

YOU ARE NOT A DWEEB, A LOSER, OR ANY OF THOSE NASTY ADJECTIVES.

YOU ARE A WORTHY HUMAN BEING WHO DESERVES LOVE, RESPECT, AND ACCEPTANCE FOR THE PERSON YOU ARE.

 

Just because you don’t look or act “cool” does not mean there’s anything wrong with you.

I remember when I was a P.E. teacher, there was this ten-year old girl who was made fun of regularly and considered by her classmates as a so-called “geek”. I went up to this girl one day before class after someone had dissed her and said,

“Don’t worry, they’ll be working for you some day.”

Which is often the case as the ones who were so-called “nerds” in school are oftentimes the ones accomplishing great things as adults with their seven and eight figure bank accounts, going to their class reunions in stretch hummer limousines.

 

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I think it should go without saying that the world would be a better place a million times over if every young person was accepted and liked by everyone else like these young folks seemingly are. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

 

If you don’t believe me, try googling the name Bill Gates sometime.

What I’m trying to say is although you may be having a rough time socially in school and your world in general, know that there are people who care about you.

And not just your mom and dad, either.

Regardless of how bad things may get, please don’t do anything stupid to be “accepted” by changing your behavior to fit in with those so-called “cool kids”; trust me when I say it’s just not worth it because you’ll lose yourself and feel like a phony deep down.

Always be yourself and find friends who’ll accept you just the way you are, warts and all as believe it or not, they really do exist.

Coming from someone who was seen by too many of his peers as a so-called “dork”,  please believe me when I tell you this:

 

YOU ARE PERFECTLY FINE AND DANDY JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

 

I don’t know how I can make that sentiment any clearer.

So even though life may continue to be socially difficult at times, please do your best to hang in there and stay strong.

Find somebody to talk to anytime you feel desperate or mistreated, anyone who will listen; an adult is an ideal option.

And always keep in mind that you are worthy and you matter, regardless of what those arrogant jerks and mean girls may say or do to you.

Suffice it to say, I wish you nothing but the best for this school year – and beyond!

 

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I like this picture, an image of how things should be. Photo courtesy of scattergood.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Report on the Progress of My Book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”

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A good illustration of the different phases of Autism Spectrum Disorder, from high to low functioning. Image courtesy of outlooksw.co.uk

 

With my self-imposed deadline of (self) publishing the book I’ve been working on for a few years, describing the struggles I’ve had being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder in a neurotypical world throughout my life, just around the corner – June 1st to be precise,

Which by the way will be just in time for my 50th birthday later that month,

I wanted to give a brief update on how things were going with the editing and rewriting of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”.

To put it in four words:

It’s going pretty well.

Particularly since I’ve been diligent in doing the work, making sure to set aside at least one day a week to rewrite and edit.

 

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What much of my social experiences in school and beyond have been like – not from everyone, but from too many people. Photo courtesy of autism.lovetoknow.com

 

In fact, I’m planning on chapter three, which describes the bullying I took during my youth from quite a few of my peers – one in particular who won’t be named – being finished this week with chapter four, which will describe the alienation I have felt and most unfortunately still feel at times from my fellow African-Americans and that community because of my aspieness and the perception of many (not all, but enough to cause lasting trauma) of my fellow blacks of me being a so-called “Goofy Mark” resulting from that, being started on next week.

And hopefully finished by Labor Day.

Which will keep me on schedule as if I approach the Christmas and New Year’s holidays with at least two-thirds if not three-fourths of the book done, I’ll be quite pleased.

Being that I’m working on WALKING ON EGGSHELLS at least once a week and sometimes twice, I’m confident that will be the case.

Especially since I’ve been making cuts in the chapters, and plan to eliminate a certain chapter all together to make the book more precise.

I’ll have another update on my editing and rewriting progress, as I believe this will be my fourth rewrite, in a few weeks.

As well as explain why I’m taking on this endeavor; I think I owe everyone that.

 

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Lonely girl next to group of children – This is what I’ve experienced and how I  have felt for much of my life, even as an adult. Photo courtesy of followme.org

 

 

Being “Black Enough”: What Does That REALLY Mean?

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I recently read an online article written by an African American male – I forget who it was or what website it was on – that tackled this very subject.

The guy who wrote the piece was lamenting his conviction that because he wasn’t “ghetto”…

Because he didn’t speak in Ebonic slang,

Because he consistently achieved good grades and accolades in school and in college,

Because he is making good money in a  professional career that doesn’t involve sports or entertainment and is subsequently living a middle class existence,

And because he was never in a gang, arrested or incarcerated,

Some of his fellow blacks see him as not being “Black Enough”.

A “Sell-Out”.

An “Oreo”.

Indeed, former NBA star Charles Barkley concurred with this sentiment when he stated in an interview:

 

“We’re the only ethnic group that says, ‘Hey, if you go to jail, it gives you street cred’…For some reason we are brain washed to think if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person…we all go through it when we’re successful.”

 

This hit home to me in a significant way because like this article writer, I never spoke in a “ghetto” slang, nor did I ever come close to gang-banging  or serving any time.

My educational career was a very good one, at least academically (more on that in a bit), as my grades ranged from good to excellent throughout my time in school from the early elementary days right on through the post-graduate level; as an example of this, I remember winning an essay award in the fifth grade and getting a medal and my picture in the local paper.

Indeed, if forced to name my number one life accomplishment it would be getting a college bachelor’s degree – two if you count the honor’s degree I earned from the junior college I attended due to a few bumps in the road that I suffered in high school.

Most unfortunately however, I caught hell from quite a few of my black peers during my elementary school days not only due to my school success, but also due to these factors:

1. As I lived in my town’s version of a low income, inner city area, part of the black youth culture there dictated that you had to able to fight to show how “tough” you were; the better you threw fisticuffs, the higher your “coolness” factor was.

Quite simply, I didn’t like to fight. That earned me the moniker of a “Mark”, complete with many incidents of taunting and bullying.

2.  Until around age 11, I wasn’t too good in sports, which in the black inner city youth culture was a crime punishable by social death, earning me continuous taunts of being a – pardon the expression – “Sorry-ass mother fucker” and only strengthened my “Mark” reputation, which didn’t end when my athletic skills improved.

3.  Because my family didn’t have that much money, unlike many of my young African American peers I wasn’t able to dress in the latest “fresh” and “hip” styles of the day, having to wear cheap jogging shoes and flooded “Toughskins” bell bottoms (it was the late 1970s and early 80s) instead of Nikes and Levis.

Which didn’t help my cred any, nor was the fact that because of my having Asperger’s Disorder, I showed no interest of fitting into that culture, preferring to do things differently.

Because of all of this, the most prevalent derogatory name I was called in those days was “Goofy Mark”; I even remember being called the name of that famous Disney dog once in college and having some kid taunt and yell  “You act White!” at me during my twenties.

 

All right, here’s the point I’m trying to make…

I’m in complete agreement with Charles Barkley in the sense that in my view, the worst problem in the African American community is the resentment that successful blacks feel from at least some of their less fortunate peers, as if doing well in school, being in a lucrative career that doesn’t involve a ball or a microphone and having never committed a crime is a “White” thing.

I know that some are thinking this, so let me make a disclaimer:

Do I feel that all working class blacks in the inner city see their middle class counterparts as not being “Black Enough” or as “sell-outs”, “Goofy Marks” and “Uncle Toms”?

Of course not, as it’s not my intention in any way, shape or form to stereotype my fellow African Americans like that.

Or in anything else.

But whether I’m right or wrong in this opinion, it seems to me that too many folks in the “hood”, particularly young folks, feel this way.

I’m not 100% sure if this cultural mindset has substantially changed from the time I was a kid to the present day, but I will say this…

It is VERY frustrating that young kids in the inner city still seem to feel the pressure to do bad things in order to gain respect and avoid being called a “Goofy Mark” or an “Uncle Tom”.

Spike Lee, who many folks see as being as Black as they come, hit the nail on the head when he said,

 

“Whites no longer hold blacks back. We hold ourselves back.”

 

I think I can best sum all of this up by stating this:

The day that “Being Black Enough” is no longer associated with engaging in negative activity, when it’s associated with more appropriate things like pride in one’s heritage and embracing excellent performance in education and speaking properly instead of talking in constant “Ghetto” slang and fighting in order to avoid being called a “Mark” – among other things – will be a most happy one for me.

 

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