WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpts From Chapter Six

I can certainly relate to scenes like this, because it happened to me many times throughout my school days. Photo courtesy of wisegeekhealth.com

 

My experiences as a high school kid with Asperger’s were so many, I had to divide them into two chapters.

These two excerpts of my (hopefully) soon to be self-published book, WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, is from the chapter I call “ROUGH TIMES AT SAMOHI, PART TWO”:

 

It was like there were so many areas of my life where I was behind seemingly everybody else: kids were partying up a storm complete with the obligatory drunkenness and debauchery with me never being invited to any of those shindigs. Kids were getting driver’s licenses and cars and God, seemingly, was telling me no to doing that same thing.

Not to mention kids, particularly in that moment in time, pairing up and hooking up like crazy…

In my mind at least, people were leaving me out of things because they generally didn’t see me as cool, which I fully admit I wasn’t, and that hurt. Every time I found out about some kegger bash which I was obviously not invited to, like this one huge blowout that the band had in my junior year in the Santa Monica Mountains, I felt humiliated, degraded, and like my peers regarded me as nothing but a waste of space.

But getting back to the prom:

There I was, without a date and feeling more than ever like a dorky loser.

Mom, who was dead set on my attending this rite of passage, made a call to one of my cousins who was not only a teacher, but the coach of her drill team at her high school.

The next thing I knew, I had a date to the Samohi prom.

Just in case you’re going “Yay, that’s wonderful!” right about now…

Don’t even bother.

This date was the classic nerd-getting-fixed-up kind, complete with a girl who, looking back, I suspect was compensated by my cousin either with money or in some other way; I sensed the why-did-I-agree-to-go-with-this-goofy-mark vibe when I talked to her on the phone a couple of days beforehand, and again when the big night arrived.

She wasn’t very outgoing or friendly; it was as if she was working a shift at McDonald’s, particularly as we rode in the town car on the freeway back to her house. As I tried to tell her what a good time I had and to hug her goodbye, she kind of pulled away from me, her body language saying “Yeah, whatever, just let me out you goofy-ass mark!”

At least, though she may deny it, that’s what I’m convinced that she wanted to say to me.

After that big soiree, I told everyone that I had a fun time, essentially lying to myself as I quickly saw the light of my situation and faced the reality of it all, which was this:

I should NOT have gone to the 1985 Santa Monica High School Prom.

 

 

Except for the gender, skin color, and hair texture, this was me in high school. Photo courtesy of  yourlittleprofessor.com

 

 

EXCERPT #2 FROM CHAPTER SIX: One Last Rejection and Humiliation

It was a couple of weeks before school ended, a gorgeous late spring morning…

That previous evening, the phone rang. Mom answered it, and a few minutes later she was in my doorway telling me that I was going to be “kidnapped”, along with all of the other band seniors, at around 6:00 a.m. and taken to breakfast, which was an apparent tradition, Mom telling me, “be sure you’re ready for when they come.”

As I went to sleep later that night, I thought, “This will be fun!”

So when I woke up at around 5:30 the next morning I made it a point to shower, shave, and put on some sweats and a t-shirt to look like I was in bed as it was supposed to be a surprise “kidnapping”.

As it turned out, the surprise was on me as 6:00 came, then 6:30, and no kidnappers; by 7:00 it was clear that they weren’t coming as I got dressed and walked to school as usual, feeling mighty low as one can imagine, this being the latest humiliating rejection in a series of humiliating rejections, three years’ worth to be precise.

When I got to school, in fairness to the “kidnappers” I was told that there was no time to pick me up, which was why I was stood up, but I was told that in a matter-of-fact was like they felt that it was no big deal to do what they did. I don’t remember hearing an “I’m sorry”, and they definitely could have called me and told me to meet them at whatever restaurant they were at if they really wanted me to hang with them.

That was what hurt more than anything else.

It was like when they realized that there wouldn’t be time to pick up everyone, they saw me as the easy odd man out, a case of “Well, we don’t really like Derek anyway, so why should we do something for him or spend any more time with him than we have to?”

Not that I was the simple helpless victim as over the course of me and my band mates’ three years together, my aspieisms, verbal and otherwise, aggravated too many of them more than they would have liked and certainly turned too many of them off to me as far as friendship was concerned; I wanted to be fair in emphasizing that.

So to quite a few of my music mates, I was seemingly nothing but a geeky jerk that did and said inappropriate things, consequently not deserving to be given the time of day.

The worst part of it all was that thanks to my autistic tendencies, I often thought that people were being mean to me for no reason, just like at Will Rogers and John Adams, and just like it would be throughout college and beyond as whenever somebody reacted badly to something I did or said, my first reaction would almost always be,

“What did I do?”

I sometimes still react that way.

 

This was likewise me in high school; just change the color of the hair and the skin, add a few inches, and take away the glasses. Photo courtesy of mysaspergerschild.com

 

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THE FOURTH EXCERPT OF “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” – Being Rejected By People Who Looked Like Me

While I can’t draw anything like this guy and am higher functioning, I can certainly relate to him. Photo courtesy of intersecteddisability.blogspot.com

 

THIS EXCERPT FROM MY UPCOMING BOOK – “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” – FOCUSES ON MY FEELING ALIENATED AND REJECTED BY SEEMINGLY TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY, SPECIFICALLY IN THE INNER CITY AS MY FELLOW BLACK KIDS, QUITE SADLY, BULLIED ME MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP AS A CHILD, SEEING ME AS A “GOOFY MARK” BECAUSE OF MY ASPERGER’S TRAITS.

HERE IS PART OF CHAPTER FOUR: “The Black Alienation”…

 

Mom and I went to celebrate the…festivities at a (place) which was located in a pretty much all-black (at that time) mid-to-lower income neighborhood full of people whom the only thing I had in common with – quite honestly and regretfully – was the color of our skin.

To a nine-year old boy on the Autism Spectrum who had interacted almost exclusively with white kids up to that point, I’m being brutally honest when I say that the folks in that neighborhood seemed loud, aggressive, crass, and just not very nice.

I won’t lie; it intimidated me.

During that late afternoon, I was sitting on a front porch when I was asked something about knowing how to fight.

I fully understand today that (the guy asking) was trying to toughen me up, to teach me how to defend myself and to not be so vulnerable, but he may as well have been speaking Sanskrit as I had absolutely no clue whatsoever of what he was getting at.

The next thing I knew, all these fists were landing on various parts of my body, mostly my arms and shoulders, but it seemed like a lot more body parts than that.

My attempts at fighting back at the seemingly dozens of people who by now had joined in were quite pathetic and futile as it culminated with some big thuggish-looking girl, who looked about 17 and had a big cast on her arm, clocking me with that cast, leading to some hysterical crying from me and much unhappiness as I went home that night, that traumatic memory ingrained into my gray matter for all time.

Being a sheltered Asperger’s boy, in my mind I was being bullied and abused by people who looked like me for no reason.

In retrospect, that beat down was symbolic of my alienation, ostracization, and rejection from African-American inner city culture, though in fairness I have to emphasize that nobody knew anything about me having Asperger’s Syndrome – I wouldn’t know for another twenty years – and I don’t blame anybody for any conflicts that might have stemmed from our background and socialization due to the fact that they were so different from me…

Getting back to that incident:

That episode set the tone for many of my future experiences in (Santa Monica’s) Pico Neighborhood.

Because of where I came from, I had absolutely no knowledge of what was considered “cool” as I was now living in an area where there were four liquor stores in a ten-block radius, seemingly large apartment buildings, five times the number of children running around, and alleyways with strange-looking writings on them; what the hell did I know about gang-banging and tagging?

I had no clue that among many, if not all, black youth in the lower-income hoods, being academically intelligent and getting good grades was considered a nerdy “white” thing, nor did I know about having a good part of being “cool” depending on how tough and “hard” you were; your brawling ability and how many kids you could beat up.

I was likewise ignorant of needing to have good gross motor skills, needing to be able to catch, throw, dribble, shoot, and hit a ball to be accepted, and woe be to those who didn’t wear the “fresh” fashions as to not dress like the dancers on that TV show “Soul Train”, seemingly, was a crime punishable by social death.

In those areas of “Blackness”, I failed miserably and fell way, WAY short of the mark as with my autistic tendencies, it was sort of inevitable that I would.

…when my toughness or “hard” factor was tested by the other black kids in school (Marlon* mostly, but there were others) and elsewhere by being punched all of a sudden, I either ran to a teacher or I cried like a little so-called “bitch”.

(* = not his real name)

One can imagine how that went down, my reacting the way I did instantly relegated me to being “scary” and an easy “mark”, and being made fun of accordingly. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just leave me alone or accept me as a young brother in the name of that Black Unity concept that was still all the rage in the 1970s.

 

This sort of says it all. Image courtesy of ollibean.com

 

This “mind-blindness” aspect of the Autism Spectrum Disorder rendered me as more or less incapable of knowing how to do what was necessary to be accepted and liked among too many of my fellow black kids in Santa Monica’s inner city community.

Another prominent word that too many of my young black peers in the Pico called me on a regular basis was the same name as one of Walt Disney’s iconic characters, a certain tall, skinny long-eared black dog going by the name of…

“Goofy”

That two-syllable epithet was something I heard from various kids – some of them white and Latino as well as many of the black kids – for years as “Big Goofy” “Goofy-Ass Mark”, and (pardon the expression) “Goofy Faggot” were just some of the taunts directed to me at school, on the playground, in the street, and pretty much everywhere else in that part of town. Being that I fell well short of the Pico’s coolness standard, I suppose it was inevitable that I was treated the way I was.

I imagine that some people may read this and think that I’m blanketing all African-American youth, over generalizing and saying that every black I encountered treated me like shit, bullying me and calling me all those bad names.

That, I need to emphasize, was NOT the case as I want to make crystal clear that there WERE some African-American children in the Pico who treated me well and became my friends, three of them living upstairs from me and Mom.

A prominent root of this general black social rejection and alienation (as a youth), besides having Autism Spectrum Disorder, was that being from a rural community where I was the only black kid in the immediate area that I knew of, having exactly one African-American classmate in the four years I attended school there, I was essentially an “Oreo”.

This was exacerbated by the fact that because I acted so “white” upon moving in with my mom, the white kids, by and large, were the ones that were friendly and accepting to me, and it pretty much stayed that way all through junior high and high school.

The social rejection and alienation was something I felt even as an adult as for example, during my mid-20s there was this young dude who lived next door and taunted me by shouting “Like a virgin!” (you know, that Madonna song from the 80s) every time I walked by him When I called him on it after enduring months of his ignorance he very tellingly said, “You act white!”

Along with everything else, this showed how much it hurt to have people who looked like you socially reject you.

It actually hurt a lot, to the point where I don’t feel like I’m a real part of the black community nearly enough of the time, as I feel that Black American inner city culture in particular doesn’t want me, a so-called “Goofy Mark”, around.

The pain that was put upon me during my childhood and over the years was deep, lasting, and though I know it shouldn’t has stuck with me as an adult, which is why – most unfortunately I must emphasize – don’t feel as naturally comfortable in the inner city African-American community (I feel more comfortable among the black middle class and elderly, probably because I didn’t suffer any bullying and “Goofy Mark” taunting among them) as much as I could and should, sad to say, because among my fellow blacks in the ‘hood I was shown too many times that in too many of their eyes, I was “Goofy”.

A “Mark”

A “Faggot” (sorry for the term).

An “Oreo”.

“Scary”.

“Retarded”.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:  Excerpts from Chapter Five, detailing my rough times in high school.

 

No, I did NOT dress like this, and I was not nearly as clumsy or had his high nasal squeak, but I reckon that more than enough of my African-American peers during my childhood saw me as similar to Steve Urkel here. Photo courtesy of chron.com