In Jr. High we had to walk over to the High school for band practice. The buildings stood next to each other. It was a short little jaunt that became a tortuous walk of embarrassment for this kid, the only girl trombone player.
At some early point in my 7th grade life, while walking past the big, white, Abe Lincoln statue that stood tall in front of the glass windows of the cafeteria, on my way to the band room upstairs, some high school boy started saying hello. He called me by name, when I didn’t respond. How was I to know he was speaking to me? My head was always down. I don’t know how he found out my name. I didn’t know who he was, other than I realized right away he was cute. Yeah I was 12, I knew cute when I saw it. I also had a gut feeling about intentions, and being cute didn’t always mean you were good. Good old Abe stood there holding his lapels and kept quiet.
At first I was trying to figure out if he was trying to be nice. I was 12 for god’s sake, in my brain it was possible and yeah it was the 70’s, or was this just creepy or sinister or some weird bullying incident. This was the 70’s however; we didn’t quite get the whole bully mentality of what it is now. We didn’t immediately set off alarms in our head, unless some giant girl was shoving a jar of Noxema cold cream in your face when you entered the Girl’s Bathroom. Yeah, then the alarms went off. That brazen bully didn’t do it to me, but then I tried to stay out of bathrooms, especially after I heard about this!
No my apparent “being bullied” was much more subtle. Every day this high school boy would say hi. I ignored him at first, I think. It’s all fuzzy like everything else in my brain, I think I eventually just gave in and waved back or said hi every day, just so he would stop saying it, till I answered back.
I often wondered if that cute guy knew the anguish he caused for me. I couldn’t believe that he was just being nice; he had singled me out of all the other kids, all the cute “blond” girls. It had to be some kind of stupid joke between him and his friends. I told my Mom about it and through a friend’s teenage daughter we were able to find out his name, but in those days your parents didn’t go into the schools to say, “Hey, find out what that jerk is doing to my kid!” Years later my Mom had the opportunity to ask that guy, now an adult and married to a friend of hers why he did that. My Mom and I may have had our disagreements and fights over those years, but dang she remembered what some one did to her kid, forever! I had pretty much forgotten about it till she told me she’d asked him.
Mom said he claimed he didn’t remember doing it. I think that says it all doesn’t it? He was just being mean to a little 12-year-old trombone player, a girl, trying to keep her place along the wall, invisible to all. Instead of helping build my self-esteem, he allowed me to plummet it into the basement crawl space, enforcing my thought of, “what boy could possibly like me, when the cool guy in high school was having his fun”. I was the “chosen one” to toy with, Was it possible I oozed “ugly duckling”. Of course I did! I’m holding out hope that one day that guy will face me and explain why he did it and apologize.
I quit the band in 8th grade, I was the only girl trombone player and got tired of the teasing about me and Howard, he was the boy who played the trombone. There were other boys who played trombone, but I only got teased about me and Howard for some reason. My parents gave my trombone away and I buried the dumb memories of the jerky high school kid that kept saying Hi and the teasing about Howard, till my Sophomore year of High school, filling out the paperwork for our Learner’s Permit, Mr. Hoffman, the Driver’s Ed teacher, asked me if my hair wasn’t black like Howard’s. I distinctly remember looking him straight in the eye and replying with a sneer in my voice that MY hair was dark brown, not black! No one expected little me to speak up like that! I got my payback for Mr. Hoffman reminding me, inadvertently of course, of the teasing I endured, when, partnered with my classmate and friend, Norman, for driving lessons, Mr. Hoffman came close to a heart attack when Norman hit the accelerator instead of the brake when we approached a stop sign that lead to a busy intersection. I suppressed my backseat giggle as Mr. Hoffman yelled, “NORMAN!” then quickly and efficiently SLAMMED on the brake on the passenger side of the car. I wonder if his neck still hurts from the smacking forward and back of his head? We could have been killed, but I was happy for the payback. Poor Mr. Hoffman had no idea of the teasing I had taken just a few short years before.
Abe Lincoln would have his head stolen by some pranksters and I was a bit giddy about him losing his head after he stood there in silence at that boy saying hi to me day after day, after day. Yeah, okay, I know he was a statue! The head was eventually found or returned, I don’t remember which. I gave up caring about dumb boys saying hi and the teasing at being the only girl trombone player. Years later my daughter and then my youngest son would become trombone players, so much better at it than I ever was. They could actually read the notes on the page.It’s a good instrument and it shouldn’t have my old memories attached to it. I know I would never have had a career as a Trombone player and I’m not that little 12-year-old hiding against the wall trying to blend in.