I am privileged

Saturday, 1 July 2017 10:41 am
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
"It Was Sarcasm. I Won't Do It Again."*

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I was just taking the privilege quiz only I had to stop because statement two made me laugh uncontrollably.

Statement two is: "I have never been discriminated against because of my skin color."

The correct response is, "I don't know! I didn't ask!"

Because there were these girls, see, these black girls, who would circle me, back me into a corner and play the "let's pretend to be friends with this loser, then mock her when she falls for it" game. Were they doing it because I was white or because everybody else did it? Hell, it was a game the white girls played, why shouldn't they play it too? Or maybe it was my stuck-up, smarter-than-everybody else aura. (Fuck it, I was smarter than most of them, but I wasn't stuck-up, I was terrified and weird.)

This is not a situation where you can say, "Excuse me, but why are you doing this? I might need to know later." Mostly you can't do that because they won't tell you; they're busy pretending to like you and they'll deny they're doing anything at all but being friendly.

Do I sound paranoid?

I don't know why, when I was in the fourth grade, every time I went out for recess a little black girl in a lower grade—second? Third? Again, I didn't ask. It didn't seem appropriate, or particularly important at the time—I didn't ask why she came over and kicked me. Not just once; she'd spend the whole recess kicking me, if she wasn't stopped and I had no idea how to stop her. She was smaller than me—I was tall back then, and older. (Older than her; I wasn't older than I am now. That would make no sense at all.)

I have only the vaguest memories of this and they might not be mine. My mother worked in the school library and saw this happening from the window. The school administration wouldn't do anything about it because, apparently, part of reparations included little black girls being allowed to kick random white girls with no explanation. (I don't recall it hurting; what I recall is being utterly baffled.) My mother finally came out and dragged her away from me. I don't know if it happened again. I have blocked out practically all of that year of school, which you can maybe see why.

These incidents led to me being afraid of black people.

Mind you, I was already afraid of people in general—from the third grade on I was bullied by first white girls, then white boys as well. The incidents with the black girls prefriending me (Look! I made new word! It means: that thing people—usually girls—do when they pretend to be your friend so they can later mock you in a more personal way [because you've told them your secrets, or even just your likes and dislikes] and add how stupid you were for believing them).

Where was I? Oh, yes, that incident didn't happen until the eighth grade. In the meantime I had a lot of the same treatment from the white girls, but there was a big difference: I knew those girls! I'd been going to school with them since first grade, I'd been friends with them. (Why that changed, what happened exactly, I don't know. But being hurt by people you know makes more sense than being hurt by strangers. There's logic to it, it's not just chaotic. It's horrible, but it's less scary.) I didn't even know these black girls; I couldn't figure out what I could have done to make them want to hurt me.

There were no cultural differences between me and the white girls, nothing of any significance; that could not be said of me and the black girls. (It's really culture that causes misunderstandings, not race.) I seemed not to be able to talk to anyone without saying something wrong (smarter, stuck-up) and if I couldn't do it in a culture I understood, what chance did I have in one I knew nothing about?

I think that's when I started to freeze. Don't move, don't make eye contact, don't speak, just wait until they get bored and leave. Because running wasn't an option, and neither was fighting back. I couldn't even be rude, even though everything I said was interpreted as rudeness anyway, stuck-upness, superiority.

I think of myself as having a lot of privilege because I came from people who read a lot and thought outside themselves. With a high school education, I can talk to people and have them think I went to college. But I'm still mostly scared all the time because I do not understand other people at all, and that target feels like it's still on my back.

*John Dortmunder

I'm just tired

Sunday, 14 August 2005 03:29 pm
carose59: dealing with people (the same as people who aren't different)
—And I Was What I Most Didn't Want To Ever Be, Humiliated, So I Left Him There, Forcing Myself Not To Run Out the Door, Gone . . .*

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A couple of facts:

The zebra's first line of defense against predators is their stripes. When the zebra are all together in a herd, the predator watching can't tell just how many of them there are, can't pick out a single zebra. They look like one big zebra. Nobody wants to attack one big zebra.

That applies to healthy, adult zebra. Young zebra disrupt the pattern because they move differently, and so do sick or wounded zebra. The herd will fight to protect the young ones. The wounded ones aren't so lucky.

People can do this, too. My mother was telling me the other day about some talk show she was watching (Jane Pauley's?) where a pedophile was saying he could walk into a room of children and pick out the vulnerable one, the one who would be susceptible to his attention, the one who wouldn't tell. The damaged one. The one who most needed to be told they were special, and would most feel they deserved to be hurt.

I don't have any verification, but I know that bullies can do it, too. It's been happening to me my whole life.

When I was in high school, I spent as much time as I could trying to go unnoticed because I'd already been through eight years of being the object of ridicule, the last two because I was a known lesbian in a small Catholic school. So I did my best to hide.

Let me tell you something: I'm not good at hiding. I'm not good at staying invisible. The more I hear, the more I wonder if any manic-depressives are. When I'm up, I feel like—not like nobody could hurt me (my moods don't go that far up) but like nobody would want to hurt me. I fall in love with the world and can't imagine that it doesn't love me, too.

And when I slide down, all the memories of all the laughter come back and I can't imagine that anybody could love me, and much as I want to be invisible so nobody can see me to laugh at me, the uncontrollable crying is usually kind of noticeable.

Anyway, high school. In terms of harassment, high school was nothing compared to grade school; there was only one creepy guy who, whenever we were in the same place at the same time, would attack me. And we both took German, which, in a small school, meant for two years, our schedules were the same. I think gym class was the only one we didn't have together. I could hide during lunch, and there was one study hall I was safe because I was playing cards with one of the teachers. But the rest of the time, it was open season. And nobody did anything. There was one guy, and there were a number of people that, I at least imagined, seemed disgusted by his behavior, and no one said anything. I had a few friends, who said nothing. The teachers said nothing.

I didn't fight back. I'd tried that in grade school (when it was the whole pack) and it always ended up worse; when it came to defending myself, I learned to shut down, to keep my head down.

But I couldn't keep my mouth shut about other things. There are times I want to, but—

My mother says virtually my first words were, "It's not fair!" The feeling of complacent injustice weighs on me and whether I say anything or not, I feel like crap about it. I hate making myself a target; I hate hiding. I hate breathing.

When I found fandom, I felt like I'd found the people I'd been looking for my whole life, the people I could be my real self with. But fandom isn't any different than any other group, except that for the most part, fans won't make fun of you for being obsessive about a TV show, or seeing a movie over and over again.

I've become convinced that there's no place I belong, no place I can just be myself. I've always known I was born to be discontented, and I can handle the discontent in myself; what I can't handle is being afraid all the time. When I ask questions, they're always the wrong ones, and no one believes I'm looking for a serious answer.

I don't know what to do.

*William Goldman
carose59: grade school (unsettle the minds of the young)
"I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake, I Want More Cake!"*

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Third grade was also when I started cheating in class.

This was not bought on by my many, many absences, or even an attempt at better grades. It was brought on by addiction to stories.

See, third grade they moved me from the regular classes to what they called Programmed Reading. We didn't have any regular readers that year, we had work books, a series of twenty-something of them. They'd start you out where they thought you ought to be, and the stories got progressively more difficult, both in vocabulary and in concepts. By the end we were reading about the Greek and Roman gods and I was absolutely fascinated. And before that, there was a long, involved story that sounds like it was based on the Narnia books, at least according to the people I've mentioned it to who have read C. S. Lewis. It was about these children who went down in the basement one day, only the basement steps went down much further than they ever had before, and they ended up in some other dimension, or something. It was wonderful, and I couldn't stop reading it.

Which is where the cheating came in.

Because in Programmed Reading, you read at your own pace. They started you out at what they considered to be your proper reading level, then let you go. You'd read a chapter, then there would be a test to take. You take the test, score it, turn in your paper, and go back to reading. It was pretty much on the honor system, though I suspect there were people who were considered less-than-honorable, and were watched more closely.

I wasn't one of them. I was always, always a good girl. And the thing was, nobody would ever have suspected I was cheating because I really was a good, fast reader who comprehended what she'd read and could tell you the story back if you asked. I was doing just what they wanted in those terms.

I was just cheating on their tests. See, I found out pretty quickly that if you just mark down most of the right answers, rather than actually take the test, you can get back to the stories that much sooner. And, God, I had to get back to the stories! The stories were wonderful, and besides, it wasn't like a book, where you could take it home and read it all night 'til bedtime. The only opportunity I had to read these stories was in school. (This is how much I loved them—when we had free time, to draw or whatever, I would go over and get the books that came before where they started me, so I could read the beginning of the story. And let me just say right here that I love how experts think. Apparently it never occurred to them that it might be something of an obstacle to start out a kid in the middle of a continuing story, that it might somehow impair their interest and/or comprehension.)

Stories were such an escape for me, they got me out of whatever stressful thing was happening in my life (I really don't remember). But, you know, I never cheated at anything I was actually bad at, like math or geography. I can't figure out just what this says about me. I think it means I'm basically honest—that is, I represent myself as honestly as possible. Sort of like here—the things I'm writing are true, but the names are changed. Would the stories be any more true with the real names in them? Would I be any better or worse a reader if I'd taken their tests?


Third grade blues

Saturday, 30 November 2002 08:22 am
carose59: grade school (unsettle the minds of the young)
Why Can't My Life Be All "Ups"? If I Want All "Ups," Why Can't I Have Them? Why Can't I Just Move From One "Up" To Another "Up"? Why Can't I Just Go From an "Up" To an "Upper-Up"? I DON'T WANT ANY "DOWNS"! I JUST WANT "UPS" AND "UPS" AND "UPS"!*

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I don't remember a lot of third grade. First I had mononucleosis, which stands out only because of the blood test (I fainted) and because my great-aunt called to talk to my mother about it. This particular great-aunt was a nun, and she and the other sisters talked about it, and they were pretty sure that mono was a venereal disease.

My mother had the strength of character not to start laughing until she'd hung up the phone.

Mono wasn't so bad, in spite of what it did to my reputation among the holy orders. I just slept all the time.

Of course, what grade school year would be complete without strep throat? I swear, I don't think a year went by without a bout of that. Nothing to get worked up about, you just feel like shit for a few days, drag around wanly for a few more, and life goes on.

The big trauma of third grade was coming down with shingles.

For anyone who doesn't know, shingles are caused by the same virus as chicken pox, so if you've had chicken pox, you can get shingles any time. They're generally brought on by stress. They generally appear on the chest and stomach, and they hurt. You put salve on them, then cover them a bandage, to keep anything from touching them. It sounds easy enough, and I'm sure that for people who were (marginally) fortunate enough to get them on their chests and stomachs, it is. I didn't do that, though.

I got them on the insides of my thighs.

Think about that. How do you keep the insides of your thighs from touching each other? My mother's solution was to wrap my thighs in saran wrap. It worked very well, but it created its own problem.

You have to understand, this was 1969. If you weren't around in 1969, you may not know what the skirts were like then, so let me tell you: they were short. Very, very, short. So, picture me, a tall, very stressed out blonde ten-year-old, wearing a (short) navy blue skirt, white blouse, knee socks, saran wrap around my thighs. I'm spending my days with one hand on my skirt at all times, to hold it down, and I'm moving very slowly because I'm desperately afraid someone will hear me rustling. I've got the self-conscious gene all the women on my mother's mother's side of the family seem to possess, and the fear of being laughed at is so strong, I just want to die. (I'm sure my mother would have let me stay home if I hadn't already been out three weeks for the mono and two for the strep, and probably some time at the beginning of the shingles. It's really pretty amazing I passed into the fourth grade at all.) Really, it's pretty amazing I ever got over the shingles, considering the stress they brought on.

*Lucy Van Pelt
carose59: amusements (a medley of extemporanea)
Titles. I Hate Titles.

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Wow. Major high day, probably a combination of Kaluha brownies for breakfast, a serious drop in the humidity (air you can breathe instead of drink! What a concept!), hormones (period? What period? I'm not having my period. That was just a . . . a trial run. Put those tampons away, we'll get back to you when the real period comes! Oh, the joy of menopause!) and music, for a change. I love books on tape, but it's nice not to have somebody else's thoughts in my head for a while. And it's nice to have Arlo singing to me again. (Arlo, and the Partridge Family.)

And, I think maybe having a new venue for my thoughts is getting me kind of jazzed, though it also feels self-indulgent.

Weighty Question of the day: if we aren't to read the Bible for its poetry, is it also wrong to sing gospel music just for the way the music makes one (me) feel? We didn't sing music like this at St. Andrew, although the singing was my favorite part of Mass. For that matter, singing is usually my favorite part of just about anything. If there was a way to sing while eating (you know, without spitting on people), I'd be there. Singing during sex? I probably don't have the breath control for it, and anyway, it would be distracting. But singing in the car is great, driving or riding. I don't sing as much as I want, because I require loud music (to drown myself out) and privacy (so as not to inflict my voice on innocent bystanders).

July 2017

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