When I was in junior high school, I was reading a lot of those Sweet Valley High books and got the idea from one of them to start a ‘slam book’ at my own school. The name alone should have been enough of a warning that this was a very bad idea, but as an adolescent, I’ve come to realize that I was incredibly naive. More than incredibly – stupidly naive. I didn’t think any harm would come of it, or if I did, I brushed that nagging concern aside because more importantly, I thought it would go over well with the cool kids in my school and overnight, I would become popular.
I was wrong.
And guess what? It’s better to be unpopular (ie. Mostly unnoticed) than hated.
The idea behind a slam book is pretty simple. Using a blank notebook, you start randomly assigning pages to a student in your school. You write their name on the top of the page and beneath their name, you write a one or two word description about them. Then the notebook gets circulated, and whoever gets the notebook gets the chance to add their own adjectives describing their class mates and to add additional students if they had something to say. How did I ever think THIS was a good idea?
I was horribly wrong in thinking that only good things would get written in the notebook and I was quickly proven wrong. I don’t remember anything bad really getting written about myself – it might have been because I flew so far below the radar, or if it was because I’d earned the respect of my classmates for starting the book which circulated like wildfire. Everyone wanted to get their hands on it, and I watched it pass from hand to hand in various classes. And then the worst thing happened – the meanest toughest girl (I’ll call her Ursula) in school got written about, and was called some really nasty names. And when she got pissed off, her sidekick got pissed off too. And he, if I remember correctly, was not someone to piss off (I’ll call him Linus). He was big and he was fat and he was older, having been held back a few times because, well I guess maybe he was stupid. Or maybe he just didn’t apply himself? So the two of them were pissed off and wanted to know who started the book in the first place. Because everything that got written was written anonymously, they had no way of knowing who said what so to them, it made sense to blame the person that started the book in the first place. And that, of course, was me.
They approached me in the hall after class, waving the book furiously, shouting threats and telling me they were going to be waiting for me after school. That I better be there or else. By then, I knew what had gotten written about Ursula (and probably him too) and I knew just how much trouble I was in. Scrawny me, who’d never been in a fight in my life and I had the two toughest kids in school wanting to beat me into a pulp. (And rightly so, now that I think on it). So what did I do?
I went to the guidance counsellor in our school and confessed the stupid thing I had done, and I probably cried too, so terrified was I about what would happen to me when the final bell rang. And she called both those students to her office so that we could “discuss the situation”. And then I grovelled, like I’d never grovelled before, apologizing and begging for their forgiveness. I’m not sure what happened next – if the guidance counsellor considered the matter handled (or did she just threaten the two of them that if anything happened to me after school that day or any other day she’d know it was them) but I do remember this: When the guidance counsellor left her office for a minute – and left me with the two of them – I played the only card I had left. I knew something about the guy who wanted to kill me, the big, fat mean boy: I knew Linus had a huge crush on my older sister, that he was always trying to talk her up and get her attention. And I used that information, used it as best as I could, and reminded him who my sister was and that if he was ever going to have a chance with her, it depended on what went down after school. I remember the way he looked at me, tried to figure out if I was bluffing or not, and then he (thank GOD) nodded. But the mean girl? Ursula? The one that everyone in school thought was a slut and was sleeping with half the school? She wasn’t so easy to forgive and I left school that day knowing it wasn’t over between us.
Except that it was. Because my older sister found out what had happened, heard somehow that I had been threatened. And then Jody went after her and let her know that messing with me meant that Ursula was also messing with HER and did she really want to do that? Turned out that the mean girl was more scared of my sister than she was mad at me and just like that, the whole mess went away. And so did that stupid, stupid slam book, confiscated (rightly so) by the guidance counsellor.
There’s a point to this story here.
I’ve been caught up in my “blog challenge” that I started months ago, writing freely about the “life lessons” I’ve learned throughout my life (and I’m using the term “life lessons loosely – very loosely). I’ve sat down and just wrote, sometimes hesitating to say certain things for fear that they’d hurt the people that would read what I wrote, and then writing them anyway. My last post, that I just posted today, I almost didn’t post because I knew how it’d be read, and taken, and then I posted it anyway. And in the process, it’s become clear to me that I’ve hurt the people that I wrote about and that I did a miserable thing in airing my dirty laundry for the world to see. Not that the world reads this blog, but still. It’s a public space, and I’ve seemed to forgotten that. I said before that I thought that these posts have been therapeutic and have been helping me understand a lot about why I feel the way I do about certain things in how I was raised and the person I became as a result. And I still feel that way. And I don’t neccessarily want to stop. Because it’s more than just what I’m learning about myself.
I’m struggling lately, with trying to decide if Clara will be an only child or not, or if I want to have that conversation with my husband about whether or not she should have a sibling. Most days, that conversation goes un-had because I’m still not convinced that I want more than one. I’m scared that I won’t have learned anything about how I felt growing up as a child and that my time and attention will be spread too thin. That it will be too hard, too difficult to love equally, or to at the very least, be convincing. I want to spare Clara those things.
And then, I remember the slam book fiasco, and how my sister had my back. And all the other good times that resulted from having not just one sister, but three. And a brother too. And while I don’t neccesarily think that she needs to have all the siblings that I had (nor am I prepared to do THAT for her), I find myself asking if I can deprive Clara of just one sibling. Of a best friend that will be by her side no matter what happens. Forever.
Regardless of what I decide, this digging through my background, uncovering things from my childhood that I’ve convinced myself is the answer to a lot of my questions – it doesn’t really belong on here. At least not the “life lessons” that are related to other people and how their actions or behavior might have impacted me – those should be private thoughts. Not public ramblings, written carelessly like nasty adjectives in a slam book.
I’ve gone back and password protected those posts. Future posts of that nature will be assigned passwords where neccessary. I’m going to try and focus a bit less on those posts though (or at the very least make them a lot shorter and try and get back to what this blog originally was. It’s gotten a bit heavy on here and those gray clouds have chased people away I think.
Maybe, as a break, I need to try this 30-Day Challenge. I have a feeling it’ll be a hell of a lot easier.
ETA: I just peeked at day one and saw that I’m supposed to list my favorite actor. Just one? Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to do THAT?