Saturday, December 4, 2010

Take That

When I was in the fifth grade at St. Joachim's Catholic School, I experienced an event that changed the course of my life and probably helps explain why I am the way that I am. It is all because of a boy named Mike M...

So, here is how it went down -- my mom sent me off with a lunch that included one of the little canned fruit cups and a plastic spoon; she told me to bring home the spoon. I was a Rule Follower and so I saved the spoon in my lunch bag, put it near the pole of the volleyball net, and enjoyed lunch recess. When the bell rang I went to retrieve it and found the aforementioned Mike M. (aka MM) busily crushing my spoon with his foot -- he apparently thought it was someone else's and had dumped the contents of the bag, and crushed my spoon into plastic shards -- clearly not presentable to mom.

I did what any good Catholic school girl would do under the circumstances -- I told my teacher. She went to the sixth grade room and told his teacher, Sister Marie, who marched MM to the fifth grade where he was made to apologize to me in front of the whole class. And so the ruination of my life began...

Understandably, MM was embarrassed and mad, and he did what any bullying asshole sixth grader would do -- he teased me about my spoon. This may surprise you, but I was (and am) VERY VERY sensitive, and so I did what any relatively shy and normal fifth grade girl would do -- I hid out behind the school and did everything possible to avoid him.

My best friend stayed with me for a few days as I camped out behind the school during all recesses but pretty soon she found friends who were not in hiding, and I lost her. I planned all school arrivals and departures around avoiding my Tormenter, and spent all school recesses hiding out.

My dad's helpful advice: ignore him. Well, that wasn't one of the options in my book -- being teased was mortifying to me and really I just wanted my dad to beat that creepy kid up.

I am completely serious when I tell you that for 2.5 years I hid. If I slipped up and that horrid MM saw me, he teased me and that was just the worst thing imaginable and I wanted to disappear. So I managed to be invisible at a small school, befriending the first graders who also stayed in the back of the school, carefully planning arrivals and departures to avoid that bullying jerk, and just lived in shame, fear, and humiliation until that blessed day when Mike M. graduated from 8th grade and left the school -- Oh Happy Day.

I think I was 35 before I could say the word, "spoon" without feeling sick. And finding my best friend on Facebook has been so wonderful -- I missed her after I went into my personal version of the Witness Protection Program. And I have never, ever forgotten what it feels like to be bullied, embarrassed, and tormented -- and what it meant to me that nobody made it stop.

A stupid plastic spoon cost me so much of my childhood -- and my self-esteem -- at a tender and impressionable age. I look back and wonder why I did not just punch that awful kid like I did to poor Kirk Lauren who showed my love note to his friend when we were in the sixth or maybe seventh grade -- yes, I punched Kirk and pushed him in the bushes for that violation so why didn't I do that to my Tormenter??

I think it was because I was embarrassed that I had told on him in the first place -- but in my defense, I was a trained Rule Follower and I had no idea that Sister Marie would humiliate him by forcing a public apology and I just now remembered that he also had to replace my plastic spoon, also in front of the class! Wow -- I had totally forgotten about that part...

No matter -- he should not have teased me, the teachers should have handled it better, my dad should have beat him up, and God should have struck him down with a sizzling lightening bolt. But none of that happened and instead, I became a Master of Avoidance and probably should have used those skills to become a Secret Spy or maybe an Undercover Detective.

But instead I became a social worker, and that actually makes perfect sense -- which is the point of all this (one of them, anyway). If you are an Underdog -- you definitely want me on your side. And if you think for one second that you are going to be mean, gain advantage, cheat, hurt or otherwise be a Not Nice Person -- well, you have another thing coming if I am around.

I suspect it is because of a plastic spoon -- and Mike M. -- that I do not tolerate Mean People very well. And I suppose you have Mike M. to thank if you get leveled and find yourself starring into my furious face because you decided to be mean, not follow rules or in some other way crush someone's plastic spoon -- or their spirit.

Isn't it so interesting how something so ordinary as a plastic spoon can alter the course of a life?

So, here are the take home messages:

1. Don't let your kids -- or yourself -- be bullied.
2. Don't be a bully (or people will Blog about you years later not to mention all the Bad Karma you create for yourself!).
3. You do not get to decide the importance of a plastic spoon -- if it isn't yours, leave it alone.
4. Follow the rules and be nice.
5. Ten dollars to anyone who finds Mike M. ;)


  1. OK. I prescribe a repeat viewing of the classic "Frasier" episode "Seat of Power" (season 2, episode 11). It's posted on YouTube in three parts:;
    Part 2: and
    Part 3:
    If you're short of time, just watch part 3...

    Laugh a little--or, hopefully, a lot! Best of the Holidays to all the Kaibab family,

  2. Hmmmm, I have so much to say here, but not enough space! ;-)

  3. I remember that day so well. I can remember hanging out behind the school with you for a couple of days and then having to make the decision of ditching my friend and joining the others on the playground who weren't in hiding. The teasing went on forever, it didn't stop when you went into hiding. I was teased relentlessly about that spoon by MM and others in his class because they knew you and I had been friends since the first grade so why not pick on me too. I ignored him but deep down I hated him and all his bully recruits because they humiliated you and I lost my best friend who went into exile.
    It definitely was not handled properly then and it's obvious that today bullying is stil not properly handled in some situations as pointed out by the suicides that have taken place as a result of relentless bullying.
    I'm sorry you went through that and didn't know what an impact that it made on your life. I'm so sorry for making a conscious decision to leave you there by yourself but so happy you came out on top.