Friday, April 30, 2010

The Telenovela That Has Become My Life, Starting With The Prom: Part Two

In case you missed Part One,my dad and I had worked out the details of an agreement whereby I would have my prom experience essentially ruined to ensure that a cougar bimbo did not succeed in by-hook-or-by-crook (that sounds painful and I'm not even male) gaining access to my brother's sperm and illegally using them (she's eighteen while my brother will be sixteen years, four months, and twenty-nine days on prom night; the age of consent in California is eighteen) to conceive a child. A limo was rented. My dress and shoes were purchsed. Restaurant reservations and hair and nail appointments were made.

Then came the track meet in the boondocks that ended my track and diving seasons and a whole lot of other things. The ill-fated accident I've been asked not to discuss in detail happened IN MY LANE of the track during a 100- meter high hurdles race. It was the Thursday afternoon following the injury. In the preceding days I had undergone three surgeries to clean out the wound, set the bones, close the would, and probably other things I'd rather not even know. The really heavy sedation had been lifted, and but I still felt mentally foggy. No friends had been in to visit me. I was out of it enough that I hadn't actually noticed, but my mom mentioned that my doctor wasn't letting kids, even those my own age, in to visit me because of the risk of infection, since there was still a drain in my leg. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why the germs of my peers would have been all that much more potent than those of the adults who visited, but that was what my doctor said. Anyway, I was lying on my hospital be in a drug-induced haze when into my room walked a person I didn't at first recognize, because she's not someone I see on anything resembling a regular basis. This person sat on the recliner my father had moved next to my bed and began chattering loudly enough to make my head hurt. (My dad had been mostly working out of my hospital room since I was admitted. He always speaks really quietly whenever I'm sick or hurt (usually sick ; I've never been signifcantly injured before this accident). He mostly yells at me the rest of the time, but he acts like a doctor when there's something physically wrong. Maybe it's because he uses such a soft voice, but all the nurses and the other doctors do, too, so I hadn't heard any loud voices since the staff at the other hospital and my coach were yelling at each other. The voice of this girl was so loud in contrast.) I eventually processed the sensory input of her loud chatter and powerful perfume, of which she must either have sprayed half a bottle on right before coming into my hospital room or sprayed the entire bottle on herself earlier in the day. I picked a few words out of the clatter of her voice. I think I remember hearing "John," "prom", "me and him," and "I didn't think you'd mind." I don't remember saying anything to her.

Somewhere in the course of the uninvited visitor's visit, a nurse walked in. She wasn't stoned, so she was able to make more sense of the one-sided conversation than I was. Then the nurse started talking loudly, which hurt my head even more. The nurse was practically yelling at this girl.

The girl said something along the lines of, "My mother works here, so I can come in here any time I want." I hadn't thought coherently enough to make the connection, but yes, the girl's mother was a nurse at the hospital where I was, and was actually stationed on my floor.

Possibly because my father is affiliated with the hospital the nurses assigned to me were higher in rank or whatever than most of the nurses caring for patients on floors. (It wouldn't have been my choice for that to be the case. While it's good to have a nurse who isn't caring for too many other patients, with all other things being equal, I'd choose to have someone taking care of me who does this sort of thing every day as opposed to someone who has been shuffling papers for the past five years and was just temporarily called back into actual nursing service, but that was out of my hands.) Anyway, the nurse who walked into my room told the visitor, who had just announced that she could visit any time she wanted because her mom works there, that she was the supervisor of the supervisor of the girl's mother, and that the visitor's mother wouldn't be working there much longer if she didn't get out and stay out.

More loud words were exchanged. I remember trying to cover my ears, but my right arm was wrapped and immobilized, so I could only cover one ear, and covering one ear didn't do much to help. At some point the girl got up to leave, but not before using her cell phone to snap a picture of me in my glamorous state, with my splinted leg suspended and with hair that hadn't been shampooed since Saturday morning. The nurse grabbed the cell phone from the visitor and was attempting to delete the picture while the girl was yelling for her mom, or yelling about something anyway, and trying to get her phone back from the nurse. The nurse walked out of the room with the phone, and the girl followed her. I heard yelling outside the room, and then the nurse came back inside.

The nurse walked up to me and said something like, "I think you were wise not to say anything at all to her." I don't know why I reacted in the way I did, but when I tried to answer her, I suddenly began to sob. The nurse stood there. She patted my head, probably because there wasn't another uninjured place she could touch. After several minutes of my sobbing like either a really little kid or a crazy person, she and others who had come in decided to page my father. He had left his temporary work station set up in my room to talk to a colleague, most likely about the upcoming NFL draft. The nurses called what they thought was his pager, but the number didn't work, so they had him paged on the hospital intercom.

A few minutes later my dad rushed in as though he expected a major emergency. He seemed not to know how to react when he saw me. He repeatedly asked what was wrong. I don't think I could have talked if I had tried, but I didn't feel much like trying, and besides, I didn't know why I was crying.

I won't say that I never cry, but I don't cry very often, and when I do, I make it a point to try to cry privately. I believe it had been about four years since my father had seen me in tears. The crying really upset him-- he wasn't angry with me, but was bothered because he couldn't make it stop. He unhooked my leg from the suspension gear, lifted me off my bed,being careful not to unhook me from any tubes, some of which were in unmentionable places on my body, then sat on the recliner next to my bed with me on his lap. I suppose he didn't know what else to do. Fifteen-year-olds don't normally sit on their fathers' laps, but it was an odd situation. I'm also not the size of a typical fifteen-year-old. My present weight shall remain undisclosed because it's embarrassingly low and I don't want to be judged, but I'll say that I started the sports season at 87 but dropped too many pounds from the rigors of two sports with an already fast metabolism and a generally poor appetite. I was much easier to lift than the average girl my age would have been.

As I was sitting on my father's lap in the rocker-recliner, a lady I didn't know in a nurse's uniform opened the door to my room. She stood in the doorway but didn't come in. If she knew who I was and how old I was, which she apparently did, she probably thought I looked rather silly. After observing the situation for a brief interval, she said, "If you want to know why she's crying, it's because her boyfriend is taking someone else to the prom." I don't remember if she left on her own or was asked to leave. I think I remember the nurse who was in my room earlier walking out after her.

My dad said something to me like, "Don't worry, sweetheart. We'll find someone else to go to the prom with you." He was saying, "Alexis doesn't have a boyfriend. She's not old enough for a boyfriend," to anyone who would listen. I probably was crying even more by this time, but I still don't know why it was I was crying, unless it was everything that was wrong at the moment. Though I was given pain medication, my entire body throbbed. I had little freedom of movement and couldn't get comfortable in the hospital bed. With my leg hanging in the air, part of me was always cold. My hair felt the way hair feels when it's gone too many days without being washed. I was hungry, but even with the anti-emetic medication I received, I had trouble keeping food down. People in my room were speaking with shrill voices that were causing my head (one of my few unbruised body parts) to hurt. Then people in my room were bringing up the prom of all things, which I'd managed to totally block out. Maybe I was on overload. I really don't have an answer. If I could change anything other than the accident itself, the crying incident is the one thing I would change, but I can't change it. It happened. And because there are nurses who are loose-lipped, everyone at my school knows it happened.

I stayed there, resting my head on my dad's shoulder, for what must have been a long time. It was the most comfortable I'd been in days. It could not have been all that comfortable for my dad, but I never heard a word of complaint. A nurse brought a blanket, which was wrapped around me, and a couple of pillows were used to cushion my leg (and his legs, probably) in the temporary cast. I would have been mortified for my peers to have seen me, but since they were nowhere near, curled up in Daddy's arms on his lap was an OK place to be.

My mom arrived after it was dark. She's usually calmer than my dad is, but she seemed worried, too. They whispered a lot of things I couldn't hear. She had brought food. They tried to get the food into me, but I didn't want it. They made me drink Seven-Up, and someone put a spoonful of jello into my mouth and forced me to swallow it. My mom washed my face with a warm washcloth and brushed my teeth.

My dad moved me at some point, because the next morning I was back in the bed with my leg in the air. When I woke up, my orthopedic surgeon was examining my leg. He unhooked it and took the wrapping off, then re-wrapped it. He said it looked good, and that if nothing else weny wrong, my leg could be casted the next day, which would be Saturday. When my dad asked how I was, I smiled and said I was OK. He smiled in return and appeared relieved. I started to remember things from the night before, and hoped they hadn't really happened, but knew that they probably had.

The next day -- Saturday -- my leg was casted and my collarbone was wrapped more securely. The tubes were taken out. Since my leg was casted and the shunts or drains or whatever had been in my leg were removed and closed, friends could visit. My mom called my best friend Megan, who called other people. The normal limit was supposed to be two visitors at a time per patient, but since I had a private room, the nurses let a few extra people in at a time. Everyone, including my brother, already knew that John and Cassandra, the nurse's evil daughter, were going to the prom together.

On the Monday after I was injured, some not very nice guys were teasing John about taking a cripple in a wheelchair to the prom. According to eyewitnesses, John loudly proclaimed that he had no intention of taking me to the prom. My brother heard him and asked when he was going to tell me. He told my brother to tell me himself. My brother said that he sat down in the cafeteria next to John and told him that he should call me and ask me what I wanted to do as soon as I was out of sedation. My brother told him that there was no way I really would still want to go to the prom in my condition, but that the classy thing would be to give me a chance to back out instead of dumping me. John, according to my brother, said maybe.

Matthew, my brother, said he didn't tell my parents about John's situation because he didn't want them to become upset if there was no reason to be upset, and that if there was a reason to become upset, they would find out soon enough. He was probably right. I don't think their knowing in advance would have made any difference. They still wouldn't have anticipated Cassandra's appearance in my hospital room.

According to my brother and others, Cassandra was totally over-dramatizing what happened to her at the hospital. Her version of the story had her being chased by security guards and police officers, and her mother firing the nurse who had told her to leave my hospital room. As fuzzy as my mind had been, she had either lied or screwed up the facts far worse than my mind had. After I had gotten through her visit without crying or even saying anything, her mother did tell her that I was crying hysterically over losing my "boyfriend" to her, and had to add the detail about my being held on my father's lap while I wept over the loss of my "boyfriend." This, too, was blabbed all over the school, along with just how horrible I looked with my dirty hair and excessive weight loss. I have no delusions about John ever having been my boyfriend. He mostly just wanted help with his calculus homework.

It would have been nice if John had followed my brother's suggestion of calling me and asking, because I would have told him to go with whomever he wanted with my blessing. I would even have given him my half of the ticket. As it was, his mother had the nerve to call my mom and ask her for my ticket. My mother is ordinarily so calm, so practical, and so philosophical that it was funny to see her so angry about this.

My brother was angry, too. First he wanted to beat John up. My parents said they would kill him if he did that. Then my mom's spies heard a rumor that Matthew was going to bean John at baseball practice. My mother was adamant that Matthew should not deliberately throw a ball at anyone. John may have heard the rumor as well, because he missed two days of practice for flimsy reasons.

Then John showed up at practice. The team was doing some sort of drill called "Situation." Matthew was pitching, and John had to bat. Roughly one hundred kids were there to see how it unfolded. As much as I now dislike John, I couldn't have watched, because I hate violence or any threat of it. According to my witnesses, when Matthew pitched to John, John fell out of the batter's box even though every pitched was squarely over the center of the plate. Matthew wasn't even going for the corners. Then the coach called out, "Dropped third strike." In "Situation," even when there's a real batter at the plate, the coach or manager may yell a specific thing that the players are supposed to react to as though it actually happened. So then John goes trotting right down the lane that's supposed to be clear for the ball to be thrown. The catcher lobbed the ball right at John's shoulder blade. He said it was to make the point that he could have thrown it harder and could have have hurt John with impunity, because a player is not supposed to be in that lane or whatever it's called. He didn't hurt John because you don't hurt your own teammate, but neither do you hurt your teammate's sister when she's lying in a hospital bed and there's an easier solution to your problem.

John's parents tried to say that the catcher, Jacob, actually said, "This is for Alexis" as he tossed the ball at John. Jacob says he thought that but didn't say it aloud. One of the coaches who was practically on top of the scene as it took place insists my name was never mentioned. John's parents are thinking of suing someone, but they don't really know whom they should sue. I have an idea: maybe they should sue me, and we could take the case to "Judge Alex." My only stipulation is that I have to be out of this wheelchair before anyone tapes me for television purposes.

The thing with John isn't 100& over. I'm so through with him, but there is still fallout in addition to his parents' nefarious lawsuit. John's family belongs to the the same Catholic parish my family attends, where I also play the organ and piano, or at least I did when I had two hands that worked. My friend Krista brought me a sort of hand-made gift when she visited me in the hospital on Saturday. She had taken a Dollar Store dart board and had glued a picture of John on it. I hadn't even opened the package of darts because you can't throw darts in a hospital room.

When I came home on Sunday, my mom carried the dartboard into the house along with other gifts, balloons, and flowers I had received at the hospital. She sat my gifts on a bench in our entryway. Soon after I got home from the hospital, the Monsignor came to give me communion. Often lay members deliver communion to parish members too ill to come to church for communion. I was to receive communion from the Monsignor himself because I, the organist, was a prominent member of our church, but evidently not as prominent as John. When the monsignor saw the dart board with John's picture on the bench in our entryway, he refused to give me communion. My mother tried to explain to the Monsignor than it wasn't my fault, because the dart board had been a gift that I couldn't leave at the hospital, and that I had no intention of throwing darts at John's image. The Monignor wasn't so easliy assuaged. He told my mother that none of my family should have communion until we repented. My mother, the devout Catholic, was yelling at a Monsignor. I didn't know this before, bu sources have since told me that John's parents donate a great deal of money to the parish.

After the priest left, I was moaning about having been excommunicated. My dad told me to stop being a drama queen because I wasn't excommunicated; the priest just wouldn't let me have communion. I asked him what he though excommunication meant. He laughed and answered, "Not being allowed to take communion."

My mom said, "We're all excommunicated." If the priest doesn't come to his senses, she said, we'll find another priest.

"That's what I love about the Catholic Church," my dad said. "If you don't like what one priest says, you can always look for another one."

After that, my dad gave me a Vicodin, so I didn't really care all that much about communion or anything else.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Telenovela That Has Become My Life, Starting With The Prom: Part One

A few months ago I accepted an invitation to the prom. The boy who asked me was not the man of my dreams, but he was considered by most to be out of my league-- not so far out of my league that I had reason to suspect his invitation occurred as part of a bet or a dare, but he was a more prestigious date than I would have anticipated at least for this year. By this time next year I may have started to grow boobs, so the outlook may be brighter in the future.

The boy who invited me to the prom is a baseball teammate of my brother's. No one has mistaken him for Taylor Lautner or Zac Efron, but he'd have to be rated better-than-average in the dating pool at my school. He's a decent student. Since I accepted his inviation, we've spent time together at school and at social events in groups, and he's come to my house a couple of times each week to work on calculus assignments. My parents don't let me single date yet.

My brother broke up with his most recent girlfriend in early December. He always inexplicably manages not to be seeing any girl on Christmas, Valentine's Day, or at the time of her birthday. (I'll allow you to do the math here.) A girl who used to be a cheerleader but whose GPA was too low even for her to remain on the cheer squad invited him to be her date to the prom. He accepted her invitation.

In the event that this blog ever becomes public knowledge among my schoolmates, I need to be discreet here so that I will not someday find myself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. How's this by way of an anecdotal illustration of my brother's date's intellectual prowess? (If it's true, it cannot be considered libel, as I've learned from my TV judge friends.) Bimbo, the name by which my brother's date shall heretofore be referred, was hired (predictably by a male bank manager)to work as a part-time teller. She required almost constant supervision for several months, which was hardly cost-effective for the financial institution employing her. (Yes, she's that pretty.) Eventually she had to be given some degree of independence on the job. One day soon after Bimbo was allowed to work without her keeper, a premium account holder came in to get travelers' checks, which were to be provided free to holders of premium accounts. You, I, and just about anybody with even half of normal cognitive function would understand this to mean that the service charge for the travelers' checks would be waived, but that the face value of the travelers' checks would need to be covered by the account holder. Bimbo, unfortunately, was not privy to this apparently well-kept secret. Free meant free as far as Bimbo was concerned. When the premium account holder realized what a great deal he was getting, he increased his order to something in the neighborhood of twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of travelers' checks.
It probably goes without saying that Bimbo and the financial institution soon went their separate ways.

I found it mildly incongruous that Bimbo and my twin brother would be attending the prom as a couple, but his life is his and mine is mine, and we try not to interfere excessively other than to occasionally poke fun or hurl insults in the direction of one another. That is what siblings do, and we do it at least as well as anyone else.

Then one Saturday morning our family of four was seated at our breakfast table. Everyone else in the family stuffed themselves with pancakes and butter-pecan syrup while I tried to surreptitiously feed most of mine to our golden retriever. Despite my nickname of Anorexis, I do not have an eating disorder. I just don't like to eat very much food at a time. I learned before I outgrew my high chair that it's easier to feed the dog than it is to argue with my parents about how much food I need to eat. My parents have never figured out why every dog we've had has bordered on morbid obesity. Anyway, as we were breakfasting together on that Saturday morning in February, my dad said, "So how would you two like to go to the prom together?"

My brother and I looked at each other with horrified expressions. I noticed my brother peering at each of my parents alternately. "Is there anything you two haven't told us?" he asked slowly. "Like, are you two related or something, and you're just now telling us that we're expected to follow the family tradition?" The question wasn't necessarily as stupid as it sounded, because my parents do look alike. They both have medium thick medium brown hair and the exact same shade of light blue eyes, which both my brother and I also have. We all have the same medium fair skin that will tan if we're gradual enough in the process. The only real difference is that my brother and dad are tall and skinny, while my mother and I are short and skinny. My mom looks like my dad's sisters, and he looks like her brothers. It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a nutshell, to plagiarize the late Winston Churchill.

Aware that we had misunderstood his offer, Dad said, "No, I don't want you to be each others' dates." Twin Bro and I each breathed an audible sigh of relief. "I want you to double date." The sighs turned to unison gasps.

"No freakin' way!" my brother yelled.

"Hell, no!" I hollered at the same time.

My dad's mouth was full of pancake by this time, so he pointed at me with his index finger, then motioned with his thumb in the direction of the stairs. I walked hurriedly up the stairs, hoping that for once I would get to my own bedroom before my father recovered his ability to speak and sent me instead to my parents' study for my obligatory time-out, but it wasn't to be. Just before I reached my bedroom door, my dad swallowed his bite of pancake and called out to me, "Into the study, Alexis."

Even with the door to the study closed, I could hear the argument my brother was continuing to wage. "It just isn't natural." "The other kids will think we're freaks." "She is a freak, and the other kids will think I'm a freak if I'm seen with her."

At this point at least my mother rose to my defense and said, "Don't flatter yourself, Matthew. She doesn't want to be seen with you any more than you want to be seen with her." As much as I didn't want to attend any function, much less the junior/senior prom, with my twin brother, I didn't appreciate his playing the "Im such a cool guy and Alexis is a complete nerd" card. He looks sixteen, while I can pass for as old as eleven only on a good day, but the truth sometimes hurts.

Each of the next several meals our family consumed together became one more battle in The Great War of the Prom. My parents have always been over-protective, but this latest move took over-protectiveness to never-before-seen heights. Beyond that, my parents could not offer up a single solid reason as to why this freakish Deliverance twist on the prom needed to happen. Tempers were flaring, and I was spending the majority of the waking hours I was home in time-out. I appealed to my Twitter friends, Judge Alex and Russ Carney. Russ was totally sympathetic and posted his support. Judge Alex was sympathetic as well, but was again caught in that good-parent thing of not wanting to second-guess another parent's ruling.

Then on a weekday in March my dad signed me out of school right before lunch. He took me to a really expensive restaurant -- one for which I was not dressed nicely enough, but the host looked the other way as he escorted us to our table. We ordered our food, then Dad told me what was going on. My mom is a high school counselor in our district but not at our high school. Even though she doesn't work on our campus, she has many friends who do. These friends serve as my mother's spies. Neither my brother nor I can as much as sneeze without my mother learning of it, usually within fifteen minutes.

Bimbo, it seems, may have had a more future-oriented purpose than just the prom in mind when she asked my brother to be her prom date. If the rumor mill is to be believed (I can never figure out how my mother hears rumors from my high school, occasionally directly pertaining to me, long before I hear them), Bimbo plans to become pregnant by my brother on prom night and to bear his child approximately nine months later. Her rationale in choosing my brother was in the hope that the child would inherit her looks and his brains, and that Matthew is probably nice-looking enough not to mess up the child's appearance. The problem herein lies with the counterpart genetic equation: while my brother may be attractive enough not to interfere with the baby's good looks, the same cannot be said regarding Bimbo's intelligence not being so low that it would scramble the poor baby's brains. This was, after all, the same Bimbo who gave away twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of travelers' checks. I choked on a piece of zucchini when Dad told me this, and he came perilously close to performing the Heimlich Maneuver on me. Once my airway cleared, I asked my dad, "You don't honestly believe any of this is true, do you?"

Dad answered, "I certainly hope it's not, but I'm not sure we can afford to take any chances."

I gave him my opinion that, even though I'm obviously the brighter twin, my brother isn't that stupid. My dad answered that if she drugs him, his level of stupidity may not be a factor. I told dad that he and mom had been watching too much Law & Order SVU. He just looked at me. I told him that I think I'm going to sit the prom out this year. He told me that sitting the prom out is not even an option for me.

I knew my father would never drag me into a formal dance screaming and kicking, but he would take advantage of every opportunity to make my life a living hell if I failed to do things his way. My only prerogative was to negotiate the most favorable deal I could get. I did just that. The deal was that daddy would pay for everything: my dress, my shoes, my hair and nails (I can't have long nails because of my musician jobs, but I would still get a full manicure and pedicure), pictures, the restaurant meals, the limo, and anything else I forgot to include. He totally caved to all my demands, and gave me no limits. I had already purchased a dress, but I would return it and get a better one. It was still a stupid junior bridesmaid dress and not a real prom dress, but if I had to wear a stupid junior bridemaid dress (in a size ten, to add insult to injury, and not a misses 10 or a juniors 9/10, but a little girls' size 10) it would be a damn expensive one.

I asked Dad why he and Mom didn't just tell Matthew that he couldn't go to the prom with Bimbo, except I didn't call her Bimbo when I talked to my dad about it because I didn't want to risk having my mouth washed out with soap. My dad said that a counselor at my school had called her into the office and had asked her point-blank about the rumor and her prom-night intentions. Bimbo denied everything. The counselor sensed that she was lying but couldn't know for sure. My parents thought it would be wrong to say Bro couldn't go to prom with Bimbo on the outside chance that she might not have ever said anything about making a baby with my brother.

At this point I gave my dad two alternate suggestions, both of which were exemplary in their problem-solving potential: Solution Number One was that I, Alexis, would generously purchase a package of condoms for brother, and parents would tell him that he absolutely must use them if he were to engage in any unsanctioned extracurricular prom-night activities. This solution was immediately rejected without consideration. Solution Number Two was that father, a licensed physician, would prescribe chemical castration pills for brother just for the seven days prior to the prom. Father would tell brother that the pills were, in fact, anti-acne meds, because no one wants a zit on prom night. Bro would swallow those pills by the handful. Dad didn't go for this solution, either, though he laughed and said it showed creativity.

So we inked out the details on a kiddie menu that the waiter brought to our table because he thought I was a kiddie. Limo would pick up Bro and me, another couple on which we would need to agree but which would surely be my best friend Megan and his best friend Josh, Bimbo, and my date, who would later be known as Baseball Bean Boy for reasons that will later be made clear. My job, with the assistance of my best friend Megan, who is incredibly bossy, would be to supervise Matthew and guarantee that he did not leave the restaurant during dinner, did not leave the restaurant during the after-prom dessert, and did not fornicate in the limo. Mom's friends, the spies, would take care of babysitting Matthew and Bimbo while at the prom.

TO BE CONTINUED

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Back to the World of the Living but Having Permanently Missed 3 Judge Alex Episodes

Hello. I'm glad to be back to the world of blogging after a forced hiatus. I had a rather unfortunate hurdling accident eight days ago. I've been asked not to share specifics of the accident here or anywhere else, as the parents of someone else who was involved are supposedly contemplating litigation. It all seems silly, as, other than my relatives, who live everywhere except near the town I live, only my parents, my brother, one teacher, and three friends know about this blog. My mom says that if three of your friends know about it, soon enough one of your enemies will learn about it as well. So I can't say much except IT WASN'T MY FAULT! I never left my lane. My (former-- I will not be walking anytime soon, much less hurdling) coach told me that he saw a video tape of the race that one of the parents took, and it shows clearly that other people and objects entered my lane and not the reverse.

Hurdling injuries are supposed to be shin splints (which can turn into stress fractures if you ignore them, but still. . .) and hamstring injuries, with an occasional ankle injury in a worst-case scenario. What I ended up with was a compound tibia-fibula fracture and a clavicle fracture.
A word of advice I would give anyone contemplating undergoing an injury is to at all costs avoid the backwoods locations of northern California. Suffer your injury next to Stanford, University of California, UCLA, USC, or a simlarly prestigious institution. If you choose to ignore my advice, even if the injury itself doesn't kill you, the hospital staff may very well finish the job.

I was transported by ambulance to (nameless hospital, and I'm using the term hospital very loosely in referring to this place as such) which remains nameless: (A) to preserve my anonmymity and the undisclosed specifics of my location; (B) to keep my parents from being sued; the hospital would not prevail in a defamation charge against me, as I could substantiate everything I allege, but the hassles of being on the receiving end of even an unsuccessful lawsuit are sufficient reason to exercise caution in this regard. In any event, I was scraped off the track by a couple of paramedics and transported to a so-called hospital. My (former) coach accompanied me to the hospital in the ambulance, leaving the team under the supervision of the assistant coach. As it turns out, had he not come with me, I might not have survived the ordeal. It was only through the actions of him and of the father of another track team member, who is an orthopedic surgeon, that I received any care whatsoever.

If you are a kid who has ever participated in school sports, you know about the extensive health questionnaire parents are required to complete prior to a kid even receiveing a phyiscal for school sports, much less actually stepping on a practice field. The very reason for the requirement of the completion of these forms is so that procedures will be in place to provide for an athlete's care in the event that an athlete is injured when his or her parents can't be reached. The sad thing is that if my forms had not been so thoroughly completed, the hospital probably would have treated me.

My father is a physician. He isn't currently associated with a medical practice because he has been in research for about twenty years. He takes courses and works just enough ER shifts to keep his licensing current, and he has always treated my mom, my brother, and me, even though it's not recommended that doctors treat their own family members. Actually, I don't know any doctor who doesn't treat his own wife or kids in a pinch. If someone gets an ear infection, a doctor is not going to take his kid to urgent care and wait for hours when he can prescribe the same thing himself. We all have doctors besides my dad, but if we get sick on a night or weekend, he takes are of it himself. Almost any doctor with kids does enough reading or consulting that he becomes practically a board certified pediatrician, anyway. The main thing is that a doctor should have someone less emotionally involved screening his family members or taking care of serious matters, but for really routine stuff, doctors almost always handle it themselves. When I contracted pneumonia in the fall, my doctor would have hospitalized me, but my dad stayed home from work and kept me on a IV and oxygen at home so I wouldn't be exposed to other hospital germs. The doctor came to my house daily to check me, buy my dad took care of me all day and night.

Anyway, my dad tends to fill out those health forms as though he is writing books for publication. They ask for a lot of non-essential information anyway. For example, I'm not sure exactly why they think they need to know the exact day, month, and year a kid contracted chicken pox. My dad takes the forms to extremes probably never before seen. He lists my brother's and my complete medical histories, with basically every medication that we have ever been given in our entire lives, and what if any reaction there was to each and every medication.

So when the hospital in the sticks was given my health form, which incidentally authorized my coach by name to give consent for any medical treatment needed (not even stipulating that the care was limited to that exclusively necessary for the preservation of life or limb), the ER personnel pretty much wanted to know what kind of a nut would write a complete book on his kid's health form. When my coach told them that my dad was a doctor, they backed away from me and said they wouldn't touch me without at least a telephone OK from one of my parents, and preferably the one who is an MD.

Under ordinary circumstances, this wouldn't have been a big issue. Someone would call my parents' cell numbers, and at least one of them would answer. The problem was that they were at my brother's baseball game in another direction. This place where my brother was playing apparently has abysmal cell phone reception. When it was discovered that faulty cell phone reception was at the root of the problem, the police were called and sent to the high school where my brother was playing baseball. By this time, however, the game was over, the teams were gone, and the crowd had dispersed. A pharmaceutical salesman who is a friend of my dad came to my brother's game. He invited my parents to have lunch at his house. The highway patrol eventually located the school bus carrying my brother's baseball team, but he had no idea where my parents were. When my parents reached the home of the people they were visiting, they used the people's home phone to leave messages on my cell phone and my brother's, but my brother didn't have cell phone reception. My phone was tucked away in a bag, and no one thought to check it.

So eventually my brother gets to an area that has cell phone reception, and he finds out where they are and calls them. By that time, however, I was already in shock. Fortunately, in the meantime, the father of one of my teammates had arrived at the track meet. Someone told him about my accident. He asked if my parents had been there, and was told no, so he drove to the local hospital. When he got there, my (former) coach told him that the hospital staff were refusing to treat me. He called an ambulance and had me immediately transferred to a hospital at which he practices and at which my father is partly based, which is only about ten miles from my home. He and the paramedics treated me for shock, and gave me IV fluids, antibiotics,and pain medication. He had my coach drive his car while he rode in the ambulance with me.

I don't remember any of this. I remember being on the track, and I vaguely remember being put on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance, but other than that, it's as if it happened to someone else, except I have the cast, sling, and scars to prove otherwise.

When I arrived at the hospital near my home, I went into surgery immediately. I had another surgery the next day, and another one Tuesday. I don't think I was really conscious until Wednesday night. Even then I was quite stoned. I'm still taking entirely too many drugs, but my mind is beginning to clear just a little.

My clavicle (collarbone) fracture isn't all that serious. It's wrapped, and my arm is immobilized in a sling. Actually, it's immobilized a lot more than that, because when I told my dad I wanted my laptop, he wouldn't give it to me until he thoroughly attached my arm to my body with three ace bandages so that I couldn't use my right arm to type if my life depended on it. No one around here trusts me! The bone should heal in five to eight weeks. It would take an adult closer to eight weeks, but since I'm still growing, my bone may heal a bit faster. It's nice that there's a positive side to being physically immature!

My leg fracture is worse. Often when the tibia is broken, the referred pressure also breaks the fibula --the smaller bone in the lower leg; this happened in my case. What also happened was that the skin was also broken by the bone. This often causes bleeding and a major risk of infection. It also often causes greater bone displacement and greater pain than would be present with a less complicated fracture. It was probably a combination of the bleeding and pain that caused me to go into shock. The open or compound fracture was the reason I needed more than one surgery, and the reason I'm still on heavy antibiotics.

So I've been paroled from the hospital. If things go as planned, I will not need additional surgery, which is good, as the ones I've already had were quite enough. My parents have been really great. I knew there was a reason I've stuck around here for so long. I'm a very picky eater. My parents ordinarily don't humor me in this regard and expect me to eat a reasonable amount of whatever is served whether I like it or not, but even they understand that I have to draw the line at hospital food. I ate cereal and chocolate milk from the hospital for breakfast, because it came straight from the box and carton, and there was not much the staff could do it ruin it. Someone from my dad's staff brought lunch from Subway or somewhere similar for both him and me each day. My mom or one of my aunts made my dinner each night. (I forgot to add that I do have one aunt and uncle and their kids who live near us. They're all nice. They don't invade my privacy by reading my blog, or if they do, they at least have the decency not to say anything about it.) The other aunt here, who is also my Godmother, came to visit so that she could help out when she learned that I was injured. She is also staying with me this week so that my parents don't have to take any more time off work.

I can't use crutches because of my broken clavicle. This means I have to use a wheelchair, which I cannot push by myself, because if you roll just one wheel, it goes in a circle. My brother tied a rope from my bed to the bathroom, so I can pull myself there with my left hand, but my mom says I have to tell someone because if no one is watching me I might fall and hurt myself worse. It is not cool to have to be supervised in the bathroom. They do leave me alone once I am in place, but that is only a slight consolation. Also, we have a two-story house, and my bedroom is upstairs. My dad or my brother has to carry me up the stairs. If at least one of them is not home, I have to go downstairs before they leave because if there was a fire my mom or aunt couldn't get me downstairs without injuring me further. This, too, will be a bummer.

I told my parents I don't want to go back to school until fall. They said I have to go back after this week. I heard them talking, and I happen to know that the doctor hasn't even cleared me for next week and may not. I can hope. I don't want to be a cripple at school. I wish they would reconsider. I could use my own money to pay for a babysitter if time off work is all they're concerned about.

So for the next week I'm in my room if my dad or brother is home, and down stairs on the sofa if they're not. At least I'll be able to watch Judge Alex. I watched it from my hospital bed on Thursday and Friday, but not on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It did not occur to anyone to record it for me. If anyone can post a recap of any of those episodes in the comments section here, it would be greatly appreciated.

The prom is off for me. I will explain in another post soon, but I'm getting very sleepy.

Editorial Note: Most of this post was brought to you by Alexis' wonderful, intelligent, and handsome brother, who saw her struggling to type with one hand and kindly (as is characteristic of him) offered to help.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time-out: Incarceration by Another Name Yet Still Incarceration (Help Needed!)

Most people wouldn't publicly discuss anything this embarrassing, but since the only people I know who will see this (except for my English teacher) are a few relatives, who, for God knows what reason other than morbid curiosity or extreme boredom, come here to read my latest rants, and who already know how odd my parents are, posting here does not equate with public discussion. Perhaps I should not feel embarrassed anyway, since it is my parents who use backward (or at least totally age-inappropriate) parenting practices. I should probably just be grateful that no one strikes my brother or me any longer, and I am grateful for that, but passively accepting other silly consequences would seem like being perfectly okay with the use of lethal injection because it is less torturous than the electric chair or the firing squad.* The bottom line here is that my parents have twin SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLDS, yet they persist in using TIME-OUTS as a form of punishment.

I could refer to my parents' use of time-out in a more inclusive sense, writing as though the practice is applied uniformly with each of my parents' offspring. Doing so would be a mockery, however; my brother is not sent to time-out. When he has a conflict with my parents, he storms out of wherever the dispute is occurring and takes refuge in his room, where he has access to his cell phone, his laptop, and all of his own books. No one stops him and tells him that he needs to spend quality time in his parents' study. My first thought is always that my brother is my parents' favorite child, which accounts for 100% of the disparity in the levying of consequences. Nevertheless, I'm getting old enough that I shouldn't be dragging out the "you like him more" card too regularly. Beyond that, I don't think that's the real reason I am sent to time-out and he isn't. I think it's a size issue. My brother is a fraction of an inch over six feet tall** and weighs only slightly less than my father. My parents probably know that if my brother chose to defy them and refuse to go to their study when told to do so, it would be a big headache for them to enforce the consequence. I'm not as big and strong as my brother, so if I refused to do what I was told, which I would never do, even my mother could easily drag me to time-out. Whatever the reasons for the discrepancy, my brother and I both have occasional conflicts with our parents. He leaves and goes to his room when things become heated. If I try to do the same, I am sent to time-out instead. (I actually have tried leaving before being ordered to time-out, and I have had no success.) Thus, I will refer to virtual spades as such in this posting and will not pretend that it is an overall family policy as opposed to one applied solely to the smaller and weaker child (who is THE SAME AGE as the larger and stronger child).

When I am in time-out, I can sometimes use one of my parents' computers, and I am allowed to read my their books. There was once a notable exception to the book access rule: my father walked in and found me reading someone's copy (I don't know which parent is the rightful owner) of The Joy of Sex. Truthfully, I wasn't reading it. I was holding it open for an hour, just waiting for one of my parents to walk in and see it in my possession. It's a heavy book even in the paperback edition, and it was uncomfortable to hold it for so long. When my dad finally walked in, he took the book away from me. He said I could read it any time I wanted as long as I was not in time-out. All I had to do was just ask for it. Sure. That's really going to happen. Actually, if I were the rotten child that others so frequently say I am, I would stroll in during one of the rare visits from my grandparents and casually say, "Dad, may I please borrow your copy of The Joy of Sex ?" but I'm really not the brat that I am so often portrayed to be. Other than The Joy of Sex, most of my parents' books are boring. I can read the Bible for only so long. If I'm not allowed to do computer research, I usually fall asleep in a recliner. Such a productive use of time!

I sometimes appeal to Judge Alex Ferrer (TV's Judge Alex, airing from 2:00 to 3:00 locally Monday through Friday on KMAX CW 31, cable channel 12) when I have problems with my parents' draconian policies. Judge Alex is often sympathetic, and I suspect he usually agrees with me, as he is a brilliant man, but he is bound by some unwritten-yet-very-real-in-his-mind code that prevents him from second-guessing another parent's rules. My mother is embarrassed by my Twitter contact with Judge Ferrer. She says that he must be a very busy man and that I should not waste his time with my insignificant issues. She need not be embarrassed: it's highly unlikely that she'll ever run into Judge Alex at a cocktail party, and even if that were to happen, he wouldn't know when he met her that she was the mother of the dreaded Alexis unless she chose to embarrass herself by telling him so. If she knew how often he took my parents' side, she would not have such a problem with my tweeting him. In any event, if I were to tweet my concerns about time-out to Judge Alex, he would either say that it was my parents' call to make, or he wouldn't respond at all. He can't respond to everything (he is a very busy man), but he supposedly reads everything tweeted to him. I don't know if he really reads everything or not. He does have a full schedule. For that matter, though he says it is he who actually tweets there, I have no way of knowing for certain that it is actually Judge Ferrer and not some random staff member who posts the tweets, though the wording does sound as though it is actually he. I continue to tweet him because no one around here listens to anything I say, except to occasionally use it against me. When I tweet Judge Alex, I can at least pretend that someone is reading it and hearing me.

For the record, I try to compensate him for the time Judge Alex spends reading my trivial tweets by getting people to watch his program. My parents sometimes watch my recorded episodes. Some of my relatives now watch. I've used clips from his show in school presentations, and some teachers and classmates are now viewers. My friends and I all record and watch daily.

Since I'm not bothering Judge Alex with this, it would be great if anyone who actually comes across this would post in the "comments" section here that sixteen-year-olds are too old for time-outs. If my parents so deperately need to be rid of me, it would be nice if they could send me to my own room.

* I've read about a murderer named Gary Gilmore, who was executed in Utah in the 1970's. He actually chose a firing squad as his method of execution over more humane forms of capital punishment. Some people -- even taking into account status as a convicted murderer -- are too strange for words.

** We must not forget the fraction of an inch when reporting my brother's height.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Church Music

I spend between three and six hours each week at church. Most of this time I spend playing piano or organ for either my own Catholic church or, occasionally, for one of four churches located withn a few blocks of my church. Because of this, I have very definite opinions about religious music.This should hardly be surprising, because I have very definite opinions about most things, even when I know next to nothing about them.

My musical training has been almost entirely mired in the classics. My mother was my piano teacher until I was in sixth grade, at which time I began studying with a piano professor at a university not too far from my home. Classic hymns more closely resemble classical music than do more folksy or more modern hymns. Neither my mom nor my professor teacher ever said I could only play the works of the masters, but all the printed music lying around my house was of that genre. I've been able to play by ear since I was little, and since my dad is an aficionado of classic rock, he sometimes likes for me to play some of his favorite classic rock songs that don't suck too horribly when played on piano. Another time I will write about the parochial school Christmas program that I either single-handedly ruined or salvaged depending on whether you were the nun in charge of it or one of the tipsy Azores-Portuguese dairymen in attendance. But, again, I digress.

My opinion, and it is mine alone and does not represent the views of the parish for which I work or my parents or anyone else, is that mainline Protestant churches have the edge on Catholics, Evangelicals, and everyone else, where traditional hymns are concerned. Evangelical churches don't seem to use a whole lot of traditional hymns anymore; nearly all of them are using "praise music" now. Many mainline churches and some Catholic parishes are using "praise music" as well.

I've heard and played "praise music," and I'm not overly fond of it. Much of it seems to me to be "dumbed down," literarily, theologically, and musically. I don't want to cite specific examples because I don't know what the laws are about such things and don't wish to be sued in the event that a copyright holder stumbles onto my site and actually reads it (then again, that would be the first evidence that any person not related to me ever has read or ever will read anything here, so that might not be such a bad thing). I am, however, open-minded about what types of music should be used in church. If a congregation finds that "praise music" meets its needs, that congregation should by all means use "praise music." I would prefer not to be present when this happens, but I have no problem with others using the music that is most suited to their tastes.

The monsignor at my parish has eclectic tastes in music. He picks the hymns to be sung, and I chooses all the unsung music, including the prelude, postlude, offertory, and communion music. If the parish choir sings (everyone hopes they won't, sadly), I accompany them. I have no choice in what they sing. The monsignor is always asking me if I could play louder when the choir sings to cover up some of the really bad spots, but one can only do so much. The hymns the monsignor selects range from the newer Catholic stuff such as "Here I am, Lord" to the old favorites like "How Great Thou Art." He says he's trying to keep everyone happy. I'm just as happy not to have the task of selecting hymns to be sung, as keeping everyone happy in that regard would be a daunting task. Regarding my choices in instrumental selctions, the only person who ever complains is my mother. After I once played something that she considered especially inappropriate for an offertory (for the record, it was Lennon and McCartney's "Blackbird," which is not exactly "Highway to Hell" or the theme from "The Exorcist") she wanted to have me run everything by her. I refused. I told her I would quit the job if she wanted, but that if I was old enough to play music for church, I was too old to have my mommy telling me how to do the job.

My mother offered a compromise of having the monsignor approve all my music. The monsignor could not care any less what I play. He usually doesn't recognize any song I play because it is sanitzed or Muzaked or whatever by the time I play it on a pipe organ; even if I play it on the piano, I'm careful to make it sound reverent. Someone has to listen closely to tell what I'm actually playing. I never choose songs with sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate-for-church lyrics, because even though the lyrics aren't being sung, if someone recognizes the tune, the person may say the lyrics in his or her head, and I wouldn't want to be a party to someone saying something inappropriate in his or her head in church. I've had many parishioners tell me that they like my choice of music or that their kids pay more attention in church so they can try to guess what I am playing.

My mother still complains. I've suggested to her that she might want to attend a mass where I'm not playing, but she won't usually go for that. My dad likes most of my selections; he even complains if I only play religious or classical stuff, but he doesn't voice his complaints where my mother can hear him. My creativity is limited to regular masses.For baptisms, weddings, or funerals, I only play what is standard or what is specifically requested. I plan to stay the course and continue playing the same sorts of music I'm playing until the monsignor says I need to change, or until he is reassigned.

I don't know if I will continue with my part-time occupation once I go off to college. Church music jobs may be more difficult to find in university cities; I don't really know. I'm in a university suburb right now. Even if I don't find work in college, I've already made enough from this job and from my high school choir accompanist job (two hours per day @ $25.68 per hour before taxes) to pay for a decent new car with considerably less than half the money I've saved. If I found a church I really wanted to work at in college, I could almost afford to play for free. Right now, however, I need to make money while I can.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Note to Mom or Mom's Spies

Dear Mommy,
I made the change to an earlier post that you asked me to make.
Love,
Alexis

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday's Judge Alex Episode

Even though it's spring vacation for our school district, my mom needed to go to work. My dad took the day off to be with my brother and me. While I complain about him a great deal, I really don't mind having my dad around for the most part, but I do think it's retarded (when my mom reads this, which she almost certainly will, she'll make me remove the word retarded because it is politically correct to use it only as a clinical term defining a specific cognitive condition; the fact that I'm aware of the lack of political correctness of my usage of the term and elect to use it anyway will rankle her all the more, but I'll leave it in just to know for certain whether or not she's reading what I write) that he thinks he has to babysit his two sixteen-year-old children. He said he stayed home to watch my brother's baseball game, but that doesn't start until late afternoon. He could easily have put in at least eight hours and would still have made it home in time for the game. This is really neither important nor germane to the rest of my post, but I'm sharing the information just so readers will understand the plight faced by in this case both me and my brother. Our parents do not want to face the fact that we are basically grown. Perhaps it's because admitting that we are grown means they are officially old. I can only speculate as to their motives for treating us like second-graders.

I try to watch Judge Alex each day with my limited TV time. My time is restricted both by the reality of my schedule and by my parents' rules. For the most part, the rule limiting my television-viewing time is unnecessary, as I don't have time to watch more than an hour on school days and two hours on non-school days. (If we're sick, the rule doesn't apply. Both my brother and I hate having to lie around in bed or on the sofa all day, so we're not prone to making false claims of illness.) My brother, who has the same rule as well as a simlarly impacted schedule, doesn't usually sit in front of the TV when Judge Alex is on, although he wanders in during one of his roughly fifteen meals each day if anything he hears sounds interesting. Today he knew he wouldn't have time to watch much TV anyway, so he actually watched the entire two episodes. My dad likes to watch so he can critique, although since he's a doctor and not an attorney, he doesn't necessarily know what he's talking about when he offers his critiques.

Often the first episode of "Judge Alex" shown each weekday is a new episode, and the second one is a repeat. Today's episodes both were repeats, but I hadn't seen either of them. The first one featured a cell phone saleman suing the owner of a cell phone store for unpaid commission. The episode was remarkable mainly in that the plaintiff was a rather quirky fellow who laughed at everything. Judge Alex even asked the man point blank, "Do you laugh at everything?"

I'm mentioning this episode only because the plaintiff brought his fiancee with him to serve as a witness. It seems that no one involved in the plaintiff's life can tolerate his fiancee, which was very understandable to me, as I developed an abhorrence of her at first sight. The woman, who was maybe in her early-to-mid twenties, was very short in stature. My brother immediately pounced on this, proclaiming that the woman looks so much like me that she could be my older twin. This bothered me greatly, as I couldn't see even a vague resemblance between the two of us. Our hair and facial features aren't remotely similar. Even if all short people really do look alike, as my brother insists, the woman and I are in entirely different categories of shortness. Without external reference to her height, I would have to estimate her to be roughly 4' 10" at the most, which is where I was more than a year ago, long before I experienced my most recent growth spurt, which has taken me almost to 5' 2". Beyond that, the woman had the "short" look, which I don't have. Because I'm long-limbed, in a picture all by myself I don't appear short because I have proportions of a taller person. My brother said that short is short; my claims of long-limbedness do nothing to alter the facts, which are that I am "height challenged."

I looked to my dad for support. He agreed with me that in his opinion I have very little resemblance to the plaintiff's fiancee, but said that numbers don't lie and I'm still much shorter than average for my age. This bothers me because my family just yesterday celebrated my most recent increase in height, and today everyone's saying that I'm short again. If my mom were here, she'd probably take my side because she is herself under 5' 4".

My dad made the comment that if I don't have additional growth, I will always be considered short. There are worse things to be than short, but I don't want to look like a troll, which is what I think the plaintiff's fiancee most closely resembles. My dad said that if I want to increase my height, it would be a good idea to take in as many extra calories and optimal nutrition for the next few years. This leads to a slighly sore subject, which is my father's infamous growth shakes. He said that without either the milkshakes or the canned nutritional supplement I used to be forced to drink, I wouldn't be even as tall as I presently am. I would really like to give up the nightly shakes, but I would like to grow another inch or two even more. I guess I'll stick with the shakes, especially since my parents will force the issue anyway.

I have a great idea. My father's birthday is in a few weeks. He always says he has everything he needs. We each usually gets him small gifts, but he likes for my brother and me to do something for him instead of giving him stuff for his birthday. I'll buy him a token gift, but his main gift from me will be that for the next year I will drink the shakes without complaining. It won't be easy, but they really might help me to grow. I'll kill two birds with one stone, which reminds me that the blue jay I posted about on Twitter is still crashing into an upstairs window several times a mnute all day long. I don't know what's wrong with the poor bird. Somebody needs to put it out of its misery.

Judge Alex's second case yesterday featured two very odd ladies. One of them allowed the other one, who was just getting out of drug rehab, to live in her home, but she devised a very rigid and equally bizarre point systerm the other one had to follow. Judge Alex thought it was even stranger than I thought it was. He said something about how even if he was feeling really demented, he couldn't come up with such a bizarre system. My father, on the other hand, thought the point system was a great idea. I know he mostly just says these things just to set my brother and me off, but he was positively infuriating when he blathered on about how even if Judge Alex wasn't demented enough to think of something so weird, he, my father, was much more demented tha Judge Alex and probably could come up with something even weirder.

My father is really much too busy to waste time on drivel, as his job mainly involves such things as trying to find better cures for various forms of cancer. The odds that he would ever even devise a system, much less try to force it on my brother and me, are practically nonexistent. To be safe, though, I'm stating that I will move out of my family's house and into the home of whatever relative will take me if he dares to attempt such a thing.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bullying

Since the suicide of the student from Ireland in Massachusetts and the arrest of some of her alleged tormentors, much air time has been devoted to the topic of bullying in schools. Talking heads on the various news shows have debated the subject. Most have loudly denounced the alleged perpetrators and the school officials who reportedly stood by and failed to take sufficient action to intercede when it happened. At least one parent of a student accused of bullying in that case has gone on record as stating that what happened was not bullying but teenaged name-calling. I wasn't there when any of the alleged bullying or name-calling took place, so I have no real insight as to if the truth is in what law enforecement personnel is saying, in what the student's mother is saying on behalf of the student, or somewhere in the middle.

One thing about the mother's side of the story does cause me to wonder about what she said, especially in relation to concerns my mother has expressed. My mom is a school official. She's been an elementary, middle school, and high school teacher, a school psychologist, and a district director of special services. She opted out of the school psychologist and district director of special services positions because they related primarily to special education; it's difficult right now to be in special education above the classroom teacher level (and sometimes even at that level) and not be under constant threat of litigation. She's now a district director of counseling services. She's also based at a school site and functions as a guidance counselor when the load is too heavy for the other counseling personnel there. One of her pet peeves at work has always been when a parent will tell a school official exactly how a situation went down even though the parent wasn't anywhere near when the incident actually occurred. The parent will recount the student's version of the incident as though it's undisputed gospel, and refuses to believe anything other than what his or her child says happened.

My mom has trouble with this scenario for two reasons. Her first problem is with a parent's assumption that his or her child would never lie. Judge Judy Scheindlin (not my favorite TV judge by any stretch -- I'll always be loyal to Judge Alex) has a favorite saying that one can always tell when a teenager is lying; it's whenever his or her mouth moves. My mother's feelings are not as extreme as those of Judge Scheindlin, but she does believe that kids are capable of lying when the stakes are high enough, especially if the parent has a history of offering a blanket acceptance of whatever his or her kid says. My mom also says that most adolescents and many adults see things solely from their own perspectives, which color their respective versions of "the truth" as they see it.

Even if there had been some reciprocity in the name calling, if it was a large group of students waging verbal battle (or worse) against a single student, it was hardly a fair competition; however, I'm still not thoroughly convinced that formal charges against the alleged perpetrators are warranted. It's a tough question. I would like to think that any student involved in the harrassment of this girl would never have said or done anything hurtful if they had known the end result could have been her suicide. Nevertheless, a lack of thought toward the effect of their actions in no way exonerates the perpetrators of verbal abuse or worse.

I can't read anyone's mind other than my own, so I can't actually know this for certain, but my suspicion is that all but the most narcissistic of adolescents view themselves as potential targets for bullies. Many of our actions are probably governed by a desire to actively avoid the attention of the cruel and powerful among us. I know what my brother's Achilles Heel is, but I won't write about it in the event that anyone who knows my identity, and thus his, might be reading here. Because I'm posting this with relative anonymity, I'll take the chance where my personal weaknesses are concerned. I can say that I have worried about being picked on for my small size and for my tendency to succeed academically with minimal effort.

The small size thing is a no-brainer. If someone looks different from most of the group in any way, that is a potential source of fodder to bullies. When I was in middle school, a more-clever-than-usual student gave me the nickname "Anorexis." (There goes my anonymity for any of my peers or teachers reading this, though I'm probably safe, as most of my peers use the Internet just for the social networks and school-assigned research.) I'll give credit where it is due: the nickname was the most creative if mean-spirited insult of which I've been on the receiving end. The problem was that nearly all of my middle school peers traveled with me me to the same high school, and the name stuck. Every person who now calls me "Anorexis" thinks he or she is being at least as creative as the person who coined the name. Some have even tried to take credit for being the one who came up with it in the first place. (That person is now ironically in my circle of friends. We both laugh whenever someone else tries to claim inventor's rights to my nickname, and then he shuts them up by acknowledging himself as the originator.) The first time my now-friend called me by my nickname, I maintained my composure until I got home from school, at which time I went crying to my mommy. She told me that if I overreacted to any insult aimed in my direction, I would be targeted for even more abuse in the future. She was right. I still hear the name probably once a week (thanks so much, pal!), but nobody bothered to come up with an even more demeaning term.

The brainy nerd thing is a bit more subtle. I find it hard to believe that anyone wants to have substandard cognitive ability. Most of those who would tease me for doing well in school would, I suspect, trade GPAs with me in a hearbeat. Still, it isn't cool to be too smart. I've largely been able to avoid persecution on this account by keeping a relatively low profile. I don't wave my hand around wildly whenever a teacher asks a question. One teacher even complained to my parents that I was "passive-agressive" because he thought I was holding back too much in class discussions. My mom told me I needed to go talk with him after school. I tried to very politely explain the risks of appearing to be a know-it-all in the presence of my peers, but my teacher wasn't hearing what I told him. (I suspect he was one of the bullies when he was in middle school and high school, but my suspicion was not going to get me the "A" that I needed.) I finally told him that he was free to single me out for any question he wanted to ask and that I would answer as completely as I could, but I would not volunteer to answer many questions. After three class periods of this teacher exclusively quizzing me orally in the presence of my classmates, he finally backed off. Even better, my peers, some of whom didn't particularly like me before, were sympathetic and took my side over the teacher's. I knew better than to let the sudden popularity go to my head. Adolescents love to be united in a common cause against an authority figure, but soon enough I would be yesterday's news. It was just nice when the situation passed and we could all move on.

For the record, my mother has spies watching my brother and me at school. She says that if she ever gets the slightest indication that my brother or I are harrassing or intimidating anyone, we can say adios to freedom as we know it. On the
other hand, she knows and we know that one of the biggest parts of the problem is not the actual abuser but the students who are silent when they see others mistreated. It's a risky proposition, as speaking up may cause one to be the next target. My parents have always taught us to stick up for others in situations where they have difficulty protecting themselves. I've spoken up on three of such occasions. On another occasion I failed to say anything on behalf of the victim. Falling asleep at night was much easier after the times when I did what I knew I should do.

My experience with bullying is no worse than what the average middle or high school student faces. I wouldn't even pretend that my situation is in any way comparable to that of the girl in Massachusetts. For one thing, I have parents who are supportive and relatively influential. If I were ever the target of any serious bullying, my parents would camp out in the administrative offices and board room until the problem was handled appropriately. In addition to my parents, I have a much bigger and stronger twin brother at school with me. He may reserve the right to pick on me mercilessly, but he wouldn't stand by idly while others did the same. Furthermore, where other students would be capable of beating me up if they had the opportunity, for the most part, they don't have that opportunity. If anyone hurt me physically, charges would be pressed. For that matter, most of the bullies who would harm me couldn't catch up with me if I ran. (I'm a 300-meter hurdler!) Verbally, I can hold my own. If anyone insults me, I at least think about insulting that person back. My response to an insult is likely to be far more humiliating than whatever lame insult was hurled in my direction. ("Anorexis" has lost most of its impact by now.) I don't take the power of words lightly, but I will use it when its use is merited.

What happened in Massachusetts was an incredible tragedy. A girl will never go through many milestones to which we all look forward. Her parents will never get to see her graduate, get married, or have children of her own. Precisely who is to blame seems to be a subject open for debate. I certainly don't have the answer in this instance or in any other. All I know is that any parent who is too quick to believe everything his or her child says is practically encouraging the child to lie.