Saturday, May 24, 2008

Growing Up, You Don't See the Writing on the Wall

The year was 1985; I was almost twelve years old and turned to writing after “winning” my first, and only, fist fight with someone who was not my sister. Michael Jackson tells Paul McCartney “I’m a lover not a fighter” on his Thriller album and although that perfectly described my personality, my former best friend and I planned our pre-teen, angst over nothing fist fight to take place in another friend’s backyard anyway. I knew there was no way I would win the fight because no matter how scrappy I was, she was actually a tough girl but, regardless, I bragged how I would win all the way to the scene of the crime after school that day.

As in any school there were cliques of kids from uber popular all the way to nerdier than nerd and everything in between. Geek, that was us. Some of us had boyfriends but mostly we were just a bunch of girls trying to survive our last few months in grammar school and fit in wherever we could. I was also still trying to adjust to life at home since my parents got divorced a few years prior. It all took a toll on me so the rationalization in my head was that I could unleash all this pent up fury onto her and finally release it. Since we were dorks, girls, and only eleven, I certainly never expected a crowd of popular kids to show up to watch us fight but there they were, cheering and clapping.

The moment her gold rings connected with my face I knew I was grounded. I never experienced what Boxers call “seeing red” or “going in the zone”. Other than witnessing the sky twice as my head flung backwards from the force of her fist and the royal blue shirt she was wearing I did not absorb anything from the fight itself. Instead I took in everything that was going on around me as if I had stepped outside myself and looked in on the scene. In the middle of the circle of popular kids were these two dolts; one was throwing fists at the face of the other, likely seeing her own mother’s face, and the other was too afraid to hit the other in the face, for fear her own mother would get sued. Guess which one was me. I pounded with all my rage on her stomach and then as fast as it all seemed to happen, that royal blue shirt became a flash down my friend’s driveway. She ran.

For mere moments, I was the most popular bloody kid in school. I finally had tunnel vision, straight down the driveway to the sidewalk where her blue shirt had disappeared. I was surrounded by people who hated me daily and while they cheered, clapped and patted me on the back, they laughed at my former friend as she scurried home. I was revered for thirty seconds because in the eyes of the world around me, I had won the fight. I could have capitalized on my new found fame and built a whole new me out of the reputation. I could have turned to popularity in stature but I looked around and realized that although they were smiling, they would be bogus friends. Instead of schmoozing with the rich and famous sixth graders, I ran into my friend’s house and put some frozen meat on my eye. In the end, I ran too, and everyone went home.

Things in school went back to usual after the fight, my group of friends were once again picked on incessantly, but something in me shifted that day and I no longer cared what they thought or how they saw me. I started writing very shortly after that and really credit my former friend for helping me keep my sanity all these years by releasing emotions through a pen onto paper instead of something more destructive. I truly thank her for essentially being my initial catalyst of inspiration.

16 comments:

Bridgete said...

It's interesting that a story about a fight between a couple 11 year olds could turn out to be inspiring, but it was. I had a different experience with the popular kids. After picking on me through all of 6th grade, they suddenly decided to be nice to me in 7th grade and tried to "recruit" me in to their circle. I saw right through it and made better friends.

Chris Stone said...

Wow Jenn, interesting story and so sad! I don't know why, but in my school the popular kids didn't have much impact. Which, I'm grateful for! What a horrible experience for a kid to go through. Not necessarily the fight, but the jerks watching it!

interrobang said...

The narrative voice in this story is really powerful. It has so much resonance, and really caught my attention. You're very talented.

Rosebud Collection said...

This is such a hard age and time for some children..I honestly felt like I was there with you, you wrote it so well. But it is the end result and what you did with that experience that really makes you the winner.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Thanks so much gals! It is really cool to know you all identify with my story in some way. It was good to have the experience so it could make me a bit stronger inside but obviously I'm glad that time in life is well behind me!

Bridgete said...

OMG, I just looked at my earlier comment and I have a typo. That's so not like me. "In to" when I meant "into." Lame.

Anyway, my typo distracted me. I came here because I wanted to say I agree with what you said on the Mraz blog about Boston tap water. Portland's is kind of gross. And Forest Grove (where my undergrad school is) is just unbearable. But I drink tap water here all the time.

Kalliope said...

Boy do I ever relate to this!! Great story and fun read. :)

High Desert Diva said...

Not many people can figure that out at age 11...congrats to you

Suldog said...

Well told. I can identify with a bit of that. Had a few fights (I'm a boy, after all) and the folks who cheered me were the folks who tormented me at other times. Looking back, probably not a single one of the fights was worth it, or worth anything.

I've been without a fight since about age 17, and happier for it, too.

Verão said...

I love this sad story. I wonder how your former friend is. I never got into a fist or hair-pulling fight EVER. Makes me kind of wish I had... maybe I'd be a better writer :P

Bree said...

Who could have imagined that an afterschool showdown would have inspired this touching self-reflection? It's life's twists and turns that shape us, usually in ways we never expect.

ginger said...

damn, that's incredibly fonzy-like of you jenn......i new you were cool, but i never imagined you with a bike and leather jacket before.

on another note. i've been meaning to tell you how much i love my new clutch. i haven't done anything with it yet because i am still coming back to life after the move, but it's really nice and i wanted to thank you.

you rock!!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

All I can say is violence is never the answer...probably why there was only one in my past :~D

wontletlifedefineme said...

I recognise the part where you realised the popular kids wouldn't be true friends. I was picked on a lot at school, but in a way that's turned out for the best because it meant I never gave in to peer pressure (they wouldn't like me better anyway) and always went my own way because of it. And I ended up in a really good place, with really good friends as a result!

I'm glad you don't practise violence anymore though...

victoria said...

Sometimes it takes years for people to learn the lesson you did at that young age. IF they learn it at all. Congrats! Wonderful story!

My son is 11, struggling with who he is and how he is judged by others. He will be entering middle school/junior high this coming school term. Let's just say- I don't sleep very much these days.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

I know, I'm very behind on posting here. This is another case where judgment of good or bad just doesn't work. Depending on how you look at the fight (and believe me, when you had this fight I thought it was very bad) it can be either. You have taken the experience and used it to help better the world in many ways - by becoming who you are today, by writing about it, and sharing it all here. Kudos to you. Peace, Mum