in 12th grade i took ap english and i had a really hard time with uncovering symbolism. another student in the class was really good with understanding subtext and whenever we had to work in small groups to debrief a piece of literature, he was always the one who told the group what the book was actually about and while it always made sense to me right away, i would get frustrated that i wasn’t able to interpret them for myself. after expressing it to him in confidence once, the student assured me that as long as it made sense to me, that was the important part. whenever we were in small groups, though, and another student would say something that he thought was accurate, the first student would always gently issue his nose a few taps with the tip of his pointed index finger to indicate that the student speaking was “on the nose” and i always really enjoyed that.
when i was in high school, my dad’s friend whose family mine was living with at the time because we were homeless, found gay porn on his computer that i had downloaded. he and my dad had a sit-down with my to talk about the perils of porn from a religious standpoint but they never mentioned that it was gay and i’m still not sure if my dad knew.
my senior year in high school, i said the word circuitous in conversation in my english class and the teacher stopped me and told me I’d said it wrong. I’d said it like the word “circuit” but he said it was pronounced like cautious… “sir-kyoo-shus”… i said it like that until someone made fun of me in college and i was able to google it. i guess we were both wrong.
I was never the tantrum-thrower. I was the oldest of six and felt like my job was the peacekeeper, breaking up fights and negotiating conflicts. I want to say it was my 13th birthday because I felt like it was a milestone, but memory is unreliable and kids feel like every birthday is a milestone. But, because I was so quiet and reserved, I won’t ever forget breaking down at the lack of birthday festivities on my behalf. So, I was a child throwing a tantrum. It began as a conversation but then I was sent to my room when the conversation made me dissolve into tears. I felt unloved. I felt deserving of a celebration and crushed that my parents did not seem to agree. I felt marginalized, like everyone else got to be the focus of attention on their special days but when it was my turn, the whole system collapsed. And I also felt catharsis as I screamed and cried in my bed, punching and kicking the wall, making myself as much of a disturbance as I could manage. At one point, my parents yelled at me and told me it was enough but I didn’t stop until I was too tired to continue. I dream about that level of unleashed expression, especially in times of intense despair.
in seventh grade, we had a school spirit week with themed days and everyone in the school would come dressed appropriately to the theme. one of the days was “clash day” and you had to come to school in clothes that clashed. i don’t remember the exact outfit but i remember i’d combined purple and green, two colors i thought inherently clashed. during school, one teacher said to me, “i thought you’d have trouble with this one.” her tone was endeared, like she was amused or thought it was cute, but i never understood what she meant by that.
when i was in my teens, i remember the pediatrician telling my mom that i was “developmentally delayed” and i remember thinking that meant i would eventually get taller. i didn’t.
i had to read ‘the giver’ in fifth grade and my mom found out later that it was controversial for some reason and parents didn’t want their kids reading it but i couldn’t figure out why.
one time in my special program in fifth grade, i had to do some kind of research project and didn’t work on it until the day it was due. i did not do any research but made some clay jewelry and put it in a shoebox like a diorama. i had a lot of shame about it.
in 4th grade the school told my mom i was gifted and had to go to a special program every monday in 5th grade. i hated it. one time i late on purpose so i missed the bus but they made me go anyway. there was another boy from my school who had to go too but he cried a lot and eventually dropped out. i didn’t hate everything about it. i liked calligraphy and painting with watercolors and magic eye puzzles.
at some point during my childhood i decided i didn’t like corn. i liked most other vegetables. i certainly liked butter. but something about corn really bothered me. a roommate made me try corn on the cob when i was 23 and i enjoyed it.