Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Memory: The time I got sent to the Principal's office

(Again, sorry for another Monday Memory with no picture. Not what I envisioned when I began this series, but this story is important and needs to be told. I trust you all to use your imaginations to fill in the visual details.)

Did I ever tell you about the time in middle school I was sent to the Principal's office for fighting?
I didn't think so.

When you think of me, as an adult, or as an adolescent, you probably don't picture me as a fighter. And really, I'm not. I appreciate being able to de-escalate situations and conflicts with calm and rational discussions, but well, sometimes that just doesn't happen.

I've previously written about my dislike of middle school band, and this story isn't about band, but occurred on the way to band class. The music building was actually located across the street from the main school building. The elementary grades were escorted over by a teacher, but middle- and high-schoolers were trusted to walk over by themselves. (Looking back on it now, how more altercations didn't occur, is a small miracle. Antsy middle schoolers + no supervision = disasters waiting to happen.)

The boys in my class were going through a "phase" (some call it a phase, I call it being jerks) where they thought it was soooooo funny to walk up behind a girl and snap her back bra strap. Many of the girls in my class were going through a "phase" (some call it a phase, I call it being ditzy) where they would pretend to be horrified, and then laugh and flirt with the boy who snapped their bra strap. I found the entire ritual to be disturbing and inappropriate. (Yeah, I was most assuredly NOT popular in middle school.)

While walking over to band one afternoon, I heard one particularly annoying boy rush up behind me. I quickly turned around and told him if he ever touched me or snapped my bra, I would hit him in the face. He laughed and said some degrading and inappropriate comment about me not even needing to wear a bra, so there wouldn't be anything to snap anyway. The entire class laughed at that and I felt pretty embarrassed and belittled.

We got to the band room and another, younger class was coming out. The annoying boy chose that moment to pull my back bra strap and snap it, so hard that the back clasp actually broke. I didn't think and just reacted by turning around and slapping him across the face, hard. The slap was audible and loud. The teacher escorting the other class out saw me slap the annoying boy and marched us both to the Principal's office. None of us said anything, and I really thought I was going to be in the biggest trouble of my short life.

I think I was called in to talk to the Principal first. I knew, I knew that I was right to be mad that a boy had touched me in a way I was not okay with, but I didn't know if the Principal would believe me or not, and I was sure I would be in trouble for fighting, even if the cause was just. The Principal just listened to me describe what happened and then sent me back to class. I passed by the annoying boy on my way out and noticed a perfect hand-shaped welt on his left cheek. I was silently proud of myself for hitting him that hard. He did not come back to class, that day, or for the next three days.

That evening at home I was gathering my courage to tell my mom and dad what happened, when they got a phone call. The Principal was calling to tell them what happened, but not to get me in trouble. Instead he was calling to assure them that he was taking this matter very seriously and that the annoying boy would not be bothering me any more, and all the boys in my class, would be getting a special "talking to" about their behavior. I think my parents were a little confused at first because I hadn't yet told them about what happened. When I did tell them, they weren't mad at all. They agreed that slapping someone shouldn't be my go-to conflict resolution strategy, but that this particular situation demanded it. They were also proud that I stood up for myself even though is was not the popular thing to do. I was instructed to let them know if anything like that ever happened again, because it was not okay, it was not funny, and it should not continue.

Well, my righteous indignation earned me zero popularity points in the school the next day. The annoying boy had been suspended for three days and all the boys were put off that they had to meet with the Principal about their behavior. I was pretty much blamed for ruining years and years of normal middle school fun. What I didn't understand then, or even now, is how this behavior had gone unchecked for so long? How had girls been putting up with this, laughing it off for all this time? Surely I wasn't the first who felt violated and uncomfortable when her bra was snapped by a gross boy. I couldn't have been the only girl in my class who wanted to walk to class and not be assaulted.

I didn't figure out the answers then, and I haven't now. I am grateful that our Principal saw the situation as more than girl-slaps-boy and really worked to get to the root of the problem. I know many schools (for good reasons) have a zero tolerance policy for fighting, suspending all involved regardless of the reasons behind the involvement, and I suppose I would have been punished alongside annoying boy if our school had that policy. But I like to think I would have done it anyway.

Lana Jean (and baby girl), if you're reading this now, know this; If you're ever in a situation that makes you uncomfortable and diplomacy fails, and your authorities are failing, handle it how it needs to be handled. If that means slapping a boy to get his gross hands off you, then slap him with all the strength you've got. Maybe just go ahead and punch him while you're at it. Yes, your school probably has a zero tolerance policy for fighting, but you let Daddy and I worry about that. If they think a sweet girl slapping a boy is a bother, just wait until they deal with that sweet girl's parents.

No comments: