(Photo courtesy of openlibrary.org)
I was born missing the essential misbehavior gene that most kids possess. It didn’t even occur to me to act up. I don’t remember my parents ever threatening me with dire retribution if I stepped out of line, so I’m not sure where this (un)natural compliance came from. It’s always just been part and parcel of who I am. (Not necessarily a good part, mind you.)
Maybe growing up essentially an only child had something to do with it. My two sisters, children of my mother’s first marriage, were grown and out of the house by the time I was five. Without siblings to squabble with, set me up to take a fall, or urge me on to bigger and better devilry (and, yes, to form alliances with), I missed out on an integral part of childhood. There was no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to blame things on, no chance for the love/hate relationship most sibling groups enjoy.
Several of my closest friends had brothers and sisters, but watching is different from having. If they nattered like gulls at the dinner table and were spoken sharply to, they laughed it off while I inwardly cringed in fear. I’m not even talking about being yelled at. A sharp look or slight comment was enough to reduce me to tears.
There were kids in school who were in trouble constantly. Their rambunctious ways and brash and brazen disregard for authority scared me a little, but at the same time I admired their guts and secretly longed to be wild and brave, too. Not enough to actually do it, mind you. Risk being singled out to take the dreaded walk down the hall to the Principal’s office? Hell no!
(Photo courtesy of ostrichheadinsand.com)
Consequently, on those rare occasions when I did get into trouble, I was devastated. I’m not talking major issues here. I didn’t set fires in the bathrooms or sneak cigarettes. I didn’t pass notes in class or cheat on tests. I was…a cipher. Honestly.
The first time I remember getting into trouble, I was grade-school age. The teacher was going to read to us and she told us we were to remain silent. My desk partner (I seem to remember his name being Jay, but I could be wrong) said something to me (you see where this is going, don’t you?) and I told him to be quiet, we weren’t supposed to be talking…at which point the teacher yelled at me for talking. I stared at Jay, wanting him to come clean that he’d started it, but he just looked away. To add insult to injury, I was then made a spectacle of. The teacher made me get up and walk to the front of the class and stand at the blackboard while she read. I was burning — BURNING! — with humiliation as I walked up the aisle. The eyes of my classmates were on me. But instead of crying, I pulled all the emotions inside (I was a pro at that even then), stuck my chin in the air, and stared beyond all those eyes and smirks to the back wall until the teacher allowed me to return to my seat. (Jay tried to speak to me then — and later, as I recall — and I iced him out. No way was that going to happen to me again.)
I suspect that I missed out on a lot of fun in my younger days by not misbehaving, running risks, taking a chance on pissing off someone. I probably missed out on a lot of trouble, too, but…well, you can’t go backward. And as I go forward through life, the older I get, the more likely I am to take chance, so speak out if I think something isn’t right, to run the risk of pissing someone off and not taking everything to heart.
Better late than never.