There Are of Course Even More Pressing Issues
A Moral Dilemma, Growing up Catholic . . . and Hey, What About Those Yankees?
Don't we all know a person with a problem who comes to us to tell us about "this friend of a friend" who has a problem when we know it's really they who have the problem but pretend they don't and then asks for our advice? (Yes, a long sentence that Sr. Stephen would have smacked my knuckles silly for even writing.)
Well, I'll bet a lot of you thought the Mean Girl/Boy victim that I wrote about recently was my own child, right? I knew it! I could see it in your (figurative) eyes! Well to be completely truthful . . . I'm not saying.
However, as an Activist/Victim of Catholic School, I do face a significant moral dilemma and could use some advice, as this guilt is tearing me apart.
Recently, the Varsity team on which several of the aforementioned Mean Girls/Boys play lost a game/match/event (see, I'm not giving the sport away) by a not-so-great point differential, while the Junior Varsity team on which the overlooked and bullied athlete plays won by a slight margin. My first thought, upon seeing the Mean Girls/Boys walk off the field was, "Serves you right, you Mean Girls/Boys." But then I remembered that I am supposed to be a grownup (lord knows, today's employment recruiters think so) and should not even think such awful things.
Besides which, I happen to think a vast majority of the players on the Varsity team are very nice and have been working very hard all season. [Kids, that's not proper grammar, but I am using what you might call "poetic license."]
It's a Catholic Thing (Although the Jewish Are Closing the Gap)
So today I stand before you (figuratively speaking again) a torn Activist/Victim of Catholic School wracked with guilt and in such awful, terrible pain, agony most likely induced by the indoctrination I received during the course of the usual, to-be-expected, Irish Catholic education I endured. Although I will say the time the priest ran off with the singing nun was pretty cool. Truly, she sang; she was a Simon & Garfunkel fan and taught us to sing "Sounds of Silence," while he was into that whole "I am a child of the universe" thing and came into our classroom to recite it to us. (Duh, can I have a light bulb, like right now ? I just realized it was really to be near her that he bothered with that spacey Child of the Universe nonsense). Anyway, I like to think they headed straight from the convent to San Francisco, where she tore off that headpiece and shook her hair free in order to put some flowers in her lovely long locks, and that together they produced super groovy children (who are getting all the jobs I can't get because I'm "overqualified").
Catholic Guilt-Trip Alert!
Now if you are Catholic, please do not jump all over me for the above comments, as I am already in enough pain. (Se, I can pla the gilt thing to cuz I learnt it in Cathlic Skool!)
I Am Not Kidding about Mean Sister Eugene!
All kidding aside, you never had to deal with mean Sr. Eugene, who was so fat she had to sit in two chairs. And I wonder - among such things as why nuns chose male names back then - how you would have held up under the scrutiny of Sr. Stephen, aged 114 years, who made us recite the Rosary every single day , and actually kneel after every ten beads' worth of "Hail Mary's" to recite the "Our Father." I thought it was especially hard on the girls, who wore hideous green plaid uniforms with green knee socks and had to kneel on the hard, cold, asbestos-formed floor tiles on bare knees, unlike the boys who at least wore pants (the injustice of which is why I still have this other issue with the whole cop behavioral attitudes concerning women/men thing, which I will get to when my ADD meds arrive).
So, getting back to my Catholic bashing (oh settle down, you!), I can't tell you what a relief it was to finally reach the "Glory Be," which was followed by three (if I recall) "Our Fathers'" for good measure to ensure our souls would be saved. Just knowing that we were about to come full circle* and get off our swollen, aching knees left us with such a sense of euphoria that we didn't even care that next up on the Catholic School Hit Parade was diagramming sentences.
(*Hey! Do you think that expression "full circle" got started because of the Rosary? Someone should check Wikipedia, that font of completely accurate information.)
Meanwhile, Back at the Sports . . . Facility
So what do you think, dear reader? Is it ok for an Activist/Victim of Catholic School to gloat, even momentarily, when she observes the defeat of an entire team simply because she does not care for the boorish behavior of a few of their teammates? I seem to remember a lot of people hating the Yankees one season (I'd venture it was especially true of Mets fans) specifically because of the behavior of one very obnoxious pitcher. Was that kind of thinking fair to the other Yankees, I ask you?
So, if throngs of people could hate an entire team (albeit a vastly overpaid team) based on the behavior of one dumb oaf, was my split-second negative thought about that Varsity team simply normal human behavior? Or did thinking it, even momentarily, make me a wicked, wicked person destined to toast in the fires of HEdoublehockeysticks? (Nope, that wasn't a clue.) A deep question, I know, and one which I will ponder and get back to you about soon, dear reader. And I suppose I'll have to ponder even more the trouble I'm in with my mother, the quintessential Irish Catholic who prays for my soul a lot (well, that is, if she ever figures out how to turn my computer on and find this Hub).
Can you guess which author addressed her readers as "Dear Reader" The very first person who can will receive this special prize: I shall have every friend I've ever known in my entire life visit your designated Hub and give you a resounding thumbs up vote, even if your content is pure crap!).
Peace and Love
Do You Believe that Mean Girls Can Break a Young Girl's Heart?
Today I'd like to address an incident in which, recently, I dared push the envelope and speak out against an unfair condition that has existed since the last dinosaur walked off into the sunset.
I speak of the "Mean Girl" syndrome.
You will be as enthralled as I was to learn that anthropologists have now pinpointed the exact moment in time this syndrome first occurred; in the darkest dawn of prehistory, a Mean Cavegirlnamed Helga won the favor of Lug the Caveman, to the utter despair of the timidly sweet Ulga. (Yes, this is an actual fact; if you don't believe me, look it up on Wikipedia.)
The Mean Girl was well entrenched when my near-80-year-old mother was a wee gangly girl, as I have heard my entire life. Indeed, while I love my mother, I am certain that if she brings up that particular story again, I will begin to take sides with that "Mean Dugan Girl," who had the friends, the clothes, the boys, the looks, and the luck.
It will shock you to learn that I too suffered from Mean Girl trauma. This occurred when the cutest boy in the entire sophomore class SPOKE TO ME! TO ME!!!!
I will never forget that precious moment, the way he tenderly leaned over, his never-removed Varsity Football jacket rustling slightly, that earnest look in his brown eyes, the open sincerity so evident upon his heavenly countenance.
Nor will I forget how he gently whispered something meant just for me to hear. The precise meaning of those words - the "What do you think he really meant by that?" - is something my friends and I would later ponder dreamily for days on end.
What he whispered to me so tenderly was this:
"Uh, what page are we on?"
(Indeed, cute does not necessarily mean smart, I have since learned.)
Yet as my sophomore self, pinned like a fluttering butterfly to a velvet display case liner, I found myself at that special moment without voice, just like Ariel in The Little Mermaid . That beautiful moment was forever shattered, however, by a Mean Girl, who filled this pregnant moment of meaningful silence he and I shared, locked in our special universe, by loudly pronouncing:
"You're so weird Joni."
As a college student dreaming of a life as an acclaimed, utterly hip poet, I would welcome that title, as it wore well with my black turtleneck.
But at that particular moment, I wished for nothing more than to turn into a piece of wood matching the lightly varnished school desk (replete with an undercoating of wadded gum)behind which I sat.
We have known about the Mean Girls all these years. We outnumber them vastly. In fact, they aren't even truly popular because the majority of us can't stand them. But cowards that we are, do we take action? Of course not!
For all these years, the Mean Girl has been a topic of "which we dare not speak" - unless we're as beautiful, funny, witty, smart, wealthy, and talented as Tina Fey, of course, whose film, "Mean Girls," so eloquently and humorously spoke out against the injustice we've endured since the time of that "rhymes with witch" Helga the Mean Cavegirl.
I would venture to say that for every Mean Girl, there are as many Mean Boys. They are the ones who got the Mean Girls, made team captain, bullied the weak, and tormented the class nerds . . . that is until the class nerds got even by making gazillions in the tech industry.
Taking on the High School Coach . . . Ooops!
In this spirit, I recently decided to square off against the Mean Girl/Boy syndrome, coming to the aid of a victim of such behavior in my own hometown.
Unfortunately, as victims of Mean Girls/Boys know, the sad truth is that a good many teachers will bow to the Mean Girl/Boy.
My particular battle over the Mean Girl/Boy syndrome involved the following elements: a fall sport team selection process; a handful of not really popular when you think about it Mean Girls/Boys, and a coach enthralled by this cluster of Mean Athletes.
I will pause a moment while those who have been jolted by painful memory run for a tissue - or a beer.
To continue, my activism concerned an unfair selection process to choose players for this sport's Varsity team. I am sworn to protect my source, but suffice it to say that a certain high school freshman of my acquaintance, who has played a particular fall sport since elementary school and has taken every training opportunity available, and has competed at the highest national level, and who has awoken at dusk and has practiced outdoors at night in the freezing northeastern winter, was rewarded for this tireless effort by . . . ta da! . . . not getting a chance to try out for the Varsity team.
WARNING: Pelé Diversion Alert!
Personally, I think a freshman ought to earn his or her stripes before leapfrogging over sophomores and juniors to make Varsity (unless, of course, they possess the potential skill of a future superstar athlete like the legendary soccer player Pelé - the subject, I recently learned, of a two-page Sports Illustrated spread that featured, simply and stunningly, a photo of this legendary athlete's thick-as-a-Redwood thigh. Can you just imagine that? (Not that I would want Sports Illustrated to do a two-page spread of my thigh - and neither would you,)
I had no interest in soccer (or futball) whatsoever until a cute boy (what is it with me and these cute boys, anyway?) invited me to a Cosmos game at New Jersey's Giant's Stadium, during which Pelé, then nearing the end of a stunning, legendary, illustrious career, simply knocked the soccer socks off every single player on that field, on either team! (Are you listening to that, you stinking employers who won't hire "overqualified" people?) But I digress.
Whew! Close One, But We're Back on Topic
So as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, a cluster of Mean Girls/Boys were afforded a golden opportunity to try out for Varsity, including a Mean Girl/Boy freshman who casually decided to play just last year and plays rather clumsily yet. This latter "athlete" was selected for Varsity.
Now was this player gracious to the superior player who had been overlooked during tryouts? What do you think, dear reader? For heaven's sakes, we are talking about Mean Girls/Boys, are we not? Dear heavens, no, he/she was not! He/she along with several other mean athletes tormented the poor overlooked player.
Hoping to strike a blow for the tired, the meek, the weary, the intimidated and the downtrodden victims of Mean Girls/Boys everywhere, I took an action that I have since learned is another thing "we dare not do."
One Must Never, Ever Question the Coach!
I complained to the coach. Yes, if you can believe it, that's what I did. Logically, or so I thought at the time, I noted that not only did the tryout process seem a teeny bit unjust, but that the bullying and mean-spirited behavior demonstrated by the Mean Athletes toward the more skilled athlete was being overlooked by school authorities.
This, of course, put me in a pot of water hot enough to boil a live lobster. Before long I had a terse e-mail from the school's athletic director, chastising me in often rambling langauge that NO ONE EVER CHALLENGES A COACH.
Jeez! Now if I had just been convicted of some crime that could land me on death row, I certainly would not choose to get snarky with the sentencing judge, particularly if he went by the nickname "Hangin' Harry." But for the life of me, why is it considered poor etiquette to question the decision making of a coach? It just has to be a guy thing, don't you think?
Undaunted, I pursued my quest for information about the selection process (I had been told by the coach that the selection was based on something called "Dynamics." I do not understand this principle, and have yet to receive an explanation regarding its meaning as apparently neither does the coach understand it.) Without such explanation, I posited, how does one determine if one has this "dynamic" quality, especially if one does not have an opportunity to try out for a team. (Yes, I agree, there were altogether too many "ones" in the preceding sentence.)
I then raised the school district's anti-bullying policy, which was developed to complement several years' worth anti-bullying programs held in our school district, indeed in many school districts, soon after the tragic Columbine High School shooting rampage, carried out by disturbed students who had been victims of bullies.
Our district has also held "in-service" workshops for teachers (who I learned really do train, and not just get a day off, as I'd always suspected). My tax dollars similarly paid for special classes, programs, and visiting lecturers revolving around the topic of bullying, with sessions held for students and parents. By the time all was said and done, you'd expect we'd soon rename ourselves "Sweetness and Light Town."
Because in addition to the above-noted initiatives, our school district's anti-bullying policy is simply cluttered with bold phrases such as "Bullying, whether physical or emotional, will not be tolerated under any circumstances."
The athletics program policy goes further, suggesting - rather originally, I thought - that "There is No I in Team" (to which some smarty pants is always ready with the witty rejoinder, "No, but there is a Me in Team." The policy continues to warn students and parents that athletes are role models expected to model respect to others both ON and OFF the field and IN and OUT of school. (A pretty tall order, I'd agree).
These policies also encourage third-party or parental bystanders to report incidents. But to my chagrin, I received a verbal slap from the athletics director and a tepid response to handle "the matter" from the high school principal (and remember, even if he doesn't agree with your principles, the principal is always your pal.)
So having finished fighting windmills last week (it's from Don Quixote , kids), I am not sure whether to continue this pursuit this week or use up my one-cause-a-week quota on a different cause - that concerning the way many police officers treat males and females they encounter during the course of patrol duty so differently. Well, I do have a week to decide, so stay tuned. . . .
How Far Should an Activist Go?
Is It OK for Adults to Question a Youth Team's Coach?
If You Got a Second Chance to Deal With Your Childhood Nemesis
Most of us have dealt with bullies in our lives. Would have done things differently knowing what you now know?
A Cause a Week Seems About Right
It was pointed out to me today that one must pick one's battles carefully. And I agree. Take on too much, and you will find gray matter spilling from your brain like ale from a drunkard's tankard.
However, some find it hard to restrain their impulse to act decisively in the face of injustice, and I am among that breed. In fact, I have noticed this impulse appears more often than I'd like, which I blame on my current research for a novel involving key players in the Irish rebellion. Check out ReadAboutMyNovel @http://hubpages.com/profile/jonihnj
The Irish rebels aboout whom I write are, in fact, my ancestors. I suspect the activism that drove them also runs thick in my family's bloodline. So, rather than subject myself to a blood transfusion, I have chosen to take a new, Zen-like approach to cause-fighting. This approach offers two key elements. First, I will only take on one new cause per week, max.
Secondly, if I cannot win, I will bow out gracefully, recover my composure, and wait for a new day to return to it . . . maybe.