This bleak essay was composed right after the second debates when a tornado of dark memories surfaced. It was also inspired by Carly Simon’s parody of “You’re So Vain” and the line “Your hat strategically dipped below one eye – Your face it was apricot.”
I think I’m depressed or maybe it’s a severe case of PTSD rearing its ugly head in the guise of this vicious election season.
I was bullied as a kid. I hate writing about my own experience with bullying because it brings up jagged, painful memories that I don’t think about much anymore, except through the lens of my characters when they face meanness or cruelty. But when I see the Great Orange Apricot, seething and lurking behind Hillary Clinton I am reminded of what it felt like to be bullied.
He is a bully. He is a lowdown sumbitch bully.
“Sumbitch” is how I’ve heard football coaches pronounce it.
I like the word – “sumbitch” – it suits the Great Orange Apricot.
I know bullies. I didn’t eat breakfast in sixth grade ever because I knew what I was facing and couldn’t swallow a bite.
Maybe a little like Barb from “Stranger Things.”
Here’s what bullies do:
They claim certain seats on the school bus and scream a barrage of nicknames at you such as: “Dog Face” or “Moose” or “Skyscraper” or “Oaf” when you get on the bus. They skulk behind you in the school hallways, laughing, making fart noises or oinking when you walk by.
The bullies ask questions like: “Hey do you eat all the food in your house and that’s why your brother is so skinny and you’re a fat hog?” Or “How’s the weather up there, giant?”
The bullies ask, “How did your brothers and sister end up normal but you turned out to be such a freak? Are you from Mars? Hey Space Cadette, are you listening? Are you deaf? Are you stupid? I know you can hear me! How’d you get to be such an ugly dog-face anyway? No offense, but you know you’re ugly right?”
Then the bullies ask: “What’s the matter? Geez, are you crying? Sensitive much? Can’t you take a joke? Where’s your sense of humor?”
Other older bullies pull you aside and say: “What boy will ever want to kiss you the way you’re packing on the pounds?”
Or the adult bullies ask: “Hey now, aren’t you too big for trick-or-treating? It’s for little kids!” Even though you’re only eleven but you’re still bigger than the adult bully handing out candy but she can’t see you’re only eleven because you’re in a costume but you know you’re loser anyway by the judgment in her voice, and you vow to never, ever trick-or-treat again and steal it from the sweet little kids who are way more deserving than your big dumb, overgrown self.
And there are other more subtle but-just-as-malicious forms of bullying too. When people say, “I’m fine with a black president – just not that black president” or “I’m fine with a woman president – just not that woman president.” It’s racism and sexism and for me it’s all become manifest in the Great Orange Apricot, who struts around like the King of Everything – the Great Dictator of Nothing – and it brings back every ugly girl insult hurled my way for existing in the world as a big, tall freak in thick glasses with chipped front teeth, who slumped to look shorter, which, by the way, didn’t work at all.
The Great Orange Apricot summons all the meanness and cruelty I suffered, and I even feel shame using that word – “suffered” – as in it wasn’t that bad, I hear certain voices remind me, but you know what? It was that bad. Not everyday, but many days it was just so hard to face the mosh pit of mean kids.
I tried to protect my own children from the random cruelty as best I could, but I also reminded them as they were growing up to reach out to the lonely and quiet kids they saw in school and to be kind. Be kind to them no matter what – listen to them, talk to them, and if nothing else, just smile at them – don’t make their day any meaner or more hurtful.
A creepy cruelty roils inside the Great Orange Apricot who has made so many days meaner and more hurtful for too many people and bragged about it. He sees kindness as weakness. He sees empathy as weakness. He sees apologies as weakness. He’s a bully, a lurking narcissist, and I will not go back to the world he wants for women – where we have to pretend to be upbeat with a sense of humor in high heels and pantyhose to show the world that we absolutely can take a joke because we’re not that sensitive.
Well, I am that sensitive and I don’t own high heels or pantyhose.
I’m with Hillary all the way.
Jeanne Birdsall, author of the Penderwicks, has a sign at her home: “No Mean People Allowed.”
I want one of those signs.
And when I can’t take any of it anymore, I listen to this Mozart piece or take a walk or hold my dog and look at trees and breathe in the smell of sweet smoky October and remember what Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables.
‘I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
(Thank you my dear neighbor, Emily, for reminding me of that quote.)
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maud Montgomery
And here is Jeanne Birdsall’s beautiful and radiant Ted Talk on “Remembering to be a Child” where you can catch a glimpse of her “No Mean People Allowed” sign.