Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Scapegoat at 13

(Me.  7th grade school photo)
To anyone else this is just a school picture – not the best, but certainly not the worst.  What you, the casual observer, doesn’t see is all the stacked up CRAP behind this photograph.  The crap that goes to make up a scapegoat’s life.
It was 1972/73.  Jr. High back then started at 7th grade – we were DONE with baby elementary school and on to middle school – we had lockers and different classrooms for each subject.  Recess?  HA.  It was grown-up time now!  We had a morning break and a lunch.  No more lunch tables and lunch boxes, the kids bought a sandwich from the vending and all sat all over the place and talked – people  even brought radios.  People paired off and held hands - there were 9th graders who looked like grown-ups – they were 15 or 16 years old and had real boobs and the boys had long hair and some kids had jobs. 
Rocket Man and Stairway to Heaven were all over the radio.  Bell bottoms and puka shells were the name of the game there in Orange, Ca.   Here is a photo from the same year, taken in the hallway of my Jr. High at lunch.  These were 8th graders.  This is what fashion looked like at that time:

This then, was the backdrop to my 7th grade year.  So lets look at my school picture again:
And allow me to run this through the Magic Scapegoat Childhood Decoder of Doom.
Notice my eyes?  It was September/October in Orange County, CA.  The Santa Ana winds were kicking my ass.  I can tell I was between sneezes with that effervescent bubbly feeling up in the bridge of my nose.  Also because of the Santa Ana wind conditions my skin was DRY, and – take a look at my hair.  It was dry and crackling with static electricity.  I also know it was dirty as sin.  My hair is so thin that brushing it doesn’t really help anything – when it’s bent, it’s bent.  I had never (even in FIRST grade) had anyone help me get ready for school in the morning, so I had never learned anything to do with grooming.  Due to the wind, my hair was sticking up EVERYWHERE.  The photographer had taken one look at me and grabbed one of the combs they kept by the camera, and parted it and put barettes or bobby pins in it.  I certainly had not left home with any type of hair accessory – I didn’t own any and didn’t know how to use them anyway.  I was horribly embarrassed and the man was not nice about it.  I was odd and different and he wanted to get away from me.  I was 13.  I remember.
The dress itself is the most telling part.  The dress is where most of the point of this story is (although my HAIR – could anyone ever tell me about shampoo, conditioner, brushes and maybe clips?  WTF?)
 Here is a different close-up of this dress.  This was taken the summer PRIOR to the school year – probably in late June or July.  As you can tell by THIS photo, that dress was already 2 years too small for me.  It was already way too short.  It was made of some kind of fabric, like pajama fabric, that LOVED static electricity and was scratchy.  (notice my sister’s fashion forward dress obviously bought for her within the last few months.  Also someone has brushed my hair, we were with my Grandma in Iowa, so...)  So by the time my 7th grade picture was taken this dress was even shorter, even smaller than above - by then it was at least 3 years old.  Probably bought when I was ten.  Probably a perfectly appropriate dress for a 5th grader to wear.  NOT APPROPRIATE FOR A MUCH TALLER and older 7TH GRADER. 
By 7th grade it was so short I’m certain my underpants showed if I bent down.  I did not own a slip, so the static cling effect was making it grab my underpants and well, CLING.  I had to *pull* *tug* *pull* that dress all day.  It was plastered across my chest, so that the little buds of my barely-breasts were completely visible and with NO SLIP it was like a film.  THERE WAS AN APPLIQUE OF A PEAR ON THE CHEST.  So, stuff like “nice pear!  snicker snicker”! from the 9th grade boys just made my day even better.  I was used to being laughed at by this time so I just trudged through it.  Being laughed at at school was the background music of my life.
I KNOW, in the school picture, I was wearing white tights and saddle shoes.  SADDLE SHOES.  NF had become convinced that I needed to wear them.  Cheerleaders wore saddle shoes – nobody wore them for reals.  Birkenstocks and Earth Shoes and (what we inappropriately called) Jap Flaps were the footwear.  Saddle shoes and tights, for chrissakes.  I was told to wear the saddle shoes because of my arches.  I can sincerely say WTF to that.  The tights were too small too, so the crotch sort of hung down and they were white so they were or managed to get FILTHY.
I have no idea if I had suddenly remembered that it was picture day that morning and stuffed myself into this dress in a hurry, in an effort to dreess up.  That’s possible because my sister Georgia was a 9th grader at the same school, and I’m sure she was getting ready, probably reminded me.  (I was so deeply entrenched in my Scapegoat Role by this time that my sisters, while nice to me, didn’t really understand me or want to hang out with me at all.  It was my fault, you know, that home was so horrible every day.  It’s all they had heard for the last 8 years – you start to believe it.)  I know for certain nobody else would have known – I was the youngest, and the rest of the sisters were in high-school or off to college.  I never saw NM in the morning – she was a school teacher (of course!) and was busy getting her own ass ready.  The bigger question is - WHAT IN THE FUCK WAS THIS DRESS STILL DOING IN MY ROOM?  Why had nobody sorted my clothes out in 3 years?  Why was this dress even an OPTION for school picture day?  And, I KNOW my NM knew it was picture day, come to think of it, because Georgia would have told her.  They would have discussed outfits.  NM probably gave Georgia the check for the deposit.  Why didn't anyone remind me to take a bath the night before, wash my hair, pick out an outfit?
I'll tell you why.  I wasn't being raised.  I was just growing up.
I look at this picture and it reminds me of SO MUCH.  There is abuse, and then there is neglect.  Most of the time I just didn’t exist at all.  I was so fucking alone already by that time – there was the family, then there was me.  I’m actually surprised they bought the photo package from the school.  And I’m even more surprised that I have a copy.


  1. You're still a cutie.

  2. I live in Orange County and work at a school, and it's all about fashion here for the kids. What they wear, how their hair is fixed. Even with the boys. I went to a high school football game last fall and I swear almost every girl had their hair fixed exactly the same way. Conform to the 'in look' or be doomed. And in 7th grade you need a parent to help with that, yep!

    Q's Sis

    1. Good god, we may know some of the same people WORLDS COLLIDE! Yeah, I just looked like I was 10-yrs old. Jr. High is hard enough without this crap. Welcome, btw!

    2. We probably do!
      thanks for the welcome! yes, junior high is a mine field. One slip up on anything and you never can live it down. PTSD in the making there.

  3. It's easy to believe the crap the scapegoaters condition into us when most other humans treat us with disrespect...or like we're invisible. I hated school. NM made all my clothes, and she despised me, so you can imagine.

  4. At least nobody made duck lips back then. By what stretch of the imagination are duck lips attractive. My step and her friend's get fixed up and e-mail pictures of themselves to each other and as soon as the shutter is about to snap they make those duck lips.
    Drives me crazy.

    1. My son goes 'Duck Hunting' on Facebook. When he finds a picture of a woman making duck lips, he comments *BANG* under the picture. Great game.

  5. Yep, a cutie for sure. But you look so serious, there's such sadness written all over your little girl's face. I just want to hug that little girl and I'm not a touchy-feely type at all.
    The dress of distress-god gawd, I shudder to think of how horribly self-conscious you must have felt. I see you walking through the halls at school, shoulders hunched over, head down, "Please don't notice me, please don't notice me..."
    There was no escape for you was there Gladys? Not at home, not at school. I'm just gonna repeat a comment my sweet little HS boyfriend made to me on several occasions because I'm passin' it on to you: "How did you ever turn out so NORMAL coming from THAT family??"
    (Had 'em all fooled, eh? ;) )

    1. Nope - no escape until the day I turned 18. I was just so RESIGNED at this point. Every day was the longest day ever. Why fight the noose? It never gets any looser, and fighting only makes you bleed more. Funny what the human mind can get used to.

    2. ha TW - NORMAL is sort of relative, no? At least we have our sense of humor. I call it my 'Gary Larson Bone'. His cartoons are like a window into my world...

  6. Omg this post was so good, I giggled straight through the discussion of the dress, you are cracking me up Gladys! Nobody around who gives a shit but you're the one who has to walk around and take the shit at school. Sounds like a really lonely place to grow up. I want to hug her too, and take her dress shopping!

    the crotch slumping in the white rights - fucking perfect imagery of being a young girl in awkward cloths. nailed it.