Do you ever wonder why people do the things they do? I sure do. I also wish that sometimes I could go back and explain to people why I did some of the dumb things I did when I was younger.
I've done some stupid things that turned out to be really mean, though I wasn't trying to be mean at the time. I was just trying to do what I thought was the right thing for the situation. It makes me wonder how many "mean" people are really just misunderstood.
Here are a couple of examples:
When I moved to Utah from Nebraska I was lucky enough to have a cousin my age. That is a great thing for a girl in late elementary school to already have a friend in her class. I'm one of those people who is painfully shy at first and then will shock you when you get to know me because I'm really not quiet at all, just self conscious until I feel comfortable with the situation.
I happened to move in right before Valentine's Day so I was expected to send a Valentine to EVERYONE, even though I didn't know them and they certainly didn't know me. My aunt dutifully bought me a box of valentines (my mom and some of my brothers had stayed behind to sell our house, so my dad and brother and I lived with my aunt and uncle for a few months). Unfortunately I didn't like the valentines at all, I thought they were dumb and babyish.
As my cousin, Jolene, and I sat down to write the names on our valentines, I started to feel worse and worse. A lot of them said the usual things, like "I like you" and "I want you to be my Valentine". Sounds pretty harmless, right? Well, not when you're a 10 year old girl. I was so afraid that the boys in the class would take what the cards said literally (you know, it made perfect sense at the time) that I came up with what I thought was a great solution.
I re-wrote the sentiments on all the cards for the boys. By adding the simple word "don't", I solved the problem. "I don't like you" and "I don't want you to be my Valentine" ended up on every single card for every single boy.
I have to admit that there was one nice, soft spoken boy named Darin that I did feel a little worried about doing this to. I thought about it for just a minute before deciding that I needed to let him know too, right up front, that I didn't have any charitable feelings toward ANY boys.
Now, I hadn't really thought about this for years, but my sister-in-law said something the other day that made me remember what I had done. And I feel just sick about it. I have a little boy with tender feelings who would be just crushed to get such a mean message from a bratty girl like me. I wonder what their mothers must have thought.
I wish there were some way to get in touch with every boy from that class and just send a message saying, "I didn't really mean it. It wasn't you, it was me", etc. I wonder how many boys I scarred for life. (I wonder how many boys even remember? - I'm sure their mothers do, I know I would remember.)
By the way, I'm sure I was a barrel of laughs to be with at the little Valentine Tea the PTA puts on every year. I pity the poor boy that had to pull out MY chair and bring me a cookie. I probably ate his too!
Now on to my next true confession before I lose my nerve. This one goes under the heading "the (stupid) things we do for love".
In sixth grade (yes, I had come a long way since fourth grade) I had a boyfriend. His name was "Randall". It was Halloween and we were all dressed up at school, as they used to let you do back then.
Randall was dressed up in a trench coat, like a spy. Another boy, I'll call him "Brett", had made fun of Randall's costume, or at least that's what someone told me at recess. As a result, I was a little miffed at Brett so I went up to him and slugged him in the stomach, just like that. I had taken care of the situation. End of story, or so I thought. (I'm really not a violent person, I don't think I've ever slugged anyone else in my whole life, I promise!)
Much later, I was sitting at my desk and turned around and saw Brett, doubled over his desk crying. We were old enough that it was not normal for a boy to be crying and he was probably the toughest boy in our whole school. I feel like crying right now writing this, because I feel so terrible about what I did. I've done worse things, but this makes me feel more ashamed of myself than almost any other thing I've done in my whole life. It didn't help when I found out years later that Brett had a tough life at home.
If there is only one person I could go back in time to apologize to, it would be Brett. I've always wondered what happened to him and how much he was affected by what I did that day.
(Addendum: I just found my fourth grade class picture. I am still in touch with at least a couple of these boys via facebook or e-mail from our last class reunion. I think I'll ask them if they remember the valentines. I was very relieved to see that Brett was NOT in my fourth grade class also. I think that would be way too much harrassment from me for one little boy to handle.)
Response number one, just sent to me from one boy in the class:
Yes, I was in that class and yes I do remember. Only because your blog triggered some neuron - haven't thought of it for years and I wouldn't have recalled it was you. It didn't scar me, but I recall thinking it wasn't terribly nice. I don't think I've thought about it since that day...But, it probably is the background reason why I never asked you out in high school :-).