Growing up I always liked myself best when I was doing something bad.  This is in spite of the terror I felt of being found out and punished.  I was almost never bad, which I now see stunted my personal growth in many ways.  I was a parentified child to the max, making lunch and changing my brother’s diaper by the time I was four.  Only occasionally would I venture outside the lines, but never at home.

We moved a lot, a succession of Levittowns.  When we arrived, there would generally be at least a patch of woods left in the neighborhood, but there was always development going on.  I knew once the new houses went up, my safe place in the woods would be gone.  In those days, there was no digital surveying, so I started there.  In the evenings, after the surveyors had spent a laborious day staking out the property, I would make my brother come with me and I would pull out the stakes, smooth over the dirt, and hide the stakes and the twine.  Later when the houses were going up, I would take their cans of nails and hide them in the woods, or just move around anything I was able to pick up.  In bed at night I suffered for my crimes, but found I couldn’t stop because my safe place in the woods kept me alive.

My sixth grade teacher hated me.  I was ten because they had made me skip a grade, & I think she found me cheeky.  You could see her checking and re-checking my tests and homework, scanning for mistakes.  Where she had me was my handwriting, which was terrible.  She would have me sit next to her desk in front of the class and make fun of my handwriting.  She was mean but her meanness was right out front, not shady and serpentine like my mother’s meanness.  I assume for that reason I didn’t fold and cry as usual, but took her on as a worthy opponent.  When she was lecturing I wore my glasses upside down because it annoyed her.  I told her I saw better that way.  I let out a balloon slowly under my desk and she never found out where the shrieking noise came from.  I threw spitballs and wrote notes to my friends.  She was probably as broken as I was and did these things because I reminded her of herself, so I should have felt badly.  But somehow I never regretted any of this, perhaps because she was a badly behaved grown woman who I could master.

When I was a senior in high school there was another woman teacher incident I don’t regret but probably should.  Mrs. B. was brought in to teach a sociology class for the first time. I should regret this because, looking back, she probably wasn’t that much older than we were, plus she was actually up to date on research.  It came out later she had heard how Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo had shown how perceived authority and groupthink can pervert an individual’s moral code.  Their research is still ignored or maligned, much to our communal discredit. 

Anyhow, young Mrs. B. read us one of Hitler’s early inspirational speeches.  When she was done we were instructed to stand up, raise our right arms and yell “Heil Hitler”.  I refused to do this and was sent to the principal’s office.  At the end of the year, she was fired.  I justify this in my mind because she also occasionally made fun of students who struggled, and that at the time I was only 16.   Looking back, however, she probably would have been an excellent addition to my stodgy, waspy high school.

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