Posts Tagged ‘stupidity’

She spent two years trying to kill me emotionally and spiritually and to this day, I still don’t know why. But I know she tried and failed.

It was in the 5th and 6th grade when this happened. The school I was going to was right down the street from me and all of us students knew each other. We all lived within walking distance and were all friends for the most part.

There were always new students coming and going, but being female and of the age where what others thought of me defined who I was, I didn’t always get to know the “new kids” simply because I had so many friends that I had grown up with.

The school decided that since we were going to be attending Junior High soon, they would acclimate us to having to move from one class to another rather than having only one teacher for the entire day.

This bothered me because I loved my teacher, Mrs. Aronson. She was VERY old since she was probably in her 60’s and I was 10 but I loved her and she had been the only teacher I had known since first grade.

But the “Powers That Be” wanted us to learn how to go from classroom to classroom and have all of our materials with us, so the journey began and I was put in a Math class with a teacher called Mrs. McDougal.

The moment I saw her, I froze. She was much younger than Mrs. Aronson and very pretty. She dressed sharply and had the most beautiful hair I had ever seen. It was straight where mine was curly. She was thin and I was approaching puberty and starting to have very strange things happen with my body.

She stood at the front of the class and glared at us. She then did roll call and quickly rearranged where we were to sit. She didn’t know most of us and I had never seen her before, but she pointed her finger at me and said “Susan, come over and sit right here,” which was the first seat in the first row, closest to her desk. I got up, grabbed my books and sat down. She then pointed to another girl, whom I didn’t know, and had her sit next to me. Her name was Donna. Once Donna sat down, Mrs. McDougal sneered at us and then looked at the class.

“This is where the stupid people sit,” and then laughed.

I didn’t understand what she meant and Donna and I looked at each other. When it dawned on me that she was referring to both of us, I felt my face turn red and the tears sting my eyes. Donna had the same reaction and we said nothing and could hear the other kids laughing at us.

For the next 2 years, she picked on us. I never said a word to my parents because I thought she was right because she’s a teacher and teachers know everything, right?

Plus I then became convinced that I was stupid and I didn’t want anyone to know. My brothers had always called me that and I gave as good as I got, but that’s just sibling’s doing what we do – tease each other and then be friends again.

But now I had someone, an ADULT, telling me at least twice a week how stupid I was. Sometimes she would call Donna and I up to stand in front of the class and point to us and say “This is what a stupid person looks like” and then have us sit down again.

I can just hear you, the reader, shaking your head and wondering why I didn’t say anything. Well, if you don’t know why, then maybe you don’t understand what it’s like for girls at that age and how vulnerable we are. You might not understand or remember what an adult’s words can do to a child.

They are worse than bullets and do much more damage. This is the reason I will always believe what a child tells me. Always, no matter what.

I somehow made it through her class after 2 years, but to this day, I have never been good at math. My parents hired a tutor for me and for a while, it got better. I can figure other things out and my IQ is high enough, but I will always consider the day that calculators were developed to be a holy day for me.

Years later, when I was married, I said something about this to my husband. To say he went sideways is an understatement. Up until that point, “me being a stupid person” was something I felt shameful about and was always afraid someone would find out. It took a lot of talking with him to pull the whole story out of me.

When I told my Mom about it, she almost cried. She had no idea and if she had, she would have been down at that school, told them what was going on and had me pulled out of that class. She understood why I never said anything but I suspect that it has never set right with her. It wasn’t a matter of trust in talking about it. That was not why I hadn’t said anything.

It’s a matter of shame regardless if it’s misplaced or not. If you believe it, then it’s true for you. All other points of view are not valid. What you think and believe about yourself is what matters.

Ironically, what happened to me is something that I value because it has made me very good at my job. I teach and I know what it’s like to learn something new and be confused and yes, somewhat stupid until you master it. It takes the right materials and the right person to guide you through it.

It takes someone who knows what it’s like to feel stupid and to understand that you aren’t stupid – you just don’t know something.

As an aside, after I told my husband about it, he asked me if I knew where she had lived. I did as it was right down the street from my old childhood house. He got a wicked look in his eye and asked me if I wanted to go visit Mrs. McDougal. I said I did, so we jumped into the car and drove over there.

I stood on the sidewalk and looked at the house. It had been many years since I had been there and I was convinced that she had either moved away or hopefully died. We walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. I held my breath.

She answered the door and at first, I wasn’t sure it was her. She had not aged gracefully, which made me feel better. Her skin was badly wrinkled, she was no longer attractive and her hair was the same. I then realized that the hair I had envied for so long had always been a wig.

I asked if she was Mrs. McDougal and she hesitated for a moment. She was hunched over and was wearing a dirty robe even though it was late afternoon. She nodded her head and for half a second, I felt sorry for her but that was all.

Here was a woman who was evil. God knows what other lives she had destroyed.

I told her who I was and it did not register with her. That pissed me off. I explained that she was one of the worse human beings I had ever had the displeasure of knowing and that there was no excuse for what she had done to me and Donna.

When I said Donna’s name, I saw the light go on in her eyes. My husband was standing next to me and never said a word but glared at her.

“Oh, you remember, don’t you?” I asked. She stood motionless.

“Well, I wanted you to know that you didn’t succeed. I am fine and I turned out to be a really good person, despite your efforts to kill me. But if I ever see you again…” I said and let the sentence hang in the air. She nodded. We turned around and walked away. She didn’t close the door until we had driven off.

I hope she’s still awake, waiting for me to come back.

Yes, that’s what I do. I make people feel stupid. It’s amazing that I get paid to do this.

And I am really good at it. In fact, I love it.

Why do I do that? Because that is the ONLY way to get a human to learn. I didn’t make the rules on this, but it is the way we learn.

You think you’re afraid of failure? Nope. You’re just like the rest of us, you’re afraid of looking stupid. See, when you fail, you look and feel stupid.

When you slam a hammer down on your thumb rather than the nail, after you stop screaming, you feel stupid. Well, it was a dumb thing to do.

If you trip and fall and the whole world sees you, you feel that horrible redness take over your face. You want to run and hide or wish the earth would open up and swallow you. You want to go back in time – rewind and re-record it before you slipped on the sidewalk. You knew, right before you fell, that you should be paying more attention. You should not have been walking and texting at the same time.

You feel so stupid for having dated/married THAT person. Your friends told you not to do it. Your family begged you to break off the engagement but NO! You went ahead anyway and when it didn’t work out, you felt like an idiot. Well, you probably were one. And I know it took you a long time to let people know it was over.

But, think about it. You know that burner is hot and not because you read about it. There is no owner’s manual for a human. You know it’s hot because you can feel it and probably have burned yourself once or twice on it. See? You know it’s hot but you still burned your hand.

You know that pizza needed to cool off for a few minutes before you dig into it, but you don’t wait and burn the roof of your mouth. How many times have you done that? I do it every single frickin time. No lie.

You knew it was a bad idea to send that money to the poor orphan in Nigeria who was dying of cancer in a jail and who only had you out of 6.5 billion people to help him. You were the only one that could save his life.

No one likes to look or feel stupid, but that’s how we learn. That’s what I do for a living. I teach. I teach business owners how to run things better and in order to do that, they have to see what they’ve been doing wrong. That’s where I come in.

I don’t do it to be mean. I do it to help but unless you’re willing to smack your head against a wall a few times, you will never learn.

I have to get them to see why bribing employees is not such a great idea when they’ve been late, non-productive and a Queen Bitch from Hell and that maybe giving them a raise won’t improve their behavior. It actually makes it worse, just like giving a child candy every time they have a temper tantrum.

I have to go over, in great detail, why the person answering the phone needs to be friendly and not say “WHAT?” when picking up the incoming call, even if she’s his niece and is in desperate need of a job because no one else will hire her.

Then there’s the time I had to make a guy feel really moronic in getting him to stop hugging his employees and having “daily affirmations” as part of a staff meeting and to shut the hell up about his political beliefs. Yes, I had to do that and it took a long time of me pounding this into his pinhead for him to finally say “Well, OK, maybe that’s not such a good way to run a business after all.” Ya think?

Or the time I had to make a client feel bad about being online all day rather than, I don’t know, actually running his business?  Boy, did that guy feel pretty stupid by the time I was done with him. But, he never did it again.

I have my own trail of stupidity, so you aren’t alone.

I was stupid when I thought that an abusive man wouldn’t be that way to me. Wrong.

I was stupid when I thought by ignoring the IRS, they would go away. So very wrong.

I was stupid when I thought I could walk all day in 4″ heels. Wrong and I have the damage to my feet to prove it.

I was stupid when I listened to a bonehead “friend” who said I didn’t have the talent to write. I hope the bitch is reading this right now.

And I was incredibly wrong in thinking that the “check oil” light in the car would magically go away. I ended up with a cracked block on that puppy and an enormous bill from the mechanic to prove how stupid I can be.

But, all of these things, I never did again. I don’t hang out with mean people, I pay my taxes on time, I wear flats when spending the day walking around San Francisco and I run to the mechanic anytime something is wrong with my car.

I still bite into hot pizza though. I actually can’t help it.

We all have these trails and rather than be bothered by them, learn from them. You don’t learn about life from reading books.  We learn about life from falling down and getting up again. We learn when we admit we are wrong and try to find a better way the next time.  We learn from our mistakes. We are the only ones that can teach ourselves. We are the only ones that can change who and what we are.

So go out there and make a fool of yourself. Let your weirdness shine. Smack your head against the wall a few times if you need to. Fall down and scrape your knees and get up and do it again. I always tried to tackle that very long and steep street with my roller blades. I have permanent scars on my knees, but I eventually won. It took a whole summer, but I did it. How I never sustained worse injuries than my knees I will never know.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. So what if you make a fool of yourself? Why should you be different from any of us?