Time to start linking to previous chapters. Because I’m nice.
Fashions of the Oppressed and Jaded
“Thank you, kind sirs
You made me what I am today
A bundle of broken nerves
A mouthful of words
I’m still afraid to say
I don’t mind telling you
Now that I’m old enough to love
I couldn’t begin to
Even if my pretty life depended on it
And funny thing, it does…”
“Gothic Lolita” – Emilie Autumn
An orthodontist looked at my teeth once and immediately ordered their second luxury liner.
My first offense with “mis-scoring” was found out after Bible class had let out. Not only were we to sit for 6-8 hours on end doing countless exercises from mind-numbing stories about missionaries and do tedious repetitive spelling exercises, we had to have an hour dedicated taking notes from Mrs. Peace*. I know that sounds like I’m giving her a stupid ACE comic sort of name, but she was so incredibly nice and never raised her voice except when she was spitting piously about scripture. The only time she got angry was when she condemned us for drawing yin and yang symbols on our notebooks.
“IT MEANS BUDDHA!” she had yelled to a stunned classroom. And we believed her because she was the teacher preaching it as truth. I wouldn’t know until 9th grade in public school that yin and yang symbols were actually originated from Taoism. She also had a lot to say about the DaVinci Code and its own conspiracy that Jesus had a wife and he had slept with Mary Magdalene.
Anyway, I came back from one of these Bible classes to my PACEs stacked in a pile with a note written in the green ink that was only used by supervisors. I had been given a detention and forced to correct all of the problems I had dishonestly marked as right. Supervisors didn’t have to lecture students really. This atmosphere of isolation and mandated silence had its own way of eating you alive with guilt inside. I had to stay in from breaks for my detention and I would cry, hating myself for not being perfect like God expected of me according to this school.
There was a girl in my class that everyone liked and I wanted to be a part of the crowd. She distinguished herself as “popular” and “preppy” (yes, in a school of like 40 kids, there were cliques) and wore the high-price fashion brands like Aeropostale and Hollister. (They were typically the stores in multi-floored mega-malls that priced T-shirts for nearly $50 each and their musky signature cologne was sprayed enough that you nearly had an asthma attack going in.) Her brunette hair was perfectly straightened and styled and she was olive-toned with freckles and had an attractive slender face. I guess I admired her at first since she seemed like the “popular” girl. We had incentives to do for extra privileges, like one level was A, the next C, and the final level with the most privileges was E (have a guess where those letters came from). The bare minimum level A required that a student learn a whole Bible passage. I still vaguely remember the first verse: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Psalm 15. I forget how much we had to recite of it, but it was a lot for five extra minutes of break. This girl managed to make it all the way to E status, which meant she had to get a signed affidavit thing from her pastor of her church. The fact that some of these kids still went to church on Sunday was baffling to me – we were already in church for five days a week!
Anyway, this girl was pretty in the sense that she was slender, intelligent, and didn’t have a face to suggest her parents were cousins (like Jerold). Also, I developed a crush on a boy, whom I will call Bob*, because last I’ve seen of him, he became a stoner junkie in the public high school we all went to when the school foreclosed (more detail on that much later). It was a stupid middle school crush. He was blonde and good-looking, blah, cliché. He was the class clown that honestly got detention on the first day of school for fighting. He had a rather violent relationship with his little brother — like back in the summer, he chased him around the baseball field off the side of the community center with a bat, he was that angry. If any kid could be a candidate for Ritalin, it was both of them.
I once a demerit for laughing too loudly at the scoring station because he was goofing off with Jerold. Looking back, it was certainly reflective of the atmosphere of these classrooms since laughing was something to be punished. That leads me to a parent-teacher conference that was so many levels of “hey, this is fucked up” that I’m surprised it didn’t set the warning bells off for me or my mother sooner. We were called into this little after-school interview, me and my mom, where Mrs. Knowen sat us down and discuss things. My mom and this teacher used to go to high school together in the ‘70s, so they had their own gabfest while I was sitting there wondering why I couldn’t go home yet.
The reason for this conference was…drumroll…I wasn’t happy enough. I needed to smile more. I needed to show that I was a child of God.
Pass me the fucking Koolaid then, Mrs. Virtueson.
Let me say that this was 2004-2005, not the ‘60s when prepubescent depression didn’t exist. Normally, this would be a time where a child psychologist or just even a counselor would be a good idea, but nope.
I was unhappy because I wasn’t a good enough Christian.
Let me reiterate: 10-years-old. 10.
At 10-years-old, I needed to show that I was committed to the will of God.
Keep your glasses of Jonestown punch full to the brim, because this is only going to get more fucked.
Every morning had the same ritual. Be dropped off down in the cafeteria by an irate mother who was late clocking in for her 7am-wheneverthefuck pm shift; sulk at the cafeteria tables watching the daycare children snort Cheerios up their nose; think about the endless workload I’d have that day and the homework pages that have drool on them from when I fell asleep on them the previous night; and then, we were corralled and paraded up the stairs like stubborn sows queuing for a slaughterhouse. And other joyful metaphors.
Class began at 8am sharp and we were all certainly feeling full of the spirit at having to be in Sunday church clothes on a Thursday. We would sit and start on work, or if our PACEs had been turned in to be checked for homework completion, we sat at our desks hating life. Well, I did. In fact, I was a pro.
“If you would please stand up and push your seats under your desk for the morning pledges.” the supervisor would say at 8:30. We would all follow direction and stand by our pushed-in chairs like obedient sponges. First, was the American pledge.
“For liberty and justice for all”, we would chorus, not old enough to understand the cruel irony.
Next, was the Christian flag pledge.
Yes, there is a Christian flag pledge.
“I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.”
Again with this “liberty” myth. I find it weird that liberty is perfectly alright, but the word “liberal” strikes anger in the hearts of “believers”. The PACEs teach that God’s views of morals are perfectly in line with Republican values and leadership. George Bush was running against John Kerry that year but…
How’d the hell did you bolster this prick as a servant of God? I think even Satan would be like, “Dude. Just middle-management here.”
Forgot a pledge…ah, the Bible one.
“I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”
Well, my lamp broke and it’s setting fire to my stockings.
Huge contradiction here…since being human and such is sin according to the Bible. I would look up the specific verse, but my skin starts to itch when I look through scripture too much. (Literally. It makes me want to start carving new wounds into my arms.)
Afterwards, we would still stand while either a student or the supervisor would read out a devotion (Chicken Soup for the Soul, usually). It wasn’t optional for a student to have a turn reading devotion, you did it or you got a detention. I would gain quite the rebellious streak down the line where I would fight the system by skipping school when my day came up for doing the devotion in later years.
Kidding. I did it because I was developing crippling social anxiety from being isolated in a goddamn box for eight hours a day.
After devotion, we would have a little classroom discussion about how we were better than other groups of Christians. The most memorable discussion we had was when The Passion of the Christ (the controversial Mel Gibson horror film) was being played in theaters. I went to see it with my mom and it actually traumatized me so much, I was like all clammy and nauseated coming back from the theater and I remember grabbing my Bible and I prayed endlessly for about four hours to be saved. I got so weirdly obsessed with the Crucifixion, I was like a Criminal Minds nutjob that scribbled Bible verses on the walls of a cramped room (technically, that was pretty much the case of my school life). Anyway, the supervisor and several students gave their opinions on the movie. In any other context, that level of gore would be contested by fundamentalist Christians, but since it was happening to Jesus, it was fine. The sacrifice of Christ is worth the nightmares of bloodwashed paving stones.
You got a sense of how petty each supervisor was about what was sinful. They each had their own convictions and we had to learn quick which supervisors were offended by the slightest wrongdoing. Mrs. Knowen, for instance, would lecture about using any Biblical word in vain. Even the words you thought were innocent like “heck, gosh, and darn” were considered swearing because the act of cursing at all was sin. My mom has had a sailor’s mouth through all my short life at that point, so I’m starting to spit out my own colorful language at that point. Anyway, Mrs. Knowen had a problem with one of the apostles in the film saying, “I do not know the damn man!” in reference to Jesus. (Also, let me note that the actors were speaking Hebrew, so translation’s probably iffy.) This supervisor also thought that Spongebob was an inappropriate cartoon. While it certainly has its moments…
She was referring to the episode where Spongebob and Patrick were cursing and calling it “spicy language”. They didn’t actually curse—they were purposefully censored with a dolphin noise to represent the swearing. Also, there was the one where Patrick and Spongebob raise a baby clam together and somehow that got construed as so obviously ersatz and it’s abominable for two males to raise a baby together, blah, blah, blah, nitpicky, BLAH.
You know what’s also a sin? Your shitty attitude, lady.
After devotion, we would pray. If the supervisor caught you not bowing your head and closing your eyes during prayer, you got…I want to say you got detention, but it might have only been a demerit. I think it used to be just a demerit, but then the principal got pissed off seeing students looking around during prayer and bumped it up to detentions. While I’m on the subject of demerits, let’s see how many offenses I can remember, from my school at least…
–talking, laughing while class is in session
–not pushing in chair when scoring work
–forgetting to put down flag
–putting up the wrong flag (Christian flag for questions about work; Nationality flag to ask to score, go to restroom, etc.)
–not bringing Bible to school (instant detention)
–Harry Potter books (confiscation)
–“worldly” decorations in student office
–dress code violation* (explained in further detail below)
–boys shirt wasn’t tucked in during class time
–girls skirt was too short (usually a parent got called to bring a longer skirt—and the principal had no problem embarrassing the fucking hell out of the girls she didn’t like in front of everyone)
–girls shirt showed midriff
–girls shirt showed that she was a girl and had breasts (how dare she)
–using pen to fill in PACEwork; using “forbidden” colors to students (any color but black and blue – ooh, metaphor potential…)
–forgetting PACEs at home (instant detention; parents called to bring PACEs in)
–destruction of PACEs (I want to say that’s a mark against, but probably some suspension or detention as well)
–quitting a sports team was 5 marks against on your permanent record. No, I’m not kidding. (Though I did manage to quit the basketball team under the radar. Hahaha, bitch!)
–rearranging star chart and goal chart or messing with the demerit pins
–mis-scoring work or failing to score work
–not doing work
–being a lazy fat bitch wearing all black with black hair succumbing to her depression ‘cause she’s a useless conniving faithless shit
THAT got dark.
Well, that’s just a taste of stories to come.
*At my school, we didn’t have uniforms but we had to stick to a very strict dress code. I’ll start with the boys, their list is shorter…
Boys dress code
–collared T-shirts, tucked into pants
–could not wear jeans or shorts, must be either khakis or slacks
–closed-toed shoes, either tennis shoes or loafers
–hair couldn’t be unnatural colors or spiked with hair gel ( =P ) and length couldn’t exceed the earline
Girls dress code
–shirts had to cover the shoulders completely and V-necks couldn’t be lower than the collarbone; absolutely no “spaghetti” straps or tank tops that reveal bra straps; shirts had to fit correctly so that the bust wasn’t accentuated (yet the principal at my school finally had to get a breast reduction because she had such enormous G-cups—more on that later)
–girls couldn’t wear pants except during P.E.; skirts couldn’t be made of denim and had to be below the knee; there could be no slit in the side of the skirt that extended up further from the knee; girls couldn’t even wear pants during winter, I would have to put on pantyhose AND knee-length stocking socks (and also my lace up combat boots that made the principal angry because they weren’t exactly prohibited – talk about a loophole)
–hair had to be natural colors (though when I was 13, I dyed my hair black – it’s technically a natural color; I actually did it more because I started idolizing Amy Lee of Evanescence than rebelling, though that was a plus)
–jewelry had to be conservative, couldn’t have more than 2 holes in ears, none anywhere else (though the upperclassmen girls hid away belly-button rings)
–no “worldly” sayings on shirts
I’m tired. Traumatic memories take a lot out of you.