Where the Underdogs Are, We Know, It's What We Don't Know That Scares Me [Part I of II]
Discussed in these posts: Beautiful Girls, Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are.
In Beautiful Girls (1996), a movie about a guy in his late twenties who returns to his snowy hometown for a high school reunion, there is a minor moment near the film's end (this spoils absolutely nothing), when at the reunion, a short, fat man, who you know looks just exactly how he looked when he was fifteen, approaches Darian Smalls, the now bitchy blond (a pitch-perfectly cast Lauren Holly) who was of course the princess of the high school back in the day. He says to her, and I'm paraphrasing, but pretty movie nerdily closely, "Darian Smalls!" He is clearly excited. "You were beautiful in high school!" She thanks him, shy. He is, however, not finished. He continues, "But, if I may say, mean as a snake. You were mean as a snake."
This is not a defining moment in the movie; it is a great moment nonetheless. It always is. When the popular bitch or the prick prince of the frat boys gets his/her comeuppance from the lowly fat loser. And which of us , really, hasn't felt like a lowly fat loser at some point(s!) in our lives.
I wasn't the fat kid (though I managed a good bit of pudge in grade seven - not a winning year for ole Mendelsohn Jon) but I wasn't a cool kid either.
I like to think I was a fairly nice kid, a pretty good kid. I always aimed for kindness. I hated meanness. But then I was an underdog, underdogs don't really get to choose. They almost have to be nice. Meanness, it seems to me, was a privilege of the popular. If pretty enough, or cool enough, you need not develop a personality.
I was lucky enough to have a sufficient social adeptness to stay out of the centre when the centre wouldn't have me. I learned quick how to not be the one to get dumped on, most of the time. If I did get too close, though, I was the victim, of course. The softer. The fucked over.
I wasn't bullied in school, I wouldn't say that exactly, but I certainly felt pushed pretty far outside the circle, and sometimes, just plain being left out and not included is its own kind of bullying.
Woe is me.
The thing is, though, memory is a tricky devil. Because I, like all, can recall with pinpoint precision every single moment that some kid was a jerk to me, every catcall and hated nickname, every tease and rolled eye, every kid that made me feel low, blue, dumb, nerd, etc. What I've not been quite as good at remembering are the kids that I pushed out of the circles that I managed to get into.
No one thinks they were Darian Smalls. No one thinks they were they were the bitchy one, the asshole one, the jerk, the bully. Me? Never!
It does, however, become hard to ignore, when one of the kids you pushed out calls you up one day, more than a decade since you last saw him (your last sighting being when you were in grade eight - that's eighth grade in American) and after a greeting and a little small talk abruptly cuts in to ask, 'How come you were such an asshole to me back then?' Or perhaps it was, 'Why did you do that to me?'