*warning: expletives below*
You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a short haircut. I’ve had lots of long hair in my life, but I’ve always cut it off periodically.
First, of course, I was born with short hair (I happen to think I was an adorable baby):
I started school with short hair (still adorable!):
I even had short hair when my husband and I met and were married:
But today’s headline story comes from my teenage years.
In the middle, there, my hair put me through some rough patches. See, along about middle school I became aware of my mullet problem. The front of my hair had always been kept short while the back grew longer and longer:
I decided my mullet was socially unacceptable and that the only way to fix it was to cut all my hair short and start over again with everything the same short length. So, in eighth grade, I got it cut off:
This short eighth-grade haircut caught the attention of some mean-spirited upperclassmen who quickly branded me with a nickname: Pat. Don’t know if you’re familiar with Saturday Night Live — I wasn’t at the time — but Pat, the brunt of many SNL jokes, was an androgynous (meaning: of indeterminate gender) character. The fun-loving SNL audience could never quite figure out if ol’ Pat was male or female.
Those big boys evidently thought I looked like Pat. They were the kings of the school at the time; they were just starting to show lots of positive attention to the pretty girls in my class. The nickname caught on, and many of my classmates called me Pat too. Here’s Pat (below). Can’t you see the similarities?
Well. Needless to say, we did not watch Saturday Night Live at my house. We watched 60 Minutes and Dateline NBC and Billy Graham specials. This was definitely not the sort of thing my family would joke about or even talk about at home. Mortified and confused over what I had done to attract this sort of attention, I didn’t even tell my parents or sister until years after I’d graduated high school.
Why did I tell them then? Because I have continued, to this day, to lick an open wound over that nickname and, in general, over the awkward puddle of puke that was my school years, and to loathe — I mean loathe — the upperclassmen who tagged me “Pat.” I know it doesn’t make me sound like a very big person, but I tell the truth: I have never been able to get over that.
To this day, if ever you hear that I’m in jail, it’ll be because I ran into one of those sons of bitches alone in a hallway somewhere and gave him the resounding spanking he deserved years ago.
Here I am “pretending” to be a Christian. Here I am proclaiming to be forgiven by Jesus when, in reality, I have never mustered up the intestinal fortitude to permanently forgive those bastards who called me Pat. Oh, believe me, I have tried many times to just let it go. Months’ll go by and I won’t think a thing of it. But some days I get to feeling sorry for myself and remembering the small rural meatgrinder where I spent my teenage years. (And you people wonder why I’m leery to put my own kids in school.) Pretty ridiculous, huh, to be carrying such a grudge more than 16 years after graduation? To be limping around, scarred and wounded, because a few idiots weren’t very considerate two decades ago?
So you know what I’d like to do in 2017? This year I would like to Get. Over. High school. Once and for all. I’d like to let those wounds close, I’d like to remember only the good things that happened in those halls (because there were indeed people at the school who made a positive difference in my life)… and I’d like to forgive the kids who called me Pat.
It may seem a silly thing for a confident, well-adjusted, happily married mama of three beautiful kids to have to do. But I never said I wasn’t silly.
So a resolution has been set forth, and I think it’s the only one I’ll make this January 1. Because knowing me and my awesome ability to conjure up memories, it will take all my energy to erase or at least remake those memories of Pat which reside in the murky, cobwebbed dark places of my mind still today.
And you know what else? I hope my own personal victims from school — I’m thinking of Tuna, Maggot, Fernando, and others I’ve probably forgotten — can forgive me once and for all this year too.
PS: Three healthy childbirths and 13 happy years of marriage (to an imported boy, of course) later, I can report that I am almost positive that I have a completely normal feminine body created by God.
Oh, and one more thing. Looking now, over 20 years later, at this 13-year-old version of me…
… I think maybe I wasn’t so sub-human as everyone wanted me to believe. I think I was maybe okay. If you know a girl who looks like this today — no matter her hair color or eye color or smile or freckles or clothes — do me a favor and give her a hug. Tell her she’s lovely. Tell her she’s normal. And tell her she’s gonna be just fine.
© Tami Blake