Spaz, they called me. During the breakaway drills that had players come at me one-on-one, they chanted louder and louder from the sideliness. “Spaz. Spaz. Spaz! Spaz!! SPAZ!!!”
I had no idea it was a line from Meatballs. I had no idea it was about a classic nerd character who wore glasses held together by tape.
Then, in my first year in high school I would get teased on the bus. “Do you cream your jeans?” they would ask me.
“Sure,” I said, not knowing what was going on. “My mom washes my jeans.” I had no idea they were using teen sex slang, I just thought “cream” meant “soap.”
“Do you like to eat out?” they’d ask.
“Yes,” I would reply still clueless. “I eat out with my family.”
Howls of laughter would ring down the bus.
I switched schools after Grade 8. I was barely 100 pounds and not even 5 feet tall. At an all boys’ school that had half a dozen football teams, I was never going to fit in. Grades 9-12 were better. I was at a smaller school where I joined the cross country and wrestling teams, and became involved in student government. It was good.
Then came university. I rushed the Kappa Sigma fraternity with my best friend. I had avoided alcohol my entire high school career, but this first foray into the adult world saw me sipping from the keg of life. The first “wet” rush event I got very drunk and passed out on the front lawn of another fraternity’s house. Luckily someone recognized me, partly because my mother had called my fraternity’s house to check in on me.
My nickname became Momma. As in ‘Momma’s Boy’. I wanted to belong, so I ignored it.
University was nearly 25 years ago, and while bullying hasn’t followed me through my adult years, I have always been a bit of an outsider and found it tough to hang with the ‘cool kids.’ I think that early teasing is part of it. I am more comfortable by myself than in a group. It’s probably not a shock that my career has found me a radio dj. I sit in a room by myself all day, talking to myself, listening to records.
I bring this story up because these memories came flooding to me this morning after watching Shane Koyczan‘s video “To This Day.” The incredible poet has posted the 8 minute video that featured a kid being called “Spaz.” It all came back. Still, as Koyczan declares, I’m a member of the graduating class of “we made it.”
Take 8 minutes, watch the video, and keep it in the back of your mind as you help your kids navigate their youth. You don’t want to hover so much that they become “Momma” but you don’t want to hang back so far that they end up like Amanda Todd.
There’s a middle ground. Find it.