A few weeks ago I had two tween encounters that left me shaky. Shaky as in I'm not going to allow my children to go through puberty. Ever.
I found myself pretty much in the middle of tween twins, but the first incident was all my impulsive, vigilante doing.
A little background. I am a short woman, topping out at 5 feet and 3/4 of an inch. I'm grasping onto that portion of an inch. I also am fairly introverted. The snark flies in my writing, but in person not so much unless there's a Negra Modela in my hand. My next door neighbor - also a tiny woman - had told me about a bullying incident involving her neighbor on the other side of her house. He's a middle school kid in a new foster home (or just adopted). He's brawny, but sweet. Apparently four kids harassed him on the walk home from school so he was carrying a rock the size of my head as protection. Enter me, next day. Quiet, short me. The neighbor kid was walking home, in the middle of the street, and as I walked to my car he muttered, "They're throwing rocks at me." He didn't seem overly concerned, but I think he was trying to act tough. Quiet, short me decided this was not acceptable (and it isn't, people!), so I marched around my car right over to the four bully tweens and said something stupid like, "Is there a problem here?" Let me just say that I'm terrible at confrontations and not so awesome at ad-libbing and here I was, doing both. All four kids towered over me. At least one had dreadful acne. The rock thrower feigned ignorance, wearing his backpack strap across his face, and had the gall to tell me my neighbor was his friend. He and one other kid kept walking and laughing. Two stayed behind. One was a lawyer. "I don't understand what you're saying, ma'am. I didn't throw any rocks." Technically, he was right. However, he was a rock-throwing accessory. I didn't say that. I just got heated up and talked complete smack. And he called my bluff. The end of the story is that my tiny next door neighbor talked to the parents of the kid who was bullied and he called the school. I'm not sure I, myself, did any good.
Later that same day I walked over one block to an acquaintance's house to interview her for a piece I'm writing. It was lovely. The air was slightly breezy and not too hot. We sat on the porch and had a nice conversation.
Then her twins came home.
Once again, I found myself surrounded by tweens who were a head taller than me. Before I knew it, one twin had her arm around me and was calling me her best friend. She told me she liked my "pouffy" hair. She was pressuring me to eat ice cream. (Let me pause here to say, this was a way nicer scenario than the bully incident.) I've listened to the interview on tape and I make a lot of uncomfortable laughs. I felt like the butt of a joke, but it was confusing. What was the joke?
To all of the middle school teachers out there who I know and love, and to those I don't know and therefore would be creepy to love, you are beyond saints. I couldn't do what you do all day long, five days a week, 9 months of the year. Thank you for what you do.
I so owe you a Negra Modelo.