I told Matt to lie on his back. Nearby the teacher on duty organized two teams of kickballers and she played the role of all time pitcher. I explained each step to Matt. First, I’m gonna put my knees on your arms to hold them down. Then I’m going to sit on your stomach. Then, and this is key, I’m going to take my finger and poke you in the middle of your chest hard but not too hard over and over and over until you go insane or I poke a hole in your chest bone. Get it? Now you try on me.
Matt and I were thrilled to learn and practice such a powerful torment device. But when I started to get up to switch positions, I realized the entire kickball game was watching. And pointing. And laughing.
Even the teacher. She said, “Get a room, boys.” I didn’t really know what that meant but I knew (and felt) it was super embarrassing.
Matt and I walked off toward the monkey bars and he said, “Who cares what that fatty thinks?” I said something like, “Yeah. Who cares?” But the truth was I did. It didn’t feel great to get laughed at. To look different. To be weird.
This pattern repeated itself a lot throughout school (and beyond). Like it does for all of us. I got diagnosed with diabetes in fourth grade and was terrified of being different, looking stupid/weird. I was one of the smallest kids in my class, a late bloomer, this provided lots of opportunities to get pointed at, laughed at and made fun of for being different, looking stupid/weird. And so on and so on. My story is no different than yours except in the details.
At some point during all that my dad taught me a legit secret move. If you ignore the people laughing at you, and if you can even join in with them, they’ll stop laughing. They can’t call you weird if you call yourself weird.
Of course that was easier said than done in school. But I have some vivid memories of actually doing it and it worked. And over the years, by doing lots of stuff that has made me look stupid, different, and weird, I’ve developed a pretty strong pain threshold for enduring the laughter and pointing. But of course, that grade school fear is always there.
We talked about this a bit in our latest podcast. We’re all pretty consumed with the fear of looking stupid. I think there are some secret moves we can practice to get stronger in the battle against the laughers, the haters, and the pointers. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts.
We’re all weird. We’re all stupid-looking. One of the secrets to life is not listening to our ego’s futile plea otherwise. Acceptance is the gateway to real life.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Aidras