Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Be yourself

That's a big bag of crap, let me clear that up once and for all. I learnt this important lesson early.

Right from the time you're a kid, it's what adults are always prattling on about.
Like Mrs. Rose, my second standard teacher. Rose only in name, I might add.
So when she cracked one of her really obvious, middle-aged jokes, I, being myself, rolled my eyes.

Let's just say I didn't see that backhanded slap coming.

Moral: Be yourself, you get slapped so hard your brain rearranges itself.

Still my naivete prevailed. Maybe Rose is just the exception, I fooled myself and stuck to my guns. Until it happened again.

Now when you're a quiet kid and you sing to yourself, people take that to mean many different things. But boiled down to their concentrate, all these opinions generally end up at 'weirdo' or 'asshole'. I've always got the latter. So between totally missing the boat on teacher humour and not being related to anyone who had "pull" in the staff room, I was the farthest thing from teacher's pet.

Cut to standard 9. I get called into the staff room minutes before break time. Nothing too ominous, just a whole bunch of underpaid, predominantly single women in their late 30s, gathered in one place, looking for an outlet.

Me: Can I come in?
Degenerate 1: It's MAY I come in, not can.
Me: Sorry. May I come in?
D1: No.
Me: Okay.
D2: You have an attitude problem.
Me: ...
D1: See? This is what I'm talking about.
D2: *nodding happily*
Me: Okay.
D1: Okay?! She's saying okay! Do you have a problem or not?!
Me: I don't know. No.
D2: Not even owning up to it, trying to defy us.
Me: Can I go? (break time was coming to a close! Those delicious cream biscuits weren't going to eat themselves!)
D1: Don't act too smart, you will not go anywhere.
D2 : Admit you have an attitude problem and say you're sorry.
Me: ...
D2: Say you're sorry!
Me: ....
D1: Say you're sorry or no break.
Me: I'm sorry.
*Bell rings*
D1: Looks like you're going to have to wait for the next break.

Moral: Be yourself and you miss snack time. No go. NO. GO.

Then I grew up, got a tonne of bad haircuts, made a tonne of bad decisions, had a tonne of personality crises, you know, usual teenage stuff. But through it all, I refused to act. Why? Because it takes effort and time. Time that could be spent watching Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. So that's what I did. Until I got slapped in the face again. This time metaphorically.

The year was 1999. I remember this because every time Summer of 69 came on, I'd shout 99. Yeah. I know. Take a moment.
The boy was wiry, he was tanned, he had dirty brown hair and cute mispronunciations. When we finally talked (he caught me on one of my blank calls to his house. He said 'Gyuri?', I said 'ye..NO!' and the jig was up) and told me I was awesome. He liked me for me - androgynous, bushy eyebrowed, bespectacled and kicking his ass at carrom. Best moment of my teenage life. Also the last time I ever heard from him.
The next time I saw him, he was with a girl who, if this were a highschool movie, would be the main sidekick atleast.

Moral: Be yourself and you'll be with yourself too.

Now I could keep the examples coming but I think I've made my point and more importantly, I'm irritating myself. The bottomline folks, is this: Stop lying to kids. Or if you must make overly simplistic remarks like 'be yourself' atleast have the courtesy to emphasise on the 'as long as you're not making anyone mad, as long as you're not swimming too far from the stereotype and as long as you're doing it on your own time".
Kids have a hard enough time reading, nevermind reading between the lines.


PVieira said...

The school staff room incident is very reminiscent of my school experience...there's just no place for honest reactions anymore. Or ever really.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Brilliant - and so true. You might like to have a look at this too:

Take care