your pal, erin

Author & Psychic Superhero

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

JB was a high school bully who took pleasure in promising to kick your ass if you looked at her the wrong way. Why? Because she could and you fucking deserved it.

My rational, grown-up self understands that nothing happens in a vacuum. Her abusive behavior was most likely learned at home. But my inner 13 year-old is still terrorized by memories of her extracurricular slut shaming.

By slut, I mean me.

By shaming, I mean stalking me on four wheels—with a carload of upper-classmen friends in tow— from the front entrance of my middle school to the front door of my house, promising to pound the shit out of my skanky whore face.

When my parents met with my school principal demanding an intervention, he called bollocks on my story, insisting that nobody else in the school had reported problems with JB, so I must be making it up.

My rational, grown-up blood still boils at the atrocities that were condoned on his watch, most disturbingly, a girl who was pinned down and sexually assaulted on the back of a school bus after swim class while Boys Who Would Be Boys cheered for the assailant.

As I stew, enraged over everything I have just written, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that the local school board is the most fundamental form of American governance; one that is more concerned with girls’ hemlines and necklines than putting the kybosh bully culture.

Second, we teenagers are America’s canaries in a coalmine. And as one who refused to succumb to a plethora of toxic environments, I can resoundingly say we are over-reactionaries for good reason. We have the adult common sense to understand exactly what’s wrong with society, but are granted no say in implementing change. The reason that we see these problems so clearly is because we are at their daily mercy.

Prime example: the 1999 Columbine school shooting in which two teenagers took the issue of bullying into their own hands, with devastating consequences. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold inadvertently aired the dirty little secret that we all know —that kids like JB dominate our hallways, our doorways, our psyches. Nowhere is safe.

Why? For some, our home life is so miserable that we have nothing to lose by punishing others for our pain. Getting expelled from school, locked up in Juvie —even being tried as an adult and getting life in prison— is an upgrade from Coach to First Class.

Others of us are fed up with being at the mercy of things beyond our control. We want passive grown-ups to pay attention… and for fucksakes, do something, already!

Either way, we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore.

Gun control issues being a given, how come we're not talking about why shooters are so angry that the only thing that will help them feel better is to venture into public spaces and start shooting people?

It’s a question that I posted on my Facebook page last Monday in response to the city of Philadelphia being on “high alert” after a threat of violence at area schools. I am taking it to the pages of The Ghost Dog Diaries in response to the North Arizona University andTexas Southern University shootings, just five days later.

It’s an essential question that must be addressed. Too many of our angry inner children are bringing their irrational adult bodies into classrooms and movie theaters and bible studies, demanding answers.

Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 53)