Being teased is no fun! If they knew how bad it makes me feel, they wouldn’t do it! you tell yourself. But that’s not true. Oh, they know how bad it makes you feel—and that’s exactly why they do it!
Kids who tease others a lot often share something in common with bullies and other mean kids: they don’t feel very good about themselves. Even though they probably don’t know the real reason behind their own teasing, hurting someone through teasing is their twisted way of trying to feel better about themselves.
There are other reasons kids tease, some innocent and some not. Here are some tips to help you stop being teased all the time:
I climb onto the bus and take my usual front seat. Two fellow sixth-graders move up behind me. That spells trouble.
“What’re ya doin’ tonight, Rober-to?” Evan asks. He lowers his Cubs cap and grins like a howler monkey. “Goin’ to Maggi’s skating party?”
Josh adds in mock terror, “You mean she forgot to invite you, Meester Gonzaleees?”
I take a deep breath to keep my cool on the outside. But on the inside I know I’m the uncoolest guy in Walker’s Junior High being brought down again.
I make a reflexive swipe at my upper lip. I’ve tried telling kids my lip scar is from a surgical correction of a birth defect, but they made more fun out of that. Throw in my stuttering, and I don’t stand a chance. My lip got fixed-but the rest of me? Still waiting and stuttering. Dad says God doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes I wonder.
Mustering my last ounce of courage, I blurt out, “Act-actually, I’m giving an in-interview to The Sun tonight ab-about my po-o-etry.’
“No way!” Josh fake laughs. “Who’d want to read about you?”
“Yeah, everyone’s gonna razz you,” Evan chimes in. “A boy poet who can’t even talk straight.”
“Yeah, totally weird!” Josh pushes Evan off at their bus stop, and they turn back and laugh. Rumors will fly tomorrow.
Am I supposed to wait around and let this harassing keep on?
Since day one I’ve known I was different. My deformity pretty much wrote it in stone. I don’t think I look too bad now. But inside I still carry the image of the way I looked when I was a little kid, before I had three surgeries.
When I get off the bus, my dog Homer runs to meet me. We race to the front porch, I drop my backpack, and we run around back. Riding the go-cart I constructed out of junkyard parts helps me clear my mind.
As I cut the engine Mom calls me in for supper. “We’ve got a celebrity in our midst!” She runs her hand over my buzz cut. “Will they take your picture? What are you wearing?” Let her have her fun because Mom likes reading my stuff and giving feedback.
I’m still reeling about what happened. Trying out for that poetry contest in the newspaper was a lark. I never thought I’d win. I’m proud and scared at the same time.
Dad rustles his newspaper “Don’t let it go to your head, Roberto. Making it in the real world is a lot more than a newspaper interview.” He’s not exactly on the same page with my poetry writing.
I answer the door. A woman reporter stands there holding a camera and a yellow legal pad like the kind I use.
I sit on the edge of the couch holding my knees together so they won’t shake.
Reporter Susan snaps my picture. “How long have you been writing, Roberto?”
“Why do you write?”
“It help-hel-helps me get through rough times and cel-celebrate good times.”
“What’s your favorite book? Where do you get your ideas?”
“Show me a book, and I’ll find something I like a-b-bout it.” I answer. “I get ideas by ob-observing life.”
More questions; then Susan stands up. “Watch for Wednesday’s Sun, Roberto. It’s not every day the public gets to meet a boy poet.”
“Thanks. I hope the poetry sla-a-am comes off this e-e-easy. I’m reading stuff out loud for the first time.” Susan nods as if she understands how hard it would be for a guy like to get my words out. It’s scary, but how much does a loser have to lose?
Wednesday morning Maggi Peterson sits by me on the bus. I cover my surgery lip with white knuckles.
“Hey, Roberto, I read your write-up in the Sun. I never knew you were a writer.’
“So. the-the-the word’s out. Think I’ll need a s-suit of a-a-armor?”
Maggi doesn’t laugh, which is either good or bad. ‘You should be proud. My college brother goes to the Wild Bean Cafe to read on open mike. Maybe you could go with him sometime.’
I manage a nod. She smiles and goes to sit with her friends, who are probably joking about the loner kid who’s always writing on a yellow pad. Luckily none of the guys care about my news. Maybe they don’t read newspapers.
My English teacher, Mr. Gullborg, mentions the article and asks if I’d read something to the class. I touch my surgery lip and stutter, “They-they have to wait till the slam to-tomorrow. Sur-p-p-prise is my best fe-e-eature.”
I keep thinking about Maggi’s brother. Would he take me to the Wild Bean?
Would Maggi go? Would Dad let me?
I tell Dad about the Wild Bean. “Stand up for what you believe, Roberto.”
“Be a stand-up kind of guy?” We laugh.
Thursday morning, Evan and Josh board the bus. Snickers, whistles, the usual jazz. I answer Josh’s comments with “Want my autograph?”
These guys just think differently than I do. I wish we could get on the same wavelength. Can my poetry communicate that?
At the poetry slam kids and teachers pack the lunchroom. Not only do I stutter, I shake. Deep breath. I want to make a difference instead of being different. Here goes.
Nothing But an Outsider
By Roberto Gonzales
Can you see me? Can you hear me?
My words are me.
Words stutter, words stump, words jump.
Lower the bar. Look past my scar. Look afar.
I am what I do. It’s the same for you.
The world’s a big place, and I feel small.
Reach out to me, and I’ll pass the ball.
Outside of me is all you see;
Unless we talk, let me be.
Extend a hand, or, like water in sand
I’ll drift away… drift away… drift away…
I didn’t stutter once! There is soft applause as I take my seat. Josh lowers his eyes. Evan leans over and whispers, “Not bad, boy poet. Sometimes I feel the same way.”
I smile a big toothy grin and don’t cover my lip.
Thanks, God. I’m glad You don’t make mistakes. Look out Wild Bean—I’m comin’ over with my next poem: “Overcomer”!