Tag Archives: learning

That Time I Looked like Groucho Marx.

15 Jan

When I was in grade school I got this assignment to write an essay about a word.  Just one single word that each of us were able to pick.  I picked the word “hate.”  I picked the word hate because I used it all the time in all sorts of different occasions.  To describe my feelings about steak and asparagus, about this kid in my class who told me I had a mustache (thanks for years of insecurity, asshole), about the three weeks in school when we had to line dance in gym class.  My grandma, Bama to us, always said to me, “Bekahboo, hate is a very strong word.  Just say that you dislike line dancing in gym class very strongly.”  I tried it.  It lacked a certain, how you say, panache.*  So being a stubborn jerk sort of since birth, I decided I would write about hate and prove Bama wrong.

In the process of writing the paper, I realized that Bama was right.  Damnit.  In order to hate someone, like really actually hate them, you have to dehumanize them.  It’s what I always come back to whenever I read about the horrible things people do to other people.  In order to treat someone terribly and feel no remorse, you have to hate them.  You have to think of them as somehow less valuable, less human.  It is an emotion I never want to really, truly feel.  I never want to get to a point in my life where I dislike someone so intensely that I am able to cause them extreme pain, be it physical or emotional.  I don’t ever want my heart to go there.  But I think that for me, coming to an understanding about the word hate has been helpful, especially considering that I got both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in international affairs.  I spent a lot of my time, and still do actually, reading about how people are shitheads.  The only way for me to grapple with some of the truly awful things people are capable of was to put it in the context of that long ago written paper.  It doesn’t make my stomach not turn, or make me not want to throw my computer against the wall, but it offers up a starting point and I guess that is something.

So the whole point of this was not to give you a rundown of my fifth grade assignment (or whenever it was), although to be fair I would love to read that paper now.  (Hey, mom, do you think it is in one of those cardboard boxes of things from my yoot?)  Maybe if I find it I will even type it out on my blog somewhere for all of our amusement.  I will even leave in all spelling errors and grammar issues.  I think it could be fun.  I really hope that somewhere in the paper I talk about the kid who told me I had a mustache.  I am actually still mad at him about that despite the fact that I haven’t seen him since my high school graduation, lo these many years ago.  I hold a grudge.  Learned that from Bama, also.  Kids can be really mean, you know?  The mustache thing is actually a funny story.  So there I was, with a ridiculously thick head full of hair (as I still have today), and no idea that I looked like a young, female Groucho Marx.  And this jerk came up to me and was all

“Rebekah has a mustache, Rebekah has a mustache!”

And so I said,

“Whatever, idiot, only boys have mustaches!”

And I ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror and *gasp!* there is was!  I spent the rest of the day walking around the school trying in vain to cover my face from my mouth to my nose.  Obviously, I looked foolish.  I didn’t want to talk to my mom about it because she had red hair and clearly knew nothing from mustaches so I went to the source:  the Frank side of the family.  We all have dark hair and, I would venture to guess, we all have a little ‘stache going on.  Except maybe for my sister.  I feel like my sister does not have a mustache.  Anyway, so I went and I talked to Bama and my Aunt Mindy about it and they told me to bleach it.  Of course, they didn’t realize how explicit they had to be, or how good I have always been at pretending like I know what someone is talking about, because I thought that I had to take Clorox to my face and that sounded like a terrible idea. I wasn’t a stupid kid.  There was no way in hell I was putting that shit anywhere near my mouth.  So instead I suffered through another few years of looking like Groucho until at the pharmacy I discovered Sally Hansen bleach.  So that’s what they meant. I bought some and for the next few years instead of having a dark mustache, I had one that was blondeish-orangeish that really showed up in the sun.  So, that was pretty fun.

Anyway, I wax it myself now.  Sometimes.  At this point in my life I don’t really give a shit about it.  It’s hair.  It isn’t going to like, jump off my face and gouge someone’s eye out or anything (although that would be an amazing super-hero power).  And actually, I don’t think it’s even all that bad.  There is this old lady on my street with a SERIOUS mustache and I gotta tell ya, I think she is sort of amazing for just not giving a shit.  I like to imagine that if I was as great as her when I was in grade school I’d look at that kid and be all,

“Yea, well you don’t have a mustache.  Prepubescent wuss.”

And then I would secretly have a complex but at least he would have one also.  Until he went through puberty and started growing facial hair and then found me in the hallway and rubbed his creepy little boy mustache in my face.  Not literally, of course.  I guess by that point I would have already discovered the bleach, AKA facial hair highlighter.  And I’m sure he would have found something else to pick on me about.  I feel like he used to pick on me a lot. Not often, but he would just kind of materialize out of nowhere and say something mean that would stick with me and then he would disappear again. Like the time it was hot in school and I was wearing a long-sleeved grey shirt and I had some sweat in my armpits and he came over and was like “you have sweaty arm pits!”   And I was like “so?” because that was all I could think of and then he laughed in my face and then for years I was afraid of wearing long-sleeved shirts.  Whatever, my body is very efficient at cooling itself.  Fuck you.

Well, this blog post went in a surprising direction.  I’m not actually sure how to tie this whole thing together because not only do I not hate the guy who used to poke fun at me growing up, I don’t really even dislike him very strongly.  I’m just a little mad at him.  He was just an asshole kid who, odds are, grew up to be a very nice adult.  I wonder if the internet knows.  Rabbit hole, here I come.

*Did you know that in Canada they use the word panache to describe antlers?  Or as a synonym for antlers?  Or something?  I love writing.  Always learn such interesting and largely useless things about words.  Oftentimes that you have been using them wrong.  Kind of like my use of panache.