Monday, April 19

The girl with the big nose and the zit at the end of it.

Grade six. A group of James Town girls ganged up on me and told me that I thought I was better than them and that I was a stuck up snob because I actually did my homework and because I spoke with an English accent. I was never invited to sit with them at lunch, got teased in the cafeteria and resorted to going to my only friend’s house for lunch. At her place we watched Young and the Restless, ate our lunch in silence and tried to not fantasize too much about what it would be like to actually be one of the pretty popular girls allowed to eat lunch in the school cafeteria.

Grade seven. My growing enormous breasts became the running joke for all the young boys. Boys would grope me without my consent, pull my bra strap and ask me if I got a black eye when I ran. I prayed daily for my breasts to just disappear.

Grade eight. I got nicknamed taco bell because I had a “big” ass and every time I walked by the boys would make the sound of a bell, and everyone would laugh. Ironically, I now do 100 squats per day trying to get this so called “big” ass back!

Grade nine. Five girls came to my school to kick my ass for dating the most popular girl’s “boyfriend”, a guy who never called me back and took me out on a “date” which I ended up paying for.

Grade ten. A popular boy stated to anyone that would listen that I would be pretty if my nose wasn’t so big! It didn’t help that every time I got a new zit it would appear at the end of my “big” nose. I promised myself I would get a nose job as soon as I turned eighteen. My Grandmother agreed. I still secretly worry about my “big” nose.

All of these things happened to me in school and I remained silent. I never told. Suffered in silence. Never once did I come home and share with my family what was going on. I never complained to any teachers. I had little faith that the adults around me would view me as worthy to protect. School for many years was not a safe place for me. And I’m sure many of you can relate to my stories and have even worst stories to tell. And now I’m in my thirties and can laugh at how ridiculous it all was, but back then there were moments that I felt my world was coming to an end. When you’re a teenager you can feel so alone, things can just seem so life shattering, just so hopeless. In high school, tired of the alienation, tired of not “fitting in”, and throw in some good family drama, I had had enough…suicide became a viable option.

She came home and hung herself.

I am in disbelief. Saddened as I read about the death of fifteen year old Phoebe Prince who hung herself because she was taunted daily. The headlines read she was bullied to death! What does her death mean? And why does it mean so much to me?

I think I relate to Phoebe even more because she was from Ireland and had recently moved to the U.S. She spoke in an Irish accent and I remember how embarrassed I was about my accent, how kids made fun of me. How I hated to sound “white.” And moving from England and coming to Rexdale was a culture shock that I was not prepared for.

I think about Phoebe, her face haunts me. I think about what she could have become. Maybe she would have found the cure for cancer, I think maybe she would have done something really great…maybe she would have had her own TV show.

I read every news item about her, research her on the internet. Feel a sad kinship with a girl I don’t even know. A girl I will never meet…

My sadness multiplies when I read about the death of Carl Walker Hoover, eleven years old who hung himself after daily taunts of being called a faggot, and a homosexual. And the facts are the facts. Gay teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterpart. I wonder about my own gayness…queerness. If I had “known” or even attempted to come out in high school I wonder what that experience would have looked like for me? And I shamefully think about my own silence when the obviously effeminate gay boy was teased in my high school.

So now in my role as the “confident” mature adult, I feel compelled to not be silent. I feel an urgency to really talk for those who are so often silenced. I go into schools to teach a lesson of compassion, respect. Letting the misfits, the nerds, the queers, the uncool and the unloved know that I was one of them. And now I’m here. This too shall pass? It passes, but you never really forget…

We need to be more vigilant about our children. Make schools safer. Parents, teachers, adults need to be more aware of what is going on in our schools. And yes I know it is easy for us to be dismissive and say kids will be kids. NO! School should not be a war zone for some and a safe haven for others.

So within the safety of my adulthood I think about Phoebe. Daily. She haunts me. I feel my anger rise as I think about little Carl. I feel helpless and it reminds me of how I often felt in school.

Sunday, April 11

my return to blogging!

My fellow blog followers I apologize for my absence.... will explain in my blog. Thanks so much for your love and concern. I promise now to blog every week!

Superwomyn took off her cape and fell out of the sky.

I am back in therapy again. As a black womyn this is something I feel I need to share yet something I feel I should not. There has been great shame in the community about asking for help, seeking help, acknowledging that one needs help. Just recently I felt I was running on empty, feeling stressed to the max. When I finally found the courage to ask a close family member for help she responded by accusing me of always complaining and being selfish. Wow! So, you can see why I have a fear of asking for help. Asking for help is not something I do lightly. I have been deeply, personally invested in portraying an image of the womyn who has it all together, has all the answers, the superwomyn, the go to girl, the girl who seems to have it all....

Yet, in my lonely hours when i was by myself and had to look at myself in the mirror, I found it harder to look myself in the eye. The things and people that were supposed to be making me happy didn't anymore. The friends that I used to love to be around now felt as if I had outgrown them, or did they outgrow me? My family now got on my nerves even more than before and even my guilty pleasures of my favourite comfort foods didn't quite hit the spot. And the womyn, " Ms "trey anthony" " whom I had so skillfully constructed, had become someone I didn't like very much either. I knew then it was time to go back to therapy. Its been a four year absence from therapy. But I'm happy to be back!!

I am reinventing myself again. Apparently this reinvention is beyond my control. My deep spiritual friends have shared with me that based on my birthdate, numerology states that apparently I am in a year 5. A year 5 predicts that one goes through major changes in their life. One usually moves , ends a relationship, changes careers, meets new friends and gets rid of old ones. A year 5 is full of many changes. I have no doubt that I am in a year 5!

So back to therapy? In therapy, I'm learning a lot about this new "trey", the new me who I would like to be… and of course this means truly examining the old trey. I realize i suffer from a complex that i will call, " The no one will love me or show up, if I ask for help or really ask for what I truly want." I'm sure some of you suffer from it too :) A simple request as asking my friends to help me move reduced me to a crying bowl of jello in my therapist's office and had her calmly question why I felt I couldn't ask my friends to help me. I explained to her that i have a fear of people not showing up for me. A fear that my friends won't support me. A fear that if i ask for help it is a sign of weakness. A fear that if I ask….No one will come!

My therapist encouraged me to ask and to carefully note my friend's responses and take stock of what it meant to me. Take stock of what I was feeling. So I took a breath and with baited breath wrote an email asking for help. I gave my "friends" four options on dates and times that they could come and help me. I sent it out to five friends. One immediately responded and congratulated me on asking for help and acknowledged that she knew this must have been hard for me. And she promised to "help" me with my move. I was very happy that she acknowledged this but was very disappointed when the actual moving days came and she never showed up! Two of my other friends wrote back with dates that they were available and showed up for the move. Another one proclaimed she was busy on all four dates! And the last one I haven't heard from..... Yet there were some people in my life who I didn't even think about asking for help who upon hearing about my move, came by and offered their services and chastised me for not asking them for help! This really made me feel love thank you. And my wonderful little sis I owe you big time!

So overall my request for help was bittersweet. It showed me that I have people that I can truly count on, and some that I can't. In that I also felt it was necessary for me to look at my own actions. Do I have "friends" in my life who are really acquaintances? Also, what sort of friend am I? Would I be the friend who others would think to call if they needed help? And to be honest, I couldn't really be sure. To some of my friends I know I'm a really great friend and to some not so much but I'm really working on being a better friend.

Yet I also realized that there was a need for me to do some spring cleaning. My "move" was a physical and emotional one. I needed to move around things and people in my life that no longer were serving me or me serving them. I was holding on to some "friends" as I would a pair of favourite jeans that used to fit me in high school but I knew now as a grown womyn I had no business trying to squeeze myself into!

And it was much more than just getting rid of my friends because they didn't help me move, it was about really taking a stock of what I now want. What types of friends do I want to be around? Who do I want to count on? Who do I want to count on me? What fits new trey. And it doesn't mean that my old friends were bad or mean people, not at all. I just want something different. I now have a New Priority list and some people made it on and some people didn't. Some things got shuffled around and some things got crossed off. It's my list , I would suggest you create your own.

Before it was a priority for me to have hundreds of people around me and calling each one of them my "friend." Before it was important for me to have a centre and a huge downtown space. Before it was important for me to gain the approval of my family, friends, partner, people on the bus, strangers, the taxi driver. Before I loved crowds and being the centre of attention. Before my health wasn't important. Before I wanted to be so "busy" that it stopped me from feeling, thinking, and dealing with my emotions.

Now I am busy slowing down. Taking stock. Going to therapy so I can remember what it feels like to feel again. Now I'm reading more. Trying to eat healthy. Going to the doctor regularly. Calling my closest five friends regularly. Visiting my friend's new baby. Going to a play with my BFF. Driving to Niagara on the lake. Eating breakfast in bed. Listening to my grandmother tell stories. Feeling so much that I cry regularly for no reason. Crying? Me? Yes, everyday! I like to think that my tears represent a new birth, new life, water, tears, water, tears. And somewhere from deep in the water a new me will emerge.....