A couple weeks ago, I witnessed something disturbing--children at play. Only it wasn't the fact that children were playing that bothered me, it was what they were doing and, equally important, what the supervising adult was doing (and not doing).
Two boys chased two girls at the playground on my street (all were about 4-5 years old). The girls were running and screaming while the boys continued to pursue. At a glance, it almost seemed playful, but upon further review, it became quite clear that the girls were not having fun. Their faces lit up with panic and, at times, rage. Clearly, the girls did not want to participate, yet the boys kept chasing. Once caught, the girls were squeezed tightly while fiercely struggling and screaming right into the boys' faces. An adult (who I assume to be a childcare worker, as she had a few more little ones with her) made no attempt to intervene. She periodically glanced over at the kids, but never once checked in or said anything.
At one point, the boys cornered the girls on the fence and one girl wiggled away, causing one of the boys to trip and fall. He screamed, clutching his foot. Only at that point did the adult come over. "She broke my ankle!" the boy cried, as the woman approached. She turned to the girl and said, "tell Noah you're sorry." The little girl looked down at her shoes and said, "I already said I was sorry." My blood was boiling. First of all, that little puke was faking, which was made all the more obvious as he ran off toward the swing set right after, but that wasn't my main concern.
You see, I've been that little girl--the one who had to be polite while the little boy acted out his aggression. The one who screamed until my throat hurt only to learn that nobody listened. Nobody took me seriously. That was a loooooong time ago, yet not much has changed.
Maybe that's why I was so shaken up by what I witnessed that day on the playground. Maybe it all came back...the two brothers on my street chasing me around at the park without their clothes on and holding me down, then shaming me at school the next day as if I did something wrong...the boy who pushed me so hard off the swings that I swallowed dirt and snapped my neck back and, when I pushed him back and he cried, his mother told me that I was a "nasty girl" who was not well behaved...the boy in grade one who punched me in the face because he "liked me." That's the excuse his father gave.
On the bus, after departing from the playground, my blood continued to rapidly boil, so I scribbled down some notes about a blog post that I might publish. I intended on posting something immediately, as I was so fired up but, for some reason, I wanted to allow myself time to simmer down. Time to reflect. I'm not sure whether I needed it, or whether I thought that you, the reader, needed it. That I might write something a bit too heated. Funny, I've never worried about that before.
In any case, I'm glad I waited, because about a week later I came across something important while scrolling through my Facebook feed. My friend Danielle had shared a link to a blog called The Belle Jar. The post, Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence, really struck me--it was something I could relate to. I thanked her for sharing, and then she offered to share something else--a story of her own.
I am so thrilled to be able to feature her writing--to have another voice on this platform for a change. Please read her contribution bellow.
Thanks for sharing, Danielle!
I am five. I push a girl off of her bike because an older girl in my townhouse complex
tells me to. We watch as she hits the ground, scrapes her knee.
Her parents watch too.
From the kitchen, her father runs out to us. He grabs me by my shoulders and shakes me.
He yells at me. I warble like a bobble-head.
With one arm, he lifts me up in the air. With his other arm, he starts to hit me.
He hits me until he leaves handprints on my back and butt.
He hits me until I piss myself.
I am five years old.
I am very afraid.
I walk home sobbing. My mother listens to my story as she wipes snot from my face and
puts baby powder on the handprints he left on my body.
She tells me not to tell my father.
She is also afraid.
~Danielle Nancy Alaska
The other day, while driving out to The Butchart Gardens, listening to old timey Xmas tunes (I know, I know) it became quite apparent that I know every word to "Jingle Bell Rock." This came as a surprise to James. In response, I said, "I watched Lethal Weapon countless times as a child."
I haven't seen the film in years, nor have I thought much about it recently, but I have never forgotten that opening scene. Just brutal! Picture me, a child of roughly 7 years, seeing some half-naked chick snorting coke and plummeting off of a building! Yeah, probably doesn't seem that far-fetched for those who know me. At that point I had already experienced the wrath of Freddy and Jason, but this was something totally different.
I remember the tune playing along side the rolling credits, then the obligatory "Cover your eyes!" coming from my dad. Of course, I peeked through my fingers, as every child does. But what I saw was completely unexpected. Also, I don't remember my dad ever saying "okay!" which was a signal that it was safe to take my hand away. I kinda think my parents just fell silent for a few minutes. My dad probably did his usual "Oh, Gawd" but, other than that, it was back to the typical family movie night at the Foort household.
That opening scene certainly wasn't the only lasting disturbing image from the series. Another personal fav, this time from the sequel, is the female officer getting blown to smithereens while jumping on her diving board. But, at least that wasn't accompanied by a Christmas classic. Also, who could forget Riggs being able to dislocate his shoulder and slam it back in?! Not nearly as disturbing as the other moments, but equally awesome. And, going back to the first installment. . .Gary Busey. . .hello! Enough said.
As it's now December 21st, and Christmas Day is creeping closer, I find myself searching through my stash of holiday films in attempts to boost the spirit. I've already watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story. This week's lineup will include Gremlins and Die Hard (obviously) but now I'm thinking of kicking it up a notch and throwing back to an old childhood fav that doesn't receive as much mention at this time of year, and really should. Lethal Weapon, I'm dusting you off and starting a new holiday tradition.
On that note, I leave you with a quote, followed by that infamous opening scene.
Murtaugh: "God hates me. That's what it is."
Riggs: "Hate him back; it works for me."
OPENING SCENE FROM LETHAL WEAPON
A lovely image from our visit to Butchart Gardens. Gotta love how spellcheck wants me to write "Butcher Gardens."
Happy Holidays, Y'all!
I've always hated my birthday. My mother can vouch for me.
It's kind of a running family joke, actually. Since I was very young, I've hated my own birthday. There are many photos of me from childhood with swollen teary eyes and a birthday hat on my head. I don't really remember many details about these events, but I do remember feeling overwhelmed, particularly when my family and friends sang the Happy Birthday song. Speaking of birthday songs, another atrocity comes to mind--my mother taunting me by playing "Birthday" by the Beatles on the stereo every year. I'm not sure whether I realized how stupid those songs were, or whether it was the same issue I tend to struggle with as an adult--not liking a lot of attention.
I suppose that individual attention is another form of isolation for me. I don't enjoy being a breathing target. Oddly enough, as a scholar, I was quite capable of giving effective, engaging presentations, and functioned quite well in grasping the attention of peers and professors alike. Having said that, the preparation for and recovery afterward made presentations and such a stressful experience.
Back to the birthday business. Today I turn 35. Even writing that seems unbelievable. I don't feel my age at all! I'm not sure what I expect 35 to feel like, but I suppose not like this. I still feel like that weird little kid, wandering the world, staring at the ground so as not to end the lives of caterpillars and ants. Often I still stop to save insects from ultimate death. That's me. I've grown, but not abandoned my childhood self. I hope I go on to live for at least another 35, and that I will continue to be brave enough to try new things yet remain a preserver of insects and wonder.
The above photos are from one of my favourite movies from my childhood, Happy Birthday to Me. They remind me of one thing I loved about my birthdays as a child--my mom and dad allowing me to rent horror movies for me and my friends. I don't think many of my friends' parents shared my excitement.
. . .they eat the jelly between your toes.
If you don't recognize the above reference, I sincerely feel for your childhood. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a staple for my sister and I, so you can imagine the excitement when my partner presented me with this book as a "just because" gift the other day. To my own amazement, I still remember almost all of the words to "The Hearse Song." Ah, the fond memories of trying to scare my parents while reading from that book, and sitting up late in the dark, reading with a flashlight. It was technically my sister's book, but I remember owning it by means of sneaking into her room and lifting it from her bookshelf, while also sneaking a peek of her Jackie Collins books (admit it, Josie, you read those).
What may come as a surprise to some is that it wasn't just me sneaking around reading that book; In the 90s, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, along with the other two books in the series, More Scary Stories to tell in the Dark and More Tales to Chill Your Bones, reached the top of the banned and most frequently challenged books list. It still remains on that list, and was ranked seventh by decade for 2000-2009. The series was banned because its violent content was considered unsuitable for the target age group (source). This is funny to me, because my parents let us watch all kinds of horror movies, and films with graphic content, with their only censorship being the occasional "cover your eyes."
I feel sorry for kids today, and their parents; even if you attempt to censor something to spare your child for whatever reason, they will find it, if they're looking. Even if they're not looking. This is why it honestly surprises me that books like Scary Stories are still on banned books lists, or that lists like that exist at all. I mean, heaven forbid your child read a book and actually use his or her imagination! Never mind the fact that pretty much anyone can access disturbing violent imagery 24/7, thanks to the internet. I'm glad my parents didn't go crazy trying to shelter me, and I'm also equally glad that I didn't grow up with easy access to all things disturbing and degrading. I think the most disturbing thing I did on the computer as child was making the cop in Police Quest try to have sex with his fellow officer in the shower, to which the computer replied, "My, you have a dirty mind!"
For those of you entertaining the idea of revisiting the Scary Stories series, you might have more reasons to be excited, as talks of a big budget movie, as well as a documentary film, are in the works! Personally, I am looking forward to both projects, and am super pumped that people are still discussing this book series that most definitely helped foster my love for storytelling and scary things. Check out the the Scary Stories documentary site here for more information, and/or if you're interested in helping fund the project.
Stay scary, boys and ghouls!
Saturday mornings in the 80s: hours of blissful cartoon-watching. Beetlejuice, The Real Ghostbusters, He-Man and She-Ra, Looney Tunes, The Jetsons, and so many more. Current Saturday mornings include blissful hours of coffee-drinking, bird-watching and couch-sitting. Equally enjoyable, really, which makes me feel old. Looking back on some of those cartoons, I recall that my perception was quite skewed. Thinking Marvin the Martian was a bowling ball, for one, or even worse, believing that Woodstock from The Peanuts was a piece of cheese popcorn. Of course, my own beliefs were trampled by reality fairly quickly. How could a piece of cheese popcorn flutter around? And why didn't that dog eat him? Just a couple troubling questions from early childhood. I still think that my perception of things is a tad unusual, which is fine. At times, I still have those, "Oh, THAT'S what that is" kind of moments, and that's okay, too. It's still me--the same girl, only a bit taller, sleeping in a bit later, and minus the countless hours of cartoon-watching and second helping of cereal. I do watch cartoons occasionally, but without the same excited feeling I had as a child. Without feeling like I'm getting away with something.
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!