Posts tagged ‘Oklahoma City’

The Bully

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

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I moved from Nowhereville when I was in the 9th grade. We moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City with a reputation for affluence but, to clarify, not the neighborhood in the City where the butlers bear king sized candy bars on silver trays for Halloween. It was a huge school. There were close to 1,000 people in my graduating class, which means that the student population of the high school that I graduated from was 1/3 of the total population of the last town I lived in.

Coming from Nowhereville, my new school district felt that my education must have been dubious at best and insisted on putting me in a regular English class when I told them I needed an honors English class. That lasted a semester, and then they switched me to a class that was sort of an intermediary between the regular and honors English classes.

In that class was a boy named Joe Steele. Joe and I also rode the bus together to and from school, and he quickly noticed that I had a habit of comparing and contrasting my new community with Nowhereville, such as starting sentences constantly with the phrase, “In Nowhereville…” So, Joe, himself a new transplant to the town as well, took it upon himself to christen me Nowhereville. Joe Steele was a football player, and all his athlete friends called me Nowhereville as well. This lasted for my entire freshman year. I was rarely actually referred to by my real first name, unless I was at home.

As a side note, this was the year that the big controversy came out about Romeo & Juliet. Some idiot fundamentalist Bible thumper found out that we were going to be watching Franco Zeffirelli’s movie version of Shakespeare’s play and got upset about it. There was nudity. There were teenagers having sex! We might be tempted to do the same. We saw the movie anyway, and all I was tempted to do was to strangle the giggling Olivia Hussey.

While the controversy still raged, the Oklahoma City news stations were dispatched to our school. I got filmed for the evening news reading the part of the nurse to Joe’s Romeo, wearing my Nowhereville school mascot sweatshirt. Apparently, for a brief time I was a local celebrity who didn’t even live there anymore.

Joe Steele, for some odd reason, took a real liking to me. He’d come to our fair city to live with his father who did considerably better financially than his beleaguered single mother. He was in high school now, and he wanted the opportunity to be popular and do it right, so moving in with dad made that happen. But he missed his mother and his younger sister. So, even though Joe and I were very close to the same age, Joe constantly told me how much I reminded him of his little sister.

In English class our teacher made us write on a daily basis in spiral notebooks that we called our journals. These journals were supposed to be private, and our teacher said she didn’t read them beyond checking to make sure that we wrote something daily. Joe read my journal. Regularly. He was like the one man NSA. This was how he kept tabs on me. If he thought I was up to something that wasn’t maybe healthy or wise, then I’d get a mini-lecture.

Joe had two athlete friends who rode the bus with him. One played football with Joe. He was a defensive player and solid muscle. His real name was Matt, but we called him The Hulk. He was huge. The other friend’s name was also Matt, and he played basketball. He had blond hair that he always got cut into a perfect flat top. (I can’t remember if Top Gun had come out by then or not. Oh, well.) Matt was very, very patient with me because I was endlessly amused by tapping the top of his head with a pencil to watch his hair bounce. It never failed to make me laugh.

On the same school bus that I took every day with Joe and Joe’s girlfriend and Joe’s girlfriend’s best friend and The Hulk and Matt there was another solid hunk of muscle besides The Hulk. I’ll call her The Bully. The Bully was a girl whose name I don’t even remember right now. She was a big black girl with an attitude, and for some inexplicable reason she could not stand me. As instantly as Joe’s affinity for me had arisen, so had her complete disdain for my existence on the planet.

I’m a friendly person, and I used to get on the school bus and smile and greet everyone. For a long time, The Bully simply ignored me. And then one day she basically got in my face and told me that she didn’t want me to so much as look in her direction ever again. Well, I’d been beaten up by bullies before, and I figured I’d survive it. I didn’t go out of my way to make conservation with her but I wasn’t going to avoid all eye contact just so she wouldn’t pound me silly. I told her so.

The next time I got on the bus I didn’t seek her out, but I didn’t avoid eye contact, either. And…nothing happened. Nothing ever happened at all. Apparently, she was all talk and no action. And I couldn’t figure it out. The Bully was five times my size and probably actually knew how to fight. She could have beat the shit out of me. So, why didn’t she? Meh. It didn’t trouble me for long. I was just glad that I hadn’t been injured and went on living my life.

It wasn’t until many months, maybe even years later, that I found out what happened. One of the Matts told me, probably The Hulk because I was closer to him, but I honestly don’t remember now. Joe had confronted The Bully in a school hallway with both the Matts there. He told her that if she so much as touched a hair on my head he wouldn’t care if she was a girl or not, he would beat her black and blue, and if he couldn’t do it, then one of his friends would.

I found Joe Steele on Facebook and got to thank him for his intervention. He’s happily married with children, living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an accountant. Sometimes you get the opportunity to thank people for the kindnesses that they bestow upon you quietly and anonymously. Isn’t that nice?

May 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

Put the Shame Where It Belongs

Judd, as YouthAIDS Global Ambassador, speaks a...

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Ashley Judd has been making the rounds lately. She just released a memoir of her childhood years. All That Is Bitter & Sweet is a tale that includes revelations of drug abuse on the part of caretakers, sexual molestation, neglect, and incest. She’s been on The View and several other morning talk shows promoting the book.

In her interview with the ladies from The View Ashley said something profound. I’m paraphrasing, but she said that the secret of sexual abuse is shaming and that in placing that secret out into the open and exposing it to the light we place the blame back where it belongs: on the perpetrators. That’s a powerful statement and one that I absolutely agree with wholeheartedly.

Media stories have leaked with the publication of this book that both Naomi and Wynonna Judd are offended with Ashley’s airing of their dirty laundry in public. But I actually see this as a way for Ashley to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The point isn’t to grandstand for publicity or to hurt her mother and sister but rather to help other survivors to come to terms with their own stories. You would think Wynonna, who reportedly was married to a pedophile, would understand this. But maybe not.

Ashley Judd has long been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and for sexual abuse survivors. This book is not a radical departure for publicity’s sake.

Recently I read bits and pieces of another book called, The Book of You, which is basically an amalgamation of various studies and insights made by sociologists, psychologists and social psychologists about human behavior and interaction. One snippet from the book was about incest. Basically, I took issue with it because it referred to incest as a “seduction,” and never once actually referred to incest as an assault on a child, which is, of course, exactly what it is. Incest is nothing less than rape.

Whether or not the victim is “groomed” or “seduced,” whether or not the victim fights or submits, whether or not she assents or says no, any child who is the victim of incest is just that: a victim. In other words, the child is blameless because a child cannot consent to have sex, regardless of whether or not the sex is with a stranger or a trusted loved one. In fact, the betrayal seems many times worse when it’s made by a family member.

I spent some time growing up in a very small town in Oklahoma which shall remain nameless. I went to junior high school and spent part of my freshman year of high school in this town. There were two cases of incest amongst schoolmates while I was there. The first that I knew of was a girl that I’ll call Monique. Monique was a year ahead of me in school, and we rode the school bus together. Her home was a plain, small brick house on the same street as the trailer park where I lived. She lived there with her dad, her “stepmom,” and two younger sisters.

Monique had quite the reputation. She got around as one might say in polite euphemism, or, if you want to cut to the chase, she was the town slut. It was more difficult to find a boy that Monique wouldn’t have sex with than one that she would. She was a year ahead of me in school, but she was already “dating” high school and college boys in the eighth grade.

We sometimes called her Monique the Kissing Bandit, after Morgana the Kissing Bandit, because she would exhibit odd behavior like running around the halls of school and kissing people of both sexes on the lips. She was engaged and then married before I even moved from the town, so she was married by the time she was a high school sophomore.

All of these behaviors are classic signs that something is definitely wrong at home. But no one in my small town wanted to butt their noses into that. Better to let the girl self-destruct. After all, didn’t her own behavior show that she was nothing but trouble, a wild child, the kind of girl who was going to get what was coming to her?

I think everyone in that town knew. I know I did. I remember Monique’s younger sister, sitting next to the baby sister on the bus, talking about how she was working on her beautician’s license, how she couldn’t wait to get out of her dad’s house, how she was only there now to keep her dad away from her baby sister. I knew.

Monique followed me to the next town we moved to, not purposely, of course. She just happened to end up in the same Oklahoma City suburb. I don’t remember going to school with her there. Eventually, she got a divorce or an annulment from her first husband. I suspect that he was just an excuse to get out of her father’s house. By the time I graduated from college at the tender age of 22, Monique, herself no older than 23, had been married and divorced twice and had three young preschool age children to feed on the salary of a grocery store checker. I know she didn’t graduate from high school.

Small towns are hotbeds of secrets. A movie like Peyton Place might as well be a documentary. Dark shameful secrets come to small towns to die and be buried. Secrets are better exposed. They need light and oxygen. Some wounds heal faster when they’re exposed to the air. So, if you haven’t done so yet, rip off that band aid.

April 7, 2011 at 12:02 am 9 comments

I Didn’t Mean to Shoot My Wife; We Were Just Having Sex

A typical cap gun display. http://www.nicholsc...

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I am perplexed at a recent news story. A 23 year old man from Oklahoma City shot his 50 year old wife in the head at point blank range. He then called 911 to report to the police that the shooting was an accident. They were just engaging in a role playing fantasy, a sex thing, and he didn’t mean to shoot her. He didn’t realize the gun was loaded.

This is disturbing on so many levels that I just don’t know where to start. I’m not going to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, but are we asked to believe that this woman got off on some sort of rape fantasy involving loaded weapons? I know people like strange and kinky things in the bedroom, but c’mon!

How do you “forget” something as important as whether or not a gun is loaded? Why wouldn’t you check before you had sex? I mean, you could think of it as foreplay. Kissing, check. Fondling, check. KY, check. Opening up the chamber of a gun and looking for bullets, check.

Other people search for condoms or run to the bathroom to insert a diaphragm. This guy’s idea of birth control was apparently to murder his wife.

People, if you feel the need and you absolutely have to do shit like guns and knives and strangulation, please check your weapon of choice before the heat of the moment. Couldn’t these two have used a toy gun?

This whole incident just boggles the mind. And it makes me wonder if this kid thought that he’d have a chance in hell of getting off scot-free as long as he told the authorities that it was all an accident involving kinky sex.

I know what I think. I don’t think this was an accident at all. I think this guy wanted to murder his wife and get away with it.

January 3, 2011 at 12:36 am 2 comments

From the Annals of Gooseberry Bush

When I was in my mid to late twenties I was quite the raconteur. I used to have two or three stock funny stories that I would tell at parties or get-togethers. People would actually request these stories, like, “Gooseberry Bush, please tell us about the time you fell down three flights of stairs at the Collonade office building in Dallas,” or, “Gooseberry Bush, please tell my friend about the time those two boys tried to ‘carjack’ you outside the Half Price Books. Go ahead! This is good.”

The best one was definitely the story of how I drove myself to the emergency room after an allergic reaction to hair dye caused my whole body to swell and go into hives at 5:00 in the morning on a Sunday. That one’s a doozy. I’ll get around to telling it sometime. This story, though, is the story of how my car got pulled out of the mud by a bad ass drug dealer with chains.

When I was in college my mom had finally graduated from nursing school the year before. Because we were so poor before then, I actually qualified for a Pell grant for my first year of school. So, I think it’s pretty self explanatory that I did not have a car when I was in high school. We had one family car. That was it. I was lucky I was allowed to touch it, let alone drive it on my own. I didn’t get my drivers license until I was seventeen, and this happened after months of torture.

My dad had to teach me how to drive a stick shift, and he expected that I would drive it perfectly, as in Jesus himself could not parallel park on a hill any better than I could. He also did things like getting out of the car after I parked and inspecting to make sure that not only had I parked with enough room on both sides of the vehicle but that also the amount of room on both sides was equal. I’m not kidding you. He did everything short of pulling out a ruler and a chalk line.

My dad was something of a harsh task master anyway, and the fact that he had actually been a high school drivers education instructor and had a commercial drivers license that he had used to drive school busses and eighteen wheelers, well, that certainly didn’t help any. Consequently, when I finally got some freedom with a car I was giddy with joy. My parents bought a second car, a Honda civic hatchback that we later called the Munchcar, but that’s a different story.

The Munchcar was my ticket to something more closely resembling a life. Sure, I had friends who would cart me around everywhere, but now they didn’t need to anymore! The second car was purchased for me to share with my dad, who was by then a retired part time school bus driver. The deal was that when I graduated they would sign the title over to me, fair and square. I thought that was a deal! I’ll take it.

One day, with my newfound freedom, I was driving around Oklahoma City in the Munchcar when I decided to do something very stupid. Let me preface this by saying that it was dark, and it was raining. That’s just so the exact level of stupidity will sink in. I was on my way to help a friend move, and the way to her apartment required me to exit off the Broadway Extension at, oh, I think it was 122nd Street, if I remember right, and turn right.

This friend was one that I spent a great deal of time with, and so I had used this road to get to her many, many times. I was, hmm, shall we say, intellectually challenged with directions, and I was unaware of an alternative route to take to get there. However, for a few weeks now, that road had been partially closed for construction. I can see that you can see already just where this is going. I usually ignored the construction signs and drove through anyway, and I certainly wasn’t the only one that did so. But perhaps especially in the dark in the rain, driving around the cones and barriers wasn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever had.

Pretty soon, my car was stuck in the mud, the tires were turning but nothing was moving, except the tires. I was frustrated. It was dark and raining, and I was in a bad area of town, and most of all I was disgusted with myself about having done something unbelievably stupid. It was like the time that I was a frat party and accepted a drink from a strange boy who walked me up to one of the empty bedrooms and then later shut the door. It was that feeling, like, Holy shit, I have really fucked up. And I am so stupid that I will almost deserve what’s about to happen to me.

Then the next thing that happened was that I looked up and saw a family of African American kids. There must have been eight or ten of them, from the tallest who might have been a boy of seventeen to a little one who probably hadn’t started school yet. They were all walking single file in a line back to their home from a convenience store, I presume. They were carrying candy and snacks and sodas in their hands. They were like moving stair steps, with the tallest in front. It made me want to sing, “Hello, world. There’s a song that we’re singing. C’mon get happy.”

The tallest kid, a boy, noticed my difficulty, and he walked over and stuck his head in my car and smiled, “Are you stuck?”

I sighed, “Yes.”

“Let us try to push you out.”

I wasn’t about to argue with him. I had help. There was manpower, and all of them from the oldest boy to the tiniest girl, gathered around the Munchcar and tried to push me out as I followed the instructions of the oldest boy on how to drive a stick shift to rock it out of the mud rut that I’d carved for myself. Apparently, my thorough father’s instructions had left out the chapter about four wheeling in your Honda Civic hatchback.

When it became apparent that the car was still not going to budge, despite the best efforts of a clan of nice people, the oldest boy said, “Do you have someone you can call?”

I said, “My father will kill me.”

The boy nodded, like that was a distinct and literal possibility. “Come with us,” he said, “We can get you help. Deion will know what to do.”

Now I don’t know Deion. I don’t even know this kid. For all I know, Deion will murder me, then cut my body up into little parts and eat it like Jeffrey Dahmer, and this kid gets a finders fee for finding flies who land in the web of the construction zone. But what am I more afraid of? Strange and menacing possible serial killers in a bad neighborhood? Or the wrath of my father? Take me to your leader.

This whole incident in my life happened in the early ‘90s. So early that no one yet knew who George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston was. The kids all walked me, together, to Deion’s home, a small old duplex in a run down area of town. The outside looked like it had definitely seen better days. The oldest boy, taking charge again, knocked on the door.

An African American man who was somewhere between my age and maybe a decade older, answered the door, cell phone in hand, in the middle of a conversation. This was Deion. He wore a lot of gold jewelry and had a pager clipped to his waste. Now, in the early ‘90s, not many people had cell phones. And they kind of looked more like satellite phones look nowadays. I think we called them car phones back then. And the only people who carried pagers were doctors, emergency medical personnel, plumbers, and, dum-dum-dum…your friendly neighborhood drug dealer.

Deion and the kid had an exchange during which he explained my situation, and I stayed wide-eyed and completely silent. There was another man in the room, an African American guy who looked more middle class and, well, non-threatening to a little ol’ suburban white girl like me. He smiled at me as if sensing that I was scared to death, and he worked to put me at ease. The man told Deion and the kid that he had a truck and chains and that with Deion’s help, they could get my car out.

I was taking in my surroundings. Deion had a barking, snarling rottweiller in the backyard. And a man who lived in a poor neighborhood had every toy and gadget known to man. His clothes were designer. The furniture was brand new and expensive. The TV was bigger than me. There was a baby somewhere in the house. A playpen and toys were scattered all over the floor. I was wondering if I had stumbled into an episode of Miami Vice.

The kid left me alone with Deion and his friend, Deion’s baby mama, and an adorable boy baby that I assume was Deion’s son. The friend kept me company and was really pretty charming. Near as I could tell, Deion was the friendly neighborhood drug dealer, which also made him the equivalent of the “Godfatha” of the community. Presumably, by virtue of his money he could buy people out of jams and probably frequently did in order to ensure the silence and complicity of other people, given his livelihood. Or maybe Deion really was a nice man, although from the way he cussed on the phone, I wasn’t so sure.

Really, Deion’s phone conversations were the most vulgar filth you’ll ever hear this side of the hardest core gangsta rap. He made Eminem seem like Emily Post by comparison. But the funny thing is that both Deion and his friend went out of their way to be polite and kind to me. They never cussed at me. They offered me a seat. I was asked if I wanted something to drink. I was never referred to as anything other than a lady or by, “Miss.” They were almost deferential. I felt like Miss Scarlett. Forget Miami Vice. I’ve wandered onto the set of Gone with the Wind.

Once Deion got done with his business, he and his friend escorted me out, and true to his word, the friend used some chains to get my car out of the mud. Deion’s friend had undoubtedly figured out that I had figured out just exactly what Deion was. When I was ready to go, I was standing at the curb with the friend, and I said to him, “How can I ever thank you?” And he said, “Just tell people.” And so I do.

September 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm Leave a comment

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