Excerpt from The Unpublished Novel, “A Mile in Charlotte’s Shoes” (Bullying, Social Politics, and the Power Dynamic) Part 2

Part 2

…Middle school and high school were periods of time during which- right, wrong, good, bad, ugly or indifferent everything, according to everyone in that awkward age group, was shameful and the definition of what was good or bad (or cool) became blurred and not so clear anymore.

It was a time when you were too weird, too straight-laced, too smart, or not smart enough. You were either an evil monster or a goodie-two-shoes, too stoic or too sensitive! Your nose was too crooked, too long, or too short. Your skin was either too clear, too blotchy, too pale, or not pale enough. Your hair was either too long, short, straight, or curly. You were either too skinny or too fat. Your clothes were either overly flashy or much too drab.

Charlotte would often think, “Lord! Can everyone just make up their minds, for crying out loud?” It was all so confusing!

There were things about Charlotte her peers could not wait to nitpick, things which were either beyond her control, chosen at random or completely fabricated. And she wondered why all this trivial crap even mattered.

The world had suddenly become one big and twisted soap opera. And it was obvious whom the biggest stars of this proverbial daytime drama were.

They were the best actors- the best liars and fakers!

Charlotte noticed that anytime she heard a member of the in-crowd tell a bad joke, the rest of the class would only laugh that fake laugh people always used whenever the corny joke was told by someone whose ass they wanted to kiss.

What those suck-ups never realized was that they only degraded themselves by replacing their true laugh with one that was counterfeit. Charlotte could only imagine how furious the so-called cool kids would be if they only knew the rest of the class were only patronizing them.

It was all akin to playing a card game with an opponent and ‘letting them win’- just another form of deception.

All that kindness and consideration shown to the so-called top dogs was only for purposes of vanity and due to their high positions in the school social hierarchy. The rest of the student body most certainly did not like them for them and most of those who were not in the in-crowd were wise enough to see it.

All this drove Charlotte nuts! At times, she would wonder, “How in the blue blazes am I the one who was always in the wrong?”

It was a system that was one big freak show and one Charlotte had no desire to be a part of. Sadly, this attitude would be to her detriment. She learned the hard way that if you want to get along in this thing- this maze called Life, you had to play along!

The thought of it was enough to make her shudder. No way did Charlotte want to be patronized or pacified! She detested liars and fakes and preferred to be told the truth. This kind of fakery was an insult to the recipient!

These were Charlotte’s thoughts:

“If you want a reaction out of me, then you damn well better deserve it!”

When she would hear some moron tell a corny joke, Charlotte would only roll her eyes instead of laughing and as a result, everyone else would take her silence and lack of interest as a direct insult and escalate the harassment.

Charlotte had nothing to say to any of them. Every day, she would pass them in the halls and look right through them instead of at them. Naturally, this was an even bigger insult because it seemed they expected her to bow-down and lick their boots like most of the other kids did.

And many of her classmates did believe they were better than Charlotte and that she owed them complete homage and submission to their will and every whim.

They saw themselves as an authority over her- higher than her and how dare she not acknowledge their superiority! Kids who were considered on the lower end endured those proverbial gut punches every single day!

With every misstep she took, Charlotte would feel the flaming hot coals of ridicule scorch the soles of her feet!

But as painful as it was, she would much rather have resisted her bullies rather than acknowledged them, much less make any effort to appease them or worse, seek their approval. Charlotte was way past crawling up behind anyone and she already knew where it would get her.

In the past, it had always seemed that the harder Charlotte tried not to be a target- the more effort she put into being “normal”, the worse she would fail. She was either being fake or being arrogant and uppity, and only certain kids could be uppity and get away with it.

At Beulah High School, you either knew your place or you were put in it. If you were on the lower ranks, daring to show any confidence or backbone could be dangerous. Because if you weren’t good enough, those in the upper echelons of the social order expected, even demanded that you kept your head down.

The bottom of the stack was like a raging torrent and the harder Charlotte struggled to reach the surface and get her head above water, the stronger the current, and the deeper it seemed to suck her down.

Therefore, Charlotte had long given up on trying to be like any of them because it was too much work and she had no time for it. She’d be damned if she was going to lie to herself just to win their approval! Forget that noise! She was through with false impressions! She just could not bring herself to do it.

Why? Because all of it was only wasted time, effort, and energy. If you were on the bottom floor, the reality was that the harder you tried to make friends, the harder and further people pushed you away. You were too desperate, too clingy, or too oblivious to how negatively you came across to people and the worst part was that there was no way to fix any of it without knowing what was broken.

And they would never tell her what it was because they didn’t know either. All they knew was that they hated her and couldn’t wait to pick her apart piece by piece.

Excerpt from the Unpublished Novel, “A Mile in Charlotte’s Shoes” (Bullying, Social Politics, and the Power Dynamic)

To tell her exactly what was wrong would be like giving top secrets to the enemy! For Charlotte to correct the flaws and rise above the bullying and ridicule would possibly mean to rise above all of them and even worse, surpass them on the social totem pole. No way would they chance that ever happening! Her bullies had climbed to the top of the social ladder and the higher they climbed the more she saw of their behinds.

And once they are at the top, they would always find a way to kick Charlotte off that ladder, then meticulously pull it up behind them, leaving her trapped on the bottom and it was where they intend for her to stay.

It had been said that “you need money to make money.”. The same also went with friends. At Beulah High School, the unwritten rule was that a kid needed to already have friends, and lots of them, to make more friends. Unfortunately, Charlotte had not realized that nugget of truth back when it would have been most useful.

It seemed that the trick to crawling off the trash heap was to prove, or at the very least, give the illusion that you had never been on it, to begin with. And that was next to impossible given her notorious (however unwarranted) reputation, and sadly, Charlotte had worn this scarlet letter for so long that it had become ironclad.

Her peers, especially her bullies, needed her to stay on the bottom and would go out of their way to keep her on it. The pecking order needed whipping boys (or girls)- easy victories for those at the top to collect.

False compliments, fake sympathy, and fraudulent generosity that others showed the bullies and those highest in the pecking order? All of it was for show and Charlotte knew it. She saw all the chicanery and buffoonery for what it really was! Others knew it and hated her for it.

At Beulah High School, life was all about appearances and who the best and most convincing liars and fakers were. Nothing more.

It was not about what was being done, good or bad, it is about who was doing it and where they were in the social order. Anyone from the in-crowd could get wasted at a kegger and either puke everywhere, or pee their pants and it will only be seen as a funny story of a group of crazy kids from high school. But let Charlotte do the same and she would quickly be branded as a schmuck for the rest of her school career.

Cruel was always cool if someone else was on the receiving end of it. The hidden message was, Better you than me. The widely held attitude was that a person was always at their best and most alluring anytime they were delivering the worst insults to the bottom rats and everyone else either wanted to be seen with, have sex with, or be that person.

It was enchanting because everyone wanted to be the one person who was seemingly never in anyone else’s crosshairs and to have that cruel, unfair advantage on their side and working perfectly for them.

It seemed that everyone thought of these types as bad-asses and hell-raisers. Their consistent rule-breaking and torturing of the kids who haven’t matured as quickly, only got them rewarded with popularity, sex, fun- everything a young punk could ever want.

Seeing everyone get rewarded for such idiocy only made Charlotte crazy if she let it.

Another unwritten rule was that if a kid did not partake in, or at the very least, put on convincing airs that they were partaking in sex, drugs, rock, and roll, or anything that was considered cool, they would be branded a loser! A wuss! A bore!

And if you were labeled those things, you were plain S.O.L.

Many bullies and higher-ups only pretended to be drunk at parties. Most of those fakers would only take one sip from a bottle- just one! And suddenly, magically, they were plastered and silly, screaming with exaggerated laughter and stumbling all over the place.

Could they have been any more transparent?

But there was a bright side that Charlotte was too young to realize. The things about her that her classmates ridiculed and put her down for were the same characteristics that people would one day love about her.

Charlotte knew that her classmates were a bunch of coddled, punk kids who did not know human strength even if it came up and bit them. And it was only because they themselves did not have an ounce of it.

You couldn’t recognize something you never had or saw examples of.

Charlotte knew that most of the bullies came from families who were a bunch of materialistic, plastic, and fake put-ons themselves. They were not truly happy, otherwise, they would not work so hard at putting on airs.

The reason why they hated her so much was that, although they would never admit it, Charlotte was everything they only wished they could be- authentic and not afraid to be herself. And she knew that soon, there would come a day when she would have true friends, who adored her simply for being Charlotte.

(Continued in part 2…)