Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Existensialism In Kindergarten

I was five years old when I entered the school for the "big boys and girls." And at five, everyone else looked big indeed. There were about forty kids in my kindergarten class -- about half were boys, and the other half girls. Every morning just after the bell rings, the teacher gives us ten minutes to use the bathroom before classes properly started.

In the girls' bathroom, there were two stalls. For some reason, there became an unspoken rule that the firsr two girls that reached the stalls get to decide who can use "their" respective stalls. Great. Even bathroom stalls in kindergarten got bouncers. It's up to those two girls to decide what their criteria for the day was -- only girls with ribbons, only girls with braids, only girls with shiny shoes. There weren't much to choose from really because we all had to don uniforms.

Unfortunately, on days when the 'bouncers' were feeling particularly uncreative, they would usually say "only skinny girls are allowed." My five-year-old self would usually roll her eyes and walk out of the bathroom in search of another one. See, the thing is, I have never been regarded as skinny my entire life -- especially not at five years old. I was cute and cuddly because of the inch of fat that blanketed my body. My rotund face was framed by my Anna-Wintour-bob and my cheeks were smooth like peaches. I lost count of people who would pinch my cheeks and would couple it with snide remarks like "spending a bit too much time in the kitchen, aren't we?" If only my five-year-old self knew how to flip the bird. But you know what? I don't care. I was cute, hmph! Well, that's what my mum told me at least (so I'm sticking to that story).

Needless to say, there were a lot of times when I had to go to class without getting the chance to use the john -- or coming into class late because I had to use a farther bathroom. I would celebrate those days when my friends got the chance to be the stall bouncer. I would even get in even if the criteria only allowed skinny girls to come in. Ah, the power of connections! Nepotism in my country starts pretty early.

One day, for some odd reason, I managed to get to one of the stalls first. The feeling of power was exhilarating! I felt the blood rush through my veins. You see, because I've always been one of the tallest girls in my class and we had to go to the bathroom in single file (from the shortest to the tallest), this phenomenon was virtually impossible. I was usually the last in line. Hence, the delirious excitement for my little self.

It never happened to me again though. It was definitely a glitch due to my permanent disadvantage. I never got to play Stall God anymore. However, one day, one of the stalls had a big fat floater in the toilet. The girls squealed in disgust thereby abandoning that stall. They all flocked to the other one. I'm not sure what the category was that day but I remember one of the girls needing to pee really badly. She asked if she can go in because she was about to literally pee her pants. But the girls were adamant in forming a line and taking turns. The girl buckled her jaw and went for the soiled stall. Everyone watched her in amazement as she bravely peed in the toilet. She was smiling as if to say "Hey, at least I don't have to queue up."

I felt compelled to eat my Cheez Whiz sandwich with her during recess time that day. Now that was someone whom I wanted to be my friend -- someone who didn't give a shit about what people thought. Someone who broke the rules, and someone who created her own. We traded Rainbow Brite stickers that day. That cemented our friendship. I still remember her up until this day -- I wonder how she is.

It's funny how we all usually condemn high school for throwing us in a world of cliques and gangs. The need to belong starts at a really young age. I wonder where we learn it from. High school only makes it worse. Let's just say that high school is the peak of the ugly mountain of Mt. Mean Girls, but prior to that, it's a steady incline that eventually leads us there. The popular circle never disappears though -- they just change in form as we advance in life. College has them, and the workplace definitely breeds an assortment of them (though more subtle).

I love it how I emerged from that kind of world relatively unscathed. How that happened, I'm not quite sure. I was the perfect candidate for being an outcast when I was in my youth. Perhaps I managed to round up the other misfits and we were able to form our own comfortable circle? Or maybe people got intimidated by my size and height (and oh yeah, having a big brother helped)? Or was I just not worth being picked on because even though I had my quirks, I just wasn't interesting enough to be made fun of?

Whatever it was, I'm glad I eventually found myself. Because everyone was so busy trying to fit their square selves into circular holes, I was already sitting my triangular ass in the most perfect triangular hole. If only people knew the secret -- not to give a shit, and we're bound to find other people who also didn't give a shit -- then the world will indeed an easier and happier place to live in. Why do we insist so much on conforming to what bigger circles dictate? Where exactly does that take us? Acceptance? Does it really take that much to be accepted?

Be your own bouncer in your bathroom stall. Don't let the short skinny girls dictate what you should be like, because you know what, half of those girls ended up pregnant and expelled before high school ended anyway... That leaves most of the bathroom stalls available for taking over :)


Blogger Molly said...

So glad to see you back blogging! What a great story---it's the same the world over--jockeying for position and power!Good for you having the guts to stand up to them....

9:26 PM  
Blogger Lucid Darkness said...

Good to have you back to blogging, Princess B! I missed you too. :)

The cliques are there everywhere. The thing is that the herd mentality is so firmly ingrained in people's minds that they can't get out of it and hate those who do. That's why the cliques are enforced so rigidly.

If you don't give a shit about what goes on you end up with barely one or two people who you can connect with. That's the price you pay for being yourself. It isn't necessary that others who don't give a shit are the sort you can get along with, though. :P

PS: It's a little sad that only the girls who get pregnant early are expelled while the boys you get them pregnant are not.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Libby said... best friend always tells me to be yourself! everyone else is already taken anyway! and he's a middle school teacher...i hope those girls listen to him!

6:02 AM  
Blogger Aths said...

Just chanced upon your blog, and found this a great write. You are so totally right. The need to feel accepted is a basic human inclination. But people don't really know where to draw the line between yearning to be accepted and doing whatever do be accepted. It's sad then that folks tend to measure their character based on some clique leader who looks down on others that don't fit her bill.

It's even sadder that this phenomenon starts early in life, right in kindergarten, and people see sense only once they have finished high school, if at all.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Electric Bearbearina said...

Its funny how meeting people in the oddest situations produce lasting friendships . . .

8:59 PM  
Blogger rada said...

Being a product of the NYC public education system, I also am amazed I escaped relatively "unscathed." and yes there was a time when entering the boy's room was a big risk.

5:20 PM  
Blogger witnwisdumb said...

Great post. I'm linking this! (When I next get around to blogging...)

10:02 PM  
Blogger Utopia said...

loved it princess.

4:46 PM  

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