Mad as a Hatter

Memoir Mondays

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mad as a Hatter”, in which we are asked: “Tell us about a time when you flew into a rage. What is it that made you so incredibly angry?

When I was a young kid I could get along with pretty much anyone. I wouldn’t have said that I had tons and tons of friends, but I was talkative and friendly and would play with any kid who came my way. As anyone who remembers even an ounce of their childhood knows, however, kids eventually go through a change that turns most of us into little jerks. Some are more susceptible than others, but we all, in one way or another, eventually start to be total brats to people who are different…people who wear different clothes, listen to different music, or enjoy different things. I was no different from anyone else, but for the sake of this story I’m talking about the way other people were jerks to me (and, as you’ll see soon, my closest friends).

As we grew into ourselves, my two best friends (we’ll call them K and M) and I became pretty nerdy individuals. We all made excellent grades with little effort, enjoyed reading and writing, and loved lots of super-geeky stuff – like Star Wars and anime – that other kids our age either didn’t like, or wouldn’t admit to liking. And so, slowly but surely, we started to get teased. Some of it was lighthearted, “Ha ha, you’re weird” kind of stuff, but some of it was fairly ruthless, “You’re a freak” kind of stuff. Sometimes we could laugh it off easily enough, but sometimes it hurt a lot more than any of us would have ever admitted.

Things got worse once junior high school hit, because let’s face it: junior high is the age at which pretty much every kid becomes a heartless, unsympathetic twit who can only see two inches in front of their own face. M managed to get through most of it unscathed because she was the kind of kid who could jump between groups and was a strange mix of nerdy and cool as a cucumber. I was a little worse off because I was a bit awkward and was the kind of kid who blurted embarrassing nonsense without even realizing what I was doing. K was the worst off, only because she was the shyest and was the worst for standing up for herself.

Now, at our junior high, at the very beginning of the year you could petition to be placed in a different homeroom class from the one you were randomly slotted into, but of course only so many of these changes could be made without messing up the balance of kids to teachers. In the ninth grade M and I were randomly placed in the same class, and K immediately petitioned to be moved into our class as well. She got in, but as a result another kid didn’t, and that kid happened to be a member of the “cool” group.

Those first couple of weeks K was teased relentlessly, and M and I were caught up in the crossfire, and things reached a breaking point during phys-ed class one day. We were to be playing badminton, and the rackets and birdies had already been handed out. The “cool” kids were lined up with their backs against the wall while the rest of us sat on the floor a few feet in front of them. Our instructor had a couple of kids at one of the nets and was explaining a certain kind of serve with her back to the rest of us. The “cool” kids – hereafter referred to as the “immature jerks” started tossing their birdies up in the air and whacking them at the back of K’s head. At first I didn’t even notice because none of them had come near me and I always had a tendency to daydream during gym periods, but I figured it out pretty quickly when K suddenly snapped and lost her cool. She snatched up her own racket, whirled around, and hurled it as hard as she could at the immature jerks, just before bursting into tears.

It was at that moment that I became more filled with rage than I ever have in my life. It all just kind of came to a head all at once and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was so blinded by pure fury that I don’t even remember the following few minutes. All I know is that M was at my side and both of us were screaming every profanity we’d ever heard. The group of immature jerks was about 10 strong, but I focused my rage in on one particular girl and I can still see the look of shock and fear on her face as she anticipated the possibility that I might be about to bash her face in. Everything else until the instructor snatched us up by the arms and pulled us away is pretty hazy, but I remember that look on that one girl’s face. For a minute she was genuinely terrified of me, and I can only assume that means that the rage was as evident on the outside as I was feeling it on the inside.

The instructor dragged all three of us into the office. At first it seemed like M and I were going to get in trouble, but this particular instructor was not a fool; she listened to our screams of fury and understood that this was a case of the little guys finally being pushed too far. We were in the period right before lunch and she calmly suggested that we all head home and cool off.

The rest of the day was pretty uncomfortable for me. K and M both decided not to return to school for the rest of the day, but after hearing my story my mother and grandmother suggested that I go back if only to prove to the offenders that they hadn’t won. I did so, reluctantly, and it was one of the most nerve-wracking afternoons of my life. Everyone in the class was staring at me the rest of the day, possibly waiting for me to explode again, and for someone who was a little awkward and didn’t even have her two best friends to back her up. But in the end it was a good move. Between the event itself and making my purse-lipped afternoon appearance, suddenly the teasing and tormenting came to pretty immediate stop. Whether it was because the immature jerks had actually learned something about screwing with people, or they’d just developed a healthy fear of our capacity for violence, they decided that we weren’t worth messing with anymore.

These days I’ve pretty much forgiven everyone who was involved because, as previously mentioned, all kids are jerks at that point in life. But I can’t honestly say that I’ve forgotten that moment of blind rage, in which everything inside snapped and I came dangerously close to beating the hell out of a classmate.

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