Can I Sit with You?


www.canisitwithyou.org
September 7, 2008, 1:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

We have made the permanent rather than forwarded-from-Wordpress.com move to www.canisitwithyou.org. We will no longer be posting here at canisitwithyou.wordpress.com.

Please change your links so you can keep up with our wonderful schoolyard stories.



Aug 31 Is the Deadline for Inclusion in Second Can I Sit With You? Book
August 25, 2008, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you want your wonderful, fabulous story about your social experience in elementary or middle school to be included in the Can I Sit With You? project‘s second print collection, you’ll need to get it to us by August 31st. ciswysubmissions@at@gmail.com.

Though we have more than enough material for the second book, we want to include as many voices and perspectives as possible. Please make good on your good intentions, and send your story in by this Sunday!

Please note that while Shan and Jen are nice people, that deadline is a rock wall. Don’t run into it headfirst.

Submission Guidelines: https://canisitwithyou.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/



Imagine This (A Narrative on Bullying)

by Lastcrazyhorn
Age 12 at the time

Let me set up a scenario for you.

Imagine first that you’re a kid, maybe 11 or 12, possibly 13. You have Asperger’s Syndrome, which means that your social skills are impaired already; plus you’re a preteen/young teen, which means that the rules for your social world are constantly in flux. But as of yet, you’re not diagnosed; nor has anyone in your life ever heard that word, let alone know what it means. As if that weren’t bad enough, you’re a girl who is more of a tomboy, who doesn’t see the point in following the social rules or norms, either because it seems like a waste of time, or you’re just mostly oblivious to their existence in the first place.

Most kids don’t like you very much. You don’t know why. Vaguely, you understand that there is something about your being that offends or bothers these kids. You don’t know exactly what it is. You think that if you smile at them, if you laugh at their jokes (their very unfunny jokes), if you make a point to be really nice to them, then they’ll see your effort and be friends with you. You think that if you can find a topic that you both can talk about, that you both like, then maybe you can have something in common and that’ll help the situation.

They laugh at you a lot, these other kids; sometimes you know why; sometimes you don’t. They seem to be speaking another language from the one you know. They use slang that’s unfamiliar to you, because no one in your world speaks it. Your world consists of what you’ve learned from books (specifically fantasy and fiction and children’s literature), games, adults and perhaps a few highly specialized interests that you really think are cool, that no one else ever seems to get quite as well. You start thinking that maybe you shouldn’t mention these interests, since they aren’t very well received; but sometimes you just can’t help it, because it’s something that’s important to you, and after all, other kids talk about what’s important to them all the time; so why can’t you?

Other kids bump into you in the hall. You try to be more careful as to not bump into them, thinking it was your fault to begin with. You slowly start to realize that they are purposely trying to hit you. Maybe it’s a new kind of joke. Maybe not. Just to be safe, you always try to smile at them and say “excuse me.” They laugh, like you’ve said a joke, even though you’re pretty sure that you haven’t.

Sometimes they trip you and you fall. When they laugh then, you think maybe you had a stupid expression on your face as you fell or maybe someone said something funny that you missed. Sometimes you laugh with them, because after all, someone falling flat on their face is kinda funny, right? Sure.

Sometimes when you fall, you bruise your knee or cut open your lip on someone’s foot that got in the way of your fall. You try to smile, even though it really hurts, because maybe they can still be your friend if you show that it doesn’t really hurt. Maybe you can show that you’re one of them, because you’re laughing and having fun, even though you are bleeding on the floor of the hallway.

Eventually, you might figure out that they are doing these things to you because they like seeing you hurt. Somewhere between them putting a bee down the front of your shirt, setting fire to your backpack, stealing your backpack, flushing your inhaler in the middle of your asthma attack, pushing/throwing you down the stairs, spitting on/at you, giving you Indian rope burns, drawing on your shirt in permanent ink, giving you the silent treatment at lunchtime (or just getting up en mass whenever you sit down), grading your homework wrong, threatening your life by showing you a knife that they brought from home just to cut your throat with, you start to realize that maybe they really might not like you.

Slowly, you start to realize that those videos your class watched a few months ago on bullying and bullies were demonstrating things that could really happen in your life. Who would have thunk it? So, you think to yourself, like anyone would after having seen those videos, that maybe you should tell someone about it. Either that, or the thought just never occurs to you as a viable option.

Say you try to talk to the principal about it. You ride a bus to school filled with these kids that don’t like you. In fact, as you think about it, you’ve started getting diarrhea every morning before you get on the bus, just from worrying about what might happen that day. Most of the time your bus gets to school late, and your bus driver tells you to go straight onto class as fast as you can. Thus, you can’t talk to your principal then, because the bus driver told you get to class as soon as possible.

All of the breaks in the day, when the kids push you and hit you going through the hall, are only about 5 minutes long. The halls are crowded enough, without kids purposely trying to run into you; so what should take 2 min. to get down the hall now takes 4 minutes. Plus, you have to go the bathroom on your breaks, because as it slowly is revealed to you, none of your teachers like you either, and rarely allow you bathroom breaks. Apparently you are considered a difficult student, because you have to ask a lot of questions just to know what’s going on consistently during class. Your teacher gives you instructions, but you aren’t sure who they pertain to. Is she talking to all of the students in the class or just the ones that think that particular way? You don’t know, so you ask.

You can’t talk to the principal on any of your breaks. So you think, well, maybe I can talk to him/her at lunchtime. At lunchtime, in-between the food fight that seems to be only directed at you, you go over to your teacher, who is far off at their table, and try to ask them to let you go to the principal. The teacher, thinking that you’re onto some new ploy to be allowed to go the bathroom, or just because they don’t feel like it at the time, says no and tells you to go back to your seat and quit bothering her. When you leave their table, you hear them all start laughing and wonder to yourself who told the joke and what was it to make everyone laugh so hard??? Boy, if you had that joke, people would fall down at your feet to be your friend.

You ride the bus at the end of the day. You have to get to a seat fast, because otherwise, you’ll end up standing/sitting in the aisle for the rest of the bus ride since no one thinks you really deserve to sit down. Plus, you have to carry on a french horn and even though you might be a little slow socially, you can tell for sure that no one likes trying to accommodate that thing in their seat. You have no time to talk to the principal because if you miss your bus, you’re stuck at the school even longer, and school isn’t really that great, so why be stuck longer?

Eventually, either you realize that if you go to the principal, the other kids will see and really will follow through on that threat to come to your house at night and hang you from your front tree; or else you do manage to see the principal and he either:

1.Doesn’t do anything
2.Doesn’t believe you
3.Calls you overly sensitive
4.Does something, but tells everyone who got them in trouble to begin with, resulting in your getting beat up by an entire crowd of kids, instead of just one or two

Or some combination of the above.

Now, the kids that aren’t actively trying to hurt you/embarrass you don’t do anything to you, but sometimes they sit back and laugh while some other kid fills up an entire wall full of spitballs why you crouch on the floor during the lesson.

There isn’t anyone you can talk to, because either they’re like the principal and don’t believe you, or they call you overly sensitive/compare you to their days of woe and explain that what you’re really doing is building character, because, you see, you really don’t know how it feels to be bullied and they do.

Every time you walk down the hall, either someone trips you, laughs at you, hits you, or whispers behind your back about how shitty a human being you are. In fact, sometimes everyone whispers and laughs at you as you walk down the hall. They say things like, “Hey what is THAT? Is that an IT? Naw, it’s a SHIT. Hey SHIT! Wanna blow me? No,” another one answers, “you wouldn’t want THAT to blow you; think about what kind of diseases you’d get if THAT touched you. Bleah.”

In the meantime, you start writing essays that are centered on themes portraying your violent death, which your teacher awards with A’s, saying things like, “wow, creative, but make sure you work on your handwriting next time.”

One day, you decide that someone has just pushed too far; that, throwing your inhaler in the toilet was bad enough, but throwing it in the toilet that was full of shit was just a little too much; so you hit someone back for the months of suffering they’ve inflicted on you. Instantly, the principal is called or the teacher sees it, and you find yourself on lunch detention for a week or better yet, you’re suspended and have to see the school counselor for a month, in order that you might work out your more violent feelings and the ways in which it might be better to handle yourself, should a situation ever arise again.

Or, say you try to hit someone and you don’t get caught, but everyone laughs it off and starts calling you a freak, or rather a nervous and crazy freak . . . and hey, you remember that one time when the nervous freak tried to hit me? Yeah, that was a laugh riot, wasn’t it.

Imagine that everyone you tell laughs you off or gets you in deeper shit when they try to do something about it. Imagine that you have teachers who purposely give you bad grades so that they can call you up in front of the class and show the class how “stupid” you really are. These same teachers also find great pleasure in not letting you go to the bathroom, even when you’re really sick, because it’s obvious to them that you just need a little toughening up.

Imagine that during PE, when you’re not losing the game and people aren’t throwing basketballs directly at your head just for the hell of it, you’re instead sitting on the floor drawing your name in your arm with a sharpened pencil. Imagine that no one sees or if they do, they don’t say anything.

Imagine that this goes on, day after day after day. Imagine that once every 20 to 30 minutes someone either hits you, kicks you, calls you shit, laughs at you or does all four. Imagine that you still think that agreeing with them will make them just suddenly like you. Imagine that there are good Christian kids that you go to church with that either stand back and let it happen, or that they are the ones doing the worst of the actions against you.

Imagine that every time you try to fight back, either someone overpowers you, or you get caught and in trouble. Imagine that every time you tell someone about it, they just tell you to grow up and get over it. Imagine that you tell the cop at your school and he tells you to quit bugging him and get out of his hair. Imagine that when you’re at home, you start cutting or burning your arms just for the sake of feeling something, since it seems that unless people can see physical evidence, then it didn’t really happen. Imagine that you ask trusted people for help and they ignore you and laugh.

Imagine that you start sleeping in a box on top of your bed for, say, 6 weeks, because it’s the only time you really feel safe. And your mother just thinks it’s a phase. Imagine that you start sucking your thumb again, as well as coming down with pneumonia. Imagine that you start pulling out your eyelashes and eyebrows, and all your parents do is get mad at you for making yourself look bad. Imagine that you suddenly realize that all there is to life is to hear the laughter of other kids while you hurt and no one helps you, no matter how much you smile or laugh with them.

Imagine that you have sleepovers with your teddy bears because no one would want to come to your house anyway. Imagine that for an exercise in your computer class, you have to make a spreadsheet with the names and ages of your ten best friends, and you have to use the names of your cousins from both sides of your family just to make up the difference.

Imagine that it’s like this every single day. Imagine that you start dreaming of ways to commit suicide. Imagine that this goes on for more than a year; more than two; more than three. Imagine that every day of your teenage life is like this.

What do you do?



Can I Sit With You? At Book Passage August 9th
July 20, 2008, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Can I Sit With You? will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera (Marin County) on August 9th at 4 PM. Please come!

We’d also love to read your Can I Sit With You? story, and feature it as one of the new stories we publish every week on this site. Send your tales of schoolyard social horror or hilarity to ciswysubmissions@at@gmail.com. (Send them by August 31 if you want to submit for our second print anthology, to be published Fall 2008.)

CISWY? Book Passage event description:

Shannon Des Roches Rosa and Jennifer Byde Myers discuss a brave new model of book publishing success, one in which authors retain all rights and profits, and social networks take the place of agents and traditional publishers. This approach resulted in Can I Sit With You?, a collection of frank stories describing real elementary and middle school social experiences. These heartfelt tales speak to anyone who ever struggled to fit in with the other kids at school, wondered about feeling different, or felt no one understood what they were going through.

Editors Myers and Rosa will describe how they made Can I Sit With You? profitable, cover artist Lea Hernandez (Manga Secrets) will talk about her creative process, and authors Judy McCrary Koeppen, Michael Procopio, and Amanda Jones will read their stories.



The Absolute Clearheadedness of Mrs. Rutland

Louis E. Bourgeois
Fifth Grade

You pass hall after hall on the red tiled floor till you pass the trophy case and enter the math class. You place, very consciously, an extremely yellow pencil in the pencil holder on your desk. As you wait for instructions as to what you are to do, the awareness that everyone in the class is essentially your enemy takes hold, and you wish a hurricane would come through and wipe away the fear. This is life in the fifth grade in a public elementary school, and this experience in the fifth grade in a public elementary school is completely no different from any other person’s experience in your position. It has always been the fifth grade for the sake of being the fifth grade. It’s timeless, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The yellow pencil is gleaming reflected rays of light coming down from the ceiling. Mrs. Rutland tells you to pick the pencil up off the floor. You look down at the floor but there is no pencil and you say to Mrs. Rutland that you didn’t drop a pencil on the floor, forgetting that you should have taken the pencil on your desk in the pencil holder and put it on the floor yourself. But you produce your paltry logic, and this, of course, is what does you in, and will continually do you in.

The logic stands firm for a moment, but Mrs. Rutland simply tells you that you better pick the pencil up and show it to her. This is a second warning and somehow you just don’t get it. For some reason you just can’t bend down and simply do what she is asking. You are a rebel, and a second time you tell Mrs. Rutland that there is no pencil on the floor. You claim to yourself that you are undergoing a serious injustice. You know you’re in the right, you feel you’ll be rewarded, and you start to feel all warm inside, honey warm. You know the Principal will be a logical man as you walk down the hall with Mrs. Rutland’s hand at your shoulder.

She merely pronounces what you did in a few straight lines. Mrs. Rutland has no need to seal your fate; she knows you’ll do it for her. She knows and this is why she asked you to pick up the pencil. Somehow she knew you were one less deserving than the rest. Call it the mark of Cain if you will. But in your case the question of what you did is not in any respect relevant to anything.

The Principal has you in his complete domain. You know the Principal; you’ve seen him around before and never had much of a problem with him. He surely looked friendly enough, although you haven’t actually talked to him. But now he seems different. You notice the Principal’s pock-marked face, you notice how much he seems to like Mrs. Rutland, you notice how sharply his tie is tied, and you notice the bottleneck of whiskey sticking out of the desk drawer. And the paddle, with several holes drilled into it, hanging on the wall, actually fills you with hope and relief. At least Mother might not find out.
You have to sit in a large old cushioned chair, and are told not to leave the room while the Principal goes and takes a leak. After he shuts the door you begin to make little whimpering noises and you absolutely think you will go out of your mind. In the few moments you have alone, you think what your possible choices are, and of course, the only real thing that matters is that you make a deal without Mother knowing. This is about all the bargaining power you have, and you weep, and you smile, and you weep, and you smile, and you weep, and you smile.

But you keep condemning yourself; you’re a revolutionary, an individual, and so forth. You keep defining yourself and making it worse with every remark you say to the Principal. You will not accept the fact that the pencil was lying on the floor. You will not agree to that, and it’s all the Principal wants. You even go so far as to talk about “kid’s rights,” and bringing in witnesses from the class. You nearly have the Principal rolling on the floor hysterically with your inflammatory speeches. He asks, What in the hell is wrong with you? Do you think you’re a superstar? Do you think you’re Alexander the Great? Do you think you’re a god?

You’ve been with the Principal for half an hour and the bargaining is about over. He feels the need to tell you how important it is to listen to your teachers. He tells you how much about life you don’t know. He tells you how important it is not to disappoint your parents. And every time you think you’re off the hook, he says he ought to call your Mother, and you sink back into your unimaginable gloom. You’ve never felt this way before, and you’ve been around, you’re in the fifth grade.

You make the deal and perhaps it has something to do with a call from his wife while you sit in the chair with all of your misfortunes running over. After the phone call his face is severe, and you start slipping, slipping, and slipping. Thinking of the injustice no longer helps; in fact, you think maybe the injustice was all in your head. The Principal knows what you are thinking, and he knows he has you because you want it too bad. So it’s ten licks with the paddle and five days of recess detention, and an apology to Mrs. Rutland, and you count your lucky stars because Mother will not find out and you hardly feel the air-swishing licks across your ass.



CISWY Live! in Redwood City: The Videos
May 9, 2008, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Did you miss Wednesday’s Can I Sit With You? Live! in Redwood City performances? Never fear; now you can have a glimpse of what it was like to be at that fantastic show.

Jenifer Scharpen Reads “A First Grade Reader”

Elaine Park Reads “Forever Young”

Lea Cuniberti-Duran Reads “A Non-Catholic Upbringing”

Jackie Davis-Martin Reads “Lose and Win”

Judy McCrary Koeppen Reads “Men-Stru-A-Tion”

John Kim Reads “Spitting Image”

Jennifer Byde Myers Reads “Sorry, Charlie” (Apologies, this is a very brief excerpt from a charming performance. Stupid camera.)

Shannon Des Roches Rosa Reads “The Joker’s Wild” (and overacts quite a bit out of sheer nervousness)

—–

Again, audio from the Seattle show is coming soon.



Can I Sit With You? Redwood City Recap

Jennifer Byde Myers Reads "Sorry, Charlie"

Our very own Jen Myers reading her story Sorry, Charlie.

Last night’s reading at Angelica’s Bistro in Redwood City was a lot of fun, and quite a success. We filled the place, which was good for us though harrowing for the restaurant staff. We were thrilled to see so much support for the project, sell so many books, and have guests like Grace Davis and Left Coast Mom in the audience.

A few restaurant patrons who didn’t realize there was going to be a show but stayed to watch anyhow (we’re that mesmerizing!) came over afterwards and donated money to SEPTAR, the special ed PTA to which all of the Can I Sit With You? proceeds are directed. Very touching.

The show featured our scheduled readers, Jen Scharpen, Elaine Park, Lea Cuniberti-Duran, Judy McCrary Koeppen, Shannon Des Roches Rosa, and Jennifer Byde Myers. We were also lucky enough to be joined by CISWY authors Jackie Davis-Martin and John Kim


Go see photos of all the readers
(except Shan, who took the pictures). Video excerpts to come.