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@email@example.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.
Filed under: Events | Tags: audio, BlogHer, Special Needs Parenting, writers, writing
Can I Sit With You? will be at BlogHer!
Specifically, Shannon will be selling CISWY? books and t-shirts plus giving away stickers at the BlogHer swap meet on Saturday, from 12:15 to 1:30.
She will be sharing a table with CISWY? author Laura Henry. Additional CISWY authors Jenifer Scharpen, SJ Alexander, and Liz Henry may float by as well. SJ might even sign your copy of her story All’s Fair in Love and Mucus. In the mean time, check out her reading of that story, from our Annex Theatre show in Seattle:
(more audio versions of our stories are coming soon)
Shannon will be scampering from the swap meet directly to the panel on which she is speaking: Blogging About Our Children With Special Needs. You should come along, if only to be dazzled by the sight of Susan Etlinger, Vicki Forman, Kristina Chew, and Jennifer Graf Groneberg in the same room at the same time.
Filed under: high school | Tags: frog dissection, hairstyle, high school, new kid, popularity, self-confidence, shyness, teasing
by Pat Gallant
We have made an exception to our usual elementary and middle school time frames for this lovely high school tale. -Shan & Jen
I had made it through first period at my new school without incident. But there was still a whole day ahead of me and I knew all too well that a new student is a likely target.
I slinked up the stairs, heading for my next class, staying as close to the wall and as invisible as possible, as I had done for so many years, at my former school. Frankly speaking, I was not popular. I was the youngest in my grade, the smallest, and perhaps not so much shy as intimidated by the popular girls in my old school. My hair stood out in a bunch of corkscrew curls. The same curls which adults ogled over, fellow classmates teased me about. I was painfully skinny but finally, at fifteen years old, beginning to “develop.” But as my best friend pointed out, she and I were already pigeon-holed, having been classified for too many years in the unpopular group.
My mother said many times over the years that she regretted her decision to put me ahead one year. My birthday falls in the summer, so I could have been the oldest in the class behind, or the youngest in the class ahead. My mother opted for one year ahead, remembering her school days and figuring I would like one year less school better than one year more. I agreed with her on that and despite my reassurances that she meant well and did the right thing, she felt badly about it.
A “good” school day was one in which the unpopular group was largely ignored. A bad school day was one where we were picked on mercilessly.
During breaks, I hid in the ladies’ room rather than have to walk past the cliques of taunting girls. After lunch, when all the kids went to the rec room, I was back in the ladies’ room. It was too daunting a task to have to face all of them at once; worse if they taunted me in front of the boys. It was just too embarrassing.
It was the first day of 10th grade. All my friends had changed schools for one reason or another. I was now a posse of one in a school I hated. The workload was nearly unbearable. The pressure to succeed ever-present. And the cliquey girls had teasing down to a science. Worse still, this was the year we were required to put a live frog “to sleep,” for dissection. No excuses. No doctors’ notes. No parents’ notes. This was mandated in order to stay in this very prestigious New York City school.
So, this posse of one sat in the first class. The teacher was nasty. Really nasty. Sarcastic, tough, and ranting that next semester, frog dissection was a must and that no one could get out of it.
It seemed counter-intuitive to ask students to kill a frog. I glanced over and watched as the frogs hopped gleefully in their tanks. I looked out the window at the sunny day, the smell of grass filtering through the open window. I knew I wasn’t going to kill one of the frogs. They deserved this beautiful day, too.
At the end of the day when I got home, I told my mother I wouldn’t go back to that school. All my friends had left. The teacher was mean. My arms were stiff and back aching from carrying the eight heavy textbooks that held the five-plus hours of homework that awaited me. She saw how distraught I was and began phoning schools the next day, to find a new one for me.
We opted for the school my best friend had changed to. But I wasn’t relieved when I got word that I was accepted. In fact, I was terrified. I hated school. Or at least I thought I did. Another place to be teased.
So, there I was, halfway up the stairwell of the new school. A tall, handsome, upperclassman came lumbering down the stairs. He stopped a few steps above me.
“Hi,” he said.
I looked behind me. No one was there. In fact, we were the only two people on the stairwell. He couldn’t possibly be talking to me.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?”
I nodded, pushing myself further into the wall, waiting for the taunts to begin. He introduced himself and then added, “Would you like to go for coffee after school?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I was almost afraid to say yes. Was this a set-up? Was he joking?
He continued, “We can meet at the lockers at three o’clock.”
A small voice responded, “Sure.” It was mine.
“See ya later,” he said, and he was off.
And in that moment, I had an epiphany. He had no idea I was unpopular. He had no idea I was shy or scared. In fact, he knew nothing about me. It was a defining moment. I moved away from the wall, straightened up, and walked up the stairs a new person.
I could be those popular girls. I knew how to do it. I’m a good study. I had watched from the bleachers for so long. At last, maybe it was my turn. But I wouldn’t be mean. Not to anyone. I promised myself that.
I couldn’t wait for lunch to call my mother and tell her why I would be late coming home, that I had a date with an upperclassman after school. It took her about one second to know she had made the right decision in allowing me to change schools.
The date wasn’t a setup after all. In fact, we had a great time. And many more after that. So, I began my performance as a “cool,” popular girl; a performance worthy of an Academy Award. I bought new, more “grown-up” clothes, changed hair styles, and bought the very trendy yet delicate Papagallo shoes. I forced myself to walk with my head high, to speak up in — and out — of class, even if I was shaking inside, and even if I wasn’t taking a popular viewpoint.
Eventually, I found my own voice and I didn’t have to “act” the part anymore. Heck, I had become cool for real! And popular! A cheerleader. Secretary of the whole school. I had plenty of dates. But I never forgot to extend a hand to the “unpopular” kids and to stick up for them, even if that was the unpopular position to take — even if that meant risking losing friends. I stuck to my guns and to my surprise, was respected for it. Most important was the change I felt inside. I didn’t hang onto people’s opinions of me anymore. I did what I thought was right and stood by what I believed in. I began to like me.
Another big surprise was that I loved to study and loved school. It wasn’t school I had hated after all; it was the other school that I hated. I loved this school. It was a good fit. The B’s, C’s, and D’s of my old school were now all B’s and A’s, using the same text books. The work wasn’t easier; it was because I was happy and motivated. The pressure and workload was decidedly less but it, too, was a pretty hefty load. But I loved the teachers and environment as well, and that made all the difference.
In senior year, there was still one stone left unturned. Could I cut it in my old school or would I regress to my former self? Would I once again slink around the halls, afraid of my own shadow, scared to talk, no dates, intimidated by those girls? But I was a woman now, I reminded myself, albeit a young one. I had straightened my hair and it blew willingly in the wind. I dressed the part, talked the talk — but could I walk the walk? I had to find out.
My same best friend and I both got permission from our mothers to cut class and visit our old school. We arrived during lunch hour; the hour that had intimidated us the most when we were students there. The hour where everyone congregated in the rec room. Nonplussed on the outside, hearts in our throats on the inside, we sauntered into the rec room. We walked center stage and propped ourselves up on the ping-pong table, something I wouldn’t have done for a million dollars some three short years earlier.
And then we were noticed. There were whispers. We overheard, “Is that really them? Oh, my God, they’re beautiful. Can you believe it?”
We still got glares from some of the clique-girls but they were glares of jealousy because we were surrounded — by the guys and many of the popular girls. We were invited to classes. Asked out for dates. We even became life-long friends with some. They, too, had grown-up.
Now, some 40-plus years later, there is still the little girl inside with the corkscrew curls. And I like her. She has her place. She keeps me centered. She is the holder of memories. But there is also the woman, the wife, the writer, and the mother. And if I ever feel intimated by someone, I smile at the little girl and remind her of that day on the stairwell when she became a woman — and I walk with my head held high, speak out, and don’t allow anyone to intimidate me. But when I return home, I give a secret wink and a High-Five in the mirror — to both of us.
Filed under: elementary school | Tags: acceptance, acting out, choosing teams, elementary school, field trip, hopscotch, imaginary friend, imagination, isolation, left out, new kid, overprotective parents, pet, recess, second grade, self-confidence, shyness, swings, unconditional love
by Cheryl Caruolo
Seven Years Old at the Time
Because my parents never made much of an effort to create opportunities for me to be with other children, when I entered school I had no idea how to share or play games. Mom was overprotective and never allowed me to participate in after school games or things like girl scouts. She was afraid of everything. And I followed suit.
In 1966, my uncle took us to visit the World’s Fair in New York City –- it was filled with electric cars of the future, street performers from Europe and Latin America, and a roller coaster that careened through the middle of a building. Mom wouldn’t allow me to go inside any of the attractions or on any of the rides. My uncle finally convinced her to go on the skyline so we could see the whole fair from above, but my Mom was so scared I’d fall out she held a tight grip on the collar of my coat. I wasn’t tall enough to see over the edge of the car and I never saw the view of endless possibilities from the sky.
Once my class went on a field trip and I was left behind because my mother didn’t give me permission to go. Anything unfamiliar terrified me and when my teacher told me to go to the classroom next door, I panicked and started to cry. My classmates laughed. I cried more. I told my teacher that I wanted to stay in our classroom.
“You can’t stay here alone.”
“I’m not alone. The angels are here with me.”
They laughed harder.
My teacher warned the class, lined up at the door, to stop and then they left. Thinking I could stay right in my familiar seat until the end of the day, I remember feeling relieved. But a few minutes later another teacher came into the room to get me.
“Come along now to my classroom.”
At seven years old my choices were limited and so with red eyes and runny nose I followed her into her room.
As soon as I arrived at the school yard the next day the snickers of my classmates surprised me like a splash of cold water.
“No one has imaginary friends anymore.”
I dreaded recess. Usually no one would play with me, so I sat in the corner of the school yard rolling stones under the shadow of an oak tree. The tree’s umbrella felt safe. Sometimes I’d look through the little steel windows of the fence and wish I was in the Mustang Convertible or Corvette Stingray speeding down the main road. I’d watch the girls on the asphalt playing hopscotch, a game I was good at, but never had the nerve to join them.
Whenever the class was asked to choose team members, I always ended up assigned to a team as a leftover. If I was lucky enough to be one of the first ones out the door at recess, I’d run to the end swing and stay on it for the entire time. I loved gliding back and forth through the air, looking up at the sky. Pretending to fly. The higher, the freer.
I remember telling my mother that I hated school, but I never explained why. I didn’t want to admit that none of the children liked me. I understand a parent wanting to protect her young, but Mom’s fears stunted me from developing self-confidence -– I struggle with it still today.
In second grade I tried to start anew. I stopped talking about imaginary friends and pretended I liked all the things my classmates liked. But things fell apart fast.
Unable to participate in after school activities and forbidden to invite friends home my life grew more isolated. I pulled deeper into myself like a turtle retreating into its shell. The unresolved feelings that hung in the air resulted in bouts of anger, depression and confusion. Once I picked a fight with a girl simply because I knew I could beat her up. My young life was out of control and I desperately wanted control over something. I derived great satisfaction from that poor girl’s agony.
My life drudged on until I was finally able to convince my parents to let me get a dog — a six-month old Wiemaraner. Because she was German and I was nine, I named her Heidi. I adored that dog and suddenly I had a companion.
Heidi woke me every morning for school and was waiting every afternoon when I returned. Sitting on the porch together, I’d scratch her ears as she rested her head on my lap. Her gray hair felt like short slips of satin sliding through my fingers.
I felt unconditional love and acceptance from Heidi. We were connected in that unspoken spiritual way humans and animals seem to share. Whenever I was crying she’d place her paw on my hand and nuzzle her head along side me. If anyone was visiting our house and she was unsure of them, she would sit in between us until I’d assure her that it was okay.
Because of Heidi, I started to believe the tiniest bit in myself. And I gradually felt more comfortable talking to kids at school — finding things in common, sharing snacks, even joining hopscotch games sometimes.
Then one day a new girl came to class. My classmates pointed at her and called her weird. I said nothing.
But at recess one brilliant blue autumn day, I noticed her swaying on my safe haven swing and, for some unexplainable reason, I walked up to her and offered one of my beloved Oreo cookies.