My childhood nemesis was a girl named June.
Okay, she wasn't really named June, that's a pseudonym, chosen in order to protect the mean.
But she was my childhood nemesis. Not a nemesis of the Professor Moriarty/Dr. Doofenshmirtz type, but of the true definition - "an opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome".
June was my friend. In fact, she was one of my best friends. We played together all the time, from the time we were in Tiny Tots preschool together through junior high.
But June had a mean streak. She could be cruel. She could also be a lot of fun, and had a strong personality. She was an instigator and leader of girls. I'm afraid that early on, she figured out that I was extremely gullible, and easily led by the nose. I became her...yes man.
June's parents got a divorce when she was just 4 or 5 years old. Which was a little shocking and exotic at the time- none of my other friends' parents were divorced. But June's parents had married young, and had her when they were just 19.
This was Austin in the '60's, so there was a whole lotta experimentation/spreading your wings/letting your freak flag fly going on. June's mom became a full-fledged hippie. While my mother wore a French-twist updo, bright red Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick and her good pearls, June's mom wore long, flowing hair, peasant skirts and halter tops with no bra. She was cool and artsy. She macramed and threw pots. She even had a kiln in the garage. She had boyfriends and smoked pot and listened to Joni Mitchell really loudly.
June's dad, in what I now know was probably an attempt to buy her love and make her forgive him for leaving his family, built her amazingly cool stuff. She had a tepee. A REAL tepee. She also had a log cabin! The cabin was in the backyard, and was fitted with four bunks, air conditioning and a telephone - perfect for a slumber party.
June had every thing I wanted. Blond hair, blue eyes, freckles, glasses, braces. All the cool stuff. Her mom got her shirts with Nehru collars and peace sign necklaces. She got to pierce her ears! And when we were in junior high she got...a waterbed. I can still remember the smell of it. I desperately loved playing at her house, and envied everything she had.
But looking back on our long friendship, I'm a little shocked by how many "Mean June" incidents I can remember.
In 2nd Grade, we were playing some kind of chase game on the playground, and June shoved me from behind, making me slam my face into the monkey bars and chip one of my brand new front teeth. It took about 20 years for that tooth to even off and look normal.
She had this game she made me play with her. It was called "Little Bat". June got to drape herself in a long black cape and be Little Bat, a poor orphan bat, who had lost her way and needed to be returned to her cave in the wild. I never, ever got to be Little Bat, but was forced to play the far less interesting role of the kind lady who helped her. I would have to pick her up and give her food and liquids and wrap her in a blanket and help her find her mommy. June, as Little Bat, revelled in her pain and sadness. She was the flying mammal Camille. You have to understand how difficult it was for me, a performer at heart, to always be stuck in the stupid, boring supporting role. I would have been a FABULOUS Little Bat, but, alas, was never allowed.
In about 3rd Grade, June convinced me that I should eat the cat food, because it tasted just like chicken. It did not.
And then came...dum, dum, dum, dum...4th Grade. The year of misery. I must have been going through an awkward phase or something, because my two most traumatic elementary school incidents happened that year. And both were instigated by June.
The first was a time when my best friend Kaysie (who was also under June's evil spell) had invited a bunch of girls for a sleepover at her house. As Mama drove me up the hill to Kaysie's house, all of the other girls jumped out from behind a bush on the side of the road and screamed "YOU'RE LATE!". Apparently, Mama had gotten the time of the party wrong, and we showed up an hour late. The girls continued to taunt me for the rest of the party. I was deeply shamed.
The other was what Kaysie and I have come to call the Dreaded Bean Dip Incident. It was a terrible and scarring experience that involved my being pelted with bean dip at a slumber party in June's log cabin by an out of control gang of 10 year old girls - a hideous event which haunts me to this day. Kaysie won't even let me mention it in her presence, she is still so filled with shame over the incident. But such was June's power of persuasion.
Which brings me to one of the most shameful experiences of my life. Something I look back upon with such shame and guilt that I would prefer to think it didn't happen. But it did.
Around 6th Grade, a girl named Karen came to our school. I liked Karen. She was sweet and fun and smart, and we played together often. We both had guitars and I remember us learning how to play Leaving on a Jet Plane together. I guess Karen was kind of dorky, but...so was I.
At some point in Junior High, probably 7th Grade, June decided that Karen was not cool enough to be our friend. She decided that everyone in our little gang of girlfriends needed to...snub her. June laid out the plan for us all - that day, every time Karen came up to us, we were to completely ignore her, and pretend she wasn't there. And being the June sycophants that we were...we did.
I'll never forget how Karen reacted. The look of hurt and injury on her face. Of disappointment and betrayal. Over and over that day, every time she came near us, we ignored her and she walked away quietly.
Karen was a smart girl, and took the hint. The next day, instead of sitting with us in the cafeteria at lunch, she walked across the room and sat with the other outcast girls. A group of girls who were all deemed "uncool", but managed to forge their own little subculture, their own little clique. A group of girls who I am now friends with on Facebook. We play dorky games together, and have a great time. But at age 13, I was too worried about my own public image to admit that I had a lot in common with those girls. Certainly more than I had with June.
I've looked for Karen on Facebook, but haven't found her. I'd like to tell her how sorry I am.
Soon after this incident, Kaysie and I pretty much stopped being friends with June, and not long after, she changed schools, and we never saw her any more. It was such a relief. But I still wish that this friendship had ended because I'd stood up to her and done the right thing instead of just following the herd.
I've looked for June on Facebook too, but haven't found her either. I'm kind of interested in finding out how she turned out. What life gave to her, and what she made out of it. She was so smart, so creative and such a natural leader. But the last thing I heard of her was a few years ago, when Kaysie ran into her brother, who said she wasn't doing very well. I think her demons were too much for her.
This post was inspired by...
#4 - Describe a time you saw someone getting picked on.