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Growing up as a kid who wore glasses, wore sweater vests, was socially disfunctional and read comic books in the early 2000’s, it’s needless to say that I got picked on a lot. The teasing varied from mildly insulting to haunting me while I’m trying to sleep every night. Although it sucked, I would never want to take that experience out of my life. If I could go back in time, I would just react to the teasing a lot better. Tears and tattling just made me even more of a target of merciless insults from my peers. However, there was a time that I responded to the attacks in a way that still makes me maniacally laugh to this day.
In the second grade, there was a kid who sat in my table group. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him Adrian (totally not his real name). Adrian decided one day to make an insightfully critical comment on my eyewear. “Hey, Jaden! What are you, Harry Potter?” The table group all laughed at his wonderfully crafted comic genius.
I wasn’t allowed to watch Harry Potter growing up, so I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. “No.” I answered. “What do you mean?”
“Because you wear glasses! You look just like him!”
I’ll admit that a boy my age with shaggy brown hair, blue eyes, and short stature would kind of look like Harry Potter, but let’s not overestimate the amount of brain cells Adrian used while concocting this joke. He literally only thought I looked like Harry Potter because of my glasses. Although I too was a second grader with the sense of humor of the lowest common denominator, even I saw the mediocrity of effort put into this thoughtless joke. I rolled my eyes, shook it off, and didn’t think of it again.
Apparently, Adrian thought his routine was such solid gold that he tried it out again the next day. On the same audience. “Hey, everyone it’s Harry Potter! Ha ha, hey Jaden, you like to hang out in your room and practice spells, huh?” Again, the table group laughed in unison. “Ha ha yeah, he turns his sisters into frogs and stuff, ha ha!” he continued. Again, I just brushed it off because I felt I was losing brain cells the more I listened to him. Then the same exact joke came again and again. Every. Single. Day.
Finally, I told my parents what Adrian had been saying. At first, they thought the words hurt my feelings and they comforted me by saying his jokes weren’t very creative. I explained I already knew that, it was the fact that everyone laughed along and I couldn’t think of anything to say that upset me. Maybe if I could say something in response, he would stop. They each sat beside me, my mother on my right, my father on my left. Then my mom said seven words that changed the game entirely: “Is there anything funny looking about him?” I didn’t even hesitate. “He has big ears!” We all laughed. My mom responded: “Then when he starts calling you Harry Potter again, you call him Dumbo! You tell him that he likes to practice flying in his room singing ‘I think I can, I think I can!’” At the time I thought it was hilarious, but only because the absurdity of the situation. As an adult, I now see that it not only implies he has the same genetic makeup of a large African mammal, but he also can never achieve his dreams no matter how hard he tries.
Anyway, I went to school the next day with my swagger level increasing due to the confidence of being locked and loaded with the sickest burn of the century. It only lasted about twenty minutes, considering I had a very short attention span (still do) and forgot about it entirely. Then, work time came around. This meant the teacher sat at the computer while the classroom was naturally loud enough to drown out any potential teasing and high pitched laughter following it. Suddenly, I heard the unnaturally deep voice coming out of a baby face, which as established, has abnormally large ears. “Hey, Jaden!” I rolled my eyes and braced myself. “Did you turn your sister into a frog this morning?” The audience went wild as if they hadn’t just heard that same stupid joke for the fiftieth time. Now was my time.
“Hey, Adrian.” The laughter quieted down but didn’t stop.
“Yeah?” He asked while trying to suppress his bellowing chuckles.
“You’re Dumbo!” His face froze along with the rest of his body. The audience reciprocated said motionlessness.
Finally, the chuckles from the crowd broke the silence. Adrian looked around, confused. I was pumped now, there was no turning back from here. “Yeah, and you try to fly around in your room when you think no one’s looking and sing ‘I think I can, I think I can!’” I stood up from my chair, put my hands on my ears mimicking the size of an elephant’s and started flapping aggressively. I pulled the dumbest face possible and made elephant noises while singing “I think I can, I think I can!” Everyone in a six-foot radius of the conversation was laughing and pointing at Adrian, he had no way to react. So he reacted the only way he knew how. He cried. Adrian blubbered so loud that it broke the sound of laughter and attracted the attention of Mrs. Marone.
Mrs. Marone brought us both outside and said, “I don’t understand, whenever I see you two, you’re like best friends!” I wasn’t even going to comment on the obliviousness of that statement, but before I could say anything Adrian pointed at me.
“He- he called me Dumbo and-and made fun of my ears!” he blubbered through fake tears.
“Jaden! Is that true?” Mrs. Marone asked so shocked. I answered honestly and accordingly to the accusations: by pointing and shouting.
“He started it! He always calls me Harry Potter!” She turned to Adrian sternly.
“Adrian is this true?”
What happened next was very perplexing for my young brain, and still to this day do I not know what it has to do with anything. Adrian started to cry again. He said, and I quote: “When I was five, and in Kindergarten, the other kids would make fun of me for having a Dora bike!” He put his face in his hands and whimpered into his big, sweaty mitts. Mrs. Marone excused me to the classroom and Adrian didn’t bother me the rest of the year.
Nowadays, I still bring this up with my parents. Most of the time they don’t even remember it. When they do finally recollect what they said to me that night, my mother explains the following. She says it was her Mama Bear Instincts, that somebody was hurting her child so she was simply defending her family. “Kill or be killed” is what she has told me regarding the situation.