Sunday, 21 October 2012

Trapped in Wendy's World

I remember standing in the hallway of the old synagogue, waiting... quietly... for the classroom door to open, waiting to take our seats and open our Hebrew books and recite our Hebrew letters.  It was the last class of the day, but our first class considered serious in the preparation for our bat mitzvahs. While waiting and wondering about such important issues like will Julie and Gopher's secret love stay secret, I felt a kick at my back. It was a hard kick, hard enough to knock me in to the cold cement wall, making me gasp.  I then heard a rapture of squealing laughter coming from a group of girls. They were pushing in and slopping up the entertainment. In the front of those girls, stood Wendy. A soured face girl with thin lips,  a pushed in pug nose and squinting eyes, all harshly framed with a fringe.   She wore argyle woollen sweaters, creased chino trousers with penny loafers, which also was the uniform of her lackeys.

 I turned to her. She smiled, squinting her red-rat eyes, and I stepped forward about to kick back when she cuddled into a teacher, who held her tightly.  Mrs R said, finger pointing, "Don't you dare!" I turned back around, which is when Wendy kicked me again.  This time, I just turned my head around and stared at the teacher. She stared back, raising her eye brows and Wendy smiled her winning smile and the line moved on.

Life at that time didn't imitate art because in this small girl's world the "baddie" always won. I was the kid who followed the rules, obeyed my mother, my teachers, was kind to my peers and elders, never lied,  never swore. She was the kid who ripped out pages of the bible and used it for spit balls, similar to the ones found stuck to my cheek or dangling from my hair.Wendy achieved the award of Best Student that year and life continued to defy logic. If it was possible for a little girl to hate, I hated her.

However, somewhere inside my thoughts,  I was consoled by the hope that to every negative there was a waiting positive, to every push there must be a pull, to every horrendous unkind act that Wendy did, there had to be an unkind act slapping back at her.

And then one day it happened, my proof, in our synagogue's adaptation of Annie, Wendy declared her unhappiness at not getting the lead role.  She took second to my friend Clair. Accepting her position with hostility, she talked through scene rehearsals, mocked performances and questioned the teacher's decisions.  The teacher continued to sigh and turn to Wendy, requesting appropriate behaviour.  Wendy ignored her and grew louder with her taunts. The teachers voice grew in assertiveness and volume and Wendy matched it note for note. Finally, Ms. G whipped around and shouted, "Shut up, just shut up!"

"You can't tell me to shut up, you are just a teacher.  You shut up!" Wendy snarled loudly.  That is when it happened. Mrs. G spun around, hand following, high in the air, and coming down with full force to a hard slap.  Wendy with her new red glow, stood quiet, shaken, as did the teacher.  "I am telling the principal," she whimpered, "I will have you fired."

Mrs. G released her breath, slowly, deliberately and quietly whispered, "Good, go, you know where his office is."  Wendy left and Ms. G turned to us and without a word picked up her baton and led us in song and we sang, "The Sun Will Come Out, Tomorrow."   Ms G returned the next day and the day after that and nothing happened and Wendy learned a bit of humiliaty, at least towards Ms. G. That was it, my formula for life had been restored. 

I enjoyed that slap, and the nine year old in me, today, still thinks about it and smiles. However, it haunted me at the time.  I knew that slap was wrong, violence shouldn't be used.  No one deserves to be hit. I had been taught all of those things by my family and had it confirmed in my religious studies. Well, that is until the assault happened. When Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, came, and the Book of Life was opened and lists for life or death were made, this event loomed large.  I realised I had to seek forgiveness from Wendy. I approached her and then I circled around her, my stomach tightened.  I waited for her to be alone, but that didn't happen, so I said, "Excuse me, Wendy, can I talked to you for a moment?"

"No,"she replied.

"I really need to talk to you,"I continued.

And with a mocking reply, and high screechy voice, she said, "I really need to talk to you. NO!"

" I enjoyed seeing you get hit." seem to burst out. "I am sorry."

A genuine look of hurt came across her face, "You enjoyed seeing me get hit."

"Yes, I laughed often about it and I know that's wrong and I am sorry," I waited as she stood silent.

Slowly and with disbelief, she responded, "I cannot believe that you laughed."

"Wendy, you have to understand, you have been horrible to me," pleading my case.

"I have not,"she shouted.

"Yeah, you have." Her response confused me because she had to have realised this. "Wendy, you can't naturally be that big of a bitch.  You had to have worked at it."

"I cannot believe that you called me a bitch,"inflection in the correct place, repositioning her body, shoulders and head brought back.

She turned quickly, her pony tail brushing my face as it whipped passed. Now talking to the back of her head, "I just really wanted to apologise and I wanted to let you know that I also forgive you for the horrendous things you have done."

"Teacher," she called out. "She just called me a bitch." This was not going to plan. I turned and leaned on the familiar wall and waited.

Ms. G turned around. "I am sure that you will get over that, Wendy. It is the New Year, forgiveness is important." Ms. G looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. "The bell has rung, time to go to your next class."  I raised my eyebrow, turning my smile at Wendy. She looked back at me, dropped lip, giving gasp and then a snarl and passed me to walk through the door, which slammed it in my face.  Ms. G reopened it for me and I said, "Thank you, Happy New Year."

The purpose of this post is not to say that it is alright for people to be hurt or called names but to warn you about the Wendy's that exist. Sometimes we find ourselves trapped in their worlds. Unable to fight them and unable to walk away and we are stuck, at least for a short while.

Tonight we celebrate the Jewish New Year again and at the sermon today, the rabbi talked about the importance of forgiveness from those who seek it. I had forgotten that forgiveness had to be sought before given. Wendy didn't want to change.  She didn't want forgiveness. She was quite comfortable in her skin, probably more than I was.  Her behaviour warranted my anger and my anger came from a place of self-respect. When faced with a Wendy, I want you to be alright with anger, expect better treatment. As a practicing-to-be young lady, I was instructed that anger is an unattractive trait. In the 70's, the mantra seemed to be anger hurts you more than the offender. Now that I am no longer a practicing lady or young, I realise that anger has its role, it is self preservation. It lets us know to be weary, to keep a distance.

More often than not, we can't fix the Wendy's of the world.  Their demons lurk in very dark unreachable places and we didn't set their demons free. We were simply the catalyst used to justify their demons.

Remember, little one, you will escape her world, maybe with some bruises and scrapes, maybe even a noticeable scar, but those will fade with time. I promise you that. And when you leave, you will shut the door tightly behind you, leaving Wendy alone with her Demons and, of course, the demons will have no other choice but to turn against Wendy because that is just simply what demons do.

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