12 Years Doesn’t Change Much.
July 14, 2011 § 3 Comments
In 1999, I was a senior in high school. Just taking from how I talk here and on the podcast, you’d probably be surprised to learn that I graduated with a 2.9 GPA *DESPITE* sleeping in the first 4 of each of my classes nearly every year I attended my high school. (We never did the block schedule, relying on the old ‘7 periods a day’ method). That was one of the few things that defined who I was back then. I slept in class, I had TERRIBLE long hair (even though I imagined it was way better than it was), and I wore a black trench coat to school every single day.
That jacket was practically a second layer of skin. Even to this day I wear the thing almost every time I leave the house. Robert can attest to this, as can anyone else who happens to see me outside. While the condition of the jacket, as well as it’s quality have improved, the situation remains the same. I don’t like leaving home without it on. It just feels like I’m missing something. Something important. I know it isn’t, and it’s not sentimental in any way, but it’s just something I feel.
It’s been 12 years since I graduated high school, and about 19 years since I started wearing the jacket. I wore it every day in middle school and high school until late April 1999. What changed? Apparently, a pair of very disturbed individuals in Colorado did something very VERY stupid. They brought guns to school and shot people, and (if I recall correctly) eventually themselves. The ONLY thing the media focused on was that they wore black trench coats. Well, that and they killed a bunch of students and themselves, but mostly the jackets. Something so totally superficial caught as an offhanded comment from one of the students was their new defining mark. But, what actually changed?
As far as I was (and still am) concerned, nothing had. I wasn’t some crazed bully, or sociopath, or even a trouble maker. In fact, it’s hard to make trouble when you’re sleeping in class. Between video games, a fianceè (Whom I may talk about here in the future, but probably not), and a completely dysfunctional home life, I simply didn’t have the ENERGY to be a total dick. It’s not like I subscribed to some sort of newsletter that I get when I got my first jacket. There was never a reason for anyone to be worried about me doing the reprehensible acts those cowards did.
More to the point, the school I went to was not in the safest neighborhood either. Between fairly infrequent (but frequent enough) bomb threats, metal detectors and security in order to even enter the school, it would have been stupid to even attempt something so stupid. What good would possibly come out of throwing my life away with an act of such cowardice, let alone the lives of others?
The day after the shooting at Columbine, nearly everyone who had not interacted with me at all the first 7 years I wore the jacket looked at me differently. Even some who HAD interacted with me viewed me with heightened suspicion. I hadn’t done a single thing to warrant this, but wear the same thing I had always worn. Near the end of the day, two armed security guards came into my class and “escorted me” to the principal’s office.
“Black trench coats are no longer allowed at this school.”
The words of authority spouted at me offered no reason or rhyme. They merely were. I was expected to follow. I countered.
“Or, you could perform as many searches of me, my locker, and my person as you feel needed to ensure the safety of this school and it’s people. Please, do not take my jacket.”
It was irrational. I wanted to keep it just as much as they wanted to take it away. The two guards grabbed my arms and took the jacket off of me, and placed it on a rack in the office. Simply having it taken from me without a legitimate (to me, anyway) reason was infuriating. I have only felt that level of rage two other times in my life. My fists were clenched, the sides of my head felt as if they were on fire, and it took everything I had within me to not lash out right there. At the end of the day, I was given my jacket back and told, once again, that black trench coats are forbidden.
Fine. I still wanted my jacket, but I was willing to compromise. I came to school the next day with a jacket which was our school color. (Gold and White were the colors, but I had this GAUDY gold one I held onto for ‘special occasions’). I walked off the bus, gold jacket upon my back, and before I even for three steps towards the door, I was told it was forbidden. I reminded them that BLACK was what was forbidden, and I was showing school pride. This did not impress the security, and it was confiscated upon my entrance of school. The next day, rather than a trench coat, I wore a black cape. Again, I was rebuked.
“It’s not even a trench coat! What the hell is the problem?”
“It’s about what it represents.”
“It represents I want to fucking be Batman! What the fuck?!”
I didn’t even go to school that day. I contemplated not even going back at all. I mean, a stupid piece of paper? Really? What the fuck good was it going to do me? I had survived 11 years and 11 months of schooling. One more month until graduation. One more month until I could just be done with all of it. So, I went back, and did it. I might have been a little more distant, a little more cold and bitter, but they had left me no choice BUT to be. I graduated, left for California, and never had to look back.
So what brought this into my mind now? Facebook. I was invited into a private group of people who had attended my high school. I thought, “Hey, they weren’t all massive fuckheads, were they? Let’s check it out.” I scroll down and probably the seventh conversation in was something akin to the following:
“Hey, do you remember that freak who wore that jacket every day? We kept a REAL close eye on him after Columbine.”
About a dozen or so comments from people who never so much as looked in my direction at ANY other time tried desperately to remember my name. There was one person who defended me (and if you want credit after reading this, I’ll be happy to give it), and afterwards it degenerated into less than adept internet trolling. So inept, in fact, that I couldn’t even respond to it. Moments after even seeing the post, I left the group. I was irritated, and even after telling myself that they didn’t know what they were talking about, it got to me. I could stave it off for a while, but that entire series of comments just brought me back to those same days. They thought about this after 12 YEARS. It kept them up at night. It worried them!
It’s strange knowing that I was being persecuted not because of who I am. Not because of religion, race, or political leanings… No, instead it was over my choice of clothing.
Now who’s being irrational?
((I still am, really… I love my jacket and won’t let it go. It just isn’t what they think it is.))