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.

Irrational? Perhaps.

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.))

-Ryan

 

 

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§ 3 Responses to 12 Years Doesn’t Change Much.

  • Viletta says:

    Oh my God, you wear a black trench coat? You’re not gonna use your magic trench coat powers to track me down through your podcast and eat my soul, are you?

    *Facepalm.*

    • It’s not an umbrella, nor am I Mary Poppins. lol Besides, I’m not high enough in my Trench Coat sub-class to have unlocked that ability yet. Sadly, I’ve spent too long grinding the “pay rent” daily quest. Fucking zero XP quests….

  • I went to high school in San Diego county, in a little town called Encinitas where boring, wealthy, Republicans either came to breed or die. I, being a goth, was harassed, called names, tripped, had things thrown at me- most popular was a full slurpee from a car while the passenger screamed “Goth Whore”. The first time this had happened I hadn’t even had my first kiss yet and was 13 close to 14. It was terrible. I did nothing to provoke anyone except for wear black.

    This was BEFORE Columbine happened and the “Trenchcoat Mafia” was a common phrase to hear. Now it wasn’t just high school students, young military, and a particular cop that were harassing me and my friends… now it was adults.. parents, teachers, and more police officers.. But in a different way. What happened first was that we were taken in for questioning.. some didn’t even know what had happened yet. They stuck mainly to young men that wore trenchcoats. The girls were just given disparaging looks and some were asked questions about their friends. We were eyed by other teenagers and adults alike as criminals and monsters. Trenchcoats were banned from school as well as anything that looked like a gun, so the theater department had to get rid of a lot of water pistols. A friend of mine who had founded a group called “The Bisexual Army” and happened to be goth was questioned repeatedly and I believe was suspended for a bit.

    What we pieced together was that the adults had decided that we were all in cahoots. That we somehow all had communicated with each other and that Columbine was just the first of many organized terrorist attacks set up by the devil and Marilyn Manson.

    We were teenagers, what did we know about organization? Few of us could even organize a party! Needless to say none of us knew any other goths outside of school… and certainly not ‘The Trenchcoat Mafia”- Those kids weren’t even really goths either, they were metalheads and lived VERY far away from SD. These kids had been teased and alienated to the point where their hormonal teenaged psyches could no longer take it. They snapped and killed a lot of people with guns they had gotten from their family. They were scared, angry lunatics. Yes this could have happened again, but not for the reasons that everyone thought.
    People created these monsters. They called them names, kicked them out of their stores for “looking like freaks”, wouldn’t let them hang out with their kids, bullied them, and pushed them to suicide… a very common thing for goth kids for exactly these reasons. Many of my friends had talked about suicide like it was a viable option for them.. and in a lot of ways for a teenager, it really was the only way out. People forget how trapped teenagers are. When even their parents fear and distrust them where can they go?

    And finally the most important part that everyone seemed to forget was that these people that they thought of as criminals were just kids. KIDS. Kids push each other, they fight because they don’t know that you aren’t supposed to do that, they call names. It’s an adults job to correct that behavior and keep others from getting hurt. The adults failed HARD in this. How could these boys kill all those people and then themselves? Because the adults around them were too full of prejudice, fear, and superstition to see two scared and angry boys being pushed to the limits. They stood by and did nothing.

    Keep in mind that if the boys had just killed themselves we wouldn’t even know who they were. Just another statistic. Nothing to be done, some kids are just bad eggs, parents and teachers don’t blame yourself. Cheerleader and Jock, you tried to be role models for them but they just wouldn’t listen. Very sad, now onto the weather.

    ….

    Sorry for the long rant guys.. This stirred up a lot of old anger. Also I do not condone suicide, I was merely making a point.

    -SinisterFingers

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