How a Magical Talking Pen Turned Me Into a Childhood Bully

I flew out of my mom’s child bride-sized body a month after she turned 20. Oddly enough, her pregnancy was planned, since she wanted to have kids before the end of the world.

Yes, you heard that correctly.

When I asked her a few years ago why she decided to have children at such a young age, she just gave out a short laugh and a sigh that conveyed a “what the fuck was I thinking?” mentality.

“We were in a church that believed the end of the world was in like four years. I wanted to be a mom before I died, so I decided to have a kid.”

Today, I’m happy to report that the entire world didn’t end in 1995.

While she explained the whole notion of our bodies being sucked up into heaven before any of the whole hell-on-Earth stuff happened, I feel like there still might need to be a few loose ends tied up before I agree with her logic about having a kid directly before the apocalypse, but okay.

Whatever floats your boat.

Drew

My mom never thought she was a “good” mother. She wasn’t an all-star at the bake sale or a proud member of the PTA, but considering my little brother throwing a temper tantrum was the closest thing to watching a DVD of “The Best of Live Exorcisms,” I don’t blame her. Today, it’s a wonder she’s not currently locked up in maximum security cell.

I didn’t need a lot of guidance, though. If my mom told me to not cross the road, I would just patiently wait and hum a song. If my mom told my brother to not cross the road, he would immediately make a run for it, dart across oncoming traffic, stop to pick up a rock and throw it at my mom’s head.

To further describe their dynamic, my neighbor once had to have a serious talk with her about my brother claiming to have been raped by a clown.

“Did you know that Drew is telling everyone he’s been raped by a clown?” my neighbor asked in a hushed tone.

How do you handle that situation as a parent?

Honestly, I want to know, because we share the same gene pool. The code to my very own little psycho is floating around dormant inside the dark depths of my ovaries.

She was also pulled away from teaching one day, just to be told my brother had climbed on top of the school and wouldn’t come down. Like he was in some kind of hostage situation. Except he was holding himself hostage. He didn’t have the intention to kill himself—he was just driven to receive all the negative attention he could possibly get.

When I asked my mom to confirm more information about these stories, she said, “I don’t remember… I have blocked a lot of those years out.”

Anita

With all these events, it might seem like I got neglected. Just to be clear, I have a father, but he was much less involved in the soap opera between my mom and baby bro, so he’s not really going to be a part of this particular story.

I sought refuge from my brother’s screams at Anita’s house. Anita was my 50-something-year-old neighbor, who was also my best friend. We’d rake up leaves, burn them, plant things, go to Home Depot, watch day-time TV and bake.

I was only six or seven, but I enjoyed acting like a middle-aged woman going through menopause.

Being away from the chaos and gardening was cathartic.

Mom

Even if my mom was constantly busy fighting the vortex of a black hole that was my brother, she was pretty influential in my creative abilities. I remember she always had a book in her hands and was pretty artistic. She liked to write, did some charcoal drawings for a class and was relatively crafty when Drew let her have five seconds of peace.

She clearly understood that I was a bit “different” in some of my eccentric interests.

Aliens were of great terror and interest. They put the fear of God into me, but I was also fascinated by the idea of meeting one.

Every single night before bed, I would turn on the hallway light and not sleep. I somehow had this deep, dark feeling that an alien was coming for me. It never happened to my knowledge, and I moved on to developing a more lighthearted fear: spontaneous combustion.

At least my childhood anxieties were morbid, yet fanciful.

Due to my alien obsession and the whole Y2K thing, my mom threw me a birthday party that was filled to the brim with extraterrestrial creatures. My cake was the shape of a rocket, with an alien clearly driving the mother ship. During the party, my mom took Polaroid photos of all of the attendees, which she pasted onto colored sheets of construction paper and put inside a scrap book made out of tinfoil.

The most popular photo by far was one of my little brother. I’m not sure if this was planned (due to the whole alien theme), but at this point in time, he had the most intense bowl cut known to mankind. His hair was thick enough to make 17 wigs and was cut perfectly into a helmet. In this photo, he looked like a member of Heaven’s Gate. Based on his haircut alone, Drew was 100 percent ready to be beamed up at any given moment.

Image result for heaven's gate haircut

I feel like my mom understood my moody, artistic abilities. For my birthday, Christmas, Easter, or any other holiday, my mom would gift me with books, notepads, and anything that would stimulate my mind and speak to my 1,200-year-old soul.

Tomica

While I may have been a pretty good kid, I certainly wasn’t perfect and struggled to be empathetic towards others. I really identified with ancient Egyptians and became obsessed with Egyptian culture at a very young age. I’ve worked on this a lot, but back in the day, I was brutal. I basically lived my life under Hammurabi’s Code (Babylonian, but still similar to Egyptian law).

Instead of following the religious teachings of “turning the other cheek,” I took better liking to, “an eye for an eye.”

One year, I received a prayer workbook that was designed to help young girls grow spiritually. A particular section read: pray for someone who hurt your feelings.

At this time, there was a girl in school who was hurting my feeling: Tomica.

And yes, the singular form was purposeful. I was pretty emotionally flat as a kid. 

I wrote back in the scribbled handwriting of someone learning to write: “You can’t make me.”

Apparently, I found things like forgiveness a bit overrated.

I never really got in trouble at school. I had the same classmates from age four to twelve, so we were all very close and never really fought. Occasionally, we’d get a new kid, but they never quite fit in as well as the OG group.

In fourth grade, Tomica arrived and instantly made a bad impression with everyone. She had a sassy mouth, an annoying raspy voice and dressed a bit scandalous for our school’s standards (I’d clearly never seen a young girl wear a bikini without a gigantic white t-shirt over it before).

Talk about scandalous. 

Imagine being a normal preteen and being introduced to a bunch of model citizens from a Sunday school pamphlet for the Church of Latter Day Saints. It had to have been hard on her. We had all been friends for years, we never said cuss words, we all dressed the same, our parents were all well off and everyone grew up with the exact same values.

17 kids from the whitest people you know.

There was nothing bad or disruptive in our home lives, except for my little brother, who I believed was a deliberate form of child abuse my parents created to torment me.

Tomica was guarded and hard. She snapped back whenever you said anything to her and had a very confrontational vibe about her. I had never met a gangster before, except for the white Christian rapper that came to my school once and got ushered off stage by our principal for rapping about HIV to a group of kids under the age of 12. 

All things considered, she was the closest thing to a “bad bitch” that I’d ever met.

As an adult, I now know that she was mean to everyone because she struggled due to her home life. As a kid, I took absolutely none of that in consideration, because I had no context. Up until this point, none of my classmates had ever really been mean to me and I didn’t know what it really meant to struggle.

The Pen Lady 

To inspire me to write, my mom got me this computer game that featured a pen dressed like a woman. It was really confusing—she had hair, eyelashes and a skirt. Nevertheless, the game was fun because you could write whatever sentence you wanted and the computer would read it out loud to you in a really feminine, yet weird, robotic voice.

Today, kids have Alexa and Siri for this, but I had the magical pen lady.

Even better, the game featured sound effects.

I found one for a mummy. Except it didn’t sound like it mummy. It sounded like a man who had been constipated for 15+ years and finally got his big break on the toilet.

With revenge on my mind, one day my friend Hannah Marty and I created a sentence that became so funny, we decided to bring the computer software to school to share with the class during recess.

Like creating a comedic bit, we practiced our material on her dad, who did little-to-nothing to discourage us. He laughed so hard that he was practically crying. His reaction was enough to tell us that this was about to be epic.

On the day of the big reveal, we turned the speakers on the computer to full volume. The computer then proceeded to slowly shout out a combinations words including, “dump,” “Tom-i-cah” and “patty.” This was followed by the mummy letting out an agonizing moan of a man hunched over on the toilet. 

It was an instant hit with the class, including our teacher, who laughed but scolded us. 

Naturally, I got in a lot of trouble and got my computer game taken away. I think I got it back at the end of the year, which was a devastating blow to my blossoming creative writing career, but totally worth it.

Me

So, what did I learn from all of this? It might not be what you expect.

I’ll start with the bad answer.

Flaying someone alive with your words is a particular talent that most people don’t have. That day, I realized I had a knack for it, which isn’t really a surprise, considering I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a kid. She was a complete boss and a total mood. Listening to her decimate people on the phone in an intelligent way was likely influential.

I have tried to not abuse this power too much over the years, but I’m certainly not above a Taylor Swift-esque style roasting.

K, now for something that makes me seem less like a sociopath: I don’t like that side of me. I’ve grown to be about 9 billion times more empathetic and understanding of others since my preteen years of destroying people’s egos. 

Now, I completely understand why Tomica was a d*ckhead to everyone. Instead of putting her on blast, I should’ve been more friendly to her. 

But I wasn’t. I didn’t even allow her to audition for my elementary school girl band, Fly Girl (we practiced outside the entrance of the Lutheran church every week). And I still feel a tiny bit guilty about it. 

Okay, I’m glad I got that off my chest. This was therapeutic. 

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