Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Calling Names

I wouldn't identify myself as having been bullied as a kid, though bullies did tease me. I was at risk of being taunted by some of the tougher kids because I was there. There are no reasons. You don't have to be the quietest, smartest, dumbest, smallest, fattest kid in the yard to be bullied. If you were, you were bullied, guaranteed. But you were also bullied because you were there, close-by, near the tough kid that needs to bully someone.
    You were standing in front of the bully in line. Pure chance. Some one had to be there. You shove me and I'll shove you back, albeit it with tears forming. You threaten me with an afterschool fight, I'll show up but you won't. Call me names, if part of me likes you and the name is clever, I'll remember. Ricky Sparrow was a bigger, tougher kid but not all bad. He was more of an occasional jerk than a bully. He even had some artistic talent. His design for school crest was chosen, miffing the true artists amongst us. He didn't call me fag or gay or sissy like the run-of-the-mill bullies did. One time he whipped out a riff on my name, ballet, and though it stung a bit, I had to admit it was pretty good.
    It's like my peers in CEGEP making Greek jokes. If you mention sheep, goats, crowbars, anything to do with ass you can go fuck yourself. Not because you're offensive but because you can't take it to the next level. Don't parrot clich├ęs, come up with something good. I'm game in the right context. And decide whether that accent you're doing is Mexican or Greek. Stick to repeating Monty Python gags or pretending to be a Rastafarian. The subtleties inherent in a good ethnic slur escape you.
    A foreman at the warehouse I worked summers at had that cleverness. He was a powerfully built squat brick of a man and as much as he was no nonsense about work, his tongue was sharp and fast and he had good humour. It was from him that I heard for the first time fine manipulations of my full Greek name, Vasilios. Here I was twenty years old and I'm hearing original slander. It was a springtime breeze of fresh ideas. On one occasion he cracked out Vaselineos and my gratitude soared. Another time he croaked Vasectomos and I was thrilled. That's how to do it, people, if you're going to make fun of someone, hit them with something no one else has ever thought of. And try to do it with a little bit of love or I may take a swing at you even if you're way bigger than me.