To: Mrs. Waller*, Preschool Principal
Dear Mrs. Waller,
You opened your letter to my parents with “Antonia is a girl who is her own worst enemy”. I was four. I’m pretty sure that says all that needs to be said about you. Now, more about me. Dammit Mrs. Waller, this is about me!
You were right. That’s a completely ridiculous thing to say about a little kid and you’re awful for saying it, but is it really so awful if you were right? Ugh.
Listen, I have awesome things in my head. Amazing things that are going to make so many people happy. But I can never make any of these things happen, why? Well, in your letter you said I was insecure, citing the example of me pretending to be a cat or a mouse as a coping mechanism for when I got in trouble. But really, it’s because my brain just won’t me do anything. My brain is like, look! Awesome stuff! Then I reach for the stuff and it pulls it away, laughing, saying Ha-ha! Just kidding! You can’t have it!
This is what it feels like to never be able to focus on anything. Which brings me to my next letter.
To: Mrs. Ryan, First Grade teacher.
Dear Mrs. Ryan,
You left us halfway through the school year when you went and had your baby. Hmm, how old would that make your baby now? Look, I’m counting on my fingers because I’m 26 and simple math is still hard for me. You should see me when I go out to dinner with friends and the bill comes, Mrs. Ryan, it’s very embarrassing. Okay, countcountcount…holy fucking shit, your kid is 20. I might have smoked a bowl with your kid outside The Catalyst once. Did your baby move to Santa Cruz? Where the eff do you even live now, Mrs. Ryan?
Ah, look at me all distracted again. I’m writing you today because you told my mother you thought I might have ADD and needed to go on drugs. While this may have been true, you might want to work on your delivery during those parent-teacher conferences, because something about the way you said it must have really set my mom off. She reacted by taking me out of the little neighborhood elementary school and putting me in Carden Hall, a very strict private school across town that I swear to you specialized in traumatizing weird kids. I now firmly believe that any school with “Hall” in the name is no place for children. At least in public school the classes were so crowded you could hide.
Mrs. Ryan, why do I remember you so well after all these years? You didn’t really do much other than say that thing to my mom and let me and the other kids hug your preggo belly on your last day. You must be some sort of marker for me, the bearer of the bad news that I wasn’t just a little kid being a kid, there was something “wrong” with me. Thanks a lot for giving me something to write about, Mrs. R., I needed that.
To: Doctor Roger C. Finch, MD, Psychiatrist.
Dear Doctor Finch,
I don’t remember what I was going to say to you, most likely because I have “word retrieval delay”. Is that even a thing? I hope so, because those were the exact words you used in your report about me and I’m sure you charged an ugly penny for it (pennies are not pretty, so stop calling them that, everyone.) The evidence you cited for this was my liberal use of the word “whatever” during my evaluation.
I understand that to an old fart like yourself, the use of that word may seem to indicate the presence of another, better word just out of reach. But did you ever think that I might have just been a fourth grader in the year 1997, right there in the mush pot of the Valley Girl Revival? Doctor Finch, you’re a psychiatrist who works with children. This is your freaking job, and you’re telling me you never heard any other nine-year-old girl throwing that word around like she was the slackest little chicky since Moon Unit Zappa?
(Update: I questioned my memory and just re-listened to “Valley Girl”. Okay, Moon never actually uses the word in that song, but whatever, it works.)
Years after I went and saw you, I snooped in my Dad’s office and found a file with my name on it. It contained many saddening pieces of literature, including your and Mrs. Waller’s evaluations of me. Seriously, Bro, either you should have been a preschool principal or she should have been a child psychologist, because both of you really know how to make a girl cry.
You suggested I be placed in a “different” class where I could work at my own pace. You may have been right, Doctor Finch, but I’m forever thankful to my parents for not following that piece of advice. The teasing was already bad enough. Being weird? Bully bait. Getting special treatment for being weird? Bully Crack.
Anyway, thanks to all three of you for trying (if you even were.). We all try and we all fail. Just please make sure that when you try to “help” people, especially small children, you don’t turn them into messed-up adults.
*Names have been changed to ones that sound so similar I might as well have not even changed them.