Kindergarten was a magical time of recess, naps on colorful personal rugs, snacks, coloring outside the lines, making new friends and more recess. I learned the most important lesson of all during recess, that boys are stupid and gross.
Even at a young age I hung out with the dudes; they always had the most fun at recess with games of ball tethering, dodging and kicking and various forms of chasing each other around the grounds. One day I was on the sideline waiting for my turn in an epic kick ball battle, leaning against the rail fence that partitioned off our playground from the parking lot, when my teammate Jimmy Lemon suddenly turned and kissed me. On the mouth! Luckily it was brief and not too slobbery. He began to walk away, turned, and proclaimed that I was now his girlfriend and headed to the plate to kick that pinkish rubber ball.
I was dumbstruck. What had just happened? I was confused but I was pretty sure whatever had happened was gross and need not be repeated. The day progressed with a dodge ball victory and no further contact with the impetuous boy.
I don’t really remember much about Jimmy Lemon, he was popular, but at this age everyone seemed to play nicely together and had not yet splintered off into various cliques. He had dark hair if I recall correctly and I seem to remember a penchant for striped shirts but I am sure that is more of a reflection on his mother’s taste than his own.
That night, still confused, I mentioned to my parents that a boy had kissed me at school and I was none too pleased by this event. Their response was mostly snickers of the “isn’t that precious” variety with very little help or insight on how to deal with the situation at hand. Useless parents.
The rest of the week had little contact with my so-called boyfriend other than a few hard dodge balls to my face; I guess that was some term of endearment to a 5-year-old boy. But everything changed during a fateful game of tag.
Jimmy was “It” so naturally he began chasing me. I was running as fast as I could, feeling the wind in my hair as I traveled at the speed of light, or sound, or more accurately a kindergartner with legs of different lengths, when I felt my ankle shift. My upper body kept moving forward and my arms instinctively reached out to grab the ground before my face planted into it, as my lower body began a decidedly downward progression. My right knee made contact first, as it usually did, and I slid along the gravel as the rest of me quickly followed suit ending with a loud, thud-like exhale as I finally came to rest in a heap.
Bloodied and tasting dirt, I quickly surveyed the landscape to see what had tripped me but I spotted no rock, no sidewalk crack, just tiny bits of gravel similar to the grains now stuck in my knees, shin and palms; this was not particularly unexpected as I often trip on phantom obstacles. I looked up and saw young Jimmy laughing gleefully as he pointed at the mess that was me. No attempt to help or offer a glimmer of sympathy, he just tagged me and proclaimed that I was now “It” and ran off. I didn’t know much about boyfriends and expectations for their behavior when a girlfriend bites the dust hard on the playground, but I was pretty sure this was a fail and our brief but educational romance was now over. Jerk.
I held back my tears and any sign of embarrassment, feigned a laugh through the pain, popped up, brushed the dirt off my dress and now shredded white-ish, thick cable tights and ran after some boys. Not Jimmy though. Jimmy could suck it and I would not give him the satisfaction of being chased.
Back in the classroom, I no longer had to use all my energy to pretend I was not hurting and could focus on my newfound distain for my first crappy ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately this focus numbed me to the feeling of the blood dripping down my leg and soaking into my tights and my determination to acting as though I was not hurt led me to brush off the teacher’s insistence that I visit the nurse.
Having little experience with ex-boyfriends I had no idea what to do with these feelings; obviously, punching him was in order but something more seemed warranted. I could kiss another boy but that would just punish me. I could pelt a few dodge balls at his head but he might interpret that as a sign of affection. Any act too physical would just get me in trouble with the teachers who seemed to have spies everywhere. The best my young brain could fathom was to ignore him, and ignore him hard!
My walk home that afternoon was rough as the dried blood and tights mixture began cracking and the wounds re-opening. When I arrived a bit later than normal, I was expecting some lunch and a relaxing sit in front of the TV with my favorite show, “Petticoat Junction,” to recover from the stressful day, but my annoying Grandmother had other ideas.
Upon seeing my injuries, she immediately ripped my torn tights off my bloodied legs taking the barely formed scabs at the same time. I am certain I screamed and more certain I thought many nasty words directed towards her with a few strays toward Jimmy. She lectured me on my irresponsibility for tights ruination and scolded me for my rough play. She sat me on the hard edge of the tub and began scrubbing my palms and legs; I swear she was using a steel wool pad to get the job done.
Once all the gravel was gone and everything was raw, she pulled out her tweezers and began plucking the random threads that remained stubbornly imbedded until she was satisfied that the wound was clean to her standards. Sadly she was not done. She then poured liquid torture on all my injuries explaining that this would prevent an infection that I was certain would be less painful if it arrived.
I finally got my lunch and television time and was able to relax and reflect on my terrible day and what I meant to do about it. Sure, my Grandmother was pretty awful in her treatment but what could I actually do about that. She was old, she was in charge, she bought me Barbies, she was immune. Technically the tripping was my fault but it would be years before I would mature enough to embrace my own clumsy dorkiness; someone had to be blamed for my pain and agony and that someone was my crappy now ex-boyfriend.
My young, tiny, sweet brain was not able to devise a proper revenge plot for the boy that stole a kiss and then laughed at my fall, but I was able to ignore him completely and shun every attempt he made at reconnecting.
Yes, recess taught me that boys are stupid and gross; unfortunately, it is a lesson I would forget and learn repeatedly. But, as my brain got older and a bit less sweet, revenge plots become more sophisticated than merely just ignoring them hard; I still haven’t implemented one, so far the imagining is satisfaction enough. So far.