One afternoon as we drank kool-aid and ate crackers at Sharon’s dining room table after a day at school, she came up with what seemed like a truly innovative idea.
“You know how all the mean kids are always calling kids like us goody-two-shoes?”
I nodded knowingly, crunching my Ritz with peanut butter.
“Well,” she said, “I think we should come up with a name for them.” Pausing for effect, she unveiled the scathing new term: “‘Bad-dy Bats!’ You know, because they’re bad.”
Obviously, we were not the coolest kids in the class.
Sharon and I were the sort of kids who were always more amused with things like puns and wordplay than sneaking away from our parents or accidentally breaking things. The most vivid memories I have of our friendship usually revolve around repeating new words or phrases until they formed Da-Da-esque strings of syllables that made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt (examples include “fjord,” the aforementioned “empty cat…” and the similarity of “M” and “B” sounds in the presence of sinus congestion). So I think it was more than a little confusing to both of us when we started getting hints of the world’s more salacious or shocking elements–which, interestingly enough, we encountered not so much through TV or public school (or anything else that’s typically held up as a site of child-corruption ), but through awkward–and at times, pretty inappropriate!–interactions with other kids at our Unnamed Religious Private School.
There was, of course, the bra-snapping. Though I, as the latest of bloomers, was entirely exempt from this experience. Still, my wide-eyed ignorance of all things regarding sexuality was to be troubled, perhaps fittingly, by the same duo Sharon mentions in her post: Scott and Melissa. I’ve already mentioned one such incident, in which Scott demanded (and somehow received) a sort of PG-rated group Porn-For-the-Blind performance. As if this weren’t enough, there was the time when he tricked me into looking under his desk–through the very sneaky method of asking me to–only to see him holding a yellow #2 pencil up against his crotch, as a(n apparently very skinny!) phallic stand-in. This was weird, but not nearly so weird as the event at Melissa’s house, which I will refer to hereafter as “The Closet Incident.”*
Melissa’s family was extremely wealthy. Living in a gated community, in a house I remember as a Southern mansion (complete with white columns), they often magnanimously took every girl in the class to upper-crust outings around town–to their community’s private pool, to the Junior League’s Christmas decoration sale, to a magical place with a backwards-running conveyor-belt mountain, where even those of us whose families couldn’t afford trips to Aspen could experience the feeling of skiing…if, that is, skiing were like riding on a carpeted conveyor belt. Her mother was young and beautiful, and her father used to wear a (very) short silk robe while reading the morning papers.
One time when I spent the night at Melissa’s house, we were playing with her two younger sisters in a tiny closet play-room that opened out of a 3-foot-high door in the corner of her beautiful bedroom. I believe that Barbies were somehow involved, but I don’t recall the specifics. The important thing is that whatever pretend event we were engaged in creating somehow took a bit of a turn, and Melissa accused her sister (or her pretend identity? ) of riding on motorcycles with strange boys.
The argument began to escalate:
“Oh yeah? Well you kiss boys!”
“Ewwwww! Shut up!”
“No, you! You kiss boys! You looooove kissing boys!”
“Well, you know what? You let boys kiss you on the butt!!!”
As soon as she said it, we all knew what was coming. I felt my body getting hot, and I wanted to hide…but in the Tiny Closet, there was nowhere to go. I hid my giggling, mortified face behind a Barbie.
“I’M TELLING,” bellowed Cindy, the youngest sister. Before any of us could do anything to stop her, she was out of the closet and running to find her parents. My heart pounded, and I could hear her tiny feet racing down the dramatic entrance-hall staircase. For a moment I hoped that Melissa’s mom and dad would be asleep already, or trying on new silk robes. It was not to be.
Quicker than I thought was possible, Cindy was back upstairs with her parents in tow. They demanded that Melissa and her other sister come out to own up to what they’d ‘done’…meanwhile, I hid in the little closet. Once the terrible story was confirmed, Melissa and I were instructed to go directly to bed, while the middle sister was taken downstairs to reap what her actions had sown: a mouth “washed out” with soap. I don’t know what happened after that, but I remember, as I lay in one of Melissa’s two twin beds with matching pink quilts, hearing Melissa try to bargain with her mother in the darkness: “You know, mom, I understand now how bad it was for me to say that. I don’t think I need the soap anymore.” Her mother only replied “Mmmm hmmm.”
I assume that Melissa must have eventually gotten the soap…it appeared to me then that nothing she could possibly say would result in a reprieve. She had mentioned that which must not be named, and from this there was no escape. For my part, I lay awake for hours, agonizing over whether I would be rousted in the middle of the night for my own soapy treatment, or whether Melissa’s parents would tell mine what “we” had done the next day. What would I say? What was there to say? I had no idea what Melissa’s butt-kissing accusation meant in the first place (and I have my doubts about whether she did either), so defending against it was a rather difficult proposition.
I decided, in the end, to say nothing–and if push came to shove, to invoke Sharon’s as-yet-untested moniker. What could one expect, after all, from these Nouveaux Riche derelicts, these country club hooligans…these “Bad-dy Bats”?
These, I submit, are the things I learned in private school–that is, if you don’t count the rules for celebrating The Devil’s Birthday.
*NOTE: This is not to be confused with ‘The Lesbian Closet Incident,’ to be reported in conjunction with Sharon’s upcoming Lesbian-related post.