Meeting the Monster

Hey everyone!

Well, today something really weird happened: I went back to high school. Now this is not the first time I’ve visited my alma mater, but it always feels strange walking the halls without obsessing over a future homework assignment. I feel a bit like a lurker half the time as I linger around classrooms, waiting for beloved teachers to have a free moment.

But today I ran into a not-so beloved teacher.

In fact, I can confidently say that this specific person made my life a living hell. For those of you familiar with my autobiography, you’ll recognize her as “Ms. T” . . . for those of you who haven’t read it, I believe I described her as a cross between Cruella De Vil and the devil.

I still stand behind that statement.

This woman told me that nobody liked me. That I had no friends. That I was immature. That even my other teachers didn’t enjoy having me in class.

This woman glared at me every single day. To the point that another student turned it into a game. He would say, “Hey Marni!” just to see how long it would take her to rebuke me.

This woman booted me out of a team photograph because I was the only person who hadn’t won an award. She made me stand awkwardly (fighting back tears) while everybody else smiled for the camera.

This woman even left me behind in a Fred Meyers in Forest Grove, Oregon. At night. And she didn’t realize I was missing until I called her from the store. She also didn’t bother getting on the bus to pick me up. She left the task of retrieving one thoroughly petrified high school freshman to the team co-captains.

So, yeah, you could say I’m not her biggest fan.

Something I made pretty clear when I wrote my autobiography. But even though Ashland is a small town, I hadn’t crossed paths with “Ms. T” since Marni was released.

It's me! Sorta . . . I mean, it's a model with my name across her face!

Until today.

I was waiting outside my AP U.S. teacher’s room when she appeared from her lair . . . I mean, classroom. Maybe I looked suspicious, since I was just listening to my music and walking in circles to pass the time.

Regardless, she asked if I needed something and I explained that I was waiting for Mr. H and I think that’s when recognition kicked in.

She asked if she could have a minute to speak with me. The last time we had a private chat it began with the aforementioned string of insults and ended with me sobbing hysterically into the phone as I begged my mom to pick me up from school (I was too emotionally devastated to walk up my hill. That may sound overdramatic, but it’s the truth).

So I wasn’t exactly bubbling over with enthusiasm at the thought of another heart-to-heart, even eight years later.

But I couldn’t help wondering what she was going to say. I knew that she had heard about my autobiography and I braced myself for a lecture. For the showdown of the century.

But instead she said that she heard about the book and that other people told her it was all lies . . . so she hadn’t bothered to read it. And then she said: I truly hope, from the bottom of my heart, that someday you realize none of it happened.

Which is laughable really. I mean, for starters: somebody told her that what I wrote about a private conversation between the two of us was a lie?

Um, how would anybody know that?

Then there’s that one other pesky little detail, what was it again? Oh right.

I told the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.

Then there was that other funny part. You know, where she says none of it actually happened. Really? Because I’m pretty sure it did. I know I’ve got a good imagination but I tend to have a very accurate memory. Just like I remember talking with other kids “Ms. T” has singled out to destroy over the years.

They all had similar experiences to mine, actually.

So . . . no. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my memory.

But that didn’t stop her from yammering on about how she wished me nothing but the best and how she really hoped, for my sake, that someday I would realize how wrong I was.

Here’s the cool part: I didn’t care.

All that power she had over me in high school was gone. It was as if she had snared me with an Imperious curse and it wasn’t until now that I could see beyond it. She went from being, quite literally, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (or less formally, You-Know-Who) to being just a woman.

Even Voldemort can lose the scare factor!

Do I still think she’s probably a horrible person who continues to emotionally abuse some of her students?

Yes.

Do I wish the school administration had taken action when I told them exactly what I had experienced?

Hell yes.

I know what you’re thinking:

Am I right? Worst teacher ever! (Spoiler alert!) I know some people like him, but I just don't see how his desire to get it on with Harry's mom is in any way redeeming. Sorry.

But the funny part is that if it hadn’t been for her, I never would have become an author. The whole reason I started writing in high school was because I needed a way to process all the toxic things she had said/done to me. I needed an outlet, a way to transform real life into something more bearable.

And here I am.

She no longer has power over me. She doesn’t grade my work and she certainly can’t get away with telling me that nobody likes me. I mean, theoretically, she could . . . but I would laugh in her face. I’m not that petrified young girl now. I don’t have to answer to her. Frankly, the only person I still have to answer to is my own conscience, which does a pretty god job of steering me in the right direction.

So hopefully my inner demons will be as easy to vanquish as this particular outer demon.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with bullying, high school bloodsuckers, or power struggles. Actually, I’d love to hear whatever you want to share! So I hope you’ll leave a comment below. I think hearing other people’s struggles can really help people (especially those whom are currently struggling with a nasty hellbeast) feel less alone.

Sincerely,

Marni

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6 thoughts on “Meeting the Monster

  1. Holy crap! I can’t believe you had to go through that! That’s the worst teacher story I’ve ever heard. I had some boring teachers, and some incompetent teachers, but never an intentionally oppressive one.

    Bullying, on the other hand, I did suffer from. The worst was in seventh grade. The locker to my left was an eighth-grader’s, and the doors opened left-to-right. He would open his all the way so it was blocking my locker, and say I couldn’t touch it or he’d hit me. With two minutes between classes, I did a lot of rushing to get to class on time. The other one I remember from that year was the guy who punched me in the shoulder every time he passed me in the hallway — because I’d glanced at him once. We’d been taking standardized tests, and I was in the corner of the room, so when I finished the first test, I turned around to have something to look at besides the wall. I happened to make eye contact with him, and he said, “what are you looking at?” That’s what started the shoulder-punching. And he had a sidekick who would do a follow-up punch.

    Even at the time, I knew how idiotic the whole thing was, which helped me get through it.

    I think that was the year I argued with my best friend over how to respond to bullying. He thought the best thing to do was to show them they were hurting him. I thought he was nuts because it sure looked to me like they wanted to hurt us. In retrospect, I think whatever helps you get through it is fine.

    • I completely agree with you! I brought it to the administration’s attention but nothing happened. Thankfully she will be retiring soon. I wish I could have done more to stop her but frankly, it was my word against hers. And in high school that meant I was screwed. It’s kinda cool knowing that I got the last word in print though. 😀

      ~Marni

  2. Hey, Marni, how are you? This is Hunter, you know, that somewhat geeky guy in the black sweatshirt that you signed a copy of Awkward for. I wanted to first, thank you for the book and offer my compliments on creating an intensely awkward main character, and second, ask who Ms. T/Devil Woman was. It wight be a good idea for me to avoid her classes. Thanks for both!

    • Hey Hunter!

      I had a wonderful time speaking with you! I’m so glad you enjoyed meeting me too. I wish I could reveal Ms. T’s evil identity, but I can’t for lawsuit reasons. Everything I wrote was an accurate portrayal of my experience with her . . . but that doesn’t mean a libel or slander suit doesn’t have me on edge. So I suggest you look really closely at the Cruella de Ville picture. It’s scary how accurate it is (minus the smoking). And I can tell you that she no longer uses “T” as her last initial. Best of luck navigating the perilous walls of Ashland High School. If it helps, I was one of the biggest geeks of my class. And I turned out okay. I’m sure you will too!

      Sincerely,
      Marni

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