I want to tell you about my friend in middle school named Scott. He was kind of a dick in hindsight, but he was also really fucking cool. You know how your friends in eighth grade named Scott were.
On the first day of eighth grade Scott asked me if I was homeless or just regular poor because my shoes had holes in them. They were Adidas, and I liked them a whole lot more than my other pair of shoes—hand-me-down Oakley shoes, you know, like the pair of douche sunglasses you see white guys wear on their hats—and I sure as shit wasn’t going to spend my first day of public school trying to explain that the shoes were hand-me-downers and extremely comfortable, not that I was already a fucking asshole at age 13. So, I wore the shoes with holes in them.
I was homeschooled up to eighth grade, by the way. My older sister had a learning disability and my mom decided it was best to educate her one-on-one, but I was thrown into that deal because of convenience and because if you ask a child if they want to stay in their pajamas all day and play Mario Kart in the afternoons when other kids are learning about science, they’re not going to pick science.
In school, people called me pimple-face, faggot, BenGay, Bendover, and retard. I got jumped, my gym teacher made me do pushups because he thought I was pretending to not know how to use a locker, and the bus driver politely asked me to leave her alone and to sit with the other kids. It was fucking hard at first, and I thought I was alone in feeling alone–and I was, and we all are, but only because everyone just needs to figure it out for themselves.
I also grew up very much aligned with a South Texas Pentecostal church, which meant my favorite time of the week was long-ass Wednesday Night Revival services, when I could socialize with people my own age while parents were commanded to speak in tongues, often literally for hours. Eventually, I could even just get up and walk around outside, because all the adults were too busy dealing with Holy Spirit things. As far as I knew up to that point, we were the only kids that had not participated in the Holy Spirit, or simply walked around at a church, ever.
And those things may even be true, and that’s fine if they are, but you don’t want people guessing them immediately, but they will anyway, because they can just tell you spend 7 hours a day sitting at a table with your Mom. It’s just a whole lot of people guessing that you don’t know how to take a standardized test and you probably jerk off to Lord of The Rings movies–the second one, because you’re a gross weird monster.
I wouldn’t recommend growing up homeschooled and kind of poor and extremely conservative and Christian. Most of my extended family did just that too though, and they are all still fucked up because they never got to leave it behind. It’s not the hardest road out there, but it stacks the deck a little bit.
I was lucky to experience terrible middle school things because they prepared me for terrible high school, college, and life things. I eventually learned that the Da Vinci Code won’t send you to hell but Tom Hanks’ hair might; I met a kid named Moses that had a big nose and was called “Noses” instead of Moses. I also met a kid named Zaid that is still the funniest person I have ever met, but initially, I was taught to fear him because he and his family were Muslim.
Like any other homeschooler, I got my first girlfriend the second week of public school and she was very forward and terrifying. I just didn’t know what to do with her, so she broke up with me after like a week. But she and that friend, Scott? They let me sit next to them once while they made out, and it was the exact moment I knew I’d maybe eventually be OK.
Written by: Ben Wiese
Images by: Coco