6th Grade Classmate: “Do you have a nickname?”
12 Year Old Me: “Yeah, it’s Slim.”
6th Grade Classmate: “Other kids call you Slim?”
12 Year Old Me: “Yes. I’m known for being very slender. It’s my best feature.”
That was me, at 12 years of age, in the 6th grade. I was 4’6″ tall (137cm), and weighed 125 lbs (56kg or roughly 8.9 stone). For those of you keeping count, that is not slender, that is overweight. When I was 12, you could see my tummy poking through my button down shirt.
Oh, and my nickname wasn’t Slim. I didn’t have a nickname, but I decided on the spot that Slim would make a good nickname for a fat kid, and so I used it for a few days before I tossed it. I later changed it to “Metalpants, boy wonder.” Nicknames are a fickle thing, and my tastes just as much.
When I was in high school, it was the day of Senior games, where class Seniors (4th year students) spent the day playing games for prizes, and just goofing off, since Summer was coming and we were graduating in a week. We were split off into teams (we were allowed to choose our teammates), and I was made Team Captain for our little group. So Team Spaceball, as we were known, had a quandary: The wheelbarrow race was next and we hadn’t chosen participants. I was going to suggest the two taller people in the group, but it ended up being myself and my friend Paul.
Paul was 6’4″, and I was 5’6″ (I didn’t hit my growth spurt until I was 20). Guess who ended up being the wheelbarrow? If you said “not you, the shortest guy,” you are correct. Instead, Paul was the wheelbarrow, and I had to carry him. Now, if you think about this, you realize that an optimum layout is to have the taller person hold the legs of the shorter person, because it gives the driver more leverage and they can move faster. Well, our strategy was this: No one was going to expect the short guy to drive the taller one.
The strategy was brilliant. No one expected it at all, and it kept them off-balance as we lined up at the starting markers. The starter pistol was fired, and we were off. I tell you, I’ve never ran so fast in all of my life. We were amazing. We were unstoppable. We came in dead last, and then I tripped over Paul’s long legs, and down we went. People laughed. Success. 🙂
I was never actually the class clown in school. I was always the straight-laced
student. I was kind to people, and I always had an ear for anyone who wanted to talk, but all the funny stuff was left up to others. I did my work, and I did it well. Even when my career path became muddy, when my academic future died on the vine, my sense of humor kept me going.
It has been 19 years since I graduated high school. My friends have all moved on. I may see a familiar face here and there. Recently, I discovered that one of my old school acquaintances is now a manager at a restaurant, and she actually smiled when she saw me! She remembered me, which was nice. After all of this time, I like to think that I left a positive imprint on others. Also, she’s still cute as hell. Seriously, she’s only gotten better looking since we were in high school together. Alas, she’s married.
Anyway, even with the occasional familiar face, most people have either settled in around where we used to go to school, or they hightailed it for distant states and countries to find a better life. So even in loneliness my sense of humor buoys me, or at least tries. Sometimes no amount of humor can fix loneliness, and so I just deal with it the best I can.
You know in action movies where the hero is being held at gunpoint, or some such situation, and he or she tosses out some kind of quip to lighten the tension? Yeah, that’s me. Not the action hero part. I mean, hell, I’ve tripped over nothing while walking across the floor. What I mean is that even if someone were about to kill me, I would have something to say, something sarcastic, humorous, or irreverent, because while most of me deals with anger, anxiety, depression, paranoia, indecisiveness, worry, fear, and loneliness, my sense of humor honestly does not give a shit.
I have the kind of humor that respects no authority. No one is too high and mighty to hear a joke. My poor mother has stared at me aghast when I told her that if heaven ends up being real, and God has me standing in front of him ready to judge me for my life, I was going to start with a joke, and not just any witticism, but a “there was a young lady from Venus” joke.
Why? Because why not? The only stalwart defense against fear that I have is my humor. Keeping my mind coherent is such a chore, it is very difficult. Keeping things functioning without falling apart is a monstrous task, but I get through it. Day by day, because my sense of humor, dark as it has become, helps me cope. It has literally saved my life at least half a dozen times, and that’s no joke.
6th Grade Classmate: “Do you have a nickname?”