I may well have told this story before. It sticks out in my mind as one of the weirder incidents in my childhood, one where clearly I symbolized something quite specific to the person targeting me. I never did figure out why I was the one who held a certain “meaning.” I only know that when my 5th grade teacher felt negative about something, she took it out on me.
She was reading out loud about sharks. I remember that much. In some passage, she described how sharks snapped up their prey – and the girl sitting next to me began demonstrating with hand motions. I didn’t want to disrupt class and laugh out loud, so I just pressed my lips closed and smiled.
After the lesson, the teacher was in a full-on rage. “What were you smirking about?”
I explained that there were visual aids. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but somehow, I lost recess time and got called a liar because I dared to smile. The message: don’t smile. Don’t show emotion at all. If you show any sign of humanity or enjoyment, you will be punished. What’s really messed up is that this woman seemed to think she held some kind of place of honor with me, and expected some sort of homage when I visited the elementary school on band tours. I was friends with the son of one of the other teachers she worked with – my friend’s mother refused to believe that she would do something so ridiculous to a child.
But I remember.
Years later a corporate bully/boss type also complained when I expressed my feelings. She said it upset my coworkers. This was after a coworker screamed at me for simply breaking bad news to her. The boss was demoted after a notorious breakdown in the middle of a meeting. The boss after her, who I liked quite well, took me aside and said, “It would really help if I knew how you felt about things.”