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Dear Hank

(As a reminder to those of you who are not Hank, Hank slammed me pretty hard yesterday. You’ll need to read his comment for this reply to make sense.)

Dear Hank,

I’m pleased to know you don’t hold a grudge, but it leads me to wonder how much nastier you could have been if a grudge were part of the equation.

You call me “useless,” and I can’t deny it. The fact is, my uses are few. The best I can muster is that I’m a competent breakfast cook, a licensed driver, and a nearly-adequate installer of ceramic tile. I don’t even know any card tricks.

As for my being like unto “road kill,” everyone knows that roadkill spurs pity, not contempt. (That poor raccoon!) Perhaps, then, my squashed-mammal presence was a solemn reminder of your own mortality – there but for the grace of Michelin go thou.

Yes, I was obnoxious, loud and rude and mean to everyone, but that you understand.  Apparently I crossed the line when I “took every opportunity to be a douchebag.” Does that mean there are obnoxious, rude, loud teenagers who see an opportunity to be a douchebag and don’t take it? What good is it to be obnoxious, loud, and mean if you turn up your nose at a perfectly serviceable douchebag-being opportunity?

All sarcasm aside, this is why it’s very hard to take your criticism with any degree of seriousness – it’s all snark and no specificity. I can’t think of anything I could have possibly done to you to merit such a Captain Ahab-esque bile screed twenty-eight years after the fact. I assume that in the decades since we last met, worse things have happened to you than being teased by me for a few months in 1986. (If not, then congratulations on your charmed life.)

So when bad things happen to you, do you always lash out like this?

“Triple A was twenty minutes late to jump my car battery –  damn them, their demon spawn, and their douchebag-being livestock!”

I am not surprised, however, to learn that I was “nothing but a ‘negative’ to everyone and everything.”  Truth is, I was shunned both by people and inanimate objects. Not only did I have no friends, but even the furniture hated me.  The silver lining is that Neil Diamond’s complaint in “I Am, I Said” about chairs not listening to him makes more sense.

You lose me when you start going off on my “dubious” writing skills, as people who write “you’re platitudes” when they mean “your platitudes” really don’t hold the literary high ground, as it were.

Incidentally, and also tangentially, how did you find this dubiously written blog in the first place? Why would you seek out someone to whom you’ve given no thought at all who writes like an ape?

I have done you no bodily harm, I don’t owe you any money, and I haven’t published any compromising photographs. (Yet.)  And still your rage endures like a thirty-year-old canker sore.

Fact is, this is now officially your problem, Slick, and not mine.

Please know I don’t hate you. I’m not even mad at you. And I think you have talent! (You were an especially good fencer in “Desdemona,” and I’m sure you’ve only gotten better with age.) I’ve actually gotten something of a kick out of this. Anytime you want to call a truce, I’m in.  I have no interest in extended this animus any further beyond its expiration date.

But the fact remains that while I readily admit I was kind of a jerk thirty years ago, you’ve made it clear to everyone that can read English that you’re kind of a jerk now.

I think I got the better end of that deal.



On Being Hated: Seven Years Later
A Prequel Rant

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  1. I’m not sure it is socially acceptable to laugh out loud, but there you have it. Your writing skill is sharp while at the same time not malicious; a possibly rare combination of talents.

    I think back on my high school days. The people that were bullying *me* I have not thought much about; more curious than anything to find out if after 30 years they’d amounted to anything by attending a high school reunion. The guy that punched me in the stomach and threw my books in the toilet, undeniably a bully, seems not to have succeeded in life and I feel pity rather than a desire for revenge.

    As for me, I don’t remember teasing anyone although I’m told that I did. One of the meanest things I ever did was take advantage of my younger brother; he’d gotten a $5 note for his birthday and I offered him three $1’s and he thought he was getting an amazingly good deal — three for one! He still remembers it and so do I. I think I eventually gave him $5 to make up for it, although with inflation it would probably now take $50.

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      Since getting these comments, I’ve wracked my brains trying to remember any specific things that I did to offend Hank or Sheila. I asked my friends in the KOTC Facebook group if they could recall any specific acts of perfidy that I may have committed, and one girl reminded me that I once told Hank that he had “a truck in his eye.”

      That doesn’t make any sense at all, which means I probably said it.

  2. I re-read the stack of comments on Order of the Arrow. I never was OA, in fact, I’m not even sure I reached First Class Scout. Despite that, I hiked the 100 miler across the High Sierra — one of only two boys in my Explorer post that actually did something — and have been active in Scouting these past ten years in part to help others NOT have the bad experiences I did. While I feel in a way it is a losing battle, I don’t want the failure to be “on my watch”.

    Hazing *can* be important. It stands in lieu of natural tribulations that bond people together in mutual helpfulness. Hazing just one person serves no purpose whatsoever. Giving a *group* of people some sort of challenge (think “ropes” courses) stimulates problem solving abilities and creates pride when the problem is solved.

    I went through some pretty rigorous hazing in the U.S. Navy. Some of it (well, most of it) was just plain stupid — but the point is that 200 people already of the rank of chief watched carefully what I would do ABOUT it. Meet the challenge or burst into tears? Since I was the computer geek, I was heavily disrespected from the start, and this was my big opportunity to surprise a large group with my character, courage and imagination. When the candidates were being fed kim-chee pineapple and they were all grimacing at the horrible taste, I ate it and asked for more! I’m not sure I was properly hazed since in my case it didn’t always work.

    Some of that hazing is a test of initiative and innate leadership skill. I’m very weak on persuading others but no problem leading myself. When four of us were told to march in a large cardboard box, as soon as the chiefs left, I hopped out of the box. The other three said, “They didn’t say we could get out!” and I said, “they also did not say we could NOT. The choice of when to get out of the box is with me and I choose right now.”

    I’m not sure and don’t care all that much what it communicated to others that were watching. But ever since I have found a new confidence in myself. I learned about ME. As it happens I did also gain some respect in the others which was useful at times.

    • My O of A induction now makes me chuckle rather than cringe. Sure, I had a bad Scouting experience, but I’ve lived to fight another day. I now have 13-year-old twin boys who absolutely love Scouting, and I am the assistant Webelos leader in my ward.

      • Bad scouting is spending all available time in a small room with disruptive boys that don’t want to be there. Good scouting is outdoors with a leader that loves and respects wilderness and boys that wanted to be there. When I was troop committee chairman, I reminded boys they were *volunteers* and perfectly free to not be there. It made a big difference in their behavior having to make a choice and be responsible for it.