When I was in Grade 4, we had to write a list of instructions for how to make something. The teacher used “Building a Go-kart” as an example. This just happened to be my obsession at the time. It’s how I spent all my off hours with the neighbourhood boys – I was in grade 4 after all. 😉
I painstakingly wrote out the instructions, step by step, so someone would be able to create their own Go-Kart. I was really proud of my knowledge. I gave alternatives, and told people where they might be able to find old cast off parts and such. I did a really, really good job of it.
When it came time to read them out to the class, Sharon, a very girly-girl who sat in the first row, second seat began with:
“Today, I am telling you how to build a Go-Kart!”
She went on to talk about cutting glass for the windshield and metal for the doors. Other kids were snickering, because she obviously didn’t know what she was talking about. No kid would be cutting glass or metal for a Go-Kart!
I sat in the second row, 4th seat – yes, this is a very vivid memory, one of my most vivid – and soon it was my turn. I was full of nervous excitement but I knew all the other kids would be impressed with my instructions. I was an obvious expert in contrast to girly Sharon. I began proudly:
“Here are my instructions for how to build a Go-Kart!”
The bully boy, Gary, who sat at the very back, let out a loud groan, and some of the kids snickered. It put me off a bit, but I knew my stuff. I’d show them! I went through going to home building sites – we lived in a new subdivision where there were all sorts of leftover items – to pick up 2×4’s for the front and back axles, plywood for the body and seat, and rope for the steering pull. The toughest part for a kid who didn’t have parents funding the project, was getting the wheels. I ended up getting two of mine from the boy across the road, and the other two from an old shopping cart we found down in a ravine.
The snickering stopped, and kids were listening, and I felt I had them, until I got to carpet. Everybody in my neighbourhood was in a new house and so we all had leftover carpet remnants. That’s what we used to cover all the wood parts. I guess the kids from the older neighbourhood up the hill just had bare bones Go-Karts or something because Gary let out a large splutter “CARPET! That’s as stupid as glass! Girls can’t make Go-Carts!” and the class erupted in laughter.
I was humiliated and frustrated. I knew my stuff, but now they all saw me in the same light as girly Sharon! I sat down in defeat. I thought the teacher might come to my defense, but instead she seemed to agree with him. “It may have been a better idea to write about something you know about Tracey.” she said, looking down her long nose, from over-top her Cats-eye glasses.
Not long after, it came to Gary’s turn, and I remember hoping he’d fail abysmally. He began with a look of triumph directed right at me. He didn’t even look down at the page as he stated loudly:
“How a BOY makes a REAL Go-Kart!”
The class erupted in laughter, as I sank down into my seat. I remember his steps were impeccable, and he never included glass or carpet. His “REAL” Go-Cart was instead painted in red with a yellow racing stripe down the side. The class didn’t laugh or snicker, and the teacher, probably in amazement that he’d even done the assignment – he was the class bad boy after all – even clapped and said “Well done Gary!”
All I wanted was for this horrible day to be over, but Gary wasn’t about to let me off the hook. After the bell went off, he followed me out of the class, and down the stairs, tormenting me all the way. Once we were outside, he followed me over to my bike. I was so angry I couldn’t remember my combination and my fingers kept messing up.
“Stupid girl can’t even unlock her own bike!” He snorted, and I turned on him, right arm pulling back, and swinging out wildly at him, as my left came out to follow, both connecting with his face.
“FIGHT! FIGHT!” I heard someone yell, as Gary looked at me, in shock. Then his face hardened as he swung out at me, connecting with my body. It quickly turned into a sort of messed up wrestle as we both tried to push the other one over. Suddenly, I felt a hand grabbing me, pulling me off. I looked up into the angry face of the Principal. He had one hand on me, and the other on Gary.
“Both of you in my office! Now!” he commanded, before marching us back towards the school. The sea of kids parted ways, making way for us to get past, watching us go, eyes wide with excitement.
Once in the office, the Principal pointed me towards one chair and Gary to one on the other side of the room. He didn’t say a word to us. He asked the secretary to pull up the phone numbers of our parents. Now we knew we were really in for it.
My Mother likes to tell the story from this bit on, as she relates how she was told I’d beaten up on a poor little boy and given him a bleeding nose. She raced to the school, expecting to see a boy half my size there, and was shocked to find he was so much bigger than I. As soon as Gary’s parents showed up, he broke down in tears. I knew I was in for it too, but there was no way I was going to cry then and there. That would come later. For now, all I could do was watch as the toughest, meanest boy in the school sat there with blood drying on his upper lip and tears streaking his cheeks.
As an adult, I know violence isn’t the answer, but damn if it didn’t feel like a big win for me that day. If my life had been a movie, I would have strutted out of the Principal’s office and called back over my shoulder, “That’s how a GIRL does it Gary!”