I was in fifth grade, Mrs. Latendresse’s class, Room 5 at Westlake Elementary School. My family had moved to town right in the middle of my fifth grade year. For the first couple of weeks, I cried myself to sleep thinking of my lost friends and old haunts, of Scott the Mormon and Eric Christiansen and how we used to pretend we were the Three Investigators. Now in a new town I had to meet new friends. And I did. Another Scott. But this one came with a bully.

I liked Scott. He seemed fun and he liked hanging out with me, invited me over to his house. It was there that I first saw Michael Jackson’s iconic Pepsi commercial, the one where his hair caught on fire. Several weeks into our friendship the bully showed up. His name was Greg. He called Scott “Puff” because Scott had puffy hair that was fun to touch. Greg called me “Pickens” because he liked to pick on me, and I let him.

I went to my parents to ask for help. “Greg is always calling me a ‘woman’,” I told them.
My mom, aghast, said, “The next time he says that, look right into his eyes and say, ‘So is your mother!’”
“He pushes me too,” I said.
“Have you tried pushing him back?,” my dad said. Now I was aghast. Was my dad, the Christian minister, telling me to push someone?

I decided to give it a try. The next day, during recess on the blacktop, Greg pushed me. I pushed him back. He looked stunned, then punched me as hard as he could in my shoulder. He never touched me again.

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