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“Aw. You don’t seem so bad now.”

Yeah. That’s because I’m funnier than Dane Cook. You should see my funny parody of him being un-funny.

Heh, TMZ posted his Tweet on Michael Jackson’s death. Wow, now I understand why Dane Cook is so irresistible:

I’m dedicating my show 2night to Michael Jackson. THRILLER got me laid. Well… At least thats what I told my friends.

OMG!!!!1!!1! ROTFLMAO!!!1! dane ur soo hottt & soo hilar, i wanna b w/ u 2nite do u wear ed hrdy & deisel jeasn???

Now that I’m finished ragging on some guy I don’t know, whose career I’m only marginally familiar with, and his fanbase…

The History of Not-So-Badness

I wasn’t a ham. Wasn’t extraverted. Wasn’t a chatterbox. Wasn’t attention-seeking. Yet I was a funny kid. So, it’s not surprising that I ended up with a case of literary kookiness. In retrospect, it’s easy to see where it came from.

I learned to read at a very young age, which may have contributed to my development in how I interpreted the world around me. Perhaps I attached greater meaning/feeling to words because I could read sentences, comprehend context and make additional associations during the time when a child’s brain is able to sponge immeasurable amounts of information. Ironically, I don’t think what I just said made any sense.

Not only could I read and hear and write words– I could also DO things with them!

I was constantly writing, making up stories. I had intense interest in uncovering and revealing the “story” about items that I was attached to. For example, when I was 5 years old, I wrote “lyrics” about objects around the house that I liked: angel figurines, my brother’s Hess truck. In my head, I devised a tune to accompany what I’d thoughtfully printed on a hotel paperbook– there were tons of these around the house, as my dad traveled a lot for his job. They were the perfect size for my germinating journalism. Without an audience, I’d gaze upon my work and hum the songs to myself.

I wrote and illustrated my own “books”: bound with either staples or string, copyright symbol and all. I still have them. Except one– I threw it away after discovering, by the time 80% of it was written, that I’d misspelled a central word throughout.

Oh yeah, it was all tea and peace pipes

Oh yeah, it was all tea and peace pipes

In Kindergarten, I won through county level for the Mosaic writing contest. It was for a story titled “My Favorite Helper,” about a family friend of ours who was a chiropractor (complete with illustration of subject). What Kindergartener writes about THAT?! Shouldn’t my favorite helper have been a teacher, parent, police officer or fireman? I guess my unconventional choice amused judges.

Peggy Parish, the author of the Amelia Bedelia book series, presented me with an award at the countywide ceremony. I also got a hardcover, signed copy of Amelia Bedelia. That was the coolest part. I didn’t understand the importance of what I’d accomplished.

Peggy, me and my stick legs

Peggy, me, my stick legs, and some poor flower.

That same year, another story of mine was included in a school literary publication (can’t remember offhand what it was called). It was an introspective piece on my desired adulthood occupation. I wanted to work at McDonald’s (complete with illustration of myself in uniform). If that didn’t pan out, I’d be my mother’s maid. Looks like I might get my wish– I’m unemployed and not having luck with the job hunt, and my mom hasn’t really had to clean her house in 15 years.

In 1st grade, as a new student at Gwinn Oaks Elementary mid-way through the year, I got bored during class and wrote out the Pledge of Allegiance (complete with American flag illustration, all 50 stars). Mrs. Orr whisked it away. The next day, the Gifted Program (FOCUS) teacher, Ms. Halverson, poked her head in my classroom to take me away. This was weird, because I was already in the Gifted Program at my previous school. Yet I seem to remember the Pledge of Allegiance event being the impetus to my inclusion in FOCUS at Gwinn Oaks. If that wasn’t it, maybe it was because I was the only 1st grader who privately wondered if my teacher was related to Benjamin Orr (too much MTV).  Maybe it was a coincidence and my day to begin attending FOCUS anyway.

In 3rd grade, a friend and I collaborated on a story for the Media Contest. We both wrote the story. I illustrated it using color markers. We knew well enough to construct each page on one side of paper, because the marker would bleed through. Yet we still wanted it to look like a “real” book. So after completing the pages, we glued the backsides of them together. We turned in our book. Unbeknownst to us, a para-pro thought she would “help” and laminated our pages. Which heated the glue. Which caused the colors to run. Which ruined the book. Which pissed me off. My friend and I didn’t authorize any outside “help.” No one asked us. I felt like the work I put into that project was wasted.

One day, Mrs. Nardone made me read some chapters from a Beverly Cleary book to the class– I think it was Beezus and Ramona. I was the only student that year to perform this task. I wonder how many of my classmates hated me. This must’ve been after the Media Contest.

Fourth through 8th grades were The Spelling Bee Years. Embarrassing, performance anxiety, dorky, not really trying, not really caring. I remember the word that eliminated me in 7th grade. I had to spell celery. “Celery, that’s easy,” I thought. “I know what celery is, so I don’t need to ask for it in a sentence.” Onstage, into a microphone, in front of the entire 7th grade, I spelled celery. From afar, I saw Mrs. Reavis’s face fall, and her shoulders collapsed. What did I do wrong? We never talked about it. It didn’t occur to me until many years later that… damn Southern accents not spoken in my household… I was supposed to spell salary.

But Mrs. Reavis loved me. She loved me so much that she coddled me when I didn’t need it or want it. I know why she did this: she knew my parents were recently divorced, she knew what was going on in my life… so she assumed I needed extra-special, sensitive care. Like on the day I ended up owning her ass.

We had a fun assignment for Language Arts- now I recognize it as an exercise in argumentative writing. We were given choices of places where we would like to take a hypothetical field trip:
– Six Flags
– White Water
– a park
– a concert

Then we’d divide into groups, brainstorm reasons, write a convincing one-page paper on why we should be able to take a field trip to our desired place, and present it to the class. “Well, I’ve already been to Six Flags, White Water and a park,” I logically thought. “I love music and have never been to a concert. So that’s where I want to go.” Most people convened to the Six Flags group; the next largest was White Water; two people chose the park; I was the only one who wanted to rock out. That didn’t bother me, though– I could have total control of my essay. I happily began my work.

Some minutes later, Mrs. Reavis came up behind me, put her hands on my shoulders and whispered, “You know, Brittany, you don’t have to present your paper… ” Why, because I’m in a group by myself? It’s not my fault I’m the coolest person in this class. Not presenting would make me look like a loser. “No, it’s OK…” I replied.

After Six Flags, White Water and the park duo presented, Mrs. Reavis announced that we were done. “But what about Brittany?” my friend Tiffany, a parkgoer, inquired.

“Brittany chose not to present,” Mrs. Reavis answered.

“That’s what YOU said!” I spat. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t the truth. The class breathed “Oooooo…” which WASN’T HELPING. I stood up and presented with a smile on my face. Mrs. Reavis was not smiling. When I finished, the class applauded. Mrs. Reavis did not applaud. She berated me in front of the whole class. I was flying so high, though, I didn’t care. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. I’d stood up for myself. I put so much effort into trying not to laugh during my lecture, I had no idea what Mrs. Reavis said to me. And this dog-and-pony, teacher-in-command show was ridiculous. It’s funny that I was punished for exercising individuality and independent thought… for the argumentative essay assignment.

Teacher-led appreciation of my writing returned by high school. I had the pleasure of having my favorite teacher of all-time, Ms. Spurlock, for my 9th and 12th grade years. She understood me. She got me. She knew me before I knew myself. Ms. Spurlock got me so well, she knew when I was “fuck you”ing and wouldn’t let me get away with it. She “fuck you”ed right over my “fuck you”s to her.

For instance, there was one time we had to write two items. I wrote one kick-ass poem about hypocrites. It came to me quickly, yet it took all of my energy. I couldn’t think of anything for the second one, and I had five other classes, a job and sports to worry about. So I penned the worst, most sickly-sweet, sappy poem ever. It was so deliberately [happy]gay and gross, I can’t reveal what the theme was. I just wanted to get through the assignment.

Apparently, Ms. Spurlock had ulterior motives. “I entered your [rogue] poem in the Mosaic contest,” she told me. WHAT?! No, not THAT one! I didn’t authorize this! What… what about the masterpiece… the one I cared about… the hypocrites…? How embarrassing. I knew that bunk poem would be D.O.A. on the judges’ table. I couldn’t believe she did that to me. But I thought she knew better than I did, so my reaction to her betrayal was “Oh…Wow… really? Huh.”

Ms. Spurlock had a knack for offering me up for things without my consent. It happened again, when I once found myself writing competetively for a spot in the Governor’s Honors program. I didn’t even know what that was (still don’t). I did my best, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. Why was Ms. Spurlock making me do these things?

Finally, I got reprieve. Twelfth grade, AP English, our major assignment for the year was to write a 10-page paper on a novel of our choice. The paper was to count ten times toward our grade average, it was threatened. I chose Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. A very big book with a lot going on; a huge undertaking for a high schooler. On a certain day, we were required to turn in an outline for our paper. Done. The next checkpoint, a few weeks later, was a draft. No problem… until I got to page five. I got writer’s block. I didn’t know how to convey what I wanted to say. “I’m stuck, I can’t go any further,” I told Ms. Spurlock on deadline day, anxiously showing her my work. I don’t remember what she told me… but she must’ve told me not to worry about it… because I didn’t worry about it… because I never turned in a final draft. And my final grade didn’t suffer.

Ms. Spurlock did know better than I did. She knew I was an artist. She knew I was a great writer. Looking back, I take her pardon on the 10-page paper as if I’d earned the right to encounter a writing hurdle– because that’s what happens to real writers. I was truly investing care into what I wanted to say, because I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything without conviction. Any student who completed their paper without a problem probably didn’t think or work on it hard enough. I’d earned the right to abandon a project– because artists who sincerely feel their craft run into that problem from time to time. Ms. Spurlock treated me like a grown-up artist, not a child student.

I’ve been doing this my whole life thus far. I’ve earned the right to be the kind of writer that I am today: snarky.

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Jennifer DeLoach / Aug 12 2009 2:14 am

    I laughed. I cried. I recognized basically everyone in this story, and realized that I can’t remember a time before I knew you. It sounds like you figured things out a lot earlier than I did, though. Well played, Brittany Hendrick.

    Like

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