Growing up, I heard the name “tattletale” a lot. And I confess I was one at home by most people’s definitions.

In my defense, I had many valid complaints to share, being the youngest in the family and having three older brothers. I didn’t understand why they a) bothered me for no reason and b) did so many things Mom said not to do.

Home and school were different, though. I would never have wanted my teachers or classmates to think I was a tattler. So, things happened that I suffered in silence. And some don’t sit well with me as an adult.

I want to start this story by explaining that so much of the action has to do with my memory of the ongoing behavior of a child. But this is really about how a teacher left me with the impression that, as a little girl, my well-being was sometimes second in importance to the fun of schoolboys.

I’m not holding it against anyone, but this is a memory that never quite sat right. And as I studied it as a grown-up person, I realized it directly relates to another, more traumatic experience that happened only a little later in my life.

But I’ll get to that. First, this is the story of when my third-grade teacher branded me a tattletale (circa 1993.)

A pest on the playground

When a kid in second grade showed interest in me for the first time, I didn’t reciprocate. And I didn’t talk to anyone about how uncomfortable it made me because that meant they would know about it.

I had started getting crushes but wasn’t into the boys at my school. If you’re curious about my personal life at the time, I was involved in imaginary relationships with Macaulay Culkin, JTT, Jonathan Brandis, and the oldest of the 3 Ninjas at various points.

No one at Ferrum Elementary lived up to my high standards.

Really, I was hardly interested in being “pretty” and getting romantic attention from anyone. So, when that second-grade classmate gave me a pizza-scented valentine (it wasn’t Valentine’s Day) and asked me to be his girlfriend, I said no.

Then, he told other kids I was his “hot mama” (it’s still disgusting), and they teased me about it. And ooh, that burned my little biscuits every single day.

My friends were all 8 and 9 and didn’t know how to help besides shouting at him that he was gross, which was also my immediate solution. It’s logical.

Unfortunately, I think he liked having girls yelling at him, though it was definitely negative attention. Given that it was the ’90s, I told him to drop dead daily and thought I meant it.

I hoped the summer between second and third grade would make him forget his interest. But, most unfortunately for me, that was not the case, and he pursued me even more diligently in third grade.

Recess rights

Photo by Abby Chung on Pexels.com

Eventually, my classmate effectively stole my recess, my most valued time, by chasing me. No matter what I was doing, he’d find me.

I would gather with my friends to play pretend house under a tree, and he would come barreling into our gaggle. I’d join a kickball game, but he’d pick me off while I was off the field waiting for my kick.

I tried reasoning with him and telling him I didn’t want to play chase, but that didn’t work. If he got close enough, he’d grab me and kiss up and down my arms, all loud and animated like Pepé Le Pew. And I would slap at him and try to squirm away.

None of this was flattering, of course. To be clear, there was nothing cute about it.

It got to a point where my defenses were up before we even left the classroom for the playground. I remember anxiously watching him, watching me in the line to the door to see which way I’d take off when I hit the outside pavement.

There were days he chased me the whole recess period, and I would go back into the school panting, parched, and pissed. At first, I thought I could outrun him and shame him into stopping. If I could embarrass him with the impressive speed I could hit in my Reeboks, maybe he’d give up.

But he didn’t seem to have any shame. He always wore slippery cowboy boots and couldn’t keep up with me, but he wouldn’t be discouraged. He’d just wait until I needed to rest or would get distracted, otherwise enjoying recess unguarded.

My friends would go off screaming like radar across the playground once he locked his sights. I’d just run, and he rarely ever got his hands on me, but not for lack of trying.

If anyone is mistaken, that kid’s determination is no cutesy lesson in perseverance. It was really an early lesson in my right to consent, technically. I said I didn’t want to be chased, but he found ways to make me run despite that.

Teaching timidity

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Some of you might be wondering where my teacher was throughout all this. And she was always right there, watching. She stood on the asphalt by the door every day.

I wanted her to intervene but didn’t want to talk to her about it because that’s the kind of kid I was. But I eventually had enough, and I was sure she would see it my way.

I warned him for what I thought would be the last time. But he knew I was scared to talk to her, too. He’d called my bluff before. So, he ran after me until I got the whole way up to where she stood.

Breathless, I told her he wouldn’t stop chasing me even though I’d asked him a lot of times, and he did it every day.

“Don’t be a tattletale,” she replied without looking at me. “Go have fun.”

That interaction took the rest of the wind out of me. I didn’t push it any further, fearing I might get my name written on the board — one of my most intense childhood anxieties. So, I sat against the wall for the rest of recess that day, entirely defeated.

It was the first time I remember feeling let down by one of my teachers, and it was a doozy. I received a powerful message that any boy’s jollies were more important than my comfort, fun, happiness, and overall well-being to some people.

But I was a stubborn kid. I was not about to accept his frog lips on my scrawny little arms as a reality I had to live with. I found a trick or two to deal with him.

He couldn’t climb, so I’d get on top of the monkey bars when he started chasing me. He’d jump around below, trying to grab at me, but he’d tire fast and buzz off.

Or, I would get to a swing and gain some momentum. I figured if I could hit him on the right upswing, he might just fly a little. But he didn’t dare try to come too close.

When I came back for fourth grade, he was gone. I thought my ordeal with him was over, and my last two years at Ferrum Elementary were golden.

I graduated fifth grade feeling like the coolest kid in the village. I thought middle school would be the best time of my life.

So, it was a buzzkill when I walked into one of my first sixth-grade classes to see my old classmate. And I soon learned he was more disgusting and perverted than ever.

Check out part II: Pervy little liar


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  1. Pervy little liar – Katie Rook Writes

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