As I looked up in the mirror from washing my face I noticed that the beads of water resting on my skin seemed to be clinging to some tiny fine hairs under my nose. No big deal right? We grow older, more hairy. No. It was a big deal. I was struck with panic and a memory from childhood surfaced.

Yes, I was one of the kids who was picked on incessantly. Mostly because of the way I talked. The black kids called me “Oreo” or on bad days “Double Stuffed Oreo” By seventh grade I’d came to hate the lot of them. Could I really help the way I talked? Then it was my size. I was always short, between my smart assed “white” mouth and my size I earned the nickname “the imp.” It was coined by Earl, a lean brown skinned kid with pretty bright eyes and lots of friends who seemed to attack whoever he felt the need to belittle next. After having my paper Isaac Newton costume (for Halloween) ripped to shreds in the parking lot one day, I became paranoid about being teased. I began to watch with rapt interest anyone else who got teased. I had to find out why and keep it from happening to me. “The Imp” was enough, thank you. I would not be made fun of in any other way.

One day the gang of kids responsible for much of the teasing seized upon a girl who was much older than them, 15 maybe, not only was she older but she was huge tall, with full breasts and full hips (more than most of the girls could boast of) we were mostly 13 or 12 then. I was 11. But that, of course, was dreadful secret I’d learned never to tell.

Earl sized upon the idea of calling her “Shamu”. (She had on black and white that day) This was effective enough because she started cursing up a storm and coming threateningly close to Earl (she was a full foot taller than him) it was then he noticed the fuzz on her upper lip. “She’s got a moustache! Man Beast! Man Beast! Not-a-woman!”

I don’t remember the girl’s name I just remember she was called “Not-a-Woman” from then on. Standing in the corner of the lunch room, trying not be noticed, I was struck by the insult “not-a-woman” I made a resolution to myself: never to let a hair grow on my upper lip. I would never be a Not-a-Woman. I ran my finger over my lip to check. I passed. No one could tease me about that.

The insult struck Not-a-Woman too. She roared (not screamed roared) and tackled Earl with enough punches to give him a bloody nose other kids joined in grabbing her hair and her shirt. It was like watching Guliver fighting off the liputians she literally shrugged one boy off of her, shaking the kids off like a dog drying itself. I watched in secret awe. I knew that I had to be especially careful about the hair, I was not neatly that strong, I would not be able to fight back if I became a Not-a-Woman. The noise of the fight brought the hall guard at last and it was broke up.

Not-a-woman was promptly suspended.

And six years later I learned how to pluck. It couldn’t possibly hurt more than the Ultimate Insult.

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