Name Calling and Middle School aka why my psych bills are so high…

On Friday, an interesting conversation happened on Twitter in regards to names, specifically name calling. More specifically, middle school name-calling.

Some people dreaded high school, others junior high but my personal big bag of suck was middle school.  [In Texas, (well, in my area) elementary school is Kindergarten through 4th grade, middle school is 5th and 6th grade, junior high is 7th and 8th grades and high school is 9th-12th.] What is it about the age of 10 to 12 that makes kids little a**holes? Hormones must have a hand in it; the same chemicals that cause height and body hair also make a previously sweet child think it’s okay to brand his former best friend James Hooper as Lames Pooper. And it’s not just boys. Place a group of more than four tween girls together in a room, I can guarantee that one of them will be sobbing and asking for a ride home within two hours. Whatever your “fault” is, overweight, underweight, big boobs, no boobs, rich, poor, ginger or brunette; kids will find a difference and exploit it.

Now that we’re older, we know it wasn’t our fault.  That horrid boy in the corner had divorcing parents and that’s what made him such a jerk.  The mean girl at recess was getting pressure at age 10 from her mother about her own weight, that’s why she made fun of yours.  But even knowing that, it can still sting to remember how badly that name-calling hurt. Even to this day, when I even consider not wearing a bra even to get the mail, I remember a boy named Anthony who told me in the middle of choir class that I needed to start wearing one.  To be fair, I did, but it was so out of the blue that I was humiliated. Of course, I hear that now his own boobs are bigger than mine, so HAHAHAHA!!!

*ahem*  Sorry.

My own nickname issues actually started WAY before middle school.  Being bi-racial, I was blessed to grow up in a military town where people were pretty tolerant and a good 30% of us were half something or other.  (A shout-out to my halfsie’s peeps!  Doing our best to dilute the gene pool, legally, since 1967…)  However, I definitely knew what racism was and it came from my mom’s side of the family.  Not everyone, just a select few but they started early.  When I was about 4, I had a relative who started calling me “C.D.”, for Creme Drop.  You know, white on the inside, brown on the outside.  (Oh, the HILARITY!)  My mom had to explain it to me when I got older and even then it took a little bit before I realized he wasn’t be nice or funny.  My mom used to call me her little zebra, which is still a play on my race, but it was affectionate.  C.D. was not said with affection and his funny was a thin layer hiding a deep kind of ugly that persisted until his passing.

It was because of C.D. that I realized when I was in middle school and someone referred to me as an Oreo that they weren’t being nice about it.  I have no idea what prompted it, but I think it was one of those incidents that where they couldn’t think of anything else to make fun of me for, so why not my parentage?  And thanks to that lovely relative, I knew they weren’t being sweet or funny.  And for reason, Oreo stuck for a little while.  When I walked down the hall, a few of the boys would chant, “Or-e-o, ohhhh oh! Or-e-o, ohhhh oh!” (You know, like the in Wizard of Oz and the March of the Winkies?  Sidenote – does anyone else find Wizard of Oz to be an infinitely creepy movie?  Not Labyrinth creepy, but close…)

It wasn’t until high school that I really got over the Oreo thing.  I was talking with a group of friends about names or something and somehow I mentioned the Oreo thing and they thought it was HILARIOUS.  And they got me to realize that it was because it was SO STUPID.  I mean, OREO?  REALLY?  That hurt me?!?  We then started rattling off all the other possible racist terms we’d heard – Junior Mint, Cookies and Creme, White Chocolate, Othello (like the game), Jungle Fever (cause my parents had it), Jungle Boogie (cause WHY NOT?).

I didn’t realize it at the time, but what we were doing was really cathartic.  We took terms meant to highlight miscegenation and stomped it in its stupid face by making them jokes.  I reappropriated that b*tch, so much so that Oreo became my nickname my junior and senior year and my friends wanted me to put it on the back of my letter jacket.   (I did not.  I’d already earned my jacket not in Theatre but in Oral Interpretation, so my letter C had “ORAL” written at the top and “Interp.” at the bottom where you could barely see it.  Who thought this was a good idea?)

Would this work for everyone?  Nah.  Hell, it even backfired occasionally with all the “creamy filling” jokes it spawned.  But it helped.  I hadn’t even realized I’d held on to the hurt from middle school until I let it go.  Nowadays, very few people even remember that I was Oreo – even I forget a lot of the time.  However, I still have the confidence that letting go of that taunt helped me gain.

So let’s talk taunts, name-calling, etc.  And let’s OWN them, even if it’s just for today.  What did you get called in middle (or junior or high) school, and how’d it make you feel?  Reclaim that name and let us know how you dealt with it. 

Oh, and I’d just like to put it out there, to those who called me C.D. and Oreo and other assorted bi-racial taunts:


Photo credit.

33 comments on “Name Calling and Middle School aka why my psych bills are so high…

  1. Nicole
    October 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Oh my good lord, your very last sentence under that fabulous picture made me laugh out loud (with a good ol’ fashioned snort). Which isn’t all that great since I’m in class. Whatev.

    I’m half Mexican and half white, so I was called Coconut most of my school years. I went to the same private school from 7th grade through 12th. I never really understood why it had to be white on the inside? What is that? I really am more white on the outside and brown on the inside.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      Coconut!! I forgot about that one…

      And you know, I can’t think of anything that’s white on the outside and brown on the inside…I just spent ten minutes trying and I’m stuck… I don’t know if I should be glad or sad about that…

      • Nicole
        October 11, 2011 at 11:59 am #

        The only thing I can think of are those uh-oh oreos, which then send all kinds of messages.

  2. Beylit
    October 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    In my part of Texas we went K-5, 6-8, 9-12, but 6-8 were by far the most vicious years. I never had the misfortune of earning a hurtful nickname, I was just flat out tortured. The evil tween girls in my 6th grade decided that physical abuse was far superior to emotional passive aggressive abuse. I got shoved down stairs, I got my locker broken into, I got my purse stolen, I got slapped around, I got food dumped on me, I got shoved into lockers, and generally terrorized until I was afraid to leave the eyesight of teachers and was reduced to tears at the thought of changing out for gym because it meant I was alone with those girls and was afraid they would hurt me.

    I never knew why they hated me. I think it may have had something to do with a boy. I remember that the only girls that would be my friends, once all of my old friends abandoned me for fear of being abused by association, were a girl who was very over weight, and a girl who was Pentecostal so she stood way out in her ankle length denim skirts and knee length hair. The overweight girl they called Shamoo. They just called the other girl freak. All they called me were words that would have gotten them thrown in ISS (In School Suspension) if a teacher had heard them.

    I sort of wished they had made fun of my weight, or my parentage, or the way I was raised, or anything that I could have at least understood where the hate was coming from.

    Now in college Professor Oster used to call me Campbell Soup. He even sang it at me in his raspy little Oster voice (Mmm mmm good, mmm mmm good, Megan Campbell soup is Mmm mmm good). That was just annoying, and so not even original. I’ve heard that all my life, but it was never an insult or mean hearted, and I always just thought it was sort of stupid.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

      Jesus, sweetie. *hugs*

      Oster was excellent at the annoying nicknames. Although my favorite was Alyssa Yarde, the SFA Bard. I got that at camp and I was sort of proud of it, especially since I never had a bush named after me, the bastard…..

      • Beylit
        October 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

        To my knowledge he never named a plant after me either. Of course that did mean I was saved from ever having him tell me in front of a large group of strangers that I was in a bad mood because the cat pissed on me and my leaves were turning brown (That was all Suza Beth), or have him rip my flower up out of a planter and throw it on the ground and crush it with his foot (That was Vince).

        • kindofamess
          October 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

          This is very true.

          VInce totally deserved that, though.

          • beylit
            October 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

            Well Suza was rather cranky that day, but it was the middle of camp and she was dorm mom so it was understandable. Vince deserved to have more than a flower named after him stomped on.

  3. ElfPuddle
    October 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I just want to hug the three of you!

    I don’t remember being terrorized or taunted, but I felt like I was. (As if I was afraid I was going to be, and reacted as if I had been. Yes, I’ve had extremely bad self-esteem for a long time. Why do you ask?)

    I wish I could go back and give detention & worse to all your taunters. This is why I’m such an anti-bully fanatic in and near the classroom.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

      Or i could be empathy. I think I saw so many people get BADLY bullied and didn’t do enough to stop it that I feel guilty about it and feel worse about my own school experience. If that makes sense…like I had so much empathy and guilt I just absorbed the pain….

      • ElfPuddle
        October 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

        That makes a lot of sense…I must ponder that.

  4. hartandsolphotoMaddie
    October 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Ok, this is something I’ve told maybe…3 people. But they used to call me pubes. (7th grade FTW).

    And while I had a pretty good textbook kind of understanding of what was going on with my body at the time, certain (ahem) terminology escaped me. Which means, I had no idea what that word even *meant* until I was well out of junior high. Which also means that all of my yearbook entries addressed to said name went right in front of my parents faces.

    “Look! I have a nickname! The popular kids like me so much they nicknamed me!”

    God, I wish I had the internet back then.


    • hartandsolphotoMaddie
      October 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      I should mention that this nickname stemmed from the fact that I have really curly black hair and in middle school I hadn’t figured out how to style it yet.

      Not because anyone had actually seen my ladyparts or anything like that.

      Which I guess made the little bastards all that much more creative.

      • kindofamess
        October 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

        Oh, bless your heart.
        (For reals, bless your heart, not the snarky “bless your heart.”)

        That’s terrible. But I do love that you had no idea, you must have been the sweetest kid!

        And thank you for sharing. I bet those little bastards are riddled with credit card debt and STD’s right now. Karma is real, y’all…

    • ElfPuddle
      October 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      I was clueless too. Once in fourth grade, a kid told me I was so ugly , if I was hooker I’d have to pay people. I had to ask my parents what a hooker was.

  5. Elissa
    October 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I’m half-Asian so I got “banana” sometimes. But it doesn’t really bother me and didn’t bother me when I was a kid. Even in those crappy middle school years when people called me “BuddhaJew” I didn’t mind because it was what it was (Mom’s Buddhist, Dad’s Jewish; I owned it).

    The thing that hurt my feelings the most was that people said I had an eating disorder. I was a really skinny kid and when I hit my growth spurt at 14 I stretched out like a rubber band and was extremely underweight. People would grab my wrists and circle their fingers around them and say things like, “Do you eat enough? I bet you don’t eat at all,” etc. I wore baggy shirts and giant jeans; in the summer I didn’t wear shorts (and in Houston, that is difficult!).

    I filled out a bit and my weight evened out. I was still slim, but not bony. I still got teased sometimes, but in high school people had other things to deal with, and it was an arts high school (small, mostly friendly) so I didn’t have to deal with what most people describe is the hellish typical high school experience that comes from going to those big box schools with thousands of students.

    I’m not sure if there have been residual effects but I am glad I’m not in middle school anymore, for sure…

    • Beylit
      October 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      I am a quarter Japanese and no one ever came up with anything creative to call my brother and myself growing up having to do with our ethnicity, which we owned up to proudly (most people thought we were Hispanic in some way). My brother used to call himself a ricecake, but that was as clever as we got. Banana makes me giggle.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

      A friend of mine got Twinkie a lot…he’s my partner in racial self-deprecation. We are horribly racist to each other, mostly because when we say it to each other, it doesn’t suck quite as bad when people say it for real.

    • Nicole
      October 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      Even as a researcher I can’t figure out what the “right” size is, because there isn’t. People (ahem, women) are too big or too small. And someone is always making fun of someone else’s weight. It kind of pisses me off (yay objectification research!)

  6. elizabethan11
    October 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I was totally teased for being smart. My jr. high (7-9th) did progress reports where you carried a form around and your teachers would write your grades on it. So no matter how much you tried to hide it, someone would see your grades. I dreaded those days.

    Anyway, I totally passed on the non-love. It’s one of those things that makes me really uncomfortable to remember. And makes conversations like this hard, I was teased! But shit, I did the teasing too! I remember making fun of an overweight girl who wore a shirt that said “Save the Whales” … I called it her “Save Me shirt.” (Gah! Seriously Beth!)

    I hope I didn’t hurt her too horribly. I hope she saw the olive branch I extended when I knew I’d be transferring schools. Damn Jr. High. Shit.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

      It’s okay, the fact that you even feel guilt for it makes it better; most of those people grow up to be horrible humans who raise tiny horrible humans.
      Don’t raise tiny horrible humans. Or tiny horrible animals, if you are child-free….

      And if it makes you feel better, I giggled at “Save Me shirt.” 9I KNOW, I KNOW….) If you’re going to hell, I’ll be in the hand-basket with you.

  7. stumbleandleap
    October 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    My dad (a high school teacher) once told me that middle school should be shut down and all kids sent off into the woods to be park rangers for three years. They’d be away from society (where they couldn’t harm each other) and doing good work (park rangering) and anyhow, what did you learn of any academic value in middle school anyhow? After my own hellish years of middle school torture, I 100% agree with him. Almost entirely not facetiously.

    I wish I could pick a name and reclaim it. But it was a combination of taunting (about my intelligence, glasses, height, fat, and paleness) and physical aggression (I had things thrown at me in the hallways and on the bus). There’s no common theme to the name calling aside from “point out her loser-hood!”

    However, I remember one day when everyone decided to call me “frozen turkey thighs” (Because I was very pale, fat, made the unfortunate decision to wear shorts because all the cool kids were.) Since I’m still not cool and my witty reparte is limited to online zings that I’ve thought about for fifteen minutes, the only retort I can currently think of is singing “how funky is my chicken? Fun-kay, Fun-kay. How loose is my goose”

    Clearly, this isn’t really any sort of reclaiming. Except that I clearly no longer give a damn whether I’m cool or not and I know how to make myself laugh. Which is a victory in itself.

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

      VERY MUCH a victory and I’m proud of you!

      I’m also glad you mentioned your retort because I’m groovin’ in my head to “How funky is your chicken?” (My goose is totally loose….)

  8. KatjaMichelle
    October 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I didn’t realize how much the stupid nicknames had hurt me until I was in college and my baby sister was in high school. I heard someone call her Oreo and I. Went. Off. Every stereotypical overprotective older sister trait came out in me in that moment…what I didn’t know is that she embraced the nickname and encouraged her entire lacrosse team and more to call her Oreo…my protection was not appreciated…

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      Awww, yay for overprotective big sis’s! Much better for her to have you on her side and not need it than vice versa.

      But I know where you’re coming from. My sister and I once spent like an hour trying to figure out if my future kids will be quadroons (with my white husband), what are hers with her black husband? My mother was a bit horrified, but she’d spent so much time dealing with racist relatives that it’s hard for her to think of it as a joke like we do…

      • KatjaMichelle
        October 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

        Oh yeah my older sis and I spend a lot of time discussing one drop rules that make my blond blue eyed son technically black and we’ve had the he’s a quadroon but what if my next child has a black father convo as well. It’s really fun family dinner conversation because it makes my (white) father super uncomfortable. I guess that’s the price he pays for raising three outspoken independent mixed chicks

  9. carol
    October 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    LMFAO…sorry, love that last part. Gotta love my little zebra!

    • kindofamess
      October 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      “You got Jungle Fever, Dad’s got Jungle Fever, y’all got Jungle Fever, you’re in loooovvvveeee!!”


  10. Ali
    October 10, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    The sixth grade boys called me Alien (Ali-en), which was particularly cruel, because it was my NAME. It made it worse that I knew it was clever. They were all part of the AHA – Ali Haters Anonymous. It was mostly name-calling, until one day a boy kicked me. My dad came to school with me the next day and said “If you EVER touch my daughter again…” They stopped after that.

    We all bonded over terrible teachers in high school, and they took turns taking me on dates to apologize for being so horrible. We’re pretty much all good now.

  11. savychacha
    October 11, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    The only name inparticular that I can remember being called was “boobala”…it was 3rd grade I think, maybe 4th? But it was my best friend Deja that gave me the name, and it was because, well, I was in 3rd grade and had boobs. I told her I didn’t like it, but we were friends, and she moved away shortly after that. So the name didn’t stick.

    In 6th grade two boys in my home room class used to make fun of my weight. Like, every morning. So my new best friend Melissa and I decided that they needed about 20 pizzas ordered to each of their houses one night. Now, I know that that wasn’t productive…but at the time listening to them talk
    about what had happened was extremely satisfying.

  12. Nicole
    October 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Hmm. That was fairly cathartic. Even reading the comments. Thanks for being awesome Alyssa!

  13. alice
    October 24, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    I went to jr. high in Texas (Richardson to be exact) and I was a total wallflower and miraculously… everyone left me alone. Not that having no friends was so awesome. I think I still might be in need of a little therapy for it.

  14. suite7beautytalk
    March 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    boy can I relate to this. I went to a diverse grammar school for grades K-3rd & didn’t even notice differences in race. my family is biracial on my mothers side & my grandmother’s Italian. one day she walked into my 2nd grade class which made me happy but my frenemy quickly insisted she wasn’t my grandmother cuz she was white… I had no idea what she meant. seriously. then I transferred to another school for grades 4-8th & talk about a whole new world. I was the only black girl in my class & it didn’t take long before the teasing started. my first name was also the name of a popular juice drink back then so the boys would taunt me by calling me “100% chocolate milk”, to the tune of the commercial jingle… that was just the start of it. I quickly learned all about race & a helluvalot about myself. those boys were dumb jocks & I was smart, in the oratory & essay nationwide competition every year. those same boys asked me for homework help later & a few went on to ask me out. mmmm, no thanks to the latter. ugh. grade school.

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