How 8th Grade Science could have Killed the Professional Adult

Here goes round two. Hopefully I won’t be defeated by another failure of technology in the field of “keeping Matt from doing stupid shit.” This is an ever growing field, I know. It takes a lot of computing power.

The idea of professional adulthood came from two interacting and intertwining things.

1) Thanks in part to my doodling, I began to feel like I was actually a stand out in the blogging industry. I doodled, people liked it. I’d love to doodle more. I’d love to have the time to put at least one relevant doodle with each blog post. It isn’t always possible, though, as I still work a full time job. That was the desire that pushed me to start actually looking for a way to monetize my site and turn it into a career, though.

2) I kept repeating it like a mantra as I reorganized my office. It was funny, and it stuck.

There is no doubt in my mind that the doodles and the words go hand in hand to create the bond I feel with my readers and fellow bloggers. The friends on the internet that really push me to be more than just a guy with an online journal. Of course, it never would have happened if I’d been convinced by my 8th grade science teacher to quit drawing in the margins of ever piece of paper I could get my hands on.

In her defense, she didn’t think she was crushing the creative spirit of a artistic youth.

She thought she was helping to defend a fellow Nazi.

In October of 1996, just a few weeks after my 13th birthday, I discovered a wonderfully illustrated and brilliantly written comic book series called “Maus.” Written and drawn by a creative genius named Art Spiegelman, Maus tells the true story of his Jewish father’s life before and during World War 2 in Poland and after in New York City. It is his father’s biography, and utilized the nature of graphic novels to increase the understanding of the reader. In Maus, Germans are depicted as Cats, and Jews are depicted as mice. The art was always a bit cartoony, in the 60s and 70s style, but covered serious subject matter in a way similar to how Robert Crumb’s Fritz the Cat. I became enamored with Spiegelman’s art, and I tried very often to emulate his drawing style. I wanted to draw like him, and so I did, often, ever time I got a little bored.

You can probably imagine that I got bored a lot. Especially in school, and more so in the classes that I excelled at but wasn’t interested in. That usually meant I got painfully bored during anything involving numbers and spent much less time doodling in classes where people were involved. This meant that I was a focused, eager student in English or Social Studies, and a withdrawn, broody artist in math and science classes. This got to be especially bad in Science because unlike the math department where I could get bumped up to Algebra and challenged a bit, I was stuck in the same general 8th Grade Physical Science class as every knuckle dragging man-ape in the school.

Call me an elitist, but I honestly believe that the biggest drain on my education was sharing a classroom with people that simply can’t keep up with other students. When they developed a program in my High School that separated students based on their academic aptitudes, I thought we’d hit the best form of education ever, with each student getting the right level of attention and challenge they needed. Of course, “No child left behind” put an end to that.

Thus, I found myself sitting in Mrs. Mekers 8th Grade Science class next to a preppy asshole of a jock named Dickface. No, that wasn’t his Christian name, of course. I think his parents were way too indulging and lenient for something like that, if you catch my meaning. He had one of those generic names, like I do. I know he wasn’t a Justin, Matt or Chris, so he would probably have been a Ryan, but I can really only remember calling him “Dickface.” Besides, I knew a couple of cool preppy jocks named Ryan, and don’t want them to think that I am calling them dickfaces on the internet.

Anyway, Dickface sat next to me in Science. He was tall, slightly tanned, with blonde hair and blue eyes. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was also a complete tool, I’d make a Zach Morris comparison, but this was more like if Slater was cracked out on steroids and cos-playing Zach Morris. Although he was also rich and popular. I think I just came to the conclusion that Zach Morris wasn’t a very believable character.

So, Dickface was the kind of guy that hated people that were better than him at anything. It’s not his fault, he’s got the alpha male competition gene going on. Power to him. Unfortunately for him, Dickface wasn’t particularly intelligent, not that he was box of rocks stupid or anything, but I’m not sure I’d pick him for my knowledge bowl team over, say, Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds. This put our seating arrangement as being somewhat tumultuous for me, because not only did I have an easier time academically, I’m also one of those competitive, face rubbing assholes. Except, I wasn’t popular, and I was an emotionally unstable fat kid. I was so explosive with my emotions that even the gym coach got in on the action, calling me “Wash Rag” because of how easy it was to make me cry. Man did I feel vindicated when that guy got nailed banging a student a few years later. I like to imagine he has an entirely new idea of what the term “wash rag” means in prison. Don’t google that. I just made it up.

So, it was during the fourth straight day on the incredibly interesting and important topic of topological survey maps, I cracked and pulled out my wide-ruled sprial notebook (as required on the School Supplies checklist) and began drawing. Art Spiegelman was my artistic obsession at the moment, and so I naturally began to draw something in his style. This particular drawing was Cat-Hitler, with his little Cat-Hitler-Stache giving a Cat-Hitler rant to a bunch of Cat-Nazis from behind a podium. The details being fleshed in included Spiegelman’s Cat-Hitler banners and tapestries. Basically a stylized Cat-Hitler head in front of a swastika.

Now, in some parts of the country drawing a swastika is just part of being alive. There are definitely places where Nazi Hate is the go to method for living, and despite popular belief that we’re all a bunch of slack-jawed, inbred, hood-wearing rednecks in Missouri, it’s not the case here. Racial Sensitivity is an important buzzword in the Belton School District, especially if there was a threat of any kind of lawsuit on the table. The standard practice of the school was to immediately and without remorse make a large and public announcement that a student was a bigoted racist that hated (insert minority group here), wanted them dead, and would be locked in a bathroom in the hall without cameras for a couple of days, alone… possibly hand cuffed to the radiator heater. That is to say that when someone is accused of being a neo-nazi prick randomly in the middle of an 8th grade science class by an explosive and shouting outburst, most of the faculty would take it as a big deal.

That was the situation I basically found myself in when Dickface decided to look at my drawings for the first time ever. Snatching my notebook away from me, he shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you? My grandfather died in Auschwitz.” This was a blatant and powerful lie, but considering we lived in white trash suburb and his last name was German (We’ll say it was Cocktottel1) and sounded Jewish enough for the masses, most people believed him. That left me in the middle of 30 students being stared at, and in a couple of places subtly threatened, because he had basically just announced to the world that I wanted to murder them for no good reason. This completely ignores the fact that I’m basically the opposite of racist and about as far from being an Aryan poster child as you can get and still be a white dude. I mean, I’m basically a ginger, except they won’t take me because my head hair is too dark and my facial hair is too coppery. So, I’m not even that.

Too teenaged me’s credit, I did not go with my natural reaction to high levels of confrontation. I didn’t not break down and start crying immediately. I felt the heat and blood rush into my face, and for a second I thought it was going to burst out of my nose, but instead it just gave the slightest hint of copper to my hard, heavy breathing. I stared straight down at the paper as I was publically berated by my teacher. This would not be the last time.

I was embarrassed and ashamed. In my mind I knew that I had done nothing wrong, but back then, and for years to follow, the idea that I had offended someone was like a kick to the stomach and a baseball bat to the back of the head at the same time. I felt like I was less than scum, lower than dirt. I was told to stay after class, too, which would make me late for my next class and exasperate the humility.

So there I sat, as the class filed out, my eyes refusing to let go of the tears that they’d stored up staring down at the table in front of me. I didn’t think I’d be able to take much more of it, and for the first time in my life, I considered skipping home room and the bus and just taking off on foot back to my house. I waited for a couple of minutes for the class to completely empty out and Mrs. Mekers came over and stood next to me.

“Do you know why this is wrong?”

“Yeah, I guess, I mean, I didn’t draw it because…”

“Because you can’t be public about these things.”

I stared up at her, incredulous, “What?”

“You can’t let people know who you are, or they’ll watch you. You have to be sneakier than the kikes.”

I didn’t know  how to respond to that. This was my fucking Science teacher, for crying out loud.

“I don’t want to see you ever doodling in my class again. You want to make pictures do it on your own time. I don’t want my class getting disrupted by some heeb, got it?”

“Yeah, I got it,” was all I managed to spit out, completely dumbfounded by the entire situation. It took me several days to finally figure out how to process that entire encounter. I thought about telling someone what had happened, but I didn’t have any proof, and I didn’t entirely know what “heeb” meant back then and only had a vague understanding of “kike.”

I wouldn’t learn that level of racial slur until the Racist Game of Racism was created a year or so later on a long bus trip back from a Forensics Tournament. That’s another story for another time however.

Looking back, with 16 years of hindsight, I wish I had been a bit more brave and confident back then. I wish I had told someone. Who knows how many students she’s treated like shit over the years because of her prejudice. At least she’s not teaching anymore. Well, not in Belton. I checked the school faculty list and found that out.

Maybe she got caught. I hope she did. In my world, she has been. It makes me smile.

I stopped drawing for a long time after that, afraid that I would find myself stared at as a villain again. It was why I didn’t take any art classes or anything in High School. It would have ended my drawing altogether if it wasn’t for another teacher giving me a reason to doodle again later on in life. Maybe I’ll tell that story someday.

If it wasn’t for the doodles, and the reaction to the doodles of people on twitter and here on the blog, I would never have kept going as long as I have. I wouldn’t believe that there was anything here that couldn’t be found anywhere else on the web.

I’d never have made a whopping $34 in revenue over the last 18 months.

I know. It’s not a lot, but it’s what makes me know that I could do this full time someday, and be a real professional.

I already have the hat for it.