It may be hard to believe now, but I used to be a very naïve girl. I didn’t know the true definition of “boner” until eighth grade (Hello!? That was Mike Seaver’s bff’s name on Growing Pains!). Someone made me look up the word “prick” in the dictionary after telling me it was an impolite word, but refusing to tell me exactly why. In addition to being a little naïve, I was also stubborn and quick to argue a point when I felt someone was doing or saying something really stupid (I guess I haven’t changed much in that regard).
At the end of my eighth grade year, I was sitting in my English class while our teacher left the room to make a phone call or something, and I had Had Enough! The kids in our class were once again calling Ryan “Master” and laughing like it was the best insult ever. I had built up a healthy dislike for this boy, Ryan, throughout the year-- mostly because my best friend at the time hated him and so I just jumped on the bandwagon. We had decided that he was totally lame and ridiculously cocky, and she and I spent many a sleepover coming up with creative ways we would like to see him suffer. (If I remember correctly, one fantasy involved glass shards and lemon juice. We were a little deranged.)
Ryan and I had several mutual friends and I had noticed their habit of calling him Master with increasing annoyance. That wasn’t even an insult! All they were doing was feeding his already huge ego, right? I had ranted against them several times in my head, but never said anything out loud. But this was the last straw…if they were going to tease Ryan, which I had no problem with, they should at least have the decency to come up with REAL insults.
And so I finally let them all have it. “You guys!” I yelled, “STOP calling him Master. You are all so dumb, you act like it’s so hilarious and it’s totally stupid. Why would anyone think that is funny or insulting? You're just feeding his ego!” They all just stared at me after my little tirade, and after a few moments pause, Ryan himself started speaking to me. Very slowly, enunciating each word.
“Jessica, what is my last name?”
Uh, what did that have to do with anything?
“It’s Bates, Ryan. So what?”
He blinked a couple of times, waiting for a realization that was obviously not coming anytime soon.
“Ok Jessica, say Master.”
“Now say Bates.”
“Now say them both.”
Everyone just gawked at me, still in total silence.
“Jessica, say it again, but faster.”
“Master. Bates. Master. Bates. I still think it’s stupid to call you Master. How is that even an insult?”
Ryan’s eyes bulged a little and, as if speaking to a dense 5 year old, he tried one last time.
“JESSICA, say Master, then say Bates, but say them faster and put them together.”
“Master. Bates. Master Bates. MasterBates. Masterba…OH!”
Yeah, it really did take me that long and that many tries. Not only had I come across as the biggest ditz ever, I had also managed to be the bitchiest ditz in history as well. The whole class got a good laugh at my expense, which was only appropriate since I had been so hell-bent on making all of them feel stupid in the first place.
Ryan and I became friends the following year, and he actually was one of my best friends until he left on his mission. Our friendship never completely lost the element of needing to put each other in our places and we had many debates over the years. But none that ever left me feeling quite so dumb as that first one, surrounded by our peers in eighth grade English.