Sixth grade is a time of transformation. For me it was a year from hell that ended on a note of redemption!

It began the summer before 6th grade would start. Mark Cristol, wanted me to hang out with him. I do not recall the reason why I could not go out that day. But, for some reason Mark got all butt hurt about it and wanted to fight me! I could have knocked his ass out or broke his nose at the very beginning of the fight, because he puffed up his chest and had his hands down. Truth is, my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t hate him or myself enough to fight him. After he threw a couple of punches at me, I talked my way out of it. I think it pissed him off even more that I didn’t wan’t to fight back. Little did I know how that summer incident would bleed over into the fall.

Girls at this age have a dual affect towards boys. Either they are not interested or they are too enamored. Seriously folks, we are talking puberty here, very difficult stuff. I liked Sherry Stampe. She, however, wanted nothing to do with me. During recess one day she and her friends decided to start kicking me in the shins. At first, I thought it was playful flirtation, because as my dad always told me, if a girl hits you it’s because she likes you. Well pop, they must have been in love!  I broke out of The Rockette’s kick circle of death,only to meet Dennis Macleod and Mark Cristol. Dennis yelled, “have Mark fight him. He hates him!” Mark bowed up on me, still hands to his sides and chest puffed out. Just a dumb fight stance. I just stared back into his cold dark eyes to let him know that I was not afraid of him.

“You children need to separate right now,” said Mrs, Wyatt. She was a third grade teacher that was always on recess duty and eventually would make it her business to dismember me any ways she could. But that’s another blog post. Mrs. Wyatt told the principal that I was the one who started it and sent me to the office. I had to spend the rest of my recess with the secretaries, looking at me with judgmental eyes. When I was finally released from solitary, I went back to class. I sat down and I could hear all the things people were saying about me.

“Look at his shirt! He has worn that shirt like four times a day. Ever heard of a washing machine”, they taunted?

“He’s ugly, I hate him,” others would retort.

“He tried to act cool, but you can’t be cool when you get your clothes from Kmart,” they added. (For the record, I shopped at Venture and Glick’s mother@#$%’s) Sherry never said anything.

Bullying like this kept up for the entirety of the year.  I knew that it probably wouldn’t end until I did something to make it end. This is what we have failed to understand about bullying in our modern age. The only way to end bullying is to stand up for yourself or stand out through self expression. I knew that if I could stand out in some way I would win their respect, but how would I do it?

Our transition from elementary to middle school culminated in a bridging ceremony. The entire class would do a song and dance number and Mrs. Marti, our principal, would read letters that we wrote about our accomplishments, and future endeavors. She edited mine to sound more appealing,and I don’t blame her! Thanks Mrs. Marti! The big celebration number this year was, “We Go Together,” from the musical Grease. Mrs. Forynsworth, the music teacher, paired us up with dance partners for the bridge of the song. I got paired up with Sherry and I was so freaking stoked! During the bridge, we would have this little individual sock hop type of dance. I knew some of the steps from my love affair with 50’s and 60’s music.

Sherry and I made great partners. She was well schooled in dance and I was in love! We decided to do try this little dance. It started with your basic box step, and then I would twirl her in and out! Very freaking cool! Mrs. Forynsworth, and the other sixth grade teachers, thought it was the cutest thing! Sherry and I ended up front and center of the entire show along with another dance couple. The four of us would be the leads! Not bad for the kid who wore the same shirt for a week. By the way, it was my favorite shirt and I only wore twice in one week…and yes, I knew how to do laundry,B#$%^!

The night of the bridging ceremony arrived and I was pumped. I was going to show everyone how awesome I was. Some of the other classmates were jealous of me and Sherry and our show stealing moves! They complained that I should not be the lead. (Another re-occurring theme that would follow me the rest of my life.) The rest of the class disagreed and loved the fact that we were brave enough to be the lead dancers. Credibility and respect headed my way. When it came time for our dance number Sherry and I boxed stepped and twirled. The moment of the twirl and turn out was met with the “ooohs and ahhss” from about three hundred parents and faculty,including Mrs. Wyatt!

After the ceremony, we went back into the classroom for cupcakes and punch. Sherry and I were gleaming with joy at what we did. Mark Cristol came over and congratulated me and shook my hand. Kids were bragging about how awesome Sherry and I were. Redemption was mine!

Rocky Balboa

To this day, the real life Sherry and I still talk about how we stole the show that night. It remains to this day one of the highlights of my life. Strange how a simple act of redemption and respect can do that for you.

As always, thank you for reading Tales From the Red Pen. Love to hear from you! Comments and feedback are welcome! Most importantly share your love of Red Pen Tales with others! Until next week, I bid you adieu!






  • I remember talking to your teachers and they were heaping praises upon you for showing leadership and dancing talent. I was very proud, but unfortunately I was able to watch your performance.

  • Love this story! I relate to this big time except I didn’t get my moment until sophomore year when I played the drunk bag-lady in Guys and Dolls! After that people suddenly acknowledged me.

  • Some names have been changed to protect the guilty. You met and exceeded your sixth grade expectations. I am so proud of you.

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