The Anti-Rejection Shield

I sure wish I had something like that.

Imagine it, a pulsing force field that surrounds you like a bubble, maybe humming a bit like a light saber. I picture it blue, but yours could be just about any color you want. I imagine criticisms and rejections hitting it and making a sound like, “PEW, PEW, PEW!!!” as they bounce off the sides. Mmm. Anti-Rejection Shield.

Instead, I feel a little more like this:

The cushions protect me...from something.

I had many rejections in my early years (oh, so many), but the one I remember with most clarity — aside from little Kenny Sours’s sacrificing our nap time hand-holding for the company of boys who hated girls — is in sixth grade. Everyone was “going out” with someone. Why we said it that way when clearly no one actually went anywhere is beyond me. But I watched the two giant blonde Pauls and their girls, I watched Riky and his gaggle, Kurt and his swooners as well as their female counterparts Kim and Joanna and Taylor. I enviously stared after them as they traded chewed gum (??!! It happened) and sat against the wall holding hands at recess.

But I was bespeckled and had a mouth full of shock absorbers and other torture devices, and while I dreamed of dressing like Claudia Kishi from The Babysitters Club (which was the only example of fashion I remember from childhood), I mostly just looked like I shopped at Goodwill. Because of course, I did. We couldn’t afford anything else. Needless to say, I was not so much this —

Not really even close.

I was more like…..this:

Less glasses, MANY more spots, and teeth that could take your eye out.

So when one of the giant Pauls came up to me in the yard at recess one cold Montana day and screeched, “Will you go out with HAGAN!?!” I immediately said yes, even though he was about five inches shorter than me. He was nice and quiet, and why not?

Because kids are jackasses, that’s why not. Turns out, it was a joke. So you can picture spotty, hardware riddled, very out of style 12-year-old me now covered in tear streaks and probably some snot. My dreams of a 90s grunge montage to Hagan and I switching gum and holding hands and me wearing his black Adidas coat I so envied evaporated with the laughter of some particularly nasty pubescent boys.

I think Hagan felt bad about it. He was nice to me in the lunch line that day. I also don’t think it was his idea. His friends had it out for me for years — I’m sure they’d be happy to know I remember it all with such crystalline purity, even if I’ve mostly forgiven them after they got a little nicer in high school (coincidentally AFTER the ten pounds of metal were removed from my mouth and I spent a jarring six months on Accutane not getting pregnant and started buying my own clothes).

Needless to say, I’m no stranger to rejection.

At the age of 12, which is by all accounts a dramatically fragile time of life, I don’t know if I even had my couch fort to protect me. Now, fifteen years later (egads), I’m preparing to face a whole new world of it. The kind where I’ve spent hundreds and thousands of hours pouring my stories out onto paper to be scrutinized by people.

So I plan to approach it in three different ways. Behold:

1. Deflect it. My humming, “PEW! PEW!” shield. This I will wear at all times to deflect the worst of it. The bad reviews. The hate letters from people saying I’m a pagan/heathan/anti-god sort of person who clearly stomps on kittens with glee.

I would NEVER stomp on a kitten, in case anyone ever asks you.

2. Embrace it. This is more meant for the kind, helpful sort of rejection that is actually constructive criticism but always feels like rejection anyway. Embrace it until it makes me better — that’s the plan. I’ll even tack this sort up on my wall. Maybe even frame the best ones.

WHO COULD STOMP ON THAT?!?!?! People with no soul. I have a soul.

3. Endure it. In spite of the fact that the grade 6 joke on me has haunted me more than a little over the years, I have endured it. I am even Facebook friends with Hagan, who probably doesn’t even remember what happened. I’m even Facebook friends with a couple of the other perpetrators, who will remain nameless — that is a little surreal. If I can handle the amount of torment I experienced in grades 6-10 at the hands of a herd of people I’d like to think were raised by scavenging coyotes for those years, I can handle literary criticism. I may not be Stephen King who was christened into that stalwart ability by a 200 pound babysitter named Eulah-Beulah farting on his head and yelling, “POW!” — but I’ve garnered my own strength through the years.

Assume Crash Positions

And so you see, gentle viewers, we can deal with rejection. And be very, very thankful that we are no longer twelve.

***A quick note about the history in this post: I in no way wish to replicate any chagrin I might have felt in my past in any person of said past who might stop by and read this. Feel free to laugh at my expense — I wouldn’t have posted this if it wasn’t an invitation to do so. I also don’t want to demean my years spent at Florence-Carlton Elementary/Middle/High Schools — they were certainly formative, and if it weren’t for one eighth grade writing teacher (ironically named Ms. Wright), I would perhaps not have ever found the confidence in my written voice that propelled me to write my novels. And Mr. Kuchel’s high school bio allowed me to sleep through my college intro class because he’d already taught me all of it. I’d also like to say that a few of my tormentors did eventually apologize to me somewhere around graduation, which I think shows that we can blame pubescent hormones for most pre-teen cruelty.


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on November 25, 2011, in writing business, writing process and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This was AWESOME! Loved it so so much! I love the idea of an anti-regection (wink) shield. This was funny and made me laugh out loud – so I really thank you so much for this wonderful, wonderful post. I especially agree with your advice “Embrace it” – and not just because of the picture of those cats! It’s WAY true. ALSO, I’ll hop in my time machine and have a stern talking to that guy who was mean to you – A VERY STERN TALKING TO. Thanks for the laughs =D

    • Why, thank you, kind sir!!! I’m glad you enjoyed it so much! I have been thinking about writing this for a while, and today it sort of bubbled over the top like the pot of mashed potatoes did for about an hour yesterday. *Stuffs face with leftovers.*

      I think the picture of those kittens makes embracing regection ( 😀 ) much easier. I might print that out on my handy dandy new birthday printer just to have it around when needed.

      If you take a trip in your time machine, can I come? I owe Riky a right hook to the jaw. (If you ever read this, Rik — think back 15 years. You know you deserved it.)

  2. Oh, Emmie, you poor thing. I say that with absolutely no condescension, though, because, a) I’ve been there, done that in terms of rejection, and b) that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You sound pretty strong to me…and like the ugly duckling, you’re definitely a swan now, m’love.

    Yeah, I am no stranger to rejection, too. I was always a chubby kid (with the last name of “Hollis” which is unfortunately easy to be morphed into “Hoggis” by mean boys), plus I was the tallest girl in my age group until I hit tenth grade (and since I’m only 5’7″, I’m starting to think the girls where I’m from were some sub-species of little person)…and I wore glasses. Thick ones. Until I finally saved up enough babysitting money to buy my first pair of contacts in my freshman year. Additionally, my family moved to a new city when I was in 6th grade. It was, of course, the middle of the year, so all the alliances had been formed in the school by the time I got there. To make things even better, I was part of a family with VERY modest financial means (read: BROKE), and the school district I ended up in was the ritzy one. We lived at the very limit of that school’s area, and of course I got bussed to the rich kid school, like the hundreds of other African-American kids from the poor side of town in our city’s ill-thought plan to integrate the schools better. I’m from the South, by the way.

    Also, I was (modest cough) very smart and not afraid to show it–which didn’t sit well with the “in crowd”, where the guys were the smart ones and the girls just giggled and touched their hair a lot. So, here I was, too poor and too odd to fit in with “my” kind, and way too white to fit in with the bussed-in kids (by their choice, not mine), who were pissed off to be there in the first place. There was a lot of racial tension in our school, even a few riots.

    I did manage to make a small group of friends, but we were definitely the outcasts, and we just shrugged and decided to fit the bill. I wore too much dark eyeliner, streaked my hair with pink Kool-Aid, slashed my jeans to shreds, and listened to a lot of Metallica and The Cure. I was the metal-head writer chick. I also somehow ended up with an African-American boyfriend, which was a bit polemic. We made quite the pair.

    Ultimately, by the time I graduated, I had developed a pretty good anti-rejection shield, at least to the rejection of my exterior by my peers. What I still have problems with is rejection of my work. It’s like someone calling my kids ugly, when I know they’re not (nudge, nudge, reference to my last blog post LOL).

    We are what we have been through and survived. Rejection makes us stronger, if we take it and use it to forge ourselves into something better. Rejection makes us savor our successes all the more. After all, it feels awesome to be able to say, “Nyah, nyah!” to the world, when we know we done good.

    • Sounds like we had some preeeetty similar experiences, ha. Ah, puberty. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if we had stayed in Arkansas or Texas (where I was born) instead of moving north. Probably more eerie similarities if that had been the case, so I guess I can imagine it.

      A lot of my trouble growing up was from changing schools so much and ending up in a tiny town filled with bluebloods. It was a beautiful, beautiful place, and there were a lot of absolutely lovely people (one was a boy from the “in-crowd” who used to hit me with snowballs and has become one of my oldest friends), but it was just big enough for people to get really clique-y and too small to get away from anyone. When I switched schools junior year, everything changed dramatically, and I rounded out high school like a grand slam in the World Series. So at the end of all of that was a lot of fun, good friends, and some paint/skinny dipping/parties in the woods.

  3. Oh, this was funny. And it’s advice I could’ve used at the tender age of about 13. When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I carried a giant binder around with my first fantasy novel in it, and I would write on it in class when I had free time. Then, in eighth grade, I transferred to a new school, where someone immediately asked me about the binder. I explained, and this charming girl (her name was Devon, and she had dark hair with blonde skunk-stripes, which was the height of cool at the time) promptly told her friends about it and mocked me. I was so embarrassed, I stopped carrying it around–stopped working on it even.

    A few months later, she asked me how my book was going. I waved a hand and said I didn’t do that anymore. I was too cool by that time.

    I didn’t write much fiction for the rest of high school. Poor little teenage me. I wish she had known that she wouldn’t even see Devon again after eighth grade, and that 13 years after she gave up writing, she’d be doing it again full time… And I AM cool.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Yeah, 12-year-old me could have used this post too! We should borrow AG’s time machine and take it back there. 😀

  4. Urk. Middle School – always a time for scowl-inducing memories. Kids can be wicked, it’s true, but I’ve long been of the opinion that middle school age, those oh so dramatic years between elementary and high school, children lose any semblance of a soul. Or at least, the majority of them – particularly in dealing with one another. Maddening, it is. Sorry they were so cruel to you as a child! May your mad writing skills now teach them shame and shun them into ever-lasting regret.

    But you are right, in your resulting list….cruel as these things may have been, we do begin to build a shield about ourselves; and as writers, it’s bloody well necessary, considering the fact that we’re essentially willingly dunking our heads back into the proverbial toilet for a few (probably an understatement in most cases!) more doses of rejection and drama. Deflect, embrace, or endure…the writer is a powerful creature indeed, to be able to build themselves up in such a way to be capable of that.

  5. Well, at least they were only trading gum…kids that age are trading other things these days!

    Facing rejection in junior high is hard can almost set you up for having a hard time facing rejection in adulthood! People who are well-liked, like my fiancé, just don’t care if people don’t like them. I, on the other hand, who has always been a little different, can’t stand it if I don’t feel like people don’t like me. Usually, I decide that they don’t like me based on completely irrational reasons and often find out later that I was wrong. Darn that insecurity!

    I’m guessing Edgar Allan Poe would have been the last kid to be picked for a game or would have been left out of the playground dating scene. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: