When I was 9, my friend Marcie convinced me that just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you have to be girly all the time. To prove her point, Marcie let loose the best Tarzan yell ever at the Mall. This was also the time I was supposed to be more lady-like to set a good example for my little sister. With her big blue eyes, curly mop of red-hair and freckles galore on her face, Marcie let loose another Tarzan yell that would have brought a tribe of apes and a herd of elephants to her side. Though we were both tiny in stature, Marcie was so totally opposite from me in behaviour and personality, that I always marvelled how we remained such good friends.
My home was a 10-minute walk to school. My route took me past Marcie’s house and we would meet up to walk the last 2 blocks together. Clifford was the school bully who terrorized all the kids, especially the younger ones who were smaller. After school, Marcie and I were his “targets.” Clifford would follow us both because he had a crush on Marcie and he made sure Marcie got home safely. After that, it was my problem as Marcie wasn’t around to help me. But best friends know a lot and Marcie wasn’t blind to Clifford’s bullying ways.
I carried a skipping rope and was coordinated enough to walk, skip, dance and jump while working my rope. Marcie taught me the rhythm of double-rope skipping. My brother taught me the art of self-defense. The school bully taught me self-confidence.
As Clifford followed me down the street, calling out insulting names he learned at home and yelling spiteful threats, Marcie had slipped out her back door. She was following along through her neighbour’s back yards, hidden behind their cedar hedges. She could hear all of Clifford’s hurtful words.
My hands tightened around the knotted ends of my skipping rope as I turned to confront Clifford. Marcie popped out of Mrs. Mack’s front gate to stand beside me. Silence reigned as the school bully faced the “love-of-his-life” and his “target.”
Kids have their own codes for survival in their journey towards adulthood. Bullies have their codes as well. Marcie had three brothers who had taught her a lot and she had seen what they did to the bullies in their lives. My brother taught me a lot too. Silently, we faced Clifford. Marcie didn’t have to say anything—her look of disgust and disapproval said it all. Without a word, Clifford retreated.
I like to think all bullies have a weakness. Clifford’s was being confronted and he wasn’t prepared for that, especially not by someone he had a crush on. At the age of nine, Marcie instinctively knew this. If she had told her brothers about Clifford’s crush on her, they would have laughed him away, making him Marcie’s enemy. But Marcie also knew that if she ever told her brothers what a bully Clifford was, they would have taught him a lesson, never to be forgotten.
The other day, I was thinking of Marcie and our long friendship. I had just received a letter with a photo of Marcie’s daughter with her 14-months old toddler—both had big blue eyes, a curly mop of red hair and freckles galore all over their faces. I wondered if Marcie ever taught them the Tarzan yell. . . .?