Monday, March 5, 2012

He who laughs last

I was teased at school. It never went so far as bullying, just your average garden variety kids being assholes teasing. It was always over the same thing... my lips, my smile and my laugh.

You laugh too loud.

Do you ever stop laughing? 

You laugh too much.

When you smile all I can see are gums.

Your teeth are crooked.

Your lipgloss is uneven... oh wait that's your lips.

Stop pouting so much.

Nothing earth shattering. No real attacks on character or morals, but said often by enough people that I developed a complex about it; started covering my mouth when I laughed; not smiling as much; trying as hard as I could to be quieter lest someone mention my big, gummy, pouty, loudness. I doubt that my efforts would have been noticed because even after going to all that trouble I was still the loud gummy girl. It's just who I am.

Over the years I've managed to 'tone down' my smile a bit. To this day, I religiously go through photos and immediately delete the ones where the ratio of teeth to gum is out of whack - before digital cameras it was tearing up photos and putting them in the bin under the rubbish in the hope that tomatoes would ooze on them so even the garbage man couldn't see them if the bag just so happened to split open. So much effort just in case someone I didn't know saw the photo - I never said I was balanced.

The other day I was out with some new friends and when I laughed one of them said "Wow, that's such a loud laugh". He meant nothing by it, for him it was merely an observation and a statement of fact, a passing comment. But what I heard was "Wow, that's such a loud laugh. YOU ARE BEING INAPPROPRIATE. AGAIN. SHUT UP ALREADY!".

Straight away Pink's sober started playing in my head. For me it's one of those songs that speaks to my soul as if it was written for me. Also I was quite drunk on a wine tour at the time so that plays a big part too.





I felt dejected and I was instantly transported back to school. The same feelings came bubbling up as if it was yesterday.

I am always the loud one at parties. I have a social phobia but instead of being a wallflower I swing to the opposite extreme with the fake it til you make it premise because confidence, even fake confidence, is sexy, right? Right?! So I giggle and I shriek and, after a few drinks, quite often I snort too - that's how you know if I've relaxed enough to start having fun.

So I spoke up.

"I was always teased for my loud laugh at school."

The others were surprised. "But your laugh is so infectious, Glow!" (they actually called me Glow, we met through Twitter) "your whole face is involved in your laugh, you can see how much you're enjoying yourself".

I'd never heard anyone say that about me before. A positive comment on my laugh? The laugh that had just echoed, boomed even, through a high ceilinged room?

I was stunned. To be complimented on something that I've only ever gotten flack for was bizarre... but it felt good. Really good.

After carrying this around with me for about twenty years, this fear of smiling and laughing genuinely lest I be judged, one compliment isn't going to turn it around. But it's a start. I believe in starts. And I'm getting the last laugh.

Were you teased about something at school? Do you still have a complex about it?

20 comments:

  1. I am the same - am louder when nervous, and my laughter has always been so booming it shakes the room.

    But it is not something I was teased for, rather embraced. In one of the panel interviews near the end of Uni (in the days when accountanting students were rare and feted), in front of 14 other interviewees and a panel of directors from Unilever, one director reviewing a debate task stated: "I just have to tell you, your smile lights up the whole room." Inappropriate, but not unappreciated.

    I have been visiting large communal previous employers' offices, right far, far away from former bosses turf, only to have one yell across the great yawning space "That must be Madmother, I'd know that laugh anywhere!"

    I had left 2 years prior.

    I am so, so sorry, that something as special as your joy has been belittled. Know that if we do ever meet, it is something I will look forward to hearing, and even more so to it being free from pain. Nothing is as beautiful a sound, nor as gracious a gift as laughter.

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  2. Donna @ NappyDazeMarch 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    I had terrible teeth growing up so barely smiled til the day my braces came off at 17.  And now I'm guilty of the gummy smile as I tend to smile so big to make up for the years of hiding it. Feel ya sista x

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  3. i was bullied quite badly at in the latter years of primary school and all through high school about my weight. 16 years on, i still get snide comments and judgement and all it does is make me think that EVERYONE is judging me and that no one would want to be my friend purely based on how i look - so i disappear into my shell.

    how freaking pathetic is that?

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  4. Oh I LOVE your laugh and smile! The whole 3 times I've met/socialised with you may not fully qualify me to say it, and I'm also not saying it just because it's the right thing to say. I'm saying it BECAUSE I've only met/socialised with you 3 times and it's your infectious smile and laughter that is one of my main "memories" of you.
    As for school bullying scars... comments on my height or big feet gives me that little self-conscious twinge inside, even though I know they're not being mean in the slightest, it can still bring back those memories.

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  5. The start of the post I instantly thought "But your smile and laugh is one of the things I LOVE about you". I know, so we haven't actually met yet but I feel I am quite educated enough to tell you this because of the various photo's, and more importantly vlogs I have seen. Yes. I am a professor on what I like about you.

    The social anxiety thing I get that. I do. I am one of the extreme's, and with a bit of help from my acamahol friend I can be quite loud and silly because fuck I don't want you to notice shit about me. Either I am unnoticed or I am the life of the party, and the worst part? When you're the life of the party and you still feel unnoticed.

    There is so much I hate about me because of others. One thing that I am yet to budge on is going blonde. Mr Black hates it and regulary tells me and begs me to go back to being a brunette, but idk, I just feel like right now, this is what I need to be. This is more me.

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  6. I used to get teased about my nose. It grew before the rest of my face did. It's in proportion now, but at about 9 years old, it looked like the mother of all witch noses. I love my nose now - it's one of my favourite features.

    I also got teased about my laugh. Apparently I sounded like a witch. I worked hard to change that bastard, although the witch still sneaks into my laugh if I find something side-splittingly funny. These days I'm comfortable enough in myself not to care and if people feel the need to run me down about it, I figure they must be pretty small-minded.

    I am a very hairy individual and I used to cop crap about that too. The one line that always sticks with me was when a boy said to me one day "Your legs are pretty. Hairy". The sad thing is, I don't think he was saying it to be mean, he just thought he was being funny. I was pretty excited on the day Mum finally said I could shave my legs. I was 12 at the time. So glad I don't have girls because that is one thing I would hate to pass on to them.

    Oh, and Wombat seems to like P!nk. He was dancing away, watching himself in the mirror and chortling his head off as I was listening to the clip you attached to your post. :)

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  7. I was bullied in Primary school by ANNIE GRUPETTA! (outed you Annie you mole. Throw rocks at me when I get off the bus? FUCK YOU - I will name and shame you on Glowless's Blog) But was neither the teaser or teasee at school. Most of the time.

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  8. Annie Grupetta threw rocks at you?!?! What a bitch!!!

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  9. Cassandra HodgesMarch 5, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I've always thought you have a nice smile and wish I had pouty lips like yours!

    I was teased by the boys in high school for having tree trunk legs.  I'm still not all that comfortable with them and normally wear things that will hide my thighs and knees.  

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  10. That is the awful thing about bulling, it scares us for years to come and pops up every so often. And often the positive notes other people see are the negative. I hope this compliment now gives you greater confidence ! x

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  11. Great post. It's funny how hard it can be to shake some of the shit that comes out of school. I was teased/bullied in school and sometimes still feel nervous in the presence of 'those' types of people (similar to the meanies). Also funny how often the things you have a complex about are the things no-one else notices. x

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  12. I LOVE your smile, your face, your whole dynamic...you make me happy just seeing you, and hearing you. I was only looking at the blog pics from the wine day and thinking "gosh you ought to be a model, as I think you have an infectious grin"

    I was teased once in Primary school about my hair do (Year 6 girls) and ran home...and in Year 1 some kid punched me in the guts on way into school for no reason.

    No other teasing...even though I know each of us has "something" that we think others will notice and judge us about.

    I am excited that I'm seeing you and your lovely-ness sooooon.
    Denyse XX

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  13. I don't really remember being teased about anything at school except maybe being flat chested ! But the chests began to grow later on so I have nowt to worry about now.

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  14. I was teased for my laugh too! My parents and family say I laugh 'like a wharfie'. It wasn't til I was a teen that someone said they loved it when I laughed, it made everyone else laugh as well. But it wasn't til I met Professor, who would tickle me just to hear me laugh, that I finally got comfortable with it :)

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  15. Sometimes my laugh explodes. It escapes before I know it and before you know it my husband has tinnitus. I too try to hold it in but to know avail. The loud laugher club. I'm a member. Tough luck world! 

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  16. Glad someone pointed out the positive for you.  I got teased for having no boobs.  The situation is still not much better to this day.  I've always wanted a boob job, but fear of the unknown prevents me, as does my bank balance.   But I do understand.  My situation might seem trivial to others but when you're called a surfboard your whole teenage life it can get deflating.

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  17. I can SO relate to your post. Many an hour I spent in front of the mirror practising my demure hide-the-gums smile. So now, if I ever get to meet you in person, we can flash our gummy smiles at
    each other, then throw our heads back and gleefully guffaw.

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  18. I was teased for so many things in high school. There are still emotional scars, but attending my first high school reunion a few years ago (20 years since yr 12) was a real moment of release for me. I was able to face all those people and discover that I had moved on from the dramas of teenage years. It was a relief to realise that their opinions and potential criticisms no longer had any power.

    I think that casual comments from family and some friends have done more damage. Comments that I have too many opinions, I stand out too much, my confidence makes others feel insecure and intimidated. I'm too noticeable. I'm too willing to engage others in conversation. It wasn't until recent years that I realised how much effort I was putting into trying to blend into the background - right down to having an insane number of clothes that were dull, non-descript colours.

    I'm making some changes and reclaiming myself. I love being a bit different. I love being able to discuss ideas and share opinions with others. I love trying new things and  I'm gradually returning all those things to my life, but it's been difficult at times.

    So pleased you have reclaimed your smile and your laugh. you deserve to enjoy them. xxx (sorry for the essay).

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  19. Aw shit, I was teased about eh-veh-ree-thing. I developed a complex about eh-veh-ree-thing. Then I had an abusive boyfriend that hated eh-veh-ree-thing.

    Today I tell them all to get fucked.

    I once worked with a woman whose laugh was so loud it stopped surrounding conversations in their tracks. yeah it was annoying, yeah it gave everyone that wince-and-shudder... but I talked to her once about all the babies she birthed stillborn and the painful miscarriages that plagued her life. And thought "lady, if you're still laughing at the simple things and loving life after all that, you've earned the right to laugh the loudest". 

    I hate it when people draw unnecessary attention to other people's minor habits. So what if it's a loud laugh? an eye twitch? The way my auntie moves her mouth after each sip of wine (true story)? 

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  20. i was teased for not having nice clothes.  it doesn't bother me now but i make sure my son has clothes that he won't be teased for.  we were poor and simply didn't have the money.  i'm still not rich but i remember my miserable experiences.

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