Nobody remembers “They don’t say Haines until I say they say Haines” like I do. In the mid-1980’s, the Hanes company introduced Inspector 12. The commercials showed Inspector 12 stretching a pair of underwear while reciting the tagline above. Very catchy and memorable marketing. However, for a 4th grader with the name of Haines, that commercial made life miserable.
In the 80’s nobody talked about bullying like they do now. Sure, it existed, but it was considered part of “growing up”. Back then, I think bullying was an even bigger problem than it is today but nobody made it an issue. My bullying started in 4th grade but not at the hands of my classmates. They all knew me and accepted my “mole”. From kindergarten through 3rd grade, I’d say I was a pretty average kid. My only distinction was that in 2nd grade I placed 2nd in the 220 book program behind Deanna Mead. 220 books was an initiative to encourage reading. The person that reached 220 received a prize and nobody had yet done it. That year, Deanna and I were in a race to hit 220. She read 226 and I read 224–I lost.
4th grade was different
For me, things seemed to change in 4th grade. Always the book worm, that year I turned more towards books and further away from people. Going into 4th grade, I was excited to be in Ms. Willyard’s class. I had heard that Mr. Friedman was mean and Ms. Willyard was pretty! The first month or so was fine, but then Hanes had to release that terrible commercial. From the day that commercial came out for the rest of the year, every time I was called on, that catch phrase came up. She started simply and would acknowledge me by saying “They don’t say Haines…” After a few weeks, it became class recital time. Every time she called on me I heard, “OK class, [class joins] They don’t say Haines until…” I hated it!
I never said anything to my parents, because I really didn’t think they’d do anything. My parents weren’t the type to “meddle”. If I did got in trouble at school, or something happened, I had to face the consequences. I tried to laugh it off as best I could, but I began to hide in books and avoid people that weren’t in my “inner circle”. In those days, my inner circle was just a few people. (Jim and Mandi to name a few) Jim and Mandi never made fun of me–other than the typical kids teasing each other from time to time.
After the ridicule began, my simple reply would be “You better watch out, my mom is inspector 12 and if you don’t leave me alone, she’ll send you defective underwear!” As you can imagine, that didn’t work–it just made it worse–so, I stopped replying and tried to ignore it. That year, I learned that if you’re different, people will make fun of you.
Dark times coming
As bad as 4th grade was, 5th grade was all the more forgettable. I honestly don’t remember much about 5th grade in fact because that was the year Mike was diagnosed with cancer. A few notable exceptions were:
- Getting selected to be in “Gifted and Talented Language Arts” – this was a new program and I was in the pilot group of 7 students. The 7 of us had scored high enough on IQ tests to be included. This was a highlight of my k-12 education. We read books ALL the time! We wrote essays, read, analyzed, etc.
- Mr. Robinson hated me – This isn’t true of course. He’s one of my Facebook friends today. I thought he hated me because he kept me in the “low reading” group and “high math”. Both of these groups stayed with him, so I had him ALL DAY! So, for me, it felt like quite an achievement to go from “low reading” to GT. After talking to Mr. Robinson years later, I learned that he did this because he wanted me to focus more on math. Every time he looked up, I had my math book propped up on the desk–with a work of fiction hidden in it. He knew I could read and thought I’d eventually be a writer. He just wanted to stimulate my math brain–something that helped me in the future.
- Mr. Friedman wasn’t so bad after all – He was the teacher for the GT program and really fun as a teacher. He always helped us dig deeper into our books and stimulated our brains to think more about what we were reading. He was also Mike’s 4th grade teacher, so I feel like maybe he looked after me a bit more.
Time to go
By the start of 5th grade, I was ready to get out of Brandywine. I was bored and really just wanted to get away from some of the bullying–easier said than done.