Sticker shock

When I was in the second grade I used to hide out in the bathroom while all the kids were getting ready to go outside for recess. Once I knew everyone was gone I would leave my hiding spot and systematically go through each one of my classmates desks and steal their shit.

The reasons for my debauchery were twofold.

At the age of seven I was already having full-fledged panic attacks because of what I had endured with the neighborhood pervert. I was also being bullied by other children because of what my father had done previously. Recess was akin to torture. Second grade kids are for the most part a product of their environment. When they hear their parents talking shit at home, it evolves into them being shits at school.Especially when the teachers look the other way or encourage the behavior.

Stickers were the main reason my second grade shenanigans began as a way to avoid confrontation and/ or socialization and evolved into petty crime.

Fucking stickers. I wish kids today still gave a shit about something so simple.

In the early eighty’s stickers were all the rage. Puffy stickers, shiny stickers, stickers that smelled like strawberries or chocolate, stickers that represented characters from favorite TV shows, smiley face stickers and star stickers and letter stickers and rainbow stickers. Stickers were such a big deal that almost every child in our school was blessed with their very own sticker book to house their fabulous collections in.

I didn’t have any stickers.

Okay, that is obviously a clear exaggeration. I had a few stickers. I wasn’t that bad off. My stickers totally sucked though. I had a couple of the generic “GREAT JOB!”stickers with the smiley faces and a few animal ones.  Nothing great. I definitely couldn’t afford a sticker book.My stickers were all stuck to a dirty sheet of paper. I couldn’t rearrange them or trade them or use them to play out exhilarating sticker scenarios. Usually when I hid out in the classroom on beautiful sunny days without anyone ever noticing I was missing I would read or draw or daydream. Innocent shit.  One day though, I noticed a classmate’s sticker book on top of her desk.

She had made a fateful mistake.

I knew what was in there and I wanted it. I didn’t even stop to consider that it was wrong.

To me it felt right.

Why shouldn’t I have the same opportunities as everyone else? Why the hell didn’t I deserve stickers too? For the love of fuck. She had the good stickers and I knew it. Unicorns and Barbies and strawberry shortcake scratch and sniff stickers. She had so many she didn’t even notice that some were missing.

That was the first time. Eventually I took interest in other things. I started taking erasers and markers and food from their lunches. Whatever. It didn’t matter so much what I was stealing from them. It wasn’t the material things I was taking that were making me feel better. It was the idea that I was taking something from them.

A small act of defiance from a seven year old child who had already had so much taken from her.

I was lashing out at the children I wished I could be.

I got caught when I decided to steal an actual sticker book. I was feeling pretty invincible at that point, having pulled off second grade larceny for at least a couple of months. I had so many stickers I wanted a nice place to put them. In hindsight it wasn’t that bright of a move. It would be like stealing somebodies cell phone today. The girl whose book I took cried and cried and threw a temper tantrum. I actually felt bad and attempted to put it back in her desk. Somebody saw me.


It was all over. Teachers put together that small things had been showing up missing. They approached the principal and decided that my punishment should be apologizing to the entire second grade. No joke. I had to stand up in front of all of the second grade classes and admit my wrong doing while apologizing and telling them I would never do anything like that again.

The teachers knew at that time I had just testified at trial along with a couple of other kids from my neighborhood against the man who had been hurting us. They knew about my father and my current situation. They knew the odds I was up against and the suffering I was enduring on a daily basis. They still collectively decided that the best course of action was public humiliation.

The only lesson I learned from that experience is that when a child is lost, hurting and vulnerable adults in authority are just as quick as kids to turn the situation into a further opportunity to victimize, blame and demoralize.

And that stickers were not really worth having.

One thought on “Sticker shock

  1. Public humiliation has lost its value. It did serve a good purpose but should have been used with a discrimination of thoughtful case by case adult concern.
    I too feel scars from the “one size fits all” public humiliation attitudes. The zero tolerance patrol is its modern equivalent.
    IF public humiliation still held power, though, teen pregnancy and lazy disregard for positive parenting, might not feel quite so comfortable. There’s often an upside to every policy. The “one size fits all” is where the problem lies. Nobody is asked to deal with unique individuals with individual care…any thinking and creative problem solving is out of the question. I don’t think this is progress.


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