The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 4

Welcome back to part 4 of Ayala’s story. This is the one where you go “Wait, what would I have done at 14?” I’m honestly not sure. But I think it’s fair to say that one thing Bais Yaakov and all it’s tznius rules does NOT teach anyone is that women own their own bodies. 

For part 1, in which she is first introduced to the loveable Stein, click.

For part 2, in which things heat up a little bit, click

For Part 3, where the actual kicking takes place, click. 

What I didn’t expect to see was four block’s worth of “rebellious” teenagers gawking at me, standing in a semi-organized formation so they could watch the drama. No wonder Bina had fled. These looks were not looks of admiration for my fighting prowess or astonishment that someone would dare to fight their principal’s son; these were hostile looks. It was time to leave, before they collected themselves and tore me to shreds.

Fortunately, this formation made it easier to pick Suri out. “Suri, we’re leaving!” I barked at her. I marched down the makeshift aisle, plucked Suri out of the crowd, and escorted her to Dunkin Donuts. I figured that it was the safest place nearby.

“Wow,” Suri told me, as we waited for my egg and cheese bagel. “You sure know how to kill your chances out there.” Her tone was deliberately neutral, but I sensed her disapproval.

“Huh?”

“Now no one will ever want to be your friend or talk to you.”

“Stein was that popular?” I wrinkled my nose. “Are you serious? He seems low-energy, a real downer.”

“It’s not Stein. It’s that you overreacted.”

“No I didn’t!” I cried.  “I just didn’t want him to touch me!”

Suri sucked in her breath. “Same thing.”

My anger flared up again. “You’re mad at me because I ruined your chances of being “friends” with guys who don’t even like us, who just want to grope us publicly or have their stupid arms on our shoulders, as conquests or “girlfriends”? Is this really what you want?” I glowered at her.

Suri started to cry. “You’re right. We don’t need them. We need guys like Rafi. Oh my God I miss Rafi…” I patted her shoulder, passing her some crumbly brown napkins. “Here I was going to throw him away for one of those jerks and all I even saw him do was like some photos of this girl.” She blew her nose. “I’ll call him after I walk you home.”

“Oh god. We’re going to have to go down Hangout Avenue, past all of them!” I glanced sharply outside, heart racing. “I don’t’ know how much strength I have left. I was talking big out there, but… what if he really does get me expelled?”

“Eh, you’re a genius. You’ll figure it out, take the GED or something,” Suri flagged down the server to order me another sandwich. “You always figure it out.”

“My parents would flip if I got kicked out of high school. No school is going to take a street-fighting public school girl, even if she pays full tuition.” I started twirling my hair.

“Why did you fight Stein?” Suri asked again, but curiously this this time.

As I looked at Suri, it crystalized. “I would be honored to get kicked out of Bais Yaakov under the banner of feminism.”

“What are you talking about?” Suri was not a person who read for fun.

“Feminism is the idea that female humans are people who eventually turn into adults, own their own bodies, and have the same voting, legal, and financial rights as any man. I would definitely be down to be a martyr over defending my right to control what happens to my own body. It’s expulsion, not being burned at the stake.”

“Feminism is about not shaving or wearing makeup and about acting like a man.” Suri retorted. “So really, why did you do it?”

I sighed. “Because I just did.”

To her credit, her loyalty was much more robust than her intellect, and she walked me the entire mile home. She also stuck by me through the gossip in the following months, and changed her tune from disapproval to exaggerating the volume of tears that had poured down Stein’s face.

When I was 20, I told this story to some women my age that were loosely affiliated with the rebel group from back then about what had happened. They toasted me three times because they had also had similar unpleasant interactions with Stein and finished two bottles of wine in the process.

I have no idea if Stein ever told my principal that I said “Hi,” but I never heard anything and I finished up high school in that same Bais Yaakov.

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The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 4

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 3

This is part 3 of a new series by Ayala. For part 1, in which she is first introduced to the loveable Stein, click. For part 2, in which things heat up a little bit, click

“We have to wait for dark,” Suri glanced outside. We were in an ice cream store on Avenue Hangout.  School had ended for the year two days ago. I watched her eyes watching the sunset, admiring how effortlessly perfect her eye makeup was. “If we’re out there before dark, everyone will think we’re pathetic.”

I nodded, fiddling with my spoon, stirring my ice cream into soft ice cream. “Is this really the best way to deal with Rafi? You really can’t just talk about it?” Suri was in one of her numerous vicious fights with her boyfriend. She wanted to cheat on him. I was there to stop her from doing anything she might regret.

“Whatever,” Suri peered at her cup as if it was a fascinating piece of art. “If he wants to be with some skinny girl, I can also upgrade.”  The light outside faded from white to gray. I doubted that any of the guys emerging after dark would be upgrades compared to Rafi.

I tried another tactic. “I don’t know anybody. Maybe tonight we can just start small, talk to just a few people.” The rebel crowd wasn’t really my scene; I was a social floater. Even after an entire year in Bais Yaakov, I was still the weirdo who had come in from public school. I hadn’t exactly found my place yet. I was considered part of three groups of girls, but I didn’t exactly fit with any of them. Suri was my main connection to anything that was going to be happening tonight.

“Ayala, don’t worry so much. I know everybody! You’re my friend; that will be good enough for them!” She glanced outside again and flung her cup into the trash. “Ok, it’s dark enough. Let’s go!”

We went onto a side street so Suri could check her hair in a car window. “You saw how there were two guys hanging out there? We’re waiting here until there are about 10 guys. I will see who I know and we will take it from there.”

About 15 minutes later, Suri decided that there were just enough guys out that we would not look desperate, but there were few enough that we would not be too outnumbered.  “Ooh, Kohn is back from Israel! We should talk to him about your phone issues!”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” I plastered a lukewarm smile on. Anything to stall us from any cheating. Kohn was being mobbed by all of his friends who, like Suri, hadn’t seen him since Israel. We waited in the clump of people. I shifted my weight, feeling awkward.

To my relief, a car drove by, and I knew one of the guys in the car. While I didn’t know him well, he wasn’t horrible. Talking to him would be better than hanging around like a blob. Suri was already having five different conversations with people. Walking three short blocks to where they were parking wouldn’t be a big deal.

It was really crowded on the sidewalk now. I was stuck in another cluster of people on my way to the car, when I felt two hands clutching my butt. It wasn’t a grab-and-run kind of grab either, but the kind where the other person holds on and is savoring the feel of it.

I whirled around, trying unsuccessfully to shake the groper’s hands off, and came face to face with Stein! “You asshole!” I roared.

Stein just grinned his trademark grin at me. “How appropriate.”

I saw red.  Stein knew that he could do whatever he wanted because all he’d have to do was mention that he knew me to my principal and I’d be out of a school with nowhere to go. He was blackmailing me. The situation was so clearly tipped in his favor: he was a guy, the son of a principal, versus me, a weirdo girl who no school would want if she got expelled. The situation was bleak for girls who got expelled. The injustice of the situation was intolerable!

Well, I wasn’t going to take it! This was worth getting expelled over! My heart pounded. I took a deep breath and took a step towards Stein, clenching my fists. His smirk wavered. Then I charged, my deceptively skinny twig legs in their Converse high tops slapping the pavement. Stein’s ever-present smirk vanished. He started to run for his life.

At that point in my life, I ran three miles a day for exercise. Stein clearly didn’t. I caught up to him on the corner as he gasped for air. “I’m going to kill you!” I growled.

Just then, a guy stepped out of the shadows. Stein and I froze. Neither of us knew him. The guy stepped over to Stein, grabbed him by the shirt collar, and nodded placidly at me.

I didn’t hesitate a moment. As my skirt was too tight and short for kicking Stein in the balls, I settled for kicking him in the shins, right on the tibia bone, until he cried.  “By the way, tell Principal Stein that I say “HI!” I spat at him. Stein sobbed and averted his face. The strange guy just held him in place, oddly at ease.

“You psycho!” A dark shape hurtled at my left shoulder. It was Bina. “You beat up my boyfriend!”

Fortunately, Bina was shorter and stouter than me, and in worse shape. Jumping me knocked the wind out of her. I quickly spun around, shaking her off so that we were face to face, grabbing her arms so that she couldn’t punch me and wouldn’t be able to stabilize herself enough to kick me. “Your boyfriend is a psycho who grabs people’s asses because he thinks they will just take it because he’s the principal’s kid!” I bellowed. “Who is the psycho here?”

Bina’s face blanched. She tore herself free and ran away as fast as her little legs could carry her. As I watched her go, I genuinely felt sorry for her, but I had more immediate concerns. “Would you mind holding this cretin for about five more minutes? I really appreciate everything you’ve done, and I just have to find my friend before I go. I don’t want this to escalate.” The stranger nodded.

Safe in the knowledge that this stranger would hold Stein, I finally turned my back on him to scan the crowd for Suri.

 

For Part 4, where you find out what happened after, and get some food for thought, click. 

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 3

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 2

This is part 2 of a new series by Ayala. For part 1, in which she is first introduced to the loveable Stein, click

 

 

On my usual Shabbos excursion to visit friends who were not in my school, I decided to take a shortcut through a playground and save myself an entire half a block. The park was packed. I had to actively focus on picking my way through the hordes of children.

“Hey!” It was Stein, who was sitting on a bench with some girl who was around my age. I groaned. I had clearly chosen the wrong thing to focus on. Breaking my neck tripping over a toddler would have been preferable to talking to Stein.

“Who are you?” The girl glowered up at me. Her dislike surprised me, as I had never met her before in my life.

“I’m Ayala. I met Stein at a bus stop last week. Who are you?”

“I’m Bina,” she paused dramatically, giving me a significant look. I looked at her, bewildered. “His girlfriend!” she said aggressively, putting her arm around his waist.

I burst out laughing. The idea that someone could love a person like Stein, and find him physically attractive, was just too absurd. Bina bristled visibly.

“Relax babe,” Stein droned. His hand flopped to her back. He spat listlessly, and then rested his head on the back of the bench. He looked pale.

As much as I hated Stein, he did not seem well. “Are you ok?” I asked, heartily wishing that he would get stuffed into an ambulance and go to some hospital, preferably one on the moon.

“He’s trying not to smoke on Shabbos!” Bina informed me haughtily.

I raised my eyebrows. Stein’s cell phone was sticking out of his pocket. “Well at least he isn’t dying. Have a fun Shabbos with your boyfriend!” As I scurried off, I felt Bina’s eyes burning holes in my back.

For Part 3, where the actual kicking takes place, click. 

For Part 4, where you find out what happened after, and get some food for thought, click. 

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 2

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 1

Here’s another tale from Ayala. Her previous series described what it’s like to be a non-rebellious outsider in Bais Yaakov. Coming from a public school elementary school, Ayala never really felt at home in her bais yaakov high school. In this story, I suspect that’s also the reason she had the guts and awareness to do the only right thing. I mean the right thing in part 3, but part 1 isn’t bad either. 

The sun beat down. I was waiting for a bus and feeling very ugly. My parents were stalling on getting me contact lenses, I was wearing my Bais Yaakov uniform, my hair was frizzing, I wasn’t wearing makeup, and I was sweating a bit. I was thankful that only a little old lady at the bus stop was seeing me in this decrepit state.

A scrawny boy with a pizza face peered at me from a store window across the street. Even underneath his acne, his face was ugly. His gaze made me feel like squirming uncomfortably, but I restrained myself as a matter of pride. He crossed the street and walked up to the bus stop, peering closely at my uniform. “Hi. You go to That School?”

I disliked him immediately. “No, I go to another school and I wear this to fool people,” I snarled.

He smirked. “What do you think of Stein?”  Rabbi Stein was one of the principals.

“I don’t think anything of him. I avoid authority figures whenever possible. After all, they don’t understand that girls at bus stops might not want to be talking to the boys that bother them there.” The last thing I needed was to be hauled in to explain this situation.

His smirk broadened. He took out a cigarette and lit it. “I’m Stein’s son.”

My jaw dropped. I had heard that Stein had an asshole son, but I had assumed that it was like all other Bais Yaakov rumors — often overblown and, usually, at least partially untrue.

The old lady at the bus stop chose that moment to cut in.  “Do you mind moving over?” she said in a scratchy Russian accent. “ I have a lung condition.”

Stein’s smirk did not waver. He didn’t budge. My dislike turned to blinding rage. I took a step towards him and jutted my face into his so that our noses almost touched. “Move!” I bellowed.  Somehow, his smirk grew even bigger, but he took a few steps away so that the smoke didn’t blow in the old lady’s face.

 

For part 2, in which things heat up a little bit, click

For Part 3, where the actual kicking takes place, click. 

For Part 4, where you find out what happened after, and get some food for thought, click. 

The Time I Kicked My Principal’s Son: Part 1

Outside on the Inside: Part 3 – The Spying Overture

For part 1 of this series or part 2

One day I got called down to the principal’s office. My principal got straight to the point. “So. What exactly do you and Suri have in common?”

I put on my thinking face, palms sweating, panicking inside. Suri had been a frequent flier to the principal’s office in her first 2 years of high school because of her constant dozing in class and boy issues.  It would not be good to have a lot in common with her. “I would say that it’s not so much what we have in common that keeps us bonded. It’s more that we balance each other out and have the same feelings on the subject of loyalty,” I said thoughtfully.

The principal wrinkled her nose at the smell of this bullshit. “So what do you actually do when you spend time together?”

I put on the thinking face again. “Nothing really. We mostly eat and talk.” This wasn’t too far off, but the subjects of our conversations were not appropriate for principal ears.

The principal’s eyebrows crept together. “Who else hangs out with you?”

“No one,” I blurted out. This was the truth. I mostly heard about people she knew but hardly ever got to meet them.

The principal let out her breath slowly. “Ok. Get back to class.”

It took all of my self-control not to bolt out of there. That would make me look guilty.

“SHIT!” I had just finished telling Suri about my trip to the principal’s office. “We have to lie low.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s think of some normal people things to talk about in school. They can’t hear us when we’re walking outside or at your house.”

This was how it went for the next year and a bit, until Suri graduated.

During that time I met her boyfriend. When they had an epic fight and she didn’t leave her room for 3 days, I went to her house with coffee and a bar of chocolate and forced her into the shower like in the movies. When I made out with a guy for the first time, she was the one I called that motzai Shabbos. She was the one who helped me find him again when I felt like making out again.  She was the one who cheered me on as I kicked my principal’s son (a different story). I was the one who got into a shouting match with her about how she should take the SATs. I was the one who paced around my block, full of nerves for her, when she told her parents about her boyfriend.

In later years, I was the one who delicately asked her how she and her boyfriend-turned-fiance intended to live off his meager salary. She was the one who listened to my crying about my first boyfriend when I was 18. She was the one who picked me up again after my second boyfriend.

Still later, she told me that I was right about the SAT. That she felt useless because only her husband made money. That she envied that I was single and childfree. When I called her even later, upset at how fucked up I had become, she reminded me of those blessings.  When her mom died and I worked the night shift and was in school fulltime, I phoned her to apologize for not making the shiva, and she managed a small chuckle when I pointed out that this was a literal shiva call.

I’m not saying that high school was perfect. I’m just saying that sometimes my school had the right idea. She definitely helped me and acted like a big sister.

 

 

Outside on the Inside: Part 3 – The Spying Overture

Outside on the Inside: Part 2 – The Rebel Clique

Continuing Ayala’s narrative, which starts in part 1 over here. 

Considering that Suri and I were two previously unconnected weirdoes, the administration was shocked as our friendship lasted beyond the first week of school. We quickly fell in with a group of malcontents from the ninth grade, with a few 11th graders mixed in, who were definitely rebels by any standard. But Suri and I always remained a pair.

We had a lot in common. For one thing, I had been in a coed school before this, and Suri had had a few boyfriends.  I found the other ninth graders’ naivete about boys to be immature, but Suri knew about as much as I did about boy brains. We both were also trying to find some kind of solution to our family problems, while everyone else seemed to be content with constant screaming matches with their parents. In a word, we were more mature and worldly than the other girls.

The only other girl who liked reading was very wary of new people and never trusted anyone all the way. I could talk to her, but there was never the warmth that I felt with Suri. Suri was all heart, a force of nature, able to spin multiple boys, and always able to find the right clothes at the right prices.

But then… the concept of taking the SAT and going to college was foreign to her. School was literally one big nap for her — I would often peek in her classroom window when I “went to the bathroom” and see her out cold — where she recharged for her nights.

Instead of doing homework, she was always babysitting, hanging out and flirting, or chilling at a random person’s house. Sometimes she’d go into Manhattan to meet up with friends.

All of this was completely exotic to me. Sure I was “rebellious” in that I didn’t cave to the pressure to become an aidel maidel, but at heart I was a nerd who loved books and music. I worried about my grades, and so I studied.  My parents were also much more alert than her parents were, so I had a harder time sneaking out to hang out.  I didn’t have people to babysit for.

I was also starting to understand that the boys I had known from my coed school, mostly nice and awkward boys who would treat girls nicely, were nothing like these guys my new “cool” rebellious friends knew. These new guys had problems and did not treat my friends nicely. I wanted a boyfriend who was like me, but I couldn’t find one in my new set of friends, and my optimism was flagging.

Despite all of this, I was definitely Suri’s new best friend. She would laugh and hang with anyone, but I was the one she told her true thoughts to because she knew I could keep my mouth shut.

“What should I tell him?” she would ask, dangling some poorly spelled text message from some loser in front of my face. “Does this shirt hide my stomach? My mom called me fat again.”

Sometimes we would talk about more serious matters. “My father confiscated my phone and I am so scared that some guy is going to call. I want to be able to be open with them, but they would never love me like this.”

Sometimes she would freak out about how people in the rebel clique wouldn’t invite us to all of their “chills” and parties. “They aren’t our true friends.  They just want to be my friend because I know guys. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Our little group was prone to frequent infighting and power struggles. One girl flirted with another’s boyfriend. One girl stole another’s cigarettes. One girl told another about her makeout session, and then a few people found out. Trust issues were always at the forefront of every fight, and everyone except Suri felt that I was not trustworthy because I didn’t party enough, so they couldn’t accumulate enough dirt on me to counter all of the dirt I had on them. Additionally, I was from a different elementary school, so I was unknown.

They also found my ideas about attacking the status quo to be weird. I was advocating classroom diversions that involved asking tough questions to teachers, to make our classmates think about the disconnect between their desires and what they were being told to do. I was pressing the group to actually explore the non-yeshivish world beyond the inside of some greasy pizza place.

As time wore on, I began to speak out more vocally against the guys they hung out with. I was arguing that if we allowed these guys to be such assholes to us, we were just going to be rewarding them for bad behavior. I argued that we should focus on ourselves first and try to find nice guys somewhere else, but that we first had to stop all of this fighting amongst ourselves or we would have no one to turn to if a guy hurt us.  This branded me as a narc, a sellout, a closet frummy who disapproved of their hanging out with guys.

As this drama reached its peak, Suri also sharply diverged from the group by getting a real boyfriend. When I had first met her, her average relationship lasted about 6 weeks, but that midwinter vacation she met “a great guy.” I had rolled my eyes, since they had all been great guys, but when it hit 6 weeks and they didn’t break up, I started to pay attention. This new boyfriend was a college freshman who was not involved in all of this high school bullshit.

Without ever discussing it, the group decided to kick us out, but we had already left.  This solidified our existence as a unit. The administration watched as we would have hushed conversations that always stopped when they got close, but yet they could never find us with the other bad kids on Avenue J and M or smell pot on us.

Part 3 will be available at this link when it goes up next week. 

Outside on the Inside: Part 2 – The Rebel Clique

Outside on the Inside: Part 1 – The Silver Lining

Ayala reflects on her high school experience as a decided outsider — but not quite a rebel in the mainstream sense. (Is there such a thing as a mainstream rebel? Anyway…) 

It was a scorching bright August day that had me lazing around in bed and wearing sunglasses indoors.  I was 14. High school started in five days. I hadn’t picked Bais Yaakov, but I was going, reluctantly, with no intention of coming out the other end a cookie-cutter Bais Yaakov maidel. The house phone rang (because it was 2008), and the caller ID showed a strange name and number. I picked up.

“Can I speak to Ayala?”

“Who are you?” I asked. “I am Ayala.”

“My name is Suri. I’m in 11th grade. I’m your school big sister.”

This was news to me. “We get big sisters?”

“Yeah.”

I digested this news. If everyone got a big sister, then everyone probably vied for their relatives and friends, and getting a stranger like me was getting one of the undesirables. Suri must not have any relatives or 9th grade friends.

I sighed. “Can I be honest with you? I’m really not that excited to go to this school. I don’t think I’m going to fit here. Don’t take it personally if I don’t seem super-happy at orientation, and please don’t try to change my mind, ok? Let’s just find my locker and textbooks and skip the pep talks.”

There was silence on the other end. I figured that I had scared this annoying peppy person away. Only, now I was starting to get scared that she would tell other people about my outburst. I wiped my palms on my sheets, regretting my poor impulse control.

Wahooo!” Suri cheered. I started, falling off the bed. “I also hate it here. I was afraid you would be an annoying normal person!”

“Oh my God.” My heartbeat returned to its normal rate.  “I feel so relieved!”

“Me too! I felt like how was I really supposed to bond with you if I couldn’t tell you anything about myself?”

The next hour passed by pleasantly as we discovered that we both spoke to boys and felt extremely constricted by our parents and neighbors, but that we both avoided smoking and drugs, so we existed in this weird middle zone between “good girl” and “rebel”. We both liked to look pretty and have adventures, and felt that our peers were too cautious and had no sense of fun.

Sadly, she didn’t know who the Ramones or Weird Al were, and she didn’t like reading much, but no one is perfect. I had an ally. It was no longer just going to be me standing out among everyone at school. Suri might even have friends who were also different!

I leapt out of bed, galvanized, slathered on sunscreen, and sprinted off to the library to stock up on my usual assortment of trashy novels, young adult novels, and non-fiction.

To be continued at this link, when it goes up in a few days. 

Outside on the Inside: Part 1 – The Silver Lining