Yep, “Goat” is a true story all right. That was me, the shy, nerdy middle-schooler who couldn’t stomach being the center of attention, yet who suddenly found herself in a bright and unwelcome spotlight thanks to a careless remark by a well-meaning teacher. That was me getting my ponytail yanked by the boy who sat behind me, and suffering the embarrassment of inadvertently drawing a wiener on the blackboard. That was even me once again changing school districts and having to overcome my natural introversion with a whole new crowd of people. How I wished I was still “Goat” then – at least I would have had something to talk about!
What I really enjoy about “Goat” is the way it allowed me to take a humiliating situation and craft it into something positive, and this was true both in the fictional version and in the real-life story. Although I never actually carried that nickname to high school (thank goodness!), oddly enough, the “goat” incident and aftermath proved to be a real turning point for me in terms of my ability to relate to other students, maybe because even at the tender age of thirteen, I was able to have a sense of humor about it. Oh, I would pretend to fume and glare when the other kids made fun, but I never really minded it much. I rarely got the impression that the teasing was mean-spirited. And in any case, it was still way less embarrassing than the time I won that classroom limbo contest. I jumped up and down in celebration for a good minute before another girl came over and whispered in my ear that I’d ripped the seat of my pants making the winning walk under that final stick. And I’d thought that all that cheering was in honor of my victory!
Sigh. Embarrassing moments. We’ve all had our share of incidents we’ll never forget, but wish we could. I know, I know, we should be grateful that we’ve had those experiences, because they’re what’s made us who we are today. But let’s not lose sight of the real value of our lifetimes of humiliation in front of our peers. Inspiration for fiction!
***"Goat" is one of the stories featured in my autobiographical short story and essay collection Stories from My Memory-Shelf: Fiction and Essays from My Past (only $0.99 Kindle, $5.99 paperback). To learn more about it, please visit the book's webpage or subscribe to my newsletter.