There were times when my envy was
hard to handle.
I am not a
person who is especially interested in material things.
Like anyone else, I wish to be comfortable, but luxury
is not a necessity. What I really wanted more than
anything else was a solid home.
There are not enough words to explain just how truly
strange my life space was compared to everyone else at
school. I believe I was the only kid in the school who rode his bike
to school. I was
probably the only kid who opened the front door wondering
if the lights would turn on. I imagine there weren't many other students who wondered if his only parent would be staying home
that night or leaving to hit the bars. For that
matter I don't imagine too many SJS students awoke to
find strange men in their mother's bedroom on a frequent
That said, my
envy of the home life of my friends was the least of my
problems. My biggest problem had to be the
was an only child, I lacked brothers and sisters to help
me learn how to get along with other people my age.
A major handicap was the fact that we
moved so often. Although seven of our eleven homes
were in the Montrose area, I was never in one of these
homes much longer than a year.
nine years at St. John's, I made a neighborhood friend
one time and that was it. Considering we only
stayed at Emerson (6) for six months, a lot of good that
never a chance to make neighborhood friends, that forced
me to rely on St. John's for my social interaction.
well enough for the first three and a half years.
John's used a mandatory dress code to avoid
distinguishing the rich from the not so rich, my
disguise of white polo shirt and khaki pants worked
liked a charm for my first three years. During the
4th, 5th, and 6th grade, my social status was unknown
and I was one of the pack. Since no one had any
idea just how poor I was, I was occasionally invited to
visit my wealthy classmates at their homes for birthday
parties, Saturday afternoon basketball games and
maybe even the occasional sleepover.
situation changed dramatically in the 7th grade thanks
to a terrible mistake.
In the 7th
grade, I joined a boy scout troop affiliated with St.
John's. Several of my SJS classmates were members
as well. That was back in the days when I was
still accepted as an equal. We had a weekend
camping trip way out in the Texas pine forest. It
was freezing cold to begin with and then it began raining heavily
once we arrived. One degree
colder and we would have had snow.
There was no
let up in the downpour, so we had no
choice but to huddle in our tents. I shared a tent
with three other boys. Unfortunately, our tent wasn't
well sealed and my sleeping bag was of low quality.
I was miserable out there. I absolutely could not get warm. At first I
shivered constantly and then I got sick. In fact,
I was so sick that my body ached all over. I had a fever and was in real pain.
I couldn't rest because I was too cold to get
One of my
classmates, Fred, wanted to go home. He wasn't
sick, but he didn't like the cold at all. When I found
out someone was coming to pick him up, I begged Fred for
a ride to my apartment. I felt like such a
quitter, but I knew that whatever I had was too serious
to tough it out. Fred took pity on me and agreed
to help. I was astonished when I saw an enormous
black limousine pull up in the middle of this remote forest.
To this day, I still don't know where Fred found a phone
to call home, but I sure was happy to see that car.
Out came a uniformed driver who walked with extreme
dignity to the tent with an umbrella to fetch Master Fred.
All the boys were staring in amazement at the spectacle.
If I hadn't been in so much pain, I might have even
smiled. This was a
scene straight from a Richie Rich comic book.
There were rumors that Fred was among the richest kids
in school; now I believed it.
I was very sick, so sick that Fred insisted I sit in the
front seat lest he catch whatever I had. I am not
quite sure if Fred realized what the driver might think
about that gesture, but I was in no position to discuss
I was barely
hanging on. After I gave the driver my address, I
quickly fell asleep in the deliciously warm car. I slept the whole way home. The driver woke me
up from my deep sleep when we got there. I was so
weak, it took me a minute just to
get my bearings again. The moment I
became alert, I groaned. Sure enough, my instincts
were correct... I had really screwed up.
As the limousine idled
in front of my run-down apartment on Travis (4) in a lower middle class neighborhood, Fred's
eyes bulged at the building I lived in. Fred asked,
"Dick, do you really live
yes, but I died a million deaths when I saw the look on
his face. I instantly hated myself. Due to
my sleep, I had
been unable to ask Fred's
driver to drop me off at one of the nice homes a few
blocks away. This was a trick I had used with other
kids from my school when their mothers gave me a ride.
I was so sick and groggy that I had
forgotten to give a fake address.
What a dumb
staggered out the car door mumbling my gratitude, I noted
Fred's wide-eyed stare of astonishment continued
condition, it was a monumental effort just to climb the
steps. When I finally I made it to the top, I
looked back. To my surprise, the limousine was still there.
the window rolled down, Fred was gaping at me in
No doubt he wanted to
see me open the front door. Fred wanted to make
absolutely sure this was where I lived before driving
was covered with
the most profound look of pity I had ever seen directed
at me. What was his problem? Did Fred
expect the door to fall off the hinges?
Despite my pain, I felt a wave of bitterness come over
the Real World, Fred.
incident, something changed at school. I felt like
some of the kids began to avoid me. The timing was
unmistakable. I had a hunch
that Fred had said something. I doubt that Fred
said anything to be mean. He wasn't that kind of
guy. But whatever he had said had real
consequences. I suddenly felt very alone.
explain my sudden isolation other than Fred's likely
suspicious that my invitations to birthday parties
seemed to disappear. Nor was I invited to spend
Saturday afternoons with classmates at their homes any
more. I couldn't be sure what was going on.
Was this really happening or was it my imagination?
in the 7th grade marked the
beginning of my alienation at St. John's. It wasn't what my
classmates did to me that bothered me. What hurt was being
left out in various subtle ways. I no longer felt included in
my classmate's lives.
St. John's was a small
school. With fifty kids in my class, there were no secrets,
I ate lunch every day next to
my classmates. Since they had no reason to
be guarded around me, they talked about what was going on in their
lives. That made it easy to overhear stories about
the recent exciting events I had been left out of.
Maybe four kids had met
at the River Oaks Country Club yesterday afternoon to watch a pro
tennis match. Or three boys went to Memorial Country Club
to practice their golf swings. Or six kids had spent the weekend
down in Galveston at someone's beach house. Or there was a big birthday party at someone's mansion for twenty kids.
Or someone was going skiing over spring break.
They never knew I
was listening. I had become the Invisible
was not 'deliberate' meanness. Not one
student in my class ever displayed any
particular animosity towards
me. Yes, I was excluded, but this exclusion wasn't the product of
any deliberate conspiracy
meant to ostracize me.
I understood my academic
scholarship to St. John's did not include an automatic
invitation to events outside the classroom. My
classmates ignored me because I was not a part of
the social circles they ran in after school. It
didn't help that I had no idea how to become
popular enough to rate inclusion into their
me be clear about one thing. My classmates
were always cordial towards me. I do not
recall one instance where one of my own
classmates was deliberately mean to me (the boy
who taunted me was one grade behind).
However, outside of class they ignored me... as
was their right. It wasn't their job to
worry about my self-esteem issues or my wish to
be included. Every one of my classmates had plenty of
growing-up problems of their own to worry about.
It wasn't their job to worry about me.
Although there were several mothers who treated me poorly, I
was never the victim of overt snobbery from my
classmates. Okay, there were a couple kids who
liked to needle me about my inferior clothes or
my lack of fashion sense, but I am not even sure
their comments were meant to hurt. It was
just teasing to them and I had a very thin skin.
What bothered me the most was simply feeling
No one enjoys watching a
birthday party through a window. I felt increasingly alone at my
was there, but I wasn't there.
wasn't part of their world any more. By
the end of the 7th Grade, I felt about as
significant as a light fixture.
sense of futility came over me. No
one wanted me here.
In very small ways, for nine solid years
I received subtle messages as to my inferiority.
Slowly over time, the acid of negative conditioning
would erode my confidence. Some very dark messages
would be implanted in my subconscious that would have
serious consequences later in life.
were disastrous to my self-esteem. I grew up
believing I wasn't good enough in many social
For example, when it came to head to
head competitions over women, I would mysteriously throw
in the towel because I felt 'inferior' to men who reminded me of
the confident boys at St. John's. Or I would have trouble
standing up for myself when an alpha male asserted his
dominance in some way at my expense. Let's face it, there are people who enjoy making
themselves taller by stepping on those who are smaller.
I would allow myself to be elbowed to the back by men I
had the ability to go toe to toe with.
practically from the moment I arrived at the school, for
nine years on a daily basis I received subtle messages
that I was the least important person in my school.
Without a parent to counteract those messages, the
conditioning took hold. As my confidence dwindled,
I began to say less and less.
The longer I
went to St. John's, the more I became convinced I was
socially inferior to my classmates. To avoid being
reminded of my inferiority, I kept to myself
outside of class.
This self-imposed alienation prevented me from acquiring the
various secrets of popularity. I never discovered
the value of developing ways to be interesting or the
benefits from learning to listen. I had no idea how to
tell a story or a joke, I never learned to dance, and I
never learned to tease, offer encouragement or pay compliments.
I never acquired the knack of showing interest in other
people or how to approach them. I avoided the
phone like the plague. These
important lessons in friendship went right over my head.
A loner by
nature, it required a real effort to make friends to
begin with. Then after a major crisis in high
became easier to stop trying altogether. As I
withdrew into myself, my loner status
gave rise to Harold's taunts of 'Creepy Loser Kid', a
moniker that burned like an ember in my soul.
place where I felt any pride was my
academics. Even that area bothered me. Here
I was competing with the smartest children in
the city. These kids were not only
brilliant, they had every
advantage one could ever ask for. It became crystal clear to me that I was a huge underdog at
this school in every possible way.
did have one advantage. As my
bitterness grew, I became
determined to out-work every single one of them.
was going to overcome these problems. I was
determined to prove... first to myself, then to
others... that I was their equal.