Ah, memories.

One of the more horrifying memories from my elementary school years involves a kid named Darrell.
He was “that boy” who liked to express his affection for girls by being obnoxious. In this case, obnoxious can be defined as kicking people, attempting to cause wardrobe malfunctions and saying foul things to them.

When I was six, I used to wear dresses that tied in back; long frilly pieces of fabric were sewn to the sides of the dress, then came together and culminated in a big bow right above my butt…because that’s exactly what every girl needs to draw attention to at such a young age. (Who designed those things, anyway?)

One day in first grade while I was minding my own business and sitting under a tree on the playground, Darrell approached. Without warning, I felt a boot slam into the middle of my back and send me shooting face-first into the dirt. “Someday,” he proclaimed loudly to the mortified people around me, “we’re gonna get married,” he told me. “And when we do, the first thing we’re gonna do is hump.”

Now, I’ve met a number of dudes in my day who have been less than charming, but this kid takes the cake.

Onlookers quietly skulked away, presumably happy that they weren’t the target of this mini-Romeo. Meanwhile, I tried to catch my breath, wipe my tears away, clear the grit out of my teeth and dust myself off, so as not to appear as though we’d just consummated our relationship right then and there during recess.

Not long after this, he approached me again on the playground and gave me a rock without saying a word. He walked away, and I remember wondering if it was an apology for the foot I took to my back, the verbal assault, both, or neither.

I don’t know what happened to him, but I do know that thanks to him, I have an internal alarm that likes to go off at the first sight of a poop-kicking boot, as well as at those small white rocks that sparkle and which are often seen in planters and flowerbeds.

I haven’t heard the word “hump” used in that particular context since then. In fact, the only times I’ve heard it are from people recalling their weekend trip to the zoo, or their travels overseas where they rode a camel.

At the time, I had nothing to be thankful for — except perhaps for the fact that, for some reason, the dude felt obligated to wait until marriage before humping. How gentlemanly.

In the last 30-ish years, or so, I realize that my antenna goes up whenever I even remotely feel like I’m in the presence of a dude who has Darrell-tendencies. Unfortunately, there have been many. And if a girl can’t have that little voice in the back of her head warning her of people every now and again, the world can end up being a pretty crazy, distasteful place.

Tonight I am thankful for my antenna, and for its work over the years in keeping me [mostly] in the clear when it comes to Darrell’s kind. Sometimes it’s been a little bent and I’ve been led astray, but overall, its transmissions have been received loud and clear. Gracias, dear antenna.

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