Misheard Lyrics, or How I Failed to Cope with Bullying

Great bassline, catchy chorus. Hard-to-understand lyrics.

I'm talking about Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks."

The title makes me think of the Nike pump sneakers (parodied in SNL's thanksgiving commercial for the "Nikey [sic] Turkey" and Dave Chappell's character Achoo in Robin Hood: Men in Tights).

Remember when you were a kid and it was sooo important to wear the right clothes? Remember hearing stories about kids stealing (or being beaten up for wearing) pricey sneakers?

Yeah, well, I was definitely out for many reasons in middle school. Being overweight made it hard to wear the right clothes. My parents were shelling out money for Catholic education for three children, so I wouldn't have been buying designer clothes, anyway. (O.K., I probably would've spent it on books and music and not clothes.) And my gosh, if I had known what to do with the thick wavy head of hair that nowadays I miss terribly, at least I wouldn't have had terrible haircuts.

Let's not forget, I was top in the class and never got in trouble. Hell, one time I turned in half my class for cheating on a science test via typed-up science notes on dot matrix paper (remember that?) running the length of the first aisle. (Not because I was a snitch, mind you; I was P.O.'d that I'd paid attention in class and studied!) I was the scapegoat for anything and everything bugging my classmates--hormones, bad grades, rejection, being ignored. I had my own hormone thing going on, along with an undiagnosed food allergy, that made me cry at the drop of a hat. There was always someone worse off than they were: me.

O.K., there's the background.

So, now I hear this song, and I think, Oh, man, this is a great song. It makes me want to dance and sing along. And it's got this great chorus. It goes like this:

All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks
You better run, better run, outrun my girl.
All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks
You better run, better run, faster than my brother.

You see that I have those two words highlighted?

They are WRONG.

The song's been getting more airtime on the radio, and I've been cranking it up in the car. At one point, it occurred to me that the words sounded a little off. Then, of course, I had to go look them up.

Girl = GUN.

Brother = BULLET.

Yeah, here I am, thinking in my own little romanticized way, Cool! Even though the speaker's getting picked on for not having the cool shoes, he's got a nice girlfriend who runs fast (like the character Molly in Powerless that I've been reading on audio in the car when I'm not cranking up the tunes) and a brother who sticks up for him.


Maybe because none of that happened to me, that's what I wanted to hear. I don't know.

Am I still listening to the song, and singing along, and swaying my hips to the bass? You bet.

But now it's like a parody to me. It cuts a bit.

I couldn't defend myself against the other kids' cruelty. The thought never crossed my mind to take up arms against them. I blamed myself--in fact, other people told me it was my fault they made fun of me, and that I needed to change who I was (who I probably still am now)--and I turned all that anger inward and got severely depressed. It took me years and years to learn how to deal with other people, regardless of how they treated me, and I'm still not sure I know how to make and keep friends all that well.

That last part's particularly bothering me right now, because I've got people from my past coming out of the woodwork as a result of my TV appearance--some I parted ways with because I was struggling, and others who walked away because they didn't want to be around me because I was struggling.

I'm glad I have the chance to reconnect with the ones where I screwed up. The ones in the other category--the most recent one being a college classmate who messaged Older Brother on Facebook because he's there and I'm not. . . well, I'm not sure what I want to do there. Do they just want to see where I am, and once they're satisfied with catching up--or finished a quick comparison with their own lives (married? kids? homeowner?) says the cynical part of me--they just drop it again? Or do they actually want to strike up a friendship? It's hard to tell. I got burned by a college classmate about a year ago. She was acting all friendly, and then the next thing I know, every subsequent conversation and e-mail was about promoting her husband's business. I felt incredibly used and disappointed.

It's made me gunshy in the worst way.

Perhaps it is weird that I now work with middle school grades in my current job.

Or perhaps this is the way I redeem those years and try to help at least one kid not go through what I did.


Rob said…
I don't have where I work, where I went to school, or any personal information in my Facebook profile. I don't need to "re-connect" with anyone. I am an easy person to find if you're looking. For those who knew me when, my plan is to ignore anyone I don't care about or whose motives I don't trust. If anything ever gets out of hand, I will simply stop logging in.
Kate P said…
Sound way of handling things, Rob. I think about the reconnecting part sometimes. . . it's rare people are looking to reconnect, I'm finding. They enjoy the little foray outside of their usual lives and circle of friends, and are content to go back in. Not true for every single one, of course, but more often the case than not.
For someone who doesn't have a ton of friends and wants more, it's not enjoyable and feels like getting jerked around, even if it's not intentional. And usually it isn't. (Most likely it's that they are not introverted like me!)
Anonymous said…
For me, as an introvert, I like the connection that Facebook brings. It allows me to connect with people without actually connecting, if that makes sense. I'm able to choose the level of interaction I want with each person, and for most, I like just being able to keep up with what is going on in their lives without having to become involved. It sounds kind of terrible putting it like that, but I don't mean it harshly, just that I don't have the compulsion to keep up with people any other way, so I appreciate Facebook being there to sort of facilitate things!

In other news, I like your lyrics a lot better than the real lyrics ;)
Kate P said…
Angela--You raise a good point. It might just be preference for me that I would prefer to have a handful of deep friendships to a large number of Facebook friends, and that is not necessarily strictly an introvert trait. Facebook is probably good for people who don't like the phone!

And YES I will probably keep singing my own lyrics. . . especially when the song is stuck in my head while I'm at my desk at school. . .
Dave E. said…
I like your lyrics better too.

I get what you mean about middle school. We had moved just before 8th grade for me and that year was just a nightmare of getting picked on and even beat up. It not only hardened me when it came to relationships, I learned how to be sort of invisible as a survival skill. Nobody could hurt me if they couldn't see me, so I got really good at disappearing when I felt I needed to. Not a very healthy thing, but desperate times called for desperate measures. The next year and high school were much better and all of that faded, but it never really goes away entirely.

Two teachers, English and science, helped me a lot that year without even knowing what was really going on. All they did was see a student who loved what they taught and was good at it, so they made sure there was space for me in the extra clubs and stuff that they did beyond regular class. Safe space. It made a really big difference.
Kate P said…
Dave--wow, transferring in 8th grade? That's rough! I transferred in 3rd and it just kept getting worse every year until I got away from those kids and went to a completely different high school. (No clubs in grade school but at least I had outside art lessons thanks to my parents.)
And YES to your observation that it fades but "never really goes away entirely". . . I think my brain was rewired with hundreds of different coping mechanisms to handle school and home and nowadays I still have some very hard habits to break. (Among them is almost constant music running through my head. Weird, I know.)

Thank God for nice teachers, though, right? I don't know if my 8th grade teacher got the full picture of what was going on but she always treated me like I mattered.
Sara said…
I transferred in 4th grade (and 2nd grade, and constantly before that), and then had to run away from them by going to a different high school.

Never knew that we had that in common.
Kate P said…
Sara--I did not know that, either! I knew you had moved, but I thought you had been way younger, like not in school yet.
And yeah, the scholarship to high school was my ticket AWAY from everyone else in 8th grade for me. It was a godsend.

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