A friend reminded me about something when we were chatting online today and I started laughing. Laughing is almost always my first reaction and I have gotten into trouble severally.
One of our classmates started behaving weirdly when we were in form three. Her name is Lydia. The first time, we all thought she was simply being cheeky, after all teenagers are expected to have a kind of stereotyped behavior. If my diary is correct, then the first incident happened towards the end of May in 2008. It was during the night prep.
Lydia stood up and drew everyone's attention with a bang on her desk. Our prefect was not the joking type and she immediately ordered her out of class.
"Lydia, you cannot disrupt the class like that! Go out and meet the teacher on duty." Nelver said.(I picked that sentence from my diary, that is why it is accurate)
But Lydia ignored and continued to make a crazy announcement.
"My boyfriend asked me to write him a letter before end term. Who knows any nice words?"
We all burst out laughing including the class prefect. I was surprised at the enormous ideas people had in that class. The only trouble was that people started talking about their own boyfriends instead of sorting Lydia out. After five minutes, the whole class had become rowdy with people turning their books upside down in the process of locating a love letter to show off. I have always been an observer, so I was quietly seated just looking around. Those are some of the instances when my desk mate labeled me abnormal. But I am not complaining.
Just like I had expected, the teacher on duty passed by our block and asked all of us to go and kneel at the parade square unless all the prefects in that class produced the list of noise makers. I was a prefect as well but I had never thought of writing anyone's name for noise making.
The whole class was punished.
In the next incident, Lydia suddenly rose from her desk and started declaring her love for my desk mate Sharon. We found that strange but her statement did not strike us as lesbian at all. As usual, there was a loud burst of laughter in class with a few courageous ones asking her why she loved Sharon. Sharon on her part was chocking on laughter. I miss her laughter so much. I laughed too but I knew that as a peer counselor, I had to somehow step in. I had to either report to the guidance and counseling mistress or try to find out from Lydia what was happening because Lydia was not acting sober at all. She had been my classmate since form one and I knew her quite well. It was completely out of her character to behave in that manner and especially disrupting the preps knowing fully well that the consequences were dreadful.
I saw the madam in her office the following day.
"What brings you to my office, Daisy? The day is still young."
"Good morning madam." I greeted her politely before taking a seat opposite her. It had not been easy to get used to talking to her especially being the reserved person that I am. I find it intrusive to talk about other people in their absence. But I had learnt the art over time.
I narrated my concerns about Lydia and to my surprise, madam asked me to ignore her.
"Lydia is just being the teenager that she is. The next time she makes noise in class, inform the teacher on duty so that she is punished. We will only come in when there is evidence to show that she is in deed a lesbian."
I was dissatisfied with that answer but what was I supposed to do?
There was a series of other shocking incidences but I managed to ignore her. She was caught severally by the teachers on duty, got punished and that was it.
In the last incident, Lydia was found sleeping in class by one of the no-nonsense madams in the school. But Lydia stood her ground and said that no one was going to punish her. Lydia preffered a suspension.
As disturbing as it was, Lydia was given a suspension and she did not show up until very many weeks later. One of her older brothers who was a medical doctor had sensed something wrong with her immediately he set eyes on her. He took her to hospital and she was put on medication.
As we continued chatting with my pal, she asked me a question I would have asked her if she didn't.
"Would you blame the teachers for being ignorant of Lydia's illness?"
I did not answer her immediately but when I did, this was my answer.
I would partly blame the teachers and partly not. I would also blame her classmates(us) partly and partly not. I think we all have mindsets of some sort. By the time we are ten, we begin hearing terrible stories about adolescence and puberty. We read about how rebellious we'll become and et cetera. Only rarely do we get both sides of the coin and so in most cases we don't approach life and teenagehood the way we would if we did not have the societal expectations in our mind. That must have been the reason why we did not suspect anything beyond mischief in Lydia's character. We all knew her as a moderately active classmate, we should have raised an alarm immediately she started acting 'hyper'.
Our teachers too had their own stereotypes. Perhaps if they did not have a standard behaviour for teenagers, our guidance and counselling madam would have looked into Lydia's issue more keenly.
But thank GOD for her brother who did not act from what he thought about teenagers.
I want to end with a quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
"The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete."