“You are so addlepated, dilapidated, and ludicrous” or, How a 9 Year Old Girl Fought Sexual Harassment with a Thesaurus

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It started at the bus stop. And yes, I was 9 years old. Fourth grade.

Dave was a fifth grader and he started making fun of another girl’s hair.

“Your hair is so fuzzy, Jess.” Jess had very curly red hair that she brushed out in true late 80s fashion.

Indeed, it did look fuzzy. But we all caught the note of hostility in his voice, and stopped what we were doing.

“I bet you’re fuzzy... in OTHER places, too.” Dave started sniggering. “OTHER places.”

In fourth grade, we girls had to sit through a mortifying video about periods and puberty. So we knew what this “fuzzy” was referring to. I felt that white hot embarrassment hit my face and stick to me like shame. I could tell my best friend Erika felt the same way.

Jess was red like a tomato. Her face screwed up, trying not to cry. “YOU SHUT UP DAVE!”

The next day Dave, joined by a crony, had thoughts to share on our boobs. (I hate this word as much as Mrs. White hated Miss Scarlet in Clue. HATE. You’re on notice).

Most of us didn’t even have them. That’s what Dave wanted to comment on! Lots of comments that made us cringe and try to disappear. Nobody looked at anybody.

That night I told my mom. Erika was there. Couldn’t my mom just drive us to school? So we could avoid Dave? Maybe Jess could come with us? She wasn’t really a friend but we had to help her.

My mom refused. Then she told me to get my thesaurus. “What we need are big words,” she said. “Big words will confuse Dave and make him leave you alone. He won’t have any fun picking on kids who don’t react to his disgusting comments.”

Erika and I were intrigued. First we flipped, and then we read. There were so many words! Look at all these words we could use to get back at Dave!

We settled on addlepated, dilapidated, and ludicrous. This was before the rapper, so nobody knew what ANY of those words meant. Dave would be TOAST.

The next morning Erika and I were so excited. We told Jess in whispers that exploded out of us in laughter. Jess didn’t look convinced but agreed to go along with it.

Dave said something, I don’t remember what. I shouted YOU’RE SO ADDLEPATED, DAVE right as Erika shouted YOU’RE SO DILAPIDATED, DAVE!

Dave was startled. Then he sneered. “What a bunch of geeks.” His crony sneered too but said nothing.

Jess: “Well you’re LUDICROUS.”

Dave couldn’t get a word out. We shouted him down with our “big words.” The bus came and all three of us - me, Erika, and Jess - bounced up the steps with absolute glee.

Dave tried again the next day, only to be met with a torrent of “You’re insipid, banal, pedantic, flabbergasted.” After that he gave up and never bothered us - or any other bus stop girls - again.

After that, I consulted my thesaurus regularly for the stories and poems I was always writing back then. You could say it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


Jenn Whinnem