Let's say we're all bees. Each and every one of us is buzzing about-
buzz buzz buzz.
The honey that we make is our lives. Experience has taught me two things...

KILLER BEES MAKE THE MOST DELICIOUS HONEY

...and LIFE is only as yummy as you make it!

Are YOU a Killer Bee?



bee my guest?

bee my guest?
Howdy Beezers! I'm excited to share something new with you... Over the upcoming months, most of the content you'll be seeing here will be from special guest contibutors! This is sure to add a new texture to this thing we've been weaving over the years. I know that many of my readers (yes, you!) are writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers. PLEASE feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to contribute! I'd be most honored to pollinate... send me a note: m.mckinley@rocketmail.com

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June 8, 2009

HE CHOSE PINK, 1976




He Chose Pink, 1976
Anyone who knows me will tell you pink is my absolute favorite color, and always has been.

In all its glorious and versatile incarnations, pink rocks.
As a person who lives mostly by sensory intuition, I will testify that pink always makes me feel good when I see it, no matter what my current mood, or state of mind.

Pink speaks volumes to me. Wanna know what it doesn’t say? That it’s masculine.
Or feminine. Some things about our nature are just hard-wired…

At Adam Laird Elementary School in Santa Maria California, all of the children in Mrs. Cordero’s kindergarten class were very excited about the week’s big art project. She and her assistant would pour mixed plaster into 30 disposable pie tins, and then each of us would have our chance to place our right hand, palm side down in the gritty goo, making a permanent cast of our tiny handprints- a gift for our parents.

But before she commenced mixing the colorful powdered plaster and water concoction, she informed us that we could choose our own color: yellow, blue or pink. Surprise! I was the only boy in the class who chose pink.Putting all the ‘couldn’t miss it coming’ jokes aside I really doubt that I would’ve ever thought about it twice, or likely even remember the whole situation today, if she hadn’t asked me if I was sure. She was so concerned that she asked several times if I was sure. “Now Michael, all of the other boys chose blue or yellow, are you sure you want pink”? Geez lady, what’s the big deal?

At age 5 I had zero notions of color being gender specific. Everything in my bedroom at home was green .Eight shades of avocado to be specific. Though I doubt she did it consciously out of a desire to raise an enlightened child, my mother had spared me any brainwashing on the matter. On the other hand you can be sure my father had a definitive opinion of what colors were masculine or feminine. But he’d split by then, and therefore forfeited any rights to brainwashing.

Once my little pink disc of immortality had cured and been released from its mold, it was ready to be wrapped up and given with the kind of joy only a 5 year old can possess when giving a handmade gift to his or her parents. As best as I can recall she was thrilled by it. And nary was a word said about its color.

At age 5 we’re still fairly innocent beings. But for most, the sticky and complicated rules of the world have thoroughly inoculated us by 7. Unless you’re Michael Patrick McKinley. I was still pretty oblivious to allot of these rules regarding what’s masculine and feminine. Until one fateful morning in Mrs. Dolley’s 2nd grade class…

Once a week, Mrs. Dolley would write a list of 10 new words on the chalkboard.
We had to use each word effectively in a sentence, write these 10 sentences down on a piece of paper, and turn it in to be graded. Purely for the sake of literary drama, let me present you with a sample chalkboard list. Note that one of these words was on the list that day in 1978…

Bird
Shoe
Airplane
Cat
Dress
Street
Rock
Alarm
Mouse
Music

I loved school. By 2nd grade I was showing an accelerated aptitude for most things academic- accept math. I still detest math. I didn’t really have any “buddies”, but I was pretty social with the other children, and enjoyed recess as much as the next kid. Unless of course, sports were involved. Never was very sporty.

This day in Mrs. Dolley’s class started out just like any other. I dove right into my assignment, came up with the most clever sentences I could think of, and turned in my work promptly.

As Mrs. Dolley reviewed and graded our papers, the class quietly read a chapter in our books. The silence was broken when she started to giggle. Then the giggle turned into a roaring laugh. Contagiously, a few of the kids started to giggle too. After all, whatever Mrs. Dolley was laughing about, it must’ve been really funny. Then she made her announcement- “Class. Listen to what Michael McKinley has written for his sentence using the word ‘dress’! Michael wrote ‘I wore a yellow dress to school on Tuesday’! She could hardly contain herself long enough to make her announcement. She dug my grave deeper. “So are you a little girl now? Does Michael wear dresses to school”? The entire classroom burst out with laughter. Apparently everyone got the humor but me.

I honestly had no idea what was sooooooo funny. And I quickly realized that they just weren’t laughing at what I had written, but they were laughing at me. All eyes were on me, and all voices were laughing at me. I finally could take it no more and erupted in tears. I leapt from desk and bolted out the door. With tears streaming down my face I ran to the office and told the secretary I needed to go home, and to call my Mom right away.

The principal stuck his head out of his office to see what all the fuss was about.
After I was calmed down, he assured me that Mrs. Dolley would never say anything to hurt my feelings, and that I needed to be a big boy and go back to class. I protested, so he escorted me instead. No one called my mother, and Mrs. Dolley never apologized.

At recess, while news of my gender-bending blunder spread like wildfire across the playground, Mandi Kent and Teresa Foster came up to me and told me they didn’t think what Mrs. Dolley did was very nice. While their words of solace were of some comfort to me, I knew that life at school had forever been changed, and indeed it had. From that day forward I would carry around the "sissy boy" stigma, with all the trimmings.

In today’s world, Mrs. Cordero would probably never have mentioned my choice of pink. And Mrs. Dolley would likely have been banned from teaching in Santa Barbara County. But that was the 1970’s, in a small farming community on the central coast. And Michael had no choice but to endure every miserable second of it. I spent my entire childhood plotting my escape.

Everyday, in every corner of the world children are still being picked on for being different. For being effeminate, too smart, too slow, poor, too fat, or too thin or not attractive by society’s increasingly impossible standards. In this day and age it seems ludicrous, but it’s a reality. Are children really cruel by nature? I doubt it seriously. But as a child it’s impossible to reconcile just how other kids can be so incredibly cruel.

If you have a childhood like mine, and you manage to emerge on the other end of it empowered, and not diminished, it’s truly a miracle.

That’s one of the beautiful things about growing up and gaining a few kernels of wisdom. For instance. I know now that God created all the glorious colors in the universe for each and everyone of us to revel in, and assigned not a single one of them to a specific gender. And yet we’re all trained early on that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, right?

Who made up these rules anyway?
And why, oh why are people still mindlessly adhering to them?

One of the most important things I’ve come to understand over the years is that if you’re paying attention, you’ll fully realize who you are, what you’re worth, and what you’re made of. You’ll also gain a much clearer perspective of the people who’ve touched your life in both positive and negative ways. The bullies of my youth are a huge factor in the equation of ME. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those people.

Mrs. Dolley was a bitch.
And when given the choice, I still choose pink.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My beautiful Michael Patrick, reading this had me both laughing & crying uncontrollably. My husbands thinks I'm a bit nuts right now unfortunately.

Do you remember our very first encounter? It was in the Adam school principlals office. I believe that you were in there at your own will for the sole purpose of hiding from some punk kids. I, on the other hand, had just gotten busted for kicking Andrew Veglia in the nads....again. Unlike you, I was pretty adamantly opposed to being there & was making quite the stink (cussing, kicking & spitting the entire way)as I was literally dragged in by the scruff and then deposited onto the bench next to you. Looking back now.... I must have been quite the vision of feminine charm, right?

Anyway, you slid your ass down that bench like I had the damn consumption or something & you just stared at me with the oddest expression. It was like this look of admiration ..... and genuine fear for your well being.

First impressions, huh? I sure do know how to make them!

And you, I can still see it...... were wearing what was in my opinion, the single most ridiculous, starched, crisp, white (dare I say it...... seersucker )leisure suit that embarked on the 70's.

I don't think that either of us had any clue at that moment what to think of the other.

But as fate would have it, later that day, we met again walking home from school. You were walking 10 feet or so in front of me and Andrew & his band of merry minions were picking on you. So, being the brazen little broad that I was, ran up to him and racked him in the nuts again. (BTW, do you know if he was ever able to have kids?)

I walked you the rest of the way home. You invited me in & that, my darling, was the day that I listened to my very first Barbara Streisand on vinyl. Ahhhhhhhh!

What a long, strange trip it's been! I love you Michael!

Buzz Out!

Buzz Out!