Advice to My Childhood Self

R.J. Fox

(in no particular order)


  • If you grow up with your parents’ bedroom right next to yours, wear earplugs at night.


  • Avoid bragging about your Magic Rocks – no matter how colorful.

  • Refrain from bragging about your Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm – no matter how many tunnels the ants dug. And if you do have an art farm, be sure to follow the instructions, which include putting the live fire ants into the freezer for a short period to briefly paralyze them before inserting them into the farm. Otherwise, the fire ants will scurry in every possible direction up your hand and arm, leaving a trail of piercing bites.

  • Don’t wear a plastic Sea-Monkey necklace to school (a plastic, bubble aquarium hanging from a red string that you put actual live Sea-Monkeys into) (Sea “Sea-Monkey Necklace” for more details).


  • Avoid leaving a pair of dirty underpants in the…

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Air Ball

R.J. Fox

IMG_6499Middle school is awkward enough for just about everyone, but it is a nightmare for any perceived dork, nerd, freak, or weirdo. Fortunately, there were always other dorks to keep me company. However, not all dorks were my friends. There were some I simply didn’t want to be friends with because they were even dorkier than me. I avoided associating myself with them for the same reason jocks avoided me. On the flip side, there were some dorks more popular than me who did the same. In fact, they went out of their way to make fun of me just as much as the jocks did, because they were working so hard at being accepted. There were the unwritten rules of the dork kingdom.

Although I may have avoided the dorks beneath me, I never stooped low enough to taunt them – no matter how desperate I was for acceptance…

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R.J. Fox

For a male, getting picked last in gym class is a death sentence to one’s social status. Even the physical education activities that did not involve picking teams did little to help my cause, either. Chin-ups and rope climbing were one and the same to me, as they achieved the same effect: failure and shame.

In the case of chin-ups, my skinny legs would dangle helplessly beneath me as I strained to elevate my chin above the bar. One would think being a frail, skinny child would make this feat easier. It does not. As I hung from the bar like a sheet hung out to dry on a calm day, I was completely self-aware that all of my classmates were not only watching down below. But laughing.

Climbing a rope was a similar ordeal: rather than my legs dangling in the air, they would straddle the rope like a…

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Sea-Monkey Necklace

R.J. Fox

Looking back, there are no shortage of reasons why I was bullied. I’m not saying I deserved it. However, I certainly didn’t help my cause.

My elementary school social standing left much to be desired, to say the least. I was a nerd and a dork (labels I now look back at with pride). Back then, however, pride wasn’t even in my vocabulary. When you are small for your age and picked last in gym class (even picked after sloths and paraplegics), there really isn’t much hope. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when even other nerds pick on you. When you’re a nerd trying to climb the social ladder, surrounding yourself with other nerds doesn’t exactly help your cause. So you compensate by shunning your own people, while simultaneously feeling yourself gravitating toward them as the only possible source of friendship. A perpetual catch-22.

I often fancy myself…

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Tree Hugger

R.J. Fox

Some kids spend warm afternoons in the safe confines of a tree house. For one afternoon, at the tender age of nine, I had the luxury of spending part of mine tied to a tree.

Following a half-day of school, I was walking home, eagerly anticipating my mom’s yummy egg salad when I approached Johnny Ruff’s house. Johnny Ruff was one of the few nice jocks who – on most days – was actually nice to me. Every now and then, he would invite me over to play. However, the problem with this was the moment someone else saw him with me, he conveniently turned against me. So our friendship was, in essence, closeted.

While passing by his house, he stepped out onto the porch and eagerly invited me in. This presented an instant dilemma: delay egg salad sandwich gratification in exchange for a rare opportunity for social interaction? Or…

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