Who Was Your Childhood Nemesis?

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2004, just in case anyone actually reads this stuff.

Everyone had a nemesis growing up. Someone who was there to bother, harass, and torment them. Abel had Caine, Julius Caesar had Brutus, and everyone who likes music has Taylor Swift.

My nemesis was Darryl F. (not his real name), a rotten punk at my school who made it his life's mission to bug me and cause trouble at every turn. He was a little menace who used to shove old ladies and paint graffiti on churches. And he burned the American flag on several occasions.

Okay, none of that's true. And I know I should let bygones be bygones, because I'm a mature adult who has moved on with his life, but I can't. It's often said that tragedy plus time equals comedy, but in my case, the comedy will always be about the little turds who made my life hell.

Besides, he probably lives in a cave and only communicates with points and grunts, so it's not like he'll read this.

Actually, Darryl F. and I were usually friends, and would hang out through the summer. But occasionally there would be a flare-up and we would beat on each other for a while before things returned to normal.

However, despite our fun times, I don't have fond memories about Darryl F. In fact, I often hope he has a really messy job that involves working at a sewage treatment plant as an underwater retrieval specialist.

On the other hand, I won't use his real name, in case he became a blood-thirsty attorney who made his ill-gotten wealth by suing poor widows and orphans.

Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States
My youngest daughter, Emma, had her own nemesis at school. Not to the degree that Darryl F. and I would do battle, but this kid vexed and frustrated her every chance he got.

The kid in question is named after a former president, although I won't use his real name here, in case his dad is Darryl F. Let's just call him Fillmore, named after another president, just to protect his anonymity. Besides, I don't think enough people talk about Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States. He deserves a little shout out.

Just before her fourth birthday, Emma told Fillmore that she was going to be four.

"Nuh-uh," Fillmore said. "You're going to be five."

"Nuh-uh," said Emma. "I'm going to be four. Next year I'll be five." Emma was pretty on the ball, even back then.

Fillmore was undeterred. "Nuh-uh. You're going to be five." Fillmore was five, so he believed everyone else was five too.

Emma came home and dismantled, point by point, Fillmore's illogical arguments, and explained how he completely distorted the facts of the case.

She said, "He's a butt!"

After her birthday, Emma saw Fillmore at school again.

"Fillmore!" she hollered, as she walked into the classroom. "I'm four now. I'm going to be five next year!"

Fillmore looked away and didn't say anything. Worried that he didn't hear her, Emma yelled even louder: "FILLMORE! I'M GOING TO BE FIVE NEXT YEAR!"

He still didn't respond. This annoyed Emma, who turned to my wife and said, "Mommy, Fillmore is pretending to ignore me in a passive-aggressive attempt to get me to stoop to his level of discourse."

Of course, it came out, "Mommy, he's not listening," but we knew what she meant.

Over the next several weeks, I heard story after story about how Fillmore had slighted Emma in some way, and about how he was heartless and cruel. Of course, I also heard the real stories from my wife, and how Emma barely paid the slightest attention to Fillmore.

I don't know where she got her overdeveloped sense of melodrama.

But despite all the gut-wrenching tales of imagined slights and insults, Emma insisted that she and Fillmore were friends. They even played together with nary a word about who was turning five, or who was exhibiting textbook passive-agressive behavior toward whom.

Maybe if Emma and Fillmore could be friends, Darryl F. and I could move beyond the scars of childhood. We're both mature adults who can look back on our youthful antics and laugh. So maybe I could try to renew my acquaintance with Darryl F., the playground bully from my childhood. All I need is his phone number and address.

And a flaming bag of dog poo.

Photo credit: U.S. Library of Congress (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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