A completely unbitter Jun Li now cruises on a two-wheeler with style.  Kind of.
A completely unbitter Jun Li now cruises on a two-wheeler with style. Kind of.

Training Wheels: My Anti-Drug

Bullying: it’s a way of life. Unfortunately, getting teased is one too. I moved to a new school district in
By Jun Li

Bullying: it’s a way of life. Unfortunately, getting teased is one too.

I moved to a new school district in the fourth grade. Sporting a fresh mushroom haircut, I was completely clueless about cannolis in a town that was 40 percent Italian-American. Naturally, I was one tacky Jessica McClintock gown and plastic tiara away from being prom queen.

Every day after school, I would go over to my friend Jenny’s house. The only thing we had in common was the lack of an Italian ancestor. My athletically-challenged self was perfectly happy not hanging from the monkey bars or playing dodgeball at recess. I helped her with her math homework and she taught me how to play box ball. Every afternoon, after finishing homework (that I had mostly done on the bus anyway), watching “Dirty Dancing” or “Dave” for the 100th time, we would venture out into the neighborhood on our bikes. Naturally athletic (and a future volleyball and track superstar), Jenny rode around hands-free on her cool bike—Titanic-style—while I, on the other hand, still had a bright pink children’s bike. Complete with training wheels.

Another one of our classmates, let’s call him Vinny*, also cavorted in her neighborhood. I’m going to avoid cheap Sopranos references, but let’s just say Vinny and his gang sported spiked hair and gold chains rather than Yankee sweatpants.

Just as Adam and Eve were unashamed of their nakedness before Eve went and ate that apple (heyyy, Lit C-70!), I was perfectly happy peddling around on my sweet, stable ride. Double the wheels, double the fun. Not to mention that I could ride around hands-free with a heck of a lot less effort.

Then the serpent came. Vinny pulled into Jenny’s driveway on his cool, training wheels-less bike one day. Thinking he needed help on that day’s homework, a name-acronym poem, I was already thinking of words that begin with the letter V when he walked over towards me...and my bike—my pink, four-wheel bike.

“How’s your name poe—?” I started to ask.

He cut me off. “Is that Jenny’s sister’s bike?” he asked.

“Nope. It’s Jun’s,” piped Jenny from behind me.

Amazed at Jenny’s betrayal, I endured a good 10 minutes of laughter and ridicule before I realized I had constructed his entire name poem in my mind. Having completed that task jolted me awake, and I realized it was probably foolish to just stand there taking it. I got on my bike and rolled away, hoping that my four wheels would carry me faster than they usually did.

The next day at school, he threatened to tell everyone that I was a training wheel-dependant a baby. Obviously, I had to defend my honor. After wiping away the requisite tears, I went home that night, told my dad to remove my training wheels, and learned how to ride a two-wheeler. My long division could wait—I had a lot of catching up to do.

It didn’t take long for me to learn how to ride my new pink two-wheeler, but it was many months before I liked Jenny enough to help her with her math homework again. Vinny moved away right before high school, so he never got to see me get my learner’s permit the day I turned sixteen. Determined not to get left behind again, I passed my driver’s test within five months.

Now I’m back to cruising around in a vehicle with four wheels, thank you very much. I also eventually got over my lack of athleticism and started to learn Tae Kwon Do. If the universe were a place of poetic justice, I would be able to transport myself back to that day in the driveway and pull up in my black belt and matching black SUV.

But if my training wheel incident has taught me anything, it’s to stop asking for poetic justice. I can’t remember being bullied after this incident, or if I was, it never forced me into action again. Except for just one thing: this past summer, I made my sister, a rising second-grader, take off her training wheels.

*Name not changed for protection. Sorry, buddy!