Finding Your Old Neighborhood Bully on Facebook

Facebook has been a boon to people like me who are curious about whatever became of -- ok -- everyone I ever met. I love it when Baby Boomers talk about navigating Facebook as if we are really tuned into modern technology. We brag about uploading a photo or unfriending someone as if we're Navajo Code Talkers.

It took me only 15 seconds to find Gary Dush's* profile when I went looking for it recently. But when it comes to people's Internet footprints, you hit pay dirt with a name like Dush, so I'm not taking any credit.

Gary was an older boy from the neighborhood. I'd known his name my whole life, partly because of its indelicacy, but also because you knew everyone's name back then whether you ever spoke directly to him or not.

My first brush with Gary came as my two friends and I were walking to the Rexall Drug Store, two blocks away. This was considered physical exercise back in 1962. We saw Gary Dush and his friends coming toward us on the sidewalk.

I can see from his Facebook profile today that Gary still looks a little mean, the way he did all through childhood. No boy in town could resist a verbal poke at him, and I'm sure his permanently crabby mood had something to do with being called "Gary Douche" his whole life.

We questioned the nickname a few times among ourselves. We knew it alluded to some pink rubber contraption with a hose that we'd see drying on the shower curtain rod once in a while. It had something to do with being a married woman, but that was as far as we got.

I don't know if Gary rehearsed his little speech, or why he chose me over my friends. But suddenly he stopped and pointed up at me, close to my face.

"You are so ugly! No one is ever going to want to make out with you!"

They laughed until they were out of hearing range.

I didn't obsess until bedtime, but then the parsing began. I was okay with his first sentence. I knew it was the truth. But the second part scared me because I really was planning on having a boyfriend someday.

Did he think I would never make out with him, or with anyone? Ever? Had he already made out with some beautiful girl somewhere, and that's how he knew? How did he know?

When Gary Dush said those words to me at 12, I took it as a final verdict. A boy had said something to me, about me, so it must be true. It took some years to uncover that it really doesn't work that way. Gary was only being what he was that summer -- the neighborhood bully -- covering up whatever he needed to hide about himself.

His Facebook profile only has one photograph, and I spend a long time looking at it. Maybe he doesn't really look mean, I think to myself. Maybe he's just squinting into the afternoon Arizona sun. I wonder if he's still short or if he had a late growth spurt.

I wonder if he'd remember my name the way I remember his.

*Names have been changed