There came a day in 2010 when I said to my future husband, “Why does this always happen to me?” “This” being the petty, juvenile, and unprovoked antagonism from individuals who were otherwise my peers. I define a jerk as someone who is rude, cruel, and/or passive aggressive, and who acts as a bully that knowingly does physical and/or emotional harm to others. I have been subjected to a litany of jerks throughout my nearly 27 years of existence. My first memory of being bullied was in the fifth grade, when the insecurities and hormones of girls in particular ignited nonsensical rumors and laughter on my behalf. It was in the seventh and eighth grade that nearly every school day the “It” crowd made it very clear to me that sporting braces and glasses and wearing Star Wars t-shirts was, like, so not cool. I thought that I would have been done with trivial, adolescent drama at the conclusion of high school, so needless to say I was very disappointed when confronted with perhaps even more paltry episodes in graduate school. Graduate school!
Bullying is universal, thought of in the context of small children and teenagers, but it doesn’t end at adolescence and possibly never stops. I am a white, heterosexual, attractive female who was a several-sport athlete in school and always excelled academically. I will never understand what it’s like to be targeted because of my race, religion, body type, or sexuality. While the gossip and subsequent social isolation was painful, I had a support system in my family that reinforced my self-worth and deterred me from physically harming myself. Anti-bullying campaigns like the It Gets Better Project and StopBullying.gov are testament to this serious social epidemic in contemporary society.
The jerks in this volume include former best friends, boyfriends, coworkers, neighbors, coaches, and classmates. In order to be included, the jerk must have had some sort of relationship with me—in other words, there are no anonymous jerks like those I’ve encountered while driving in Northern Virginia traffic, for example. These are people who I knew and whom knowingly did me wrong in some way.
This project is about particularly negative memories. I have a really excellent memory and I just can’t seem to shake the names and faces of people I so wish I could forget. Sometimes I’ll see a young woman with short, brown curls and she’ll remind me of one of the absolute worst jerks I’ve ever known. Due to some casual and albeit weak relationships I maintain with a handful of jerks in this catalog, only the hairstyle of the individual is represented so as not to provide too much information. It’s never my intention to hurt anyone in any way so notes regarding specific jerks are only provided for those I would elect into my Jerk Hall of Fame. This project is not about whining and enacting any sort of “revenge” on people who have emotionally bruised me. The overall quantity and quality of truly good and valuable friends and family in my life far exceeds the 73 individuals featured in this project. It has been therapeutic to spend uninterrupted time with each jerk’s drawing, attempting to capture their coifed likenesses. I won’t deny that it was satisfying to notice the onset of male pattern baldness or the development of premature gray strands in select individuals…but to fully express my amusement might make me seem like a jerk.