It's everywhere right now. The talk of bullying. Brought upon because all too many kids killed themselves after being bullied so ferociously they felt they had no value. Because they were gay. Good freakin' Lord, y'all. Because they know they like people they get tormented? Not 'cause they're bad in any way. Because they like people. And those people happen to have the same sexual organs as they do. Tormented. Verbally assaulted. Beaten down. Drawn to death. Bullshit.
I could never find the words as eloquent as this dude who's awesomer than awesome in his ways of speaking.
And I won't try. Most of the people I know will say they were bullied. I don't know if it's a general perception during any given time in our lives or if the problem is so fierce or if everyone lives bullying in a different way. Frankly, I don't care. I do think that if we all could live as more of a community we *might* not have the same issues so young in life. I can hope, right? Just as so many other people do, I have a story. Mine isn't of how I wanted anyone to die. And, I've never been quiet.
I had no problems when I lived in Oklahoma. That came to an end, however, when my Mom decided that screwing our Karate sensei was more important than ya' know... us. So, my sis, Dad, and self moved to a little town in Illinois. My Dad had a job available to him there so that was our landing spot after escaping the divorce. On my first day, I got my locker assigned to me and went through the uncomfortable "I'm Shannon" introduction stuff. I had a couple of people who were nice and reached out to me and helped me out on that day. At that stage in the game, lockers came with locker buddies. Unfortunately for me, my locker buddy was an elitist and the 2nd day at my new school I was informed that my locker buddy was no longer my buddy. She wasn't very good at being sly and soon I found out that it was because my -fake- fur coat smelled bad and/or was ugly and took up too much space in the locker. I was definitely off to a great start.
Since having Zane, I've thought a lot about childhood bullying, both my receiving of it and my giving of it. (More on this in a minute...) I've apologized to one person that I was really mean to after seeking them out on Facebook for that exact reason. I still have a couple more. It's such a scary thing to do. When I did apologize I got a response that I didn't expect at all. I got a "eh, it's nothing we were teenagers, nobody meant anything they did." Now I'm scared to do more apologizing. I'm fearing that this stuff I've been holding onto for YEEEAAARSSSSSS (my guilt over my own behavior) is nonsensical and that what I did didn't really hurt or affect anyone. I hope I didn't really hurt anyone, but the fact is that I believe I did. And I believe that even as a grown woman the recipient of that apology may still feel that her feelings aren't important. But, they are. So, I'll do my other couple of apologies because it hurts to know that I hurt others and I don't know how it affects these people as adults, but I know that I am STILL affected by things done to me as a child. I think it'd be just grand to hear from David, Anne, Billy, Mr. Culbertson, and Mrs. Spivey and find a real, raw reason for their disgust of me. I think it'd be great because it wouldn't undo anything, but it'd help us all get to the point of why this happens. It'd mean that those people are thinking about themselves in the meaningful, hard ways and they're seeing themselves and understanding who they are and who they have been. It'd mean they're finding personal growth. It'd mean that we might have one more approach to a kid who's bullying, or worse...to a teacher who's bullying.
I didn't endure physical brutality or endless days of torture like some other have. I think I was the "average bullied" kid. It was general knowledge that I wasn't liked and no one hid it, but only on certain occasions was it deemed fun to exploit my sense of self worth. Like when a boy was my boyfriend and his friend asked him how he could go out with me and referred to me as "it" directly in front of my face. When the same boy made fun of me for being "flat" in 6th grade. When the same boy came to my house for my birthday parties but escorted a huge group of people away from my house until it was time for parents to pick up then they all swarmed back. When a different boy in a higher grade asked me to be his girlfriend and in my naive adolescence I cooed "yeah" to him. He got me on the phone with his friends listening in on the other side a couple of times and 2 or 3 days after the prank began he finally ended it by publicly announcing the whole thing was a joke at the school play. When my basketball coach opted to not teach me how to do a drill properly, but rather had everyone stop and watch me do it wrong, because I kept messing it up. In 7th grade. Not freakin' varsity basketball here. When that same teacher taught algebra and told the whole class about how bad I was at basketball. When my 5th grade teacher mocked my last name during class by chanting "Rumpshaker" (my last name was Rumps) repeatedly when I finally got a good enough grade to throw a foam basketball in her class for a prize. When that same teacher stopped the whole gymnastics class one evening to find my smelly feet and make me smell someone else's feet that didn't smell, rather than recognizing that I was too stinking poor for new shoes or enough socks and that maybe my Dad didn't wash my laundry and all I really needed was a $5 pair of Keds given to me quietly by someone who cared rather than laughed.
Yeah, all those times... They were some of the random times that I was bullied and while it wasn't ongoing torture and no one was throwing me in trash cans it was still enough. Enough to prove to me (right after my Mom left the country for a dude) that no one, in fact, gave a rat's ass that I was around. I never fantasized about killing anyone or wishing they died. I've always been an internalizer, not an externalizer. So, I'd sit in the brush on the side of Foley Dr. and visualize myself jumping in front of the next car to drive by at 55MPH. I'd try to gain the courage to do it. But, I was so afraid that I wouldn't die and that I'd be hurt instead that I never did it. I always knew that even though it felt like the whole world hated me my Dad and my sister wouldn't be okay with me killing myself. There were plenty of times that those two things kept me alive.
I retaliated in my own ways. I got really good at making fun of myself FIRST. I figured if I beat 'em to the punch then it'd seem like they were just playing along. Of course that never happened. I just annoyed my friends who really did like me and I formed an internal dialogue that I'm still fighting to this very day. I also kept friends who weren't so good to me and who were my best friends only because they were as sad and lonely as I was. I was still their whipping boy though, receiving loogies on my forehead and getting chanted to through a window after I got squeezed out of a sleepover "Homeward Bound" like I was the dog in the movie. I was still her friend the next day, too. Shame. I found people "lower on the totem pole" than myself and I teased them. I remember getting in a heated argument with one girl in the computer lab and just being mean to her. Coming up with all sorts of really harsh insults such as "Can you come over for dinner? We're having spaghetti and I need to rub my toast on your head to grease it up" Totally lame. Terrible "joke". And, yet... people laughed and cheered me on during that.
And that felt good.
I hate that I did that to her. I hate that I pretended to like a boy who I actually did like and I think he liked me but he was more of a nerd than myself and so I dared not expose my true liking for him and instead teased him for liking me. I hate that I resorted to drinking and smoking cigarettes with the outcasts similar to myself at such a ridiculously young age. However, I found a place there that was safe. I had my boys and none of them treated me poorly. I was never pressured into sex stuff or...well... really anything. But, we all got together and drank away our 12-14 year old problems. Chaos.
I think that guy has a good way of telling us what we can do to help, especially when he writes directly to the young people. It's true. We do have the responsibility of talking to kids, asking them questions, and putting our arms around them no matter what the stupid school rules say about no touching. We have the privilege of speaking up when we do hear something inappropriate happening and not by doing so forcefully but rather with compassion. I can absolutely guarantee that the only reason I was mean to others was that I was trying to defend my place in the pecking order. The bullies really do need us to be their safe place, too. Not their excuse, not their silent witness. Their safe place. We should provide, to them, a person who can be spoken with and trusted. A person who will point out their most positive qualities and still hold them accountable for their negative behaviors. We've got to open our hearts to ALL kids to show them that they ALL matter. They are ALL struggling in similar ways and we are here for them. We can stop telling them they're "bad" and start showing them that they're good. I betcha' they don't even know it. And, we can share all sorts of writings (especially responses to the recent suicides) age-appropriately-edited with them so they can see that we really get it. We're not just grown ups who are telling them things but that we are grown PEOPLE who have experienced things. We can even speak up when we see parents bullying their own kids. But, that's an entire area to explore...