Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In honor of those who were bullied...

We're discussing bullying today over on a message board I belong to. A little delayed, compared to the rest of the world, maybe, but the discussion is happening, and it made me think about how I handled the bullying I received when I was younger. I made mention that pretty much all kids who aren't bullied themselves are bullies in some way. At least, in my experience, that was the case. Those of us who were bullied didn't have the opportunity to bully someone else. Hell, we didn't have the heart for it!

But now that I think further on it, I did bully...I bullied the Twin. She was the pretty one, with clear skin and non-developed boobs, and who didn't have to worry about her weight. I stopped using her real name early on - probably when we were 10, or so - and I started calling her "Ugly". It felt weird going back to calling her by her real name when we got older, and I didn't do it until she told me that I was hurting her feelings by calling her Ugly all the time. I think we were 17 by then. Or maybe 18, even. We were in therapy together, I know that. (I think.)

Anyway, the discussion we were having on the message board fell into a "how's the best way to handle bullying" from a parent perspective. A couple of people had parents get involved for them, and it didn't go well. I think I was the longest bullied kid in my family, thanks to my super genes that gave me C-cup boobs at age 11, along with a great big fat ass, AND a need for glasses. Oh, and let's not forget the cystic acne.

Basically, I was a walking pre-teen joke, ok? Ok. Moving on...

Being that my twin was pretty and thin, and we were oddities thanks to our twinness, I was still relatively popular. Also, I was a likeable kid, as ugly as I was. I had always been pretty outgoing, and having the ugly branch of the family tree thrown at me the way it was, I learned to develop my personality outside of my looks. Not on purpose, really. It just happened. So I was friendly and generally in a good mood when I was around people I wasn't related to. That made me likeable, I guess.

But when it came to the actual bullying I was faced with (and I think the Twin got some of it, too, just because we were kind of a team when we were in school together), I had to learn to fend for myself. My mom didn't intervene for me. But I do remember mom, along with my older brother and sisters, giving me some ideas for come-backs for the nasty comments that I got. Unfortunately, they were always after the fact, but they made me laugh. And discussing the bullying at home and receiving support like that from my family helped a lot, thinking back on it.

I can't remember a lot of the interactions that I had when it came to the bullying now that I'm grown. Just one or two specific incidents remain in my memory, and I guess I'm grateful for that. And I never will have kids, so I'm dodging the "how do we deal with it as a parent" bullet there, I suppose.

What do you guys think about the bullying thing? Do you agree with me that the ones that are doing the bullying seem to not get bullied themselves? At least, in school they don't. Maybe they're reacting to the way they're treated elsewhere, like at home, or by a coach or something. But as far as the peer bullying, in my experience, they're generally the ones that have it all, and for some reason, they feel a need to rub your nose in it.

If you have a kid that's popular in school, what will you do/what do you do to ensure they aren't bullying?


Ms. Pants said...

My brother got it worse than I did; I think because he reacted to it more than I did. My parents enrolled him in karate classes and when someone stepped up to him after school to take the bullying to a physical level, my brother (who had gone up 3 or 4 belts by then) laid the fucker out. When the school tried to suspend my brother, my parents threatened legal action, as they'd done nothing to stop the kids who were being assholes in the first place. (Nothing ever happened.)

Like you, I was a walking target. Tits, acne, period, curves, puberty in general by age 10. I knew I was smarter than most of the people teasing me so I often walked away with snarky comments thrown over my shoulder. (I feared getting my ass beat when I did it, but it never happened.)

I became funny, somehow--I don't think it was conscious, but when people would try to bully me, I would often snark back in a way that would make the other onlookers laugh at the bully instead of at me. (I've done this on my blog a bit. It's now a honed skill. You fuck with me, I will publically eviscerate you; with a smile on my face.)

I also never accepted an apology. I remember looking a gal right in the eye as she made a shitty comment about me to a friend when did didn't think I could hear. She came over and apologised. I just said, "You'll need something someday. Until then, go fuck yourself."

It got physical exactly once, and not even horrifically so. A stupid kid was being a shit to me at a bus stop in the morning. He was a few grades below me and therefore a lot smaller--I knew I could hurt him if I wanted to. He was throwing dirt at me. When he leaned over to pick up more, I stepped behind him, waited for him to stand, and swept his feet clear out from under him. He dropped onto his face in the dirt. I kicked some more in his face. This all happened just as some of the cool kids (friends of mine, as luck would have it) were being dropped off at the same bus stop. They all saw. They applauded. The kid cried. But he never fucked with me again. And no one ever physically threatened me again either.

Kids are cruel creatures. I'm glad I don't need to deal with the bullying in the cyber age. I'm too much of a bulldog. I'd hunt those little peckerfaces down.

Old Fart said...

I never actually stood up to bullies for myself. But when my younger brothers started to get picked on by the same asswipe that was screwing with me (he was my age), I laid the asshole out in his own front yard. His older sister had to come outside and pull me off of him. So, when I hit 16 years old.. all bullying suddenly stopped. For me and my brothers. It was awesome!

So, basically the only way to stop a bully is to not take it. At least that was my experience.

Wicked Stepmom said...

I think that the bullies don't get bullied, at least from my perspective. One guy was really fat. Another guy was really insecure and did what the fat guy did. Another girl had a very disrupted home life.

Looking back at the kids that did bully me, I have an idea that they were insecure about themselves and I was an easy target. I wasn't horrifically ugly, but I had glasses and I was shy. That was enough in elementary school and apparently in high school as well. I had friends in both younger and older grades, but I never went out and did things with friends - I felt I wasn't cool enough to do cool things.

In elementary school, my parents got involved once, but that was only because my $200 glasses got broken during a game of touch football and they felt that it had been done on purpose. There was a meeting with the principal and everything. Ugh. After that, I was made fun of mercilessly.

I never really stood up to the bullies until my little sister was starting to get picked on in high school. She was more outgoing than I was, but didn't stand up for herself either. We regularly got pieces of food and garbage thrown at us on the school bus as well as insults and name calling. One day, a girl named Alicia called my sister a lesbian slut, so I stood up, turned around and punched her in the face. She never bugged us after that. I should have done that with more people.

One of my biggest fears is that the kids won't be "popular". Sounds shallow, but I know how cruel kids can be. They are merciless. I don't want my kids to go through that. My approach will certainly be to encourage them to be the better person, to develop a sense of humour about it, to ignore it. It's hard (and I know it) but that's the best approach from my POV. If it gets nasty and abusive, a trip to the principal or the other children's parents is the way to go - without involving the kids themselves. I certainly won't be storming a school bus and threatening to fuck people up.

Wicked Stepmom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I'd call myself a "bully" in school, but I did have conflicts with other students from time to time. I'd be really mean to them, but I'd get it too.

My home life was really screwed up and I had a ton of my own issues. I guarantee the majority of kids doing the bullying are hurting too. I certainly was, and at that age, wasn't mature enough to handle it correctly. That's no excuse, but a reason I know from personal experience.

I'm a parent now with two kids in school. My daughter has complained a few times and my reaction has been to give her advice. I advise her on what to say and to tell the teacher or principal. Granted, the "incidents" are nothing major and I haven't felt the need to step in. If it gets worse, I'll go to the school and demand they monitor the situation.

Faith said...

Yeah, the issues I had with bullying never escalated past kids mocking me, and generally were just confrontations that involved an exchange of words.

Like Ms. Pants said, if we'd had the internet back then? Things would have been pretty different. I don't know if it would have been in a good way or a bad way, though. I'd think I might've learned how to be less sensitive overall, though, if it had taken place on the internet. But I also might've had less friends, too. I dunno.