Wow this is a bit of a tinder box of a topic, bullies, bullying and all the bull shit that goes with it. Total disclosure, I was bullied probably not extreme by today’s standards but consistent in nature from age 8 to 14. And while I don’t think I bullied anyone in particular, I did enjoy the brief respite when someone else took a turn at being the scape goat. And if I am being completely honest I was a bit of a dick to my brother…bullying, sibling rivalry…..tomato, tomahto. He was a jerk too so there was some balance.
I got bullied for the typical reasons, I wasn’t very pretty, didn’t dress well (we were broke so I rocked the hand me downs) and bonus I was usually the new girl. One unfortunate day in 4th grade a milk bone dog biscuit was found in my desk. It landed there because I used to give treats to a dog that I would see on the way home. Let’s just say my dog loving ways were not admired and I was known as a “dog” from that day on. This was before the “What’s up dawg” phrase became popular….this was the 70s when “dog” was synonymous with ugly. The good thing about moving so much is that we didn’t stay past a year so I was ready to take on the next new class the following Fall.
I started 5th grade in a new town and nearly got my ass kicked from the start. I don’t recall the particulars of how I managed to piss off nearly every kid in the class but somehow I did. Things got heated to the level where someone said they were going to beat me up and then another kid chimed in and another…..and so on. I don’t know how many kids were lined up to beat me up but at some point I yelled “Fine – you’re first, you’re second, you’re third……” and I started assigning an order to the kids I would fight. Honestly it was a ballsy move and I’m not sure where it came from…I was probably up to the 5th kid when one of the most popular jock girls came to my rescue. She yelled out “if you fight her, you fight me” and every single one of them backed down. I never fought those particular kids and I gained a best friend that day. Heart of gold that girl, then and now.
My scrappy ways continued for a few more years. Eventually the ugly duckling became a good looking swan and viola the teasing stopped. Can I tell you it still bugs me that people are so fucking shallow. Seriously nothing changed except I magically got pretty one summer and then people were nice, wtf??? Then the real problems started…..suddenly pretty mixed with years of a beaten down self esteem and a shaky family life tilted me toward disaster but that is a story for another day, focus…
So back to bullying….growing up in the 70s bullying was expected and accepted. If someone called you a name you upped the ante with a more derogatory name (even if you didn’t know what it meant). True story in fourth grade (the year of the dog) I was over heard telling some boy to “go suck momma moose cock”……clearly anatomically impossible but I heard it from somewhere so I parroted it out there when someone insulted me. The worst part was I was living with my grandparents at the time and I had to write down what I said and have my Nanna sign the paper (palm slap, hard). I’m cringing now with the recall. And if you physically pushed me, it was on. The fact that I weighted at least 20 pounds less than any opponent did not phase me….I would go spider monkey crazy on their ass. If I grew up with today’s rules I would have been kicked out of no less than four of the dozen or so schools I attended. SMH
There were some pluses to the bullying and I am reluctant to even mention this because again, tinder box. Truth is I gained some valuable life skills dealing with bullies. I learned how to defend myself verbally and physically. It taught me how to read people and situations and come up with a strategies for dealing with undesirables. I learned who my real friends were and who were posers. Truth is it wasn’t all bad. Falls into the category of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I know it doesn’t work like that for everyone and I am grateful that I could bend without breaking.
I do think bullying is different today than it was in the 70s. On one hand nearly everything is considered bullying today. Mom Johnny said my shirt is ugly.…this is not bullying in my mind. This is Johnny having an opinion about a shirt which may or may not be ugly and Johnny may or may not be a jerk. This makes me insane. The pendulum may have swung a teensy bit too far. I get it, start young pays off later. Sometimes it seems like we are putting out a small fire with a tidal wave. Until middle school or whenever they get on Instagram, then shit gets real.
The social media pits of hell were not an issue for me. I could suck it up for the six or seven hours I would be at school and then go home and refuel for the next day’s onslaught. I was oblivious to the smack being talked about me on various tangled corded phones throughout the school district. Kids today don’t have that reprieve. They can be bombarded with shit 24/7 and that is too much. Honestly I wish I had a magic wand for this one, I don’t. My kids are on the brink of middle school and I am afraid for them. I have no idea what they will face but I really hope they come to me. I happen to have some skills – thanks bullies – and I think I can help them.