I seem to be on a roll this week with these postings. I've been so inspired! Either that, or thinking of absolutely anything I can do other than my final papers. Please make those disappear!
I guess today I want to write about my own experience with bullying. What provoked this was a blog I am reading written by a man who refers to himself as 'Single Dad', which is precisely what he is. A middle-aged single man with two severely disabled children. As sad as his posts may be, I am addicted to reading them. Through the sarcasm, anger, and sadness... He's a freakin' tough dude. Anyway, he wrote one entry about people being mean to people. He mentions kid-on-kid bullying but also teacher-on-(disabled) student bullying. This made me realize that bullying has lost its "trendiness" again! I mean, it's still trendy to bully but not to discuss it. For a while, all these kids were killing themselves and it was a hot topic. Do more people need to die for this subject to matter?? So, I am here to discuss my own bullying history and to maybe start some conversation about it.
First of all, here is a link to the blog I am talking about: http://www.DisabledDaughter.com/
At times it is hard to pick out what exactly can be considered bullying, what is just "the darned things kids say", and what is straight up evil. Kids know what will hit you hard, they're like your mother but they aren't legally required to feed you once in a while. For example, I have two 6-year-old cousins. The girl can pretty much just circle the room and say something about each person that will really hurt. She comes to me, "You smell bad!" Now, this was a meaningless comment, as I smelled delicious that evening but still, I felt the need to go ask my other cousin if I smelled weird. I was self-conscious all night! Then she went to my cousin and says, "Why is your nose so big?" This cousin happens to have a large, pre-pubescent nose that he is dealing with the "drama" of right now. Finally he goes to my brother whom she loves dearly and says, "Ross... you're so weird." Of course, he has always felt very uncomfortable about himself and deals with self-esteem issues relating to this. Kids just know. Albeit, I always felt this little girl would be the bad seed but she just went on to poorly represent little children everywhere.
Back to my own peer issues... Let's go level by level. I guess things that could be included in "things kids say" for me would be being picked on after a car accident for having a big, red mound on my head. The kids called me 'Apple Head'. They didn't even realize I could have been their learning tool. "Now, kids, what word starts with 'A'?" "APPLE HEAD ARIEL!!" Right? I feel like teachers didn't take full advantage of my painful and traumatizing car accident.
Fortunately, for the most part, I was ignored throughout the early years. Except, bullies will always find a way to bully the bullee, bullied (?) Once they figured out my home situation, they had all the material they needed. See, I was a latchkey kid. Except, I wasn't just the last kid to be picked up, often times, the school would have to call my parents when it was getting to be around 9 or 10 PM and be like, "Uh. We don't want her. Come get your child." I would also often be completely baffled at the nurses office when I was sick. The nurse would ask me who to contact to come get me, "Er.. well... can you take me home?" When I think about it, it's ironic that my favourite song that my mom would sing to me at night was, "You've got a friend". Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, all you have to do is call... and maybe I'll hire someone to be there?
The real bullying came a little later. I would say the intentional, mean stuff came around 12. There were two groups, the majority of the kids and the girl who would pretend to be my friend. The majority of kids included the boys who would make fun of me because they didn't have crushes on me. I didn't even know that was a thing! If only they knew just how ugly they were. Though, the girls are always way worse. Especially the fake friend. Although, her and her sister would be labeled under 'Evil'. Amongst all the self-esteem murdering deeds and misbehaving and whatnot, I think the scariest parts were the physical things. I recall several instances of being locked in a closet and hit with a ruler. Aren't there weird porns written about this sort of thing? Fortunately, I already had tough skin by then from all the brotherly beatings. Makes you wonder how none of the teachers asked me about all the cuts and bruises! Knowing me, I would have been like, "Eagle ran into me. You know how it is..."
Then we move on to high school, when I was moved to New Jersey and into my first new school. The kids were smarter than me, higher than me, and really learned a lot from the movies about how to make someone miserable. Plus, the queen of uncool was trying to be new friend by verbally and physically abusing me. There must be something about me that is just really hard to resist beating up. However, all my childhood friends (I say "all" like there are more than 3.... there aren't) had went on to try to ruin my life from afar, so I needed new people to smash any sense of joy left in me. Between her and the "cool" girls in high school, I should have just given up right then. What was my saving grace? 7 people who changed my life forever *ever, ever, ever...* (that was supposed to be an echo.) Those people included a poet, a comedian, a musician, 3 English teachers, and a science teacher. That's all it took!
Maybe it's silly to consider someone you have never met a role model or people who are paid to teach you but I needed them and I am sure there are tons of people out there who have the same story as I do. They didn't particularly mentor me or comfort me, I never spoke enough for them to get to know me, but their presence was all I needed. What all these people have in common is, well, they're pretty weird. I don't have some inspiring story about my teachers taking me under their wing and showing me how being unique is a gift. No. I simply saw that I wasn't alone and within my misery, I could just live. Not necessarily live a life of fame, fortune, and friends but live and experience the good times, along with the numerous bad ones. Yes, that really was all it took! This approach won't work for everyone, however. In order for this to work, an individual has to recognize the humour and the empowering ways of just not caring what other people see you as, think of you, or want from you. I guess what really causes this reaction in people is this need to attack the "weak" for fear of being (as opposed to feeding on) The Other. Which, I must say, I loved that the father in the blog references and even dedicates an entire page to on his site.
You can view that at: p://www.DisabledDaughter.com/?page_id=946
Speaking of which, my group from class left me hanging at our meet-up place, so I better go find them and get work done!