This one is a hard one to write. But maybe I should. There has been a lot of talk in the newspapers lately about bullying and the devastating consequences to what some call "teasing." But it isn't teasing. It isn't fun. And just because you can take a joke about your hair or your acne or whatever, doesn't mean everyone can.
I was teased a little in elementary school, up to about third grade. It wasn't bad. Honest. I didn't realize at the time that my parents were worried about my emotional maturity which, I admit, was behind my peers. I was sensitive, emotional. I just never thought there was anything wrong with me.
Fourth grade wasn't good. One girl, who I'll call Leigh, said she was my friend, but often made comments about my fat legs or anything else she found wrong with me. And when people teased me on the bus, she was happy to join in. Then she would turn around and be nice to me.
The bus was the main problem. It was full of fourth and fifth graders, not that far apart in age, and all just as nasty. I used to where brightly colored cotton pants in purple, green and blue. I loved them and hated jeans, which were pretty big at the time among my peers. And because I wore them, people teased me about them. Or my backpack. Everyone had LL Bean back then with their initials. My mom said we couldn't afford it. So she used a marker to write my initials on my non-LL Bean bag. And you can imagine what problems that caused. Did teachers help? Hah. My fourth grade teacher "Mrs. Jones," was the worst of them. She gave me detention because I told boys who were teasing me to "Stop it" too many times. Seriously.
But that was nothing compared to fifth grade, where I had the misfortune of being in the same class as a girl I'll call Andy. The second worst misfortune in my life is that I met her. Just thinking about her makes me want to cry. See, Andy said she was my friend. Then she and two others (one of whom I thought I was good friends with) would run about thirty feet away from me and giggle behind their hands. When I approached, they would run off again.
After a few months of teasing, she would give up for a while and play nice. And I was stupid enough to forgive her and try to be friends. But the teasing always started up again. I came home in tears almost every day, either from her or the people on the bus. My mom had to pull me off. Recess was hell because everyone I made friends with eventually ditched me.
Sixth grade was the absolute worst year. Not just because of school, but with the shit I was dealing with at home, the bullying made things a lot worse. There was absolutely no respite from hell for the year.
Almost every day at lunch, I sat alone. I stopped buying hot lunch because there were never any tables by the time I got out of line and no one would let me sit with them (some girls said their friend "Hillary" was coming to sit with them, despite the fact there wasn't a Hillary in the entire school; lesson learned). Andy took advantage of my solitude, a few times shouting things out at me. Teachers? They didn't care. One of them, in fact, was himself a bully who enjoyed singling me out for ridicule.
I wish I had one person to call friend during those years. There were a few people I liked, but they were all in different classes. The most time I ever spent with them was during lunch (seventh and eighth grades, that is) and gym. I often prayed at night to go back in time so I could pick a different set of classes to go in. Or for someone to just kill them dead.
Yes, I said it. It's how I felt. Now? I'm still not too generous. I hate them. I will always hate them. To this day I have trouble believing I can do anything because for almost six years, people only told me I was nothing. Have you seen the title of this post? They called me names, yelled things at me. They wouldn't even call me by my name. They took away my identity along with my confidence.
If I was able to talk to my past self, I'm not quite sure what I would say. Maybe that they--the one's who teased me and the teachers who yelled at me for yelling at them to stop--were wrong, not me. But I can't do that. There is no past, just memory. The only thing I can do is try to help someone in the present.
Parents. If you're kid is being bullied, please never ever tell them to "get over it" or "just ignore it." Yes, not reacting usually makes it go away. But not everyone can not react. I know it seems like if you can do it, they should be able to do it, but that's not how people are hardwired. Some people are afraid of water, some people can't not yell if someone calls them a name.
Instead, tell them the bullies are the bad ones. They are wrong. Your child is sensitive and that isn't a bad thing. Talk to the principal, teachers and school counselors and if they aren't open to helping your child, go above their heads. To the superintendent, the PTA, the school council, whoever, and tell them the district obviously needs to revise their policies because what they're having isn't working. Most importantly, tell them you love them and think they're important. You can't make friends for them, but you can encourage them to do what they can.
And if you're not a parent of a bullied child, you can still do something. Encourage your kids to be nice to the "losers," even if it will make them less cool. If you're a teacher, please don't punish a kid for crying in class or yelling out. Yes, they need more self control, but they're frigging kids and not everyone can be as stoic as you. Cut them a break. I could have used a few more teachers who didn't give me detention for pushing a bully away. Also? Those "peer meetings?" They do absolutely nothing. When Andy and I were sent to the guidance counselor, Andy burst into tears, saying I "threatened to come to school and shoot everyone." In fact, I made a joke once saying I didn't have an enemies list. I'm not sure how she derived one from the other except for the fact that she was a jerk. Bullies are manipulative and really don't care for the rules adults give them since no one who teased me ever received as much as a detention. Since it wasn't physical contact, teachers didn't give a rats ass. Sorry. I digress.
Kids don't deserve to be teased anymore than they deserved to be beaten up. Psychological damage is just as painful. Trust me. And if you don't believe me, just open a newspaper.