On Bullying — A Spirit Day Post

October 20, 2010 at 3:53 pm (real life) (, )

I don’t remember enough details of my childhood bullying.

I remember a few events, of course. I remember, for instance, the day of pre-school when I was told by a classmate that I was “too big” to sit at her table.

I remember kindergarten, when bully S decided to start a “cool kids” club, only letting in the elite few. She then decided to extend her invitations to the uncool — and proceeded to use them as personal servants, humiliating them as a cost of membership. When I was invited into the club as part of the second group and used my uncool servant-role of messenger to pass secret messages between my friend L (assigned by S to sit alone on the blacktop all through recess) and his friend C across the playground, I earned an enemy for life. We were 5.

I remember third and fourth grade, when my group of “friends” regularly mocked and excluded me from activities, manipulating me however they could. I remember fifth grade, when Mean Girls Group #2 did the same. I remember frenemy N deciding my best friend and I weren’t interesting enough to participate in the rest of her sleepover birthday party, banishing us to another room for the night.

I remember being in 7th grade and accidentally sneezing on a popular girl, then faking sick and going home so I wouldn’t have to experience the torment that was sure to come. I remember high school, when I rearranged my routes to and from classes to avoid bully H, who was sure to push me in the hallway while muttering humiliating insults. I remember being afraid to change in the locker room. I remember being afraid of random group assignments for class projects. I remember feeling like who I was — too heavy, too smart, too shy — was going to consign me to a life of lonely self-hatred.

And this isn’t even including the cyber-bullying I experienced as the internet gained prominence toward the end of my time in high school. Or the teacher-bullying I experienced at the hands of my elementary school gym teacher.

But with every abortive attempt I’ve made to write this article, I’ve realized that I don’t remember half of what I know I went through. I remember my elementary, middle, and high school years as a time of constant terror. I remember the feeling of not fitting in. I remember being sure that everyone hated me. I remember feeling constantly suspicious of my friends’ motives in hanging out with me, even as I formed a solid social circle in 6th grade that lasted all through high school and remains mostly intact today. I remember long nights playing Hanson’s “Weird” on repeat as it spoke to my tortured soul — “Isn’t it strange, how we all feel a little bit weird sometimes?”. But I’ve repressed most of the specific events, despite my generally amazing powers of recall. And I think that says a lot about how those experiences affected me — and continue to affect me today.

I’m 24 years old. I haven’t been seriously bullied since I left high school. But in the 6 and a half years since, the scars those first 15 years left have not faded. I can’t walk past a group of laughing or whispering people without assuming they’re laughing at me. I automatically assume every person I meet is on the precipice of mocking me, that they already hate me the second they see me. It takes me a very, very long time to believe that a new acquaintance genuinely likes me. When I’m invited to parties by anyone other than a close friend, I spend the days leading up to the event in a state of paranoia, wondering if it’s some trick the party-throwers are playing, like I’m going to be greeted at the door by a bucket of blood. And when I run into some of those childhood bullies, I freeze up and begin to hyperventilate, fending off a full-fledged panic attack. I have never joined my hometown friends at a certain local bar because I know bully S is a regular, and even though I have not spoken to her in 6 years, her specter haunts me.

Today is Spirit Day. It’s a day for recognizing the effects of bullying, specifically on LGBT youth, in the wake of prominent LGBT teen suicides. In honor of that day, I’m wearing purple, as well as a rainbow “ALLY” pin. I’m not LGBT (though more than half of my high school friends were), but I know from experience what bullying can do to a person, whatever the impetus for that torture. And I do believe the message of “It Gets Better.” The fact that I’ve lived my life without torment for the past 6 years is testament to that. Those are words that need to be said to kids on the brink.

But more importantly, we NEED to recognize the effect bullying has — and stamp it out before it happens. Because while many children thankfully do NOT attempt suicide and survive the bullying to live to adulthood, those experiences and memories don’t go away, even if they’re repressed. And I don’t want any other child to have to go through what I did. Nor do I want children to experience the bullying my brother endured — bullying that led his school’s administration to suggest that HE, not the bullies, should seek therapy so he might better “fit in.” Or the bullying my mother endured, bullying severe enough that she had to change schools in elementary school — in the early 1960s. Bullying at all ages is not new, no matter what certain articles might imply. But the more aware we become of its horrors and its effects on children, the less excuse we have not to DO something about bullying. Wearing purple is a start, but it’s not enough. We cannot afford to ignore this problem. And telling my story here, today, is my first small contribution to that effort.

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Kait said,

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    I have some of the same problems with repression and also with always being afraid everyone is scrutinizing me and talking about me. It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year at Purchase that I realized that when people invited me to sit with them in the dining hall it was because they honestly wanted to spend time with me, not as a part of some elaborate plot to humiliate me.

    You are wonderful. And I miss you.

  2. throughthebrush said,

    <3333333

    Thank you. It's disheartening how common these feelings are. (And yet, of course, when you feel them you can't help but feel you're the ONLY one, and that everyone else is completely well-adjusted and not battling past demons.)

    I miss you too!

  3. Ken said,

    Do you know (/have you read) Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye? It’s a wonderful novel, and one of the few that I know of that deals with the reality of young girls bullying other girls.

    • throughthebrush said,

      I have not, but I will definitely put it on my to read list! Thanks for the rec.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: