Bullying.

21 08 2009

Simple title for a simple subject.

This post was inspired by this post and its subsequent comments.  I wanted to share my story and opinions.

Is it, though?  Bullying should be open-and-shut, something school/after school program/daycare officials should shut down when they see it happen, or are informed of it happening.  In my experience, however, it never was.  Not one principal, vice principal, teacher, or councelor ever did anything about it.

(Commence navel-gazing autobiography!)

I guess I’ve always been different.  Growing up, raised by a fiercely (to me) independent, intellectual and successful single mother who actually took the time to rear me, I saw the world in a different light than most of my peers.  This translated to me dressing differently, acting differently and getting along well with people older than me, as well as adults.  I guess I also was a little off, socially.  I didn’t (and still don’t) pick up social cues too well, but excel in other departments.  In second grade, I was reading long “chapter books” when other kids were bumbling through The Cat in the Hat.  So, I had that working against me, but it wasn’t something immediately detectable.

I was big.  Not really fat (I surely was not skinny, though), but big.  I was always off the height and weight charts for my age, and by quite a bit.  I was the first person in my year (and the year ahead of me) to hit five feet, I needed a bra at nine, and I had to start buying clothing at misses’ stores at seven (and then Lane Bryant at nine).  I also had hard to fit feet, so I wore penny loafers instead of childrens’ sneakers.

So, I was a sitting duck for the usual things children tease about.  From second grade to fourth, it wasn’t that bad, and I would consider it within the realm of typical playground bullying or teasing.  Nothing physical, just kids on my case.  It hurt, but I guess it all does.  I could still exist within the social construct of elementary school without being too miserable.

When I got a little older, though, things really kind of went downhill.  Puberty came quite early for me, ten or so, and with puberty came weight.  I gained 50 pounds when I was ten (almost eleven), definitely moving me into the “chubby/fat” category.  This is when it got hairy.  I started to become ostracized by my peers, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world had I become invisible along with being shunned.  I didn’t, though.  I became sort of a scapegoat.  It didn’t help that I had recently moved from Ohio to Massachusetts.  I was an outsider in my classes, and as far as the other students were concerned, it didn’t matter if I was from Ohio or Iowa (one of the things they just couldn’t seem to get right.  I kind of laugh about that now).

In the interest of keeping this entry shorter than 10,000 pages, I’ll cut to the chase.  A number of things happened to me while growing up– 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade were really minefields.  I had large rocks hurled at me and my face, I was assaulted, a lab stool was thrown at me, hitting my knee and injuring me, and groups of kids would surround me and heckle, pinch and prod me until I left school and walked home in the middle of the day, without my backpack.  The last one happened several times.

Now, why didn’t I go to the principal’s office, you ask?

Because they wouldn’t do anything.  If anything, I’d get in trouble for walking out of class.  The infuriating part of this, for me, is that no one would help me.  Even if my mother came in to see them, the school officials would brush it off as “kids being kids,” and send us on our way.  When I would act out as a result of the bullying (I stole some things a few times), I got detention.  Now, I don’t refute the fact that I did someting deserving of punishment, but not once did anyone ever try to figure out why I was doing what I did.  When I would repeatedly come to the principal about the bullying, nothing was ever done.

To this day, I still become angered to see kids getting bullied.  When something happens that it goes to court (like the link talks about), and people are STILL hiding behind the old “kids will be kids” addage, I wonder, “WHAT does it take?”  It is no different then “boys will be boys” to justify rape.  Why is “kids will be kids” still an acceptable dismissal?  Bullying is an incredibly damaging thing, and is far and away different from “teasing.”  I still am working through the effects of some of the stuff that happened to me.  There have been people bullied worse than me, and I have to wonder what their adult lives are like.  Why can we not take this seriously?  How many kids have to become irreparably damaged before this is considered a real problem?

I’m sure this case with the anorexic girl will end up losing, but I hope it won’t.  I don’t know if bullying GAVE her the disease, but I’m sure it helped her along summarily.  I hope the case is taken seriously.

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