Bully For You

40 years ago I made a decision that I have lived to regret every day since… I quit school.  Not that school was all that hard for me, it was not.  I could get any grade I wanted,  I proved it to myself and my teachers over and over again.  School was also my social outlet and living in a college town meant that we were on the cutting edge of  the new techniques and higher thinking in the educational process.  All my friends were in school, there were girls galore… it was the freakin’ 60’s, man!  At 16…  I was at the top of my game.  But there was one constant that followed me since the beginning of middle school that finally made me cave in and drop out…  I was being bullied.

It is not an easy thing to write about even now, but perhaps by purging this one aspect of my past, others might see themselves or someone else they know and may be able to learn from my experience.

When I was in school and the age of Aquarius dawned, it was like a Godsend.  I was raised by a single parent on welfare.  When long hair and holes in your jeans became fashionable, I embraced it with gusto and my mom reluctantly went along with the “fashion.”  The fact that it was not readily endorsed by parents made it all the more attractive to me and since most kids came from “respectable” families, it took them years to be able to catch up.  I was the envy of the free world, or at least… at my high school.

But the rumblings of bullies had started earlier, just as I had entered junior high.  Even though I was poor and not athletic, I was still tall, blonde and fairly good-lookin’.  I had no trouble finding girls, especially since in junior high girls had gone from skipping rope to skipping school.  My interest and confidence (among other things) grew.  But there were always jealous wanna be boyfriends to contend with.  I was challenged a lot and had to find creative ways to avoid fights, never allowing myself to be caught alone in restrooms and relying on my wits to second guess where trouble may be lurking.  The threat was always there from multiple personalities.  I started to hate going to school, not because of the curriculum but for the constant hassle and fear I felt.  I had even contemplated suicide.

Finally when I reached 10th grade I had my locker broken into and some of my stuff stolen.  I went to the school principal (a great guy that I became friends with later on as an adult) and reported it.  I knew who the culprit was and told my suspicions to the principal.  He instructed me to go back to class and conducted a search, found my things where I said they would be and suspended the guy who had broken the lock on my locker and stolen the goods.

But he lay in wait for me and cold cocked me with a running punch that still has my ears ringing.  The only thing that kept me from being pulverized then and there was the fact that my hard head hurt his fist, but he informed me that I was “dead.”  Fortunately this was towards the end of the year.  I managed to avoid contact until summer vacation arrived and felt I was granted a reprieve.

I had hoped all would be forgotten by the beginning of my 11th year, but it had not.  I was always looking over my shoulder and avoiding classes that these guys (oh yeah, always more than one) shared with me.  Finally, 6 weeks into being a junior and with most of my credits all ready acquired… I quit,  never seeing this slugger again until several years later.

Part of the trouble for me was the fact that I had no confidence in myself.  It was the 60’s, for cryin’ out loud… peace, love and all that happy stuff, ya know?  I had no one to teach me how to stand up for myself, no father figure to encourage me, no older brothers to rely on.  I was pretty much on my own and  I could not wrap my mind around this barbaric form of communication.

I turned out okay, I guess I was lucky.  I moved away from my home town and started over.  Eventually I learned a trade, acquired some confidence, got married, raised a family and never saw a hungry day.   I still had my capacity to learn and applied myself at every opportunity.   I became a Master Electrician and  modest success.  I went to writing seminars,  night classes and continuing education courses to maintain my license and further my abilities.  Like I said, getting an education was never a problem for me.

I did run into the guy that had broken into my locker several years later while still in my early 20’s.  6 years had changed a young hippie type to a strapping 22 year old and when I saw him I knew exactly what to do.  He was at a restaurant with his wife, a girl he had been chasing since junior high.  He had no back up then, just her.  He  scowled at me as I approached but I got up close enough to say, “You don’t remember me, do ya?” while his wife was simplistically happy and said “Oh, hi!” all enthused like we had actually been friends at one time.  I offered my hand to him and he shook it as he replied, “Yeah…” to which I clutched firmly and said, “Time sure changes things, doesn’t it?”  then I walked away… this time unafraid.  No Karate Kid, no firearms, no threats, no revenge and no ill feelings.  Just happy within myself for not backing down from the fear I had felt for so long.

I read once that bullies put people down because they are victims of their own lack of self esteem.  So when expressing ones own insecurity, a bully has to belittle others in order to make himself look or feel good.  Bullies come in all sizes, shapes and forms.

First off, when you imagine a bully, you might think of the kid on the playground who steals your lunch money.  He’s big, foul mouthed and intimidating.  He’s also physical, he likes to push his weight around and resorts to using his fists to settle everything.  Usually he runs with other bullies so his prey is always out numbered and finds it difficult to make a stand.  8848456-sun.html Bullies don’t play by the rules and have no sense of honor or shame.  It is hard to sympathize with this person when he is short changin’ your underwear, isn’t it?  bullies.html

Nowadays it isn’t enough for bullies to want your lunch money, they want to take your life.  Cowardly cyber bullies who cannot even confront you face to face have recently made the headlines, despite the efforts of the authorities and parents.  Their victims have been murdered and even driven to suicide.  This is a tragic testimony to what our modern society has become and perhaps it is partly because of the anonymity the world wide web seemingly offers.  They say worse than being bullied is one becoming a bully himself. 1041

Unfortunately, as I grew up I bullied others, too.  Some of my sisters can attest to that, much to my shame.  You can not justify the things you do when you should know better, but hopefully you can learn from the mistakes you have made.  As I grew older my own kids had their bouts on both sides of the issue.  But I’d like to think that with my experience I was/am able to help others become better men and women despite being exposed to bullying in its various degrees.

Now that bullying is out in the open and more publicly exposed, there are people that can help.  Schools, churches and other youth organizations are going to great lengths to offer assistance to the victims of bullying.  Being a victim of has lost the sniveling, weakling stereotype  it once had where we were told to “fight back” or “stand up for yourself.”  Against impossible odds this is not practicable or even desirable, most people just want to be left alone even if they were equipped to fight back.  Besides… it should never have to come to that.

I would suggest that any parent daily look for signs in their children’s behavior then act quickly and lovingly if they sense anything out of the norm.  Reassure any potential victim out there that they are not alone and there is no shame in asking for help and do it often.  Kids may take a while before they feel they can talk about it, especially to their parents, so be persistent.  Even when you are told things are O.K…  they may not be.

Education is the key…  so do your home work.  You just might save a life.

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peace.

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2 Responses to “Bully For You”

  1. Marge Says:

    unfortunately people can be so ugly to each other.
    It is incredibly sad isn’t it?
    People have no empathy for each other and that makes this whole world a very sad place to be at times.
    we each must do our own part to teach our children and or grandchildren to treat others with respect.
    Or as I always say “Treat others the way you yourself wish to be treated”
    🙂

  2. seamonster02 Says:

    I didn’t know that was the reason you quit school. It is also the reason Wayne quit when he was at West High. He was constantly bullied and some kids tried to push him down the stairs – he’d come home with bruises and once with a black eye. So I let him switch to the alternative school which ended up not being much better. He regrets it now as well but at the time neither of us knew what to do because telling the teacher/principal did nothing to solve the problem.

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