Friday, August 11, 2006

Growing Up Bullied

Amanda, at Pandagon, has a recent post and thread regarding a new video game showing a bullied kid getting even - not by gunning people down, but apparently through such things as throwing bags of marbles on the floor, and other such stuff. Some school administrators are denouncing the game, and Amanda is commenting that the main reaction to tragedies like Pearl and Columbine has been to crack down on the people being bullied as violence risks, rather than to crack down on the bullies.

This post isn't about that one though, even though I think it's dead on. Rather, in the comment section, where people are relating their own tales of being bullied, a commenter says that all these people relating their stories are immature, have anger issues, and should just get over it. Everyone had a miserable time in HS, even the jocks and cheerleaders, and those who have commented are just a bunch of whiners.

Somebody needs a swift tap with a clue-by-four.

The two most common comments I heard from adults as a kid were "You don't have a problem, really. Everyone thinks they're unpopular," and "The kids bothering you are just jealous. Ignore them; be a boring target, and they'll get tired of it and go away."

From this I mainly learned that no adult was ever going to even believe me, let alone take me seriously or help me as I tried to cope with my life in middle school.

Said life included such joys as being unable to eat lunch normally, because sitting down at a lunch table with any other kid inevitably got my lunch spit upon, used in a food fight, salt or mustard, or some other condiment dumped over everything, my tray "accidentally" spilled on the floor, or some other way of making sure I couldn't even eat, let alone enjoy my lunch.

It included being kicked, tripped, pushed down stairs, whipped with a jumprope, and having my possessions stolen at every opportunity. Ignoring them simply caused them to escalate, trying to make me react.

And lets not forget the teacher who harrassed me and attempted to molest me - probably because I was so isolated that I made an attractive target. In retrospect this teacher also actively helped further my isolation by favoring me in class in ways my fellow students were bound to resent.

All of this went on, day in and day out for four straight years. In those four years I can't remember a single day of being happy, of having a good time, of even being able to relax my constant vigilance against what my fellow students might do to me next. I was literally praying to God every night asking for him to let me die before morning so I wouldn't have to go back to school.

The worst thing about this is - my story isn't particularly unusual, and it's far from the worst one I've heard. I wasn't even the only person in this position at my school. There were at least two other similar kids in my grade, and at least one in every grade. That's somewhere between six and twelve kids living in utter daily misery in one school. Many others wobbled in and out of unpopularity, or gained temporary target status, but we were the permanent pariahs, and none of us lost that status by any method but moving.

Too many adults, like this commenter, think that kids are exaggerating, or that their lack of perspective makes their misery greater than circumstances warrent. They forget that misery is not dependant upon maturity. Often they will blame the bullied kids for their own status - as if any kid, under any circumstances, deserves the kind of treatment a school pariah recieves. They will tell adults relating these circumstances to "just grow up and get over it."

Remembering the circumstances of one's youth is not failing to grow up. Trying to make others understand those circumstances is not failing to get over it. It's a perfectly rational attempt to make other adults understand, because maybe, just maybe, if we can get that point across to enough people, it will stop being okay to look the other way when school kids torment others for being different. Perhaps if the problem is the downtrodden striking out with violence, the solution might be to prevent them from being downtrodden, rather than to stomp them harder?


Becky said...

Great post, Cindy. Bullying is becoming an ever increasing problem. In our school district, the one who tries to defend himself is just as guilty as the one doing the attacking. So that sends the message that bullying is ok, defending yourself is not. I've told Cody to do whatever he has to to defend himself, and we'll deal with the consequences later. Of course, fighting should always be the last option, but Lou has a great post about fighting at .

John Vesia said...

Adults forget how difficult it is to grow up. Peer pressure, enduring bullies, and just trying to fit in can be enormous obtacles for a child to overcome.

Congratulations on passing your test!

PerpetualBeginner said...

Thanks, John!

That was a good post by Lou, Becky. Thanks for pointing it out. I often wonder how differently things might have turned out if I had been in a situation where I could have fought back, even once. My school district, unfortunately, had the same policy as yours, and my parents were vehemently against physical response, so I never thought of it as an option.

[Mat] said...

Interesting situation. Or uninteresting...

I had the luck of not being bullied for long, as my first reaction was a punch straight to the eye of my attacker. And my second reaction was pushing some dude and grabbing him by the throat which surprised me more than him. I was litterally shocked to see my reaction.

Having being shown violence, I was perpetuating violence. Thankfully, I changed with time. I had a friend who was not as lucky and is still scarred to this day. I never knew of this, unfortunately until recently.

I have no idea what spurs that kind of behavior. I have no idea how we can avoid that in a society. Because... face it, there are Bad people out there, showing kids a no-good way of life. And until they commit to themselves and try to make themselves better, they'll continue on that no-good path.


When I do get kids, I have no idea how I'll handle that. Hopefully with less violence than when I was a kid. Thing is it will not go un-noticed, that's for sure.

Growing up is probably the hardest part. No matter what age you're at.