Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

I seem to be on a roll of confessing stupid things. Every body does them. Not everybody admits to them. There are some stories I will never confess. You know the stories: wetting your pants on the walk home from school because you didn’t feel the need to go when you left school, but halfway home…

Or maybe you don’t know that feeling. I do know that once I knocked on someone’s door and told them I needed to use the bathroom and they let me in. Small town. Everyone knows everyone. I was ever so grateful. Because usually, I managed to just wet myself and that was incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing.

I was a picked on kid in elementary school. My weak bladder probably had something to do with it (a lot, even), but also my innate shyness. When I was very little, my natural introversion manifested in shyness. I could be a blabbermouth around people I knew and trusted, like my closest friends and my parents’ closest friends, but in a public school setting, I died in increments.

In 5th Grade, I had a teacher who refused to let anyone out of the room to use the bathroom and I had an “accident” in class. It was horrifying. I told no one about it, but every kid – especially the sharks – knew about it. My brother eventually got wind of the story and told my parents. My parents then surprised even me: they confronted the school principal to ask why they had not been notified? That meeting led to a confrontation with the 5th grade teacher, a young idealistic woman who thought she had learned it all in Normal School. After meeting with my parents, no one was ever again denied a pass to the restroom during classroom hours. And in that moment, I received my first affirmation that I was not only loved, but that I could stand up to a bully.

There were many more lessons along that theme in 6th grade. 6th grade was in the new junior high. I inherited a veteran teacher by the name of Mrs. Haskell. Mrs. Haskell could not pronounce the word “alfalfa” – a word which reflected one of the core economic bases of our community: she said “Alfa-alfa” which made most of us giggle with delight. She was strong on history, especially Nevada State history and a smidgeon of World History. She was also very astute in social matters and when she noticed that I missed more school days than attended, she began to watch what happened on the playground.

I brought cupcakes to the class Valentine’s Day party. Standing in line, this kid (who I shall refer to as Dipstick in order to avoid any lawsuits) turned and “accidentally” bumped my tray of treats, sending several cupcakes into the air. They landed icing down in the gravel. Dipstick did not know Mrs Haskell saw the whole thing. My friend, Trudi, and some other girls in the Un-Cool Clique, helped me pick up the ruined treats.

In the classroom, Mrs. Haskell helped me save the best of the cupcakes, but she insisted I leave the one with the most gravel in the frosting on the platter. When it came time to hand out the treats, she instructed me to place that cupcake on Dipstick’s desk.

His hand shot up in the air. “Mrs. Haskell! She gave me a cupcake with gravel in it!!”

“Really, Dipstick? Isn’t that the one you tossed on the ground outside? I think it is the one you deserve.”

The class erupted in giggles and Dipstick was forced to face his ruined cupcake. Happy Valentine’s Day.

I do not connect that event with the next one. I think they were months apart. Bullying is an ongoing problem and I was an ongoing victim. This day would be the first of the last of the days anyone would try to bully me. I weighed in at about 65# and stood shorter than 4’6″. I was a mite of a thing, bow-legged with thin, mousy hair.

I was walking home with a sort-of girlfriend named Debbie. I remember her whole name, but she was never a very close friend. She was just another loser like myself who needed someone to walk home with to ward off the bullies.

We were close to the city park when Dipstick and a follower came upon us. They were riding bicycles, wielding chains and taunts. Debbie ran. I continued to walk and was surrounded by the pair. They circled me, waving the chains and taunts in the air with threats of physical damage and hurt.

I can’t really tell you what went through my mind. I was a middle sister and routinely defended myself from a brother. Mrs. Haskell had empowered me. I knew my parents loved me. I carried an old-fashioned black lunch box (totally uncool in it’s coal miner look) with a real thermos in it. I had books I needed for homework. I needed to go home.

I lifted the arm holding my lunch box. All I wanted was for the boys to stop circling me, to stop the damn taunting, to Just. Go. Away.

And Dipstick rode straight into my lunch box.

Splat. His face met black steel and thermos. He crumpled sideways in a groan of agony. I turned and ran up the street to catch up with Debbie, wheezing out hysterical laughter: I HIT Dipstick and laid him out in the park!

She seemed doubtful. I was elated. I walked on clouds all the way home. I bragged at the dinner table. I had bonked the bully!

Ah, but the true taste of victory was yet to come. I arrived at school the following day and was swarmed by the “popular” girls, the girls who worked hard to make my life miserable.

“I heard you ran away from Dipstick in tears yesterday,” they suggested.

I burst out in laughter. “TEARS? I was LAUGHING. HAVE you seen his FACE? Yeah, *I* did that.”

I hadn’t seen his face. I would see it later. His eyes were black and blue. He had been in a fight that he lost – a fight with a motionless lunch box.

The bullying didn’t stop there, not right away. But it was the first step toward respect that I ever took, and it felt delicious.

And best of all? Dipstick’s parents never inquired as to who double-blacked their son’s eyes. My parents were impressed. Mrd. Haskell probably knew what happened, but never let a word slip edgewise out of her mouth. The bullying continued for a couple more years, but it had a certain lack of enthusiasm behind it. An enthusiasm that certainly went downhill when (in 7th grade) I turned in the hall and pronounced to the Big.Fat.Girl who had just said something nasty to me, “Just because you are a big fat bitch…”

My friend, Trudi, nearly died. “YOU SAID BITCH?”

And I said, calmly, “Well, she *is* one, isn’t she?”

Every time I read about a bullied child taking her/his life, I thank God I had: my parents, Mrs. Haskell. a few close friends, and an innate gut reaction that said: FIGHT BACK. Because everyone is worthy. Because bullies die into oblivion and lose any internet identity. Because bullies marry into abusive relationships and end up just as hurt and miserable as the ones they hurt in school. Eventually, we’re all on equal ground and you have to feel sorry for the person who made your life miserable.

Bullies hurt as much as the bullied, but you will never know that until you splat your lunch pail into their face.

Proudest Moment of My Life.


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