Ade (agentfroot) wrote,

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Thoughts on Bullying

Recently, the media has been focusing on the many negative effects of bullying, especially in the wake of several young suicides. Several celebrities have filmed "it gets better" videos, and articles about bullying are popping up all over the place. So, I figure it's a good time to throw in my own two cents.

Bullying sucks. Everyone knows this. I'm sure most kids are bullied at some point in their lives, and pretty much every fictionalized kid/teen world includes the dreaded bully, whether it's the yellow-eyed redhead terrorizing kids on their way to and from school, the snobby popular girls, or the classic big kid who steals lunch money every day. Bullying is everywhere, regardless of age, region, socioeconomic class, and even species. Many people say it's just a part of life. Well, it is. But that doesn't mean you should put up with it.

It does get better. It may not go away completely, but things do improve with time. Kids can be rotten little jerks, and unfortunately, many parents don't teach their kids how to be nice, respectful individuals. Many parents even bully their own kids. In many ways, being a kid really sucks. You have little power and control over your situations, and older people boss you around and expect you to do what they say just because they're bigger than you. And then there are all the little snots out there who decide it's their job to push other kids around. It's horrible, but it's reality. It happens everywhere. You are not alone. There are millions of people who understand what you're going through. There are people who can help you if your parents and teachers refuse, or even if you're too scared to ask for help. Bullying tends to fade away once you're out of high school (though it still manifests in different forms, such as discrimination), so there is hope. But don't despair now, and don't wait to get help. If you confide in an adult and they won't help you, find someone who will. In this age, you even have the internet at your disposal, and you can join message boards and email lists with people who understand and can offer good advice.

But enough about you. Let's talk about me. Yes, I used to be bullied when I was in school. Since kindergarten, I believe, when a group of older boys on the bus would pull my backpack and continuously pester me. Fortunately, I grew a thick skin very quickly, and I never let their comments get to me. I knew they were just doing it because they were jerks who had nothing better to do than pick on people to make themselves feel better. They bullied a couple of my friends, too, but I was the main target. I've always been unusually short and weird, and my neurological system is rather off-kilter. They saw me as an easy target, so they went after me a lot. The bus driver never did anything about it, but I know that some of the parents did. I remember one time, my friend's mom came on the bus and yelled at the kids, and another time, one kid's parents made him come over to apologize (I was in the shower, so I missed it), but that didn't really do much in terms of stopping the bullying. This continued for years, and took different forms as I got older and went to different schools. When I was in third grade, one kid in the lunch room would always say "I didn't know third graders looked like kindergartners!" every time he saw me. I would retaliate by blowing raspberries at him. Well, I did until one of the cafeteria aides caught me, and I was the one who got in trouble. So I just avoided the kid after that. The bullying took a disturbing turn in junior high, when many kids discovered sexual harassment, but then the bullying mostly faded away by the end of high school. I think by that point, the bullies were old enough to realize that their actions didn't bother me like they wanted, and they saw that I wasn't afraid to stand up for myself. Of course, I had also come up with a few ways of warding off bullies that wouldn't get me in trouble. In my 10th grade gym class, there was this girl who randomly decided to pester me. She and some of her scumbag friends had made the national news the previous year when they had beaten up a couple younger girls, and the principals had merely suspended the bullies and encouraged the victims to switch schools. She never touched me, but she'd come up and say mean things, ask really personal questions, try to get me in trouble with the teacher and other classmates, etc. So I decided to mess with her. Whenever she called me crazy, ugly, weird, or whatever, I would agree and then say something really bizarre back to her. After a few months, she started avoiding me, and I overheard her telling someone, "that girl SCARES me!" Mission accomplished.

While I never let the bullying get to me, that wasn't the case with some of my friends. In junior high and high school, I befriended several other kids who didn't fit in for whatever reasons, and they had also dealt with bullying, some more serious than my own experiences. We understood each other, and we accepted each other. Interestingly enough, I think being really short has made me very tolerant and accepting of others. I have friends of every shape and size, I'd say about half are somewhere on the GLBT spectrum, and some of them have physical or neurological issues. Most of my friends are funny-looking nerds, and they're all awesome. But a lot of them were bullied in school, and some of them bear deep emotional scars because of it. I know several people who were driven to serious depression (among other issues), and a few even attempted suicide. I didn't really know how to help them other than just being there to listen, but I did what I could. I sometimes regret that I didn't stand up for them enough, and I really regret that I was a jerk to some people in 7th and 8th grade, but the past is the past.

We've all moved on, and we're all stronger. You'll move on, the bullying will fade, and you'll be stronger in the end. Once you get out of high school, those nasty kids will disappear from your life, and you'll probably never see them again. In college, people are much nicer and more accepting. Sure, there are still plenty of jerks out there who will harass you about being fat, gay, or whatever, but once you're legal, you have more power to stop them. So hang in there. Find a good teacher, counselor, or grownup friend you trust (they're out there, I promise), befriend your bully's other favorite victims, and look forward to graduation day. Once you're out of school, you're free. It's a great feeling.
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