Saturday, August 4, 2012

To be bullied

Bullying is watched so much more close now, people are aware of it because of the wonders of technology.  I never thought the things I went through was considered bullying, but it turns out that I am a bullying survivor.  Life has a way of putting things in perspective.   I went to preschool and things were good -  at four years old, we weren't thinking about styles, who our best friend was or what boy was the cutest.   Kindergarten went pretty much the same way, I had friends and I got to have a juice and cookie break.   First grade was when it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't quite the princess I had envisioned myself as being.   Natalie was.  She was beautiful with just a dash of freckles across her face and pretty blonde hair that swept to her shoulders.  Everybody liked Natalie and I found myself wanting to be her friend to.  I spent days gathering up the courage to say "hello", and I practiced it in front of the mirror over and over.  Only I thought her name was "Madeline" like the character in one of my favorite books.  It was an honest mistake that opened the door to a lifetime of silly little mistakes that were blown out of porportion.  Not only did Natalie laugh when I called her by the wrong name, she also got all her friends to laugh and make fun of me.  I was utterly humiliated.    I do believe it was at that point that I began to realize that some girls are princesses and some girls are mere servants.  I was of the latter.  A servent to the mightly dragon of jealousy.   I wanted to be beautiful and thin like Natalie and have all the kids want to be my friend.  I especially wanted Mike from town to like me so I spent my recess chasing him all over the playground so I could pin him down and kiss him.  In retrospect, I can see that was the wrong way to get his attention, but I really wanted him to like me.   
By the fourth grade, it was pretty much established that I was never going to be Natalie's friend.  It didn't matter at that point, I had a best friend, Becky J and we were like two peas in a pod.  We liked the same things, enjoyed the same subjects... if Becky J liked something I didn't, I tried it any way and vice versa. 
I moved away that summer and my new school was full of the same kind of girl Natalie was.  They were popular, pretty, thin and the boys really liked them.   I was the outsider - hair that was always unruly, rumpled hand-me-down clothing, a bit on the heavier side than my anoerexic peers.  I didn't fit in at all, but  I sure tried.   I wanted to be them...  I just didn't know how.    I have thousands of memories of bullying, taunting, and jeering... they probably never knew I went home feeling miserable and alone, in fact, they probably never once thought about any of those things once I had fled the scene in quiet desperation. 
Enter junior high -  the bullying continued, the jeering persisted and I learned quickly that I was but a shadow in the light of the beautiful girls.   Magazines were filled with girls who looked just like them and nothing like me.  I handled it okay those first years, but I was deteriorating.  I dreaded getting on that school bus, I detested gym class and the girls who insisted on reminding me that compared to them I was "fat"  ( I really wasn't,  just bigger than they were ),  I felt self-concious about everything and I was certain that every time I walked by a group of kids, they were surely saying something horrible about me.   Sometimes they would walk up to me in the hall just to say something hateful, and more times then I can count, they verbally attacked as a group. 
It steadily got worse through high school.  I dropped out of basketball because the girls on the team made me feel so clumsy and unwelcome,  I joined theater but always felt awkward and stupid on stage,  my home life was less than stellar and I thought many times of running away or simply just ending things because I was so miserable.   No one...  not even my family knew how close I was to the edge.  I had perfected the "I'm Okay" me on the home front.  I never told my parents how awful things were or why my grades kept slipping, they had more to worry about with my brother being very sick and their own marital difficulties.  My older brother never knew either.  How could I tell him that his own friends were two of the worst that would attack me and remind me daily how little I mattered?    Sometimes I wonder how I got through it, and then I remember those girls who were always there for me.  I didn't tell them what was going on, they witnessed a lot of it and they were sometimes victims themselves.   Lori and Pam and Bethany were the three who knew how unhappy I was because at one point, I cried nearly every day and they still didn't give up on me. Just being with them made it better though,  They were my friends through some of my darkest years...and they are still my friends to this day.
All it takes is one friend to make the difference on your life.  I was lucky to have three.  Bullying is a horrible attack on a person's feeling of self-worth.  People don't always think before they spout off a hateful comment, they don't see the effects.. the long lasting effects.    I read daily about the bullying that goes on in the schools and how people think the school can somehow be responsible for it.  Let me tell you, when you are being bullied, the last thing you want is more attention.  If you get one bully in trouble, there are five more in the background lying in wait to jump you and get even.  Kids keep it to themselves because they are scared.  The only thing you can do is teach your children to treat one another like they want to be treated...  press this issue with them, make your voice a reminder in their head each time they open their mouth to tease, taunt or terrorize someone who appears to be weaker than them.  Teach them to be a friend.

I am a bully survivor.