Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let’s Get Right to the Point Here…

Every morning news show, night time news program and shows like 20/20 are highlighting it. Lady Gaga (who still frightens me) advocates against it and I think the Beibs may have started some kind of petition. Nevertheless, Bullying has gotten more attention in the past year than I have ever seen before. And with the release of the new movie, aptly titled, Bullying, I think it’s about time a little insight into this behavior is given.

First and foremost: I have zero tolerance for bullying. None what so ever. I truly believe that if you are a bully that there is something psychologically wrong with you. To feel you need to inflict pain on someone else just to garner attention and enjoyment is not “child’s play”- it’s abuse. Note to the wise, find a hobby, get on some meds, talk to a guidance counselor, tell Mommy and Daddy to love you just a little bit more but don’t torment someone else. Whatever the reason behind your behavior- fix it. If not, someone will fix it for you.

Secondly: Yes, I was the victim of bullying from pre-school until high school. I may “forgive” those who bullied me but I will never “forget” them.

I couldn’t stand at the bus stop by myself and had to wait in the driveway with my Dad until we saw the bus coming and then I would run as fast as possible to just get into one of the seats and open a book. There were several times that I remember my Dad following in his car behind the bus because the bus driver actually found it funny when they would start taunting me. In grade school, I was tormented because of my teeth, my weight, my grades, that damn cartoon that came out called “Bucky O’Hare” (which I am still planning on suing the makers of), and my clothes. Going to the principle was useless because it was her daughter who was the main culprit. I would cry myself to sleep. My parents were extremely close to pulling me out of school and attempting to home school despite the fact that both of them worked more than 40 hours a week.

Starting in pre-school, I can vividly remember this kid taunting a little girl with glasses and an eye patch. He tormented her. He made fun of me too but I was so upset at the way he treated her. So one day, in the play kitchen, I took a frying pan and hit him across the back of the head with it. Of course I got in trouble, but I think I was clear in my intentions and reasoning. In 2nd grade I had beautiful long brown hair. My mom would brush it and restyle it in true New York fashion after every ride down the slide. I sat in front of Timothy Pachowski in Mrs. Lambert’s class (Yes, Pachowski- I remember your name and I will find you too). One day, he put a wad of gum in the back of my hair right at the bottom of my neck. My mom sobbed as they cut inches and inches off of my head. I just sat there knowing that the bob haircut I would have come morning would be the next thing they could laugh at. And I had Timothy in my crosshairs. Unfortunately, I no longer had the opportunity to solve my problems with a play kitchen frying pan…

I was tripped in the hallways. I was poked. I was pushed. I was cheated off of. I was spit on. I was mocked every time I walked to the blackboard. I would eat my lunch most of the time solo or at the teacher’s table because I knew the minute I put any kind of food in my mouth kids would say something. In 6th grade I sent out invitations to a birthday party and no one rsvp’d. My parents were faced with the heartbreaking dilemma of what to do for their daughter’s birthday. I treated others as I wanted to be treated. I excelled in my classes. I tried to be involved in outside activities but I was “different.” I spoke the same language. I lived in the same town. But I was the center of everyone’s entertainment… and although I wanted to physically fight back, I learned to use my sarcasm and intelligence to defend myself. While not always successful, at least I made the effort, right?

I turned to country music and books as my distraction from everyone around me. I stayed loud and used my humor as a defense mechanism from those who tortured me continuously but inside I was broken. I didn’t let them see it, but it was obvious I’m sure. A kid can only take so much.

After entering high school, my freshman and sophomore year were plagued with comments such as “fat ass” and “lard ass” and whatever other comment you could make to an almost 300 pound 16 year old. It wasn’t until my junior year, when my friends showed me how to use the machines in the gym that I started to lose weight. By senior year I had lost enough weight to finally “be worthy” of the attention of the popular kids. I did have amazing friends who supported me, but there were those kids who knew just what button to push, what to say, how to say it and who to say it in front of.

Today, as I sit here, I am almost 28 years old. I no longer have to worry about what I will face during the day or live in fear of other kids. I dare someone to make a comment to me about anything because I have learned to love myself, my flaws and most importantly, I found a little thing called confidence. I also have the ability to defend myself through maturity and education. And one day, when given the opportunity, I would love to sit down with every person who ever looked down upon me and just say, “How do you like me now?” (Of course, Toby would be playing in the background and I may have some back up dancers to punctuate the point, but still, the message will be sent).

I have made it a goal of mine to teach any kid that I babysit the importance of befriending that classmate that doesn’t have anyone to play with on the playground. That being their friend is more important and more special than being “popular.” That title of “popular” is short lived and anti-climatic. Befriending the bullied kid will lead you to a more fulfilling life while the bullies will spend their adulthood holding onto that beloved letterman jacket and reliving that Friday night touchdown that brought them 2 games closer to the state championship. Yet no one remembers their name… Or really cares.

I didn’t write all of this for sympathy or pity or even judgment. I wrote this for two reasons.

1) Highlight bullying and what effect it has on kids. It’s not a “phase” or “child’s play.” It’s abuse and it has to stop immediately. Stand up for those who are constantly beaten down. There is no reason not to. Teach your kids the importance of not just being “kind” to another person but understanding tolerance, acceptance and that they aren’t all that perfect themselves. (Timothy Pachowski- your ears were larger than your head and you chewed your pen until your lips were blue. Did I say anything? Nope.)

2) To show that kids who spend their life being bullied do not always turn into Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold. They don’t live in their parent’s basement and hide from the world. With the love and respect from their family and a few friends, they learn to love themselves. They take all of those years of ridicule, cruelty, exploitation, manipulation, and being laughed at and they turn it into motivation- Motivation to make something of themselves. To prove those kids wrong. And to say to them: “Look who’s laughing now.”

Talk to your children. Keep an eye on their behavior. Give them the love and support that they need. Stand up for one another. Give a voice to those who don’t have one. Protect those who can’t protect themselves. And for God’s sake- respect yourself enough not to hurt another person for your own enjoyment. Look in the mirror and see if that person looking back at you is someone you can be proud of…

No comments: