Back in my day, the bullies had it hard. They would actually have to find you and speak to you, or haul big ass felt pens into the bathrooms and keep up on their spelling. Not the case these days, being a bully seems to be effortless. You need only access to the internet, an easy target and no soul.
I got picked on a bit in high school by a couple of tough girls. Not sure how I would have handled the relentlessness of how it’s doled out today but this is how it went down in my town.
The thin line between love and hate reared it’s ugly head when my “town bestie” and I had a falling out. She threatened that if I spent more time with my new boyfriend than I did with her, she would end our friendship. Where I found the balls to call her on her bluff, albeit through tears, I don’t know. She subsequently made it her mission to make my high school life hell until she dropped out. Luckily, it was the end of that same school year but it felt like forever.
To add insult to injury, there was another toughie that chose to pick on me, particularly my pants. She didn’t know my name, she just made up her own. Jeans were expensive back then, between $25 & $28 depending on if you were going Big Blue or Le Cullotier, and always at least a foot longer than they needed to be. To “make them last”, my Granny Gunhild would hem them up to my knees so she could let them out as I grew, allowing me to wear them until the day I died. Like it was yesterday I can remember how it felt to walk through the halls and have this girl follow me, hurling insults. I was scared shitless that she was going to beat me up because of my pants. Still am a little when I visit home.
In a creative version, this story would end here, i’d wrap it up in a decades old victim impact statement and move on. What really happened? I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for myself or talk to someone on staff at the school, mainly because these girls were in front of the principal daily so I would literally be crossing their paths if I went near the office. Instead, I found my own target. A poor girl that rode the bus with me, right to the end of the line when there were only a few kids left of the bus. I glared at her, wouldn’t sit near her, made indignent sounds as I walked by her. I knew nothing about her except that she was new and appeared to be a shyer version of me. In the bully food chain, I was the dominant figure so she became my target.
What I “suffered” in high school was minute and by no means anywhere near the stories I have heard, especially stories that are shared online. I have a purple scarf that I pick on Spirit Day, I could have just gone with that. Instead i’m hoping making a point. Point being is that this small direct attack by two misguided girls still bugs me. Decades later what bugs me more is that my feeling of victimization was perpetuated like it was just my time to pick my target. Where I jumped on the bully bike, now kids are handed the keys to race cars with national broadcast rights.
What brought me to this today is seeing a post on a kids facebook wall that I know is in that same school, facing the same kind of shit but in a much bigger, faster, accessible, real-time pile.
“Highschool isnt about education, its about endurance” Exactly how I felt when it was small and contained and manageable. What now?
I was a good kid with a big heart and was drawn into this. I was swayed. Had there been something different to sway toward, this may be a different story. My hope is that by systems being put into place where good kids are given tools to be sensitive, supportive and not swayed by the easy out that is bullying, that something will slowly but surely change. It starts by finding the good kids and letting them do the work.
Here’s a clue….it’s most of the kids.