Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bullying, Alive and Well?

DH just finished reading a book that I had read last week titled Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco. It is a memoir of her life as an only child who was bullied at school. Oh, this is a painful read! Both DH and I wondered if all of it could be true, could any child have it that bad. Yes, I think they could.

But as a writer, I know a memoir is not always a blow by blow tale of exact moments. When writing our life stories, we must compress time, rearrange events, condense or inflate details for readers due to the constraints of pages and space in a book. Even if a reader feels Jodee Blanco sugarcoated the class reunion scene or enhanced the high school senior year pain, there is truth on these pages. Ask any nerd or fatty or geek or bonehead or etc. so labeled at their school.

DH and I sat on the deck under the spring trees with a breeze blowing over our iced tea. We began to dissect our school years and both feel we never abused or bullied anyone. Both wondered though if we had been thoughtless to someone not of “our” crowd.  We recalled tiny bits of bullying we might have experienced…they were nothing like Blanco’s experiences or those of kids now days who are cyber bullied to the point of suicide or taking a gun to school for revenge.

I know that today I would not, would NOT, stand for what I accepted in my youth. My mom taught and I believed that to give a harassing person notice or complaint was to give them the attention they wanted. I just took it. I took the kids on the corner shooting pellets guns at us neighborhood kids by staying inside or my back yard until they grew up and did other tortures to bigger kids. I took the two boys being mean to me when I was fourth grade and going home to lunch; they eventually broke a part on my bike. I took the seniors who kicked my band chair, knocked my music to the floor, called my name until I turned and then said, “Turn around stupid.” I took the pinching in inappropriate places from senior boys when I was an underclassman because I thought to complain would make it worse. How did I tell it anyway? Today I would shock their jaw and file sexual harassment papers in the office. I just took many things as part of growing up, thought kids would be kids, tried not to complain, and just grew up.

The one memory that brought this old lady to tears was psychological bullying of a teacher. It was so painful to remember, and I wonder how my life might have been different without it. His class was right after lunch. I would feel sick with fear when I got up in the morning, dreaded each hour easing towards that class, had trouble eating lunch, and then endured a year of agony made worse by the fact I did not score good grades in his class. I remember how once the afternoon bell rang I felt wonderful…laughed and joked as the day wrapped up. I was fine until bedtime because then I remembered when I woke up I would have to face him again with another day. Weekends were great until Sunday night…when it started all over.

The man was peculiar and mean. Some girls and most boys liked him because they thought he was a pal. Many did not because of his habit of making the girls go to the board to work and letting the boys laugh at them behind their backs—and their backsides. Imagine that happening today!

So I can see the truth behind Blanco’s book even if every fact might not be correct. I saw bullying as a child, I saw it as a teacher when certain students developed into the victims, I saw it in the workplace when somehow certain fellow employees managed to, yes, plain old bully others. The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” just aren’t true. Why are we not doing a better job of handling bullying now…or are we do you think?

Were you bullied….do you think it is a problem that is worse than it used to be…or will “kids just be kids”?


Linda O'Connell said...

We weren't given the tools back then. We avoided problems and thought that it was just the way it was. Oh today, I would not tolerate one ounce of what I did as a kid.
Not enough positive role models and the demand for respect and self respect. Teachers would rather not deal with it some days. Sad.

Lynn said...

I was just talking about this with a friend how we wouldn't tolerate a lot of things we just did back then. I guess we're waking up.

Rebecca said...

Personally, I'm not sure whether it is worse than it used to be or not.

Youth is a very vulnerable time. Perceptions are not always reality.

I think we DID have better "tools" and family support/models to help us handle it than kids have today.

Suicide happened "back then", but it was not televised, publicized, almost glorified as it is today. Today it appears to be the ultimate way to get attention... and kids have been equipped with multiple ways to carry it out.

Oh! As you might be able to see, I have so much more I could say about this subject :)

It IS a shame. I don't condone bullying then or now. I mourn the lack of attention we as a society are giving to faith and family and the selfishness and greed at the most fundamental levels that corrode family stability. Etc. etc.

Donna Volkenannt said...

We were taught all about words not hurting, but in truth they did.

Cliques are still alive and well, sadly. And bullying emotionally is more harmful than physically and sometimes exclusion is the worst form of bullying there is.

Thoughtful post.

noexcuses said...

How very timely is your post! For most of the year at my school, there have been posters up around the school about bullying. We are actually sponsoring an activity to a local theater which is showing the recent movie "Bullying." I was crushed when my adult children told me about their experiences being bullied. It has even happened in my own house, but because of the way my generation handled it, nothing was done about it. This is not so anymore!

Wonderful post and piercing, too! Thank you for sharing.