Thursday, October 7, 2010


By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being the victim of a terrible prank. This incident has caused an onslaught of anti-bullying campaigns, news stories, etc. I was listening to the radio on my way to work and they asked each other who was the bully and who was bullied (as kids). Most said they were one or the other. I started thinking about myself as a kiddo and realized something.

I was both.

I’ve mentioned junior high a few times on here. I typically avoid the topic because holy hell those days sucked. There were teeny tiny wonderful moments for every three or four terrible moments. I cried. A lot. I complained. A lot. I remember days when my mom would sit next to me on my bed, hold my hand and say, “You’ll get through this. You will.” Between hiccups and cries I’d tell her she didn’t understand. Later I found out she understood completely--she went through the same torment. That’s the thing, bullying isn’t new. My mom and I were made fun of for the exact same issues by the exact same type of people. Both of us knew what it was like to want to disappear, and we’d been made to feel small enough that disappearing didn’t seem that impossible.

I was “lucky” in the sense that I was only bullied for a few years. Once I went to high school, all was good. I’m sure I was still made fun of (weren’t we all?) but no one said it to my face. Perhaps it was because I was no longer 4’11” and flat-chested. I was never picked on for my personality, my intelligence, or my morals. Just my looks. But when you’re 12 that feels like everything.

I can sit here and feel sorry for myself or I can think back to 5th grade when I was the bully. A group of us were horrible to one person. And it wasn’t just her looks. We picked on every single part of who she was. I never did it to her face but I was brutal behind her back and witnessed blatant cruelty dozens of times without saying a word. I was just as bad as the ones who outright bullied her.

Almost twenty years later it still haunts me. How I could be that cruel, that demeaning, that repulsive of a person. I was only 10 but I knew better. For the longest time I’ve wondered about her. Is she happy? Is she married? Is she safe? Is she alive?

I guess this sob-story is to say I imagine most of us have been the victim but most of us have also been the perpetrator. There were a few positives to getting bullied, but that’s because I was (eventually) able to learn from it and move on. Made my skin thicker, eyes wider, and gave me a sarcastic, self-deprecating humor that makes people laugh. I think of those who dealt with torment for many years, or worse, refused to deal with it and instead took their own lives. It breaks my heart.

The thing is… my parents didn’t raise a bully. They raised a good girl who made that terrible decision all by herself and later had a healthy dose given right back to her. There is a simple answer to this problem but it’s obviously not the popular answer. And until we figure out how to make simple and popular synonymous, it’s never going to stop.

What a waste.


Laura said...

It takes a lot to admit this...I know I struggle with the same years and doing that same things! Now as an adult, it scares me to death to think that I might be missing something at school that leads to a tragic event. It's terrible.

On another note, you were always beautiful!!! :)

Aubrey said...

Well stated, friend. I wish that everyone who has had an experience on both sides of this issue came away from it stronger and kinder and more empathetic like you have.

The focus on bullying has been getting serious attention in the UK for almost a decade now. Every school has anti-bullying policies in place, and the topic gets tons of attention practically every day. I was skeptical at first, but I have seen firsthand that it works. Hopefully schools and homes in the US can get with the program and make a similar change for the better.

Cari said...

Definitely a good thought-provoking post, Mere. Middle school can either make or break a person. It all goes back to selfish people in the world trying to make themselves feel better (it still happens, even as adults, but it's under other disguises). Thanks for the thoughts!

Leslie said...

Wise words, friend. I'm afraid I'd have to say the same of myself at different points in life. And I'm afraid Cari's thoughts are also true...some people never grow out of it. Just yesterday a girlfriend was telling me about getting bullied by a coworker!

Kaitlin said...

So true and so very well written (and further proves that you should indeed write a book- you should submit this to a newspaper). I've been on both sides of the bullying too (sandwiched in a tunnel slide when I was 7 by the "big girls" on the playground and caught up in the horrible gossip about another classmate in jr high). I always tried to be a friend to the one without, but sometimes what's popular gets the best of someone...even those with a seemingly good heart. So sad.

Jax said...

I totally relate to this. TOTALLY. I've been the victim of bullying. But, I've also been on the gossip train and definitely hurt someone's feelings I never meant to hurt. Social media adds a whole new component...with viral videos like what happened to Tyler, facebook, texts, etc.. It's just a whole new place to really bully someone that's never been experienced before. So very sad and scary...

Well written post, girlie.

Candace said...

such a great, honest post. i have totally been there, on BOTH sides. For me, it definately took a dose of my own medicine to see that I was bullying.

im scared of the teen years with ava! I knew right from wrong, and still made the bad decision.

thanks for this thought provoking post!!!!


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