Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Response to A Gentle Reader

In response to my post about bullying, my gentle reader (Sorry, Miss Manners. If you've got that trade marked, I"ll lay off ) Everett gave the following comment that I wanted to address here:

This is preceded by praise, praise, praise for my blog which I LOVE.  I love praise.  Thank you.
...the thing that was a little unsettling about this blog (and many others), is that it seems as if you are saying that it is normal, and that it's sort of a "passage" if you are not the popular person, to get picked on. You advise to avoid the situation, and if one were to arise, to get away as fast as possible. Now of course the best advice anyone could give, is to try and avoid it.... however, I don't believe that we (GLBT, black, handicapped, fat, pink-haired, WHATEVER) should just escape the situation... that does not solve anything.

While I like to encourage people to stand up for themselves, I would NEVER tell anyone to put themselves into a situation that could make things worse. But there are ways of stopping it. Find what works best for you and the situation, and go forth. Don't ever allow for someone to bully you, and don't think it's something that you have to just "deal with". It's not alright. You don't have to put up with it. Just find a healthy alternative to make it stop...
...followed by praise, praise, praise for my blog.  Okay, that's an exaggeration, but some praise followed.
Gentle Everett-
I agree with you that young people should find ways of trying to stop bullying, if those means are available.  And, by all means, kids should seek out adults to help them or develop a blisteringly sharp repertoire of comebacks that will verbally knock the shit out of their victimizers.  However, I think back to my experience and as a kid, I just didn't see any options at all, so avoidance was it.  Why didn't I see any options?
1.  I didn't feel close enough to my parents to tell them.  That, and my dad would have thought I was a giant puss, more than he already did.
2.  I thought that if I told a teacher or another adult, they would have told my parents and my dad, blah, blah, blah.
3.  I was struggling so much to try to feel cool, that I didn't also want to be known as a tattle tale, which would have decreased my cool points by a gazillion.
Your other point about being bullied as a "passage" is interesting.  I don't think that bullying is an inevitable "deal with it" part of being young and geeky, nerdy, gay, etc., though I do think someone is always at the bottom of the pile.  What I do think is inevitable is assholism.  (Thank you John Waters and Pink Flamingos for letting me use that oh so appropriate term.)  You can report bullies and you might be able to curb their behavior, but assholism is forever.  In my thinking, once a mean spirited asshole, always a mean spirited asshole.  So, is it worth it to stick around in a small town after graduation where you are going to perpetually run into these assholes?  Maybe, if you can ignore them, it might be.  However, I think it is a valuable experience to go out somewhere in the world where you arrive with no labels or titles and see how the world treats you.  Then, if you want to go back to your small town with some years of perspective, that's great.  By then the assholes, though still assholes, will just look pathetic.
Keep the comments and thoughts coming. 


Mnmom said...

So true.
Plus, when you're a teenager, you're, well, a TEENAGER and therefore severely mentally challenged. You just can't think things through with adult perspective. Teens are hyperfocused on a sense of belonging, even if it's within the culture of assholism in their small town.

Coaster Punchman said...


If Miss M has trademarked "Gentle Readers" I am sure to get a cease and desist at any time.

I was severely bullied when I was in 7th grade - "fag" and variations thereof were the norm for me. Like you, I could NEVER tell anyone what was happening because it was too shameful. One night I was crying and crying about school and my mom kept asking me what was wrong. The only thing I could get out was "people call me names" --- and when she asked me "what kind of names?" I could not tell her.

Because, during the era in which we were young, being gay was just about the worst thing in the world. Your family would hate you - everyone would hate you. We simply had no safe space anywhere. It's probably still like that for kids in Kentucky etc.

Looking back I have fantasies of physically attacking the kids who did this to me. I think about what if I had just gone postal on someone's ass to the point that people would still make fun of me, but from afar because no one wants some crazy ass nutjob going postal on them.

It probably wouldn't have ended well and I might have just been labeled a "bad kid" and would never have been put in with the good classes and good teachers etc.

So yes, I did the "avoidance" thing as much as possible. The lower the profile, the better.

God, if I could erase that year from my memory completely, I would. I even started tearing up while I was typing this.



cbeck said...

Just found your blog. And I would first like to say that, if you squished the two dogs in your title picture together, you would get our dog! It's a black-and-tan cockapoo, which was made from two dogs that look just like those up there.

-(Whoever came up with that breed-name surely had a good laugh and a twisted sense of humor)-


Third, sometimes you just can't escape the bullies. I spent my early childhood and teens doing everything I could to stay away and/or stop it. I actually did tell my mom one day when it got bad and she could tell something was up. Of course she told my dad. What did he do? He drove me over to the kids house and had a talk with his dad. -if ever there was a way to make a chubby geek look like a badass- The bullying and name calling got twice as worse after that.

By some miracle, I never managed to get beat to a bloody pulp. though I did have a kid smack me in the face once and ask me if I wanted to fight. Then he shoved me and I gracefully sat down -by which I mean I stumbled backwards, tripped, smashed into the girl I had a crush on, and sent us both tumbling tangled into the dust.

On the bright side though, that was the closest I ever got to her, and akin to my youthful dreams coming true. There were other incidents that didn't end so well... most all of them actually.

Kimber said...

Bullying is to a degree, a "right of passage" however, it shouldn't be. I have always been short, I'm only 5 feet tall, and being a girl and short I was always picked on until one day I had enough and I stood up for myself...Needless to say that boy back in 3rd grade never picked on me again lol. I then became the defender of the underdogs. I just couldn't seem to sit back and watch kids get bullied so I always got in the middle. It got to the point where I would walk into the dean's office and he would say "Who were you sticking up for today Kim?"
Anywho.... I have two daughters, and I am trying so hard to teach them that everyone is different and everyone has something special about them. I find it a bit scary that in this day and age, with so many differences among us, that people can still be so closed-minded. Unfortunately, kids learn this at home....
As far as telling your parents when someone is bullying you. I always tell my girls "You can tell me anything you want, anytime you want" While I am not naive (sp?) enough to believe they will tell me everything, I am hopeful that they will tell me a lot and that I am raising them to be strong, respectful, responsible women.

Christian said...

Praise well-deserved. I've only read a couple of posts, but keep up the good work, stranger!

There is no clear plan of action when someone falls into the crosshairs of a bully. I believe both you and your reader have great points. Avoidance is a good strategy, but it's not always easy or effective. It's a sad reality how much damage some punk can do to a person growing up just by throwing names and shoving.

You're right in that assholism is very present and seemingly perpetual. I didn't really have much first hand experience, but everyone sees it. There were plenty of bullies at my high school, and I can't help but pity some of them who I've seen years later barely holding a job and nothing but a grim outlook on life.

I only hope that even if the bullying continues strong, their victims build resistance or at least better resilience to mockery.

It's such a shame knowing that so many of these kids and teens being targeted are some of the most amazing and kind hearted guys and gals that grow up to be people I'd be honored to befriend.