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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Thursday, May 29th, 2008 04:01 pm
bully

I attended a small private elementary school in a small town. There were about 20-25 kids in each grade, enough to fit each grade in one room, so I had the same core group of classmates for a good portion of my first six years.

Well, five-and-a-half. My kindergarten teacher persuaded my parents to put me in first grade midway through the school year; I guess educational regulations weren't strict back then.

I kind of think it was a bad idea. I was small, chubby, introspective, and nerdy, and alliances had already formed among my classmates when I joined them. I spent the majority of my childhood as a follower rather than a leader, and was content to accept the way things were without too much trouble, docile, often not even aware that I could exert much, or any, control over my circumstances.

I was also the only boy in my class who didn't play football at recess, preferring two-square or goofing around on the jungle gym or drawing pictures.

All of this made me a pretty easy target.

Brian was, for lack of a better term, the alpha male in my class: a handsome kid, well-built, affable, confident. A natural leader, and, yielding to whatever instinct occasionally inspires playground cruelty, led the taunts. Most of the other boys followed suit, currying favor and vying for rank in the hierarchy. Some stayed neutral, some were my friends.

Nothing got too out of hand; my experiences were pretty mild, comparatively, and it wasn't constant. For example, I was threatened but never struck. My books got thrown, maybe I got pushed, my lunch cupcake taken. Most of it was just ridicule.

Other boys had redeeming qualities that allowed them to avoid similar treatment. They were good at football. They had Ataris and invited friends over to play. They had pretty sisters someone had a crush on. They were cool. My qualities somehow didn't stack up; I had only foreign currency.

Thus, Brian symbolized the reinforcement of my subconscious assumption that it wasn't my place to change things and that this is the way it would be: me at the bottom, fulfilling my role as that kid, the weird one, the one that got picked on. I didn't necessarily feel ashamed about it, strangely, but it profoundly shaped the way I learned to deal socially with others in various situations, and helped establish instincts that to this day I have to mentally stave off. I didn't know how to relate to peers. I didn't know how to treat friends as equals. What I was wasn't good enough. My confidence and poise were late to bloom.

I can't remember what prompted it, but I came home crying one day from whatever silly insults had been aimed at me. I didn't complain much about things at school, but I guess this day it got out of hand. Mom was concerned, and I blurted out that Brian was being a bully. Mom said "Let's call him and tell him, then."

Until then, the idea of confronting him simply hadn't occurred to me. I can DO that?, I thought. I felt kind of dumb, considering the simplicity of it.

She looked up his parents' number (everyone pretty much knew everyone else, from church), called it, and asked for Brian. She handed the phone to me. I imagine my eyes were pretty huge at this point, but I took the phone as it emitted his voice, asking hello.

"Brian?"

"Yeah?"

My heart was beating hard, and my mouth was dry. Mom watched, arms folded. I swallowed.

"You're a bully." I hung up before he said anything.

I didn't feel triumphant. Somehow it didn't feel as if it was anywhere near the right solution. The next day, the days after, I fully expected to get beat up, but nothing. I don't remember if the bullying stopped, or changed at all. In fifth grade I was invited to his birthday party and he gave me $2 to buy a pop because I didn't have any money with me.

Brian and I eventually both attended a Catholic mid-high that closed down when we were in 10th grade; we would have been the Class of 1986.

I didn't go to the 20-year reunion that a couple of classmates organized two summers ago, but one of them sent me a CD with photos of those who attended. There's a picture of him on it: handsome, well-built, charismatic, with a pretty wife and a couple kids, beaming a warm smile. He looks good, doesn't look like he's pushing 40.

I wonder about the challenges he's faced, the demons he's wrestled.

I wonder how I changed him.

24CommentReply

bernmarx
bernmarx
Paul
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)

Wow. I had much the same childhood, with the added fun that because my father was a minister, I wound up in a new school district every three or four years. But yeah, I was the kid that was bullied but never beaten up... it was just great fun to get me to cry and throw things.

Nice post.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)

Thanks. I knew kids in similar situations to yours, and wondered if it would have been any different - i.e., whether it would have been more or less difficult to start afresh or to change existing relationships.


ReplyThread Parent
socktree
socktree
If I had my way, wars would be fought with robots
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)

You never know how you've affected people, but I'm sure you made some type of impact. I only hope that some of the many bullies I went up against growing up have changed how they treat people now.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:52 am (UTC)

When I was a teenager, one of my uncles divulged this pearl of wisdom: don't worry about assholes, because for every asshole that fucks you up, there's a bigger one out there who'll fuck him up even worse.

I used to believe it, but now I don't have any idea if it's true. Sometimes it's nice to think that it might be.


ReplyThread Parent
horror_romance
horror_romance
mega mega mega awesome babe
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:19 am (UTC)

i like your mom!


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)

Me too, she rocks.


ReplyThread Parent
drjeff
drjeff
Raoul Duke
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC)

That's beautiful.

Some day, some day, I shall take the time to chronicle my years as an elementary school outsider.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC)

Thanks, I hope you do!


ReplyThread Parent
remix79
remix79
remix
Friday, May 30th, 2008 01:22 am (UTC)

Nicely done. And I second your mom rocking!


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)

She rocks indeed.


ReplyThread Parent
obsqurity
obsqurity
owner of this corner, and not much more
Friday, May 30th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)

I was a socially awkward girl with a minor penchant for bullying the even more socially awkward boys. Looking back, I have no idea why I might have done such a thing, but I'm pretty sure I did do it. I hope none of those guys still remember it.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)

Who knows, they might have enjoyed it? I say track a few of them down and ask 'em out.


ReplyThread Parent
idunn
idunn
A world tree and the last of three
Friday, May 30th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)

You have an awesome mum. Funny, too, how relationships can change so much, no?

I had a girlfriend in first grade. We knew nothing of homosexuality back then and only knew that you had to have one guy and one girl, so we took turns pretending to be male. She was my best friend until she became more popular and took on some bullying characteristics. Everyone else in the grade totally kissed her ass, and I faded into the background. By third grade, her popularity was all used up, and she eventually went to another school. She recently friended me on Facebook, and I got to see a hot adult redhead I snogged at the age of 6, years before she'd become a student at a local Catholic high school.

So, basically, I made out with a Catholic schoolgirl who was once my bff/gf/bully. Yeah.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)

That is HOT.


ReplyThread Parent
idunn
idunn
A world tree and the last of three
Friday, May 30th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)

I actually wrote about it on my lj, but you'll need access to a Facebook account to see relevant pictures.


ReplyThread Parent
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)

Yes, I remember this post! Unfortunately it looks like she's got her settings so that the link doesn't work for me.

Be my internet friend on FB!


ReplyThread Parent
cienna74
cienna74
cienna74
Friday, May 30th, 2008 03:57 am (UTC)

Wow. Thanks for sharing. We all have our challenges and demons. They make us better. Great post.


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krazyfelioness
krazyfelioness
sarcastic bubblewrap
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)

They do make us better. We just have to shift our brains to a different perspective, right? ;)


ReplyThread Parent
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)

Thanks. :)


ReplyThread Parent
boggywoggyscache.blogspot.com
boggywoggyscache.blogspot.com
Friday, May 30th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC)
He did not change.

Think about it.
He was an asshole, through through. We've all known these bullies.
However, I can think of one great thing I once said to my son, when he was called "Gay Boy" at school...(he isn't gay). I said, "This is a great time to learn 2 things; 1 is that you cannot change other people and 2 is that there will always be mean people in your life. What are you going to do about that?"

Oh, and, in all honesty, I'd rather be beat up one time physically than be picked on and taunted over and over again. How about you?


ReplyThread
littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, May 30th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Re: He did not change.

I don't know, I knew him for at least 8 years and I didn't necessarily think he was an asshole. He could just be (and was) a bully. Kids are kids, and through adolescence and even into adulthood we treat each other in various ways on the way to learning who we are and how to properly socialize. As such, all of us have enormous capacity for change. Brian might still be a bully, I don't know, but to me it makes just as much sense to assume he still is as to assume I am exactly the same kind of person I was back then.

Sure, if I had a choice, I think I'd opt for a one-time beatdown than for repeated taunting, but how often do we have that kind of choice?


ReplyThread Parent
adr0ck
adr0ck
So I'm the Grape Ape
Friday, May 30th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)

i'll be reading this on the train today, but i've read enough to share this story:

my dad, the funniest, smartest, kindest, most generous guy i know, told me that he was a jerk and bully in high school. he went to a very small hs in a kansas farming community. my dad is tall, muscular, fit, played sports -- but he also loves some of the things farm boys get made fun of for liking, like musical theater, politics, etc. i don't know for sure but i'm guessing he got razzed pretty hard about not being the typical "guy" back then.

he told me that they voted him prom king as a joke. everyone knew it was a joke, including him, and it hurt him deeply. when he told me that i was so shocked -- how could anyone dislike my dad or do something so mean to him -- something i'd only seen in movies?

my dad isn't rich but he gives a lot of money to all kinds of charities. he has given money to charities in the name of some of the people he was a jerk to back in high school. he told me that he called up someone and told them he had done that, apologized for the way he treated them in high school. he said they pretty much said, "too late, i still hate you."

i know life was pretty tough in his household, he had an extremely controlling mother who could be very mean and a dad that probably also didn't like that he wasn't all about guns & ammo . . .

so -- not to excuse your bully, but -- just saying no one becomes a bully without having been bullied themselves. and they can change. i hope yours did! based on what my dad told me, i'm pretty sure that what you said to your bully meant something to him.


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cierrablue
cierrablue
Cierra
Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)

Your mom was wonderful. Who knows what difference that made but that little boy had a voice and he used it to speak the truth. So many people can never find their voice.


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fullerton
FULLERTON
Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)

Nice story.

Sadly, I assume Brian remained a bully and is a handsome successful person because he is able to advocate for himself aggressively.

The big life lesson I walked away from elementary school with is you really have no control over other people, and that unfair as it is, they have a lot of control in what your identity is.

I went to almost ten different elementary school, at each I was somehow assigned a different status, nerd, shy, bully and even a different ethnic group. It was strange and while it taught me not to trust people I think I learned early-on the arbitrary nature of the human experience.


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