Man-the-fuck-up and grow up! That was the advice a male acquaintance (who is no more) had for people who were posting a paragraph to their FB status against bullying. I think I’d like to talk about bullies for a moment because it came up a lot this past weekend. First when talking to an old school-chum, and again during a conversation about spanking and child abuse.
Basically I was horribly bullied by my classmates when I was a kid. I switched schools in grade school and those of you have been there know that being the new kid sucks ass because you’re not accepted right away (if at all). Well, I was never really accepted. I was the girl who lived in the scary house (kids really thought our old 1910 house was haunted). I actually had interests and hobbies instead of friends, and I read a lot of books. As a matter of fact I made my way through the entire Black Stallion series and Piers Anthony’s Xanith series in a single semester in third grade. That’s how much of an outcast I was. Not to mention by the time I was eleven, a lot of my female classmates were jealous because I had a pony (every little girl wants a pony). I ended up being tormented mercilessly from third grade to high school by “the plastics” and their gaggle of jock mooks. If you’ve never had 10+ boys and girls after you at once – trust me, it’s not fun. Especially when you’re a head shorter and at least 25 pounds lighter than all your tormentors.
And no one ever came to my defense. Sure, my parents offered advice and told me repeatedly that the bullies were just jealous and to turn the other cheek (unless the other person hit first, then I was encouraged to kick their asses). My mother also did damage control and told me I was pretty and had self worth to counteract the low self esteem issues I was having because of the bullying. But sadly, I didn’t really know how to defend myself. After all, one person I could have handled. But as an eight-year-old girl when you’re being ganged up on by 10+ kids, it’s not so easy to man-the-fuck up and grow up. And it does effect you negatively (no matter how much you refuse to admit it). When you’re a kid, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” is absolutely meaningless. So is the phrase, “You allow things to happen to you by allowing other people to behave the way they behave.” You also don’t understand that “You control your reactions to others.” What should I have done? Gotten myself a machine gun, gone to school, and killed all the little bitches? Or perhaps beaten them up? Or gone the way of Jesus and turned the other cheek? For the most part I took the way of the latter.
I did eventually (in high school) find my voice and learned how to cope and stand up for myself. Little did I know that if you separated your bully from their herd, got in their face and threatened to kick their ass that they would usually back down. But I also know that just because I was able to “man the fuck up” doesn’t mean everyone can. Not everyone is so well equipped. After all, I had supportive, loving parents and friends outside school who counteracted a lot of the mental abuse I endured from my classmates. I imagine those kids learned how to bully from their parents or older siblings. It’s a cycle usually. Bullies beget bullies.
Now, as an adult and because I was bullied – I trust no one. I keep my friends close and my enemies closer. I can be a callous, mean person if provoked. Basically – I have serious trust issues and I’m a colder person than I would have had I not been bullied. Some people would say I’m “tough”. That being bullied toughened me up. While that’s probably true – I think it’s unfortunate that I was forced to wall up my emotions just to survive being tormented. So I disagree that being bullied was good for me or built character. I don’t like not being able to trust others, or feeling like I have to be mean to protect myself. As a matter of fact my coldness has been detrimental when it comes to my career. It’s actually quite crippling. And no – I’m not a victim.
Just try to make me put up with your shit if you don’t believe me. I will kick you out of my life in a fucking heartbeat and I will feel absolutely NOTHING. Why? Because I have only allowed a small handful of people to get *that* close to me to where I genuinely care about them and they could hurt me. Sorry to say that, but it’s true. It’s a survival mechanism. I was a very sensitive child with a great deal of empathy. While I’m still very squishy on the inside, it would take an army to take down these walls I’ve built, and I’m convinced that if forced to, I could easily lose my shit and hurt someone who attempted to inflict that kind of abuse on me today.
Yes, you heard me – bullying is abuse. For some people it’s so bad that they end up taking drastic measures to get away from it (including suicide or killing classmates). Most people just weather it and they turn out fine. Of course not all bullying is created equally. Calling someone fat, for example, may not be nearly as traumatizing as throwing dead mice at them while chanting “Fatty, fatty.” A friend of mine who I knew from grade school told me that she actually dropped out of school in high school just because she felt like such an outsider. While she’s fine now that she’s an adult and she can look back at it with some pragmatism, you can tell how much it affected her. I know others who never recovered from the abuse. Some people kill themselves. For others, bullying can cause lifelong self-esteem issues if they’re not nipped in the ass early on.
Others who have been bullied become bullies themselves. They’re rude and nasty and act like complete assholes to everyone they meet. No one likes an asshole. 🙂 I don’t see assholes as “tough” but rather damaged and insecure. This leads me to the next point. Bullies themselves are damaged people. They’ve probably been abused themselves. They’re often insecure and have low self-esteem, too.
Of course I have found solace in the fact that my bullies grew up to be worn out whores, losers, or parents whose own children have been bullied. There’s irony in that. I feel sorry for their kids.
Sure, it would be easy for me to say, “Well, no one helped me and I turned out okay. I’ll just parrot the love and support I was given,” I do have more compassion than that. I guess that’s the difference between me and my ex-acquaintance. I do care about other people, especially kids, even though I pretend hard not to.
While I’m not an idealist, I do wonder if we would get rid of the societal attitude of “Man the fuck up and grow up” we could actually alleviate all the bullying and we would quit creating assholes. Hmm. There’s an idea. Though I suspect it’s just an idea and probably a lousy one at that. But it doesn’t stop me from posting things against bullying to my FB status because I think there are better, more constructive ways to toughen children up and build their character.