ON BEING BULLIED

Whoever refers to her childhood as the “good old days” must never have experienced the meanness of bullies. And the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” encourages a bully’s victim to stuff her feelings rather than acknowledge and deal with the very real pain.

Middle school presented the most difficult challenge of my young life. At that time, the foundations of my home suffered a major shaking as the adults in my family headed for an emotional earthquake. Looking back, even without actually understanding the situation, I was greatly affected by the undercurrent. As if this wasn’t enough, I was a late bloomer.

As a tall skinny scrappy kid with no breasts and the added flash of braces in an already plain face, I drew the unwanted attention of popular girls and the boys who wanted to impress them. My new name, Flat Tire, echoed down the hallways, and bounced off the lockers. Misery personified! All this stirred into the hormone cocktail raging through my adolescent body led to violent unrequited crushes and unfulfilled desires. Seventh grade played out as a nightmare, but it could have turned out worse.

A girl in one of my classes caught my attention. She wore her long blond hair in braids every day. Painfully shy, she averted her pretty blue eyes at any hint of attention. Mr. S, our handsome math teacher, pursued her relentlessly, shamelessly urging her to let down her hair and to meet him after school. She was mortified, I was envious. I longed for the attention she shunned. In retrospect, I escaped a potentially bad situation, but at the time all I saw was more rejection. I drew more into myself and away from hurtful uncomfortable situations at school.

My popularity, attractiveness to boys my age, and breasts all stayed frustratingly underdeveloped. My family moved to a new school district in the middle of my high school years, so I sort of got a new start. But the damage to my self-confidence prevented me from trying to make friends. The cafeteria terrified me, so I hung out in the classroom of an understanding teacher enduring hunger pains rather than risk certain humiliation.

I found an after school job and got to know people there. Way too easy I turned to a self-destructive life style. I embarked on a journey seeking love and affection with the heartbreaking result of receiving sex and rejection. My desire to fit in and be accepted as a person of worth became a losing battle. But how could anyone else give me something I couldn’t give myself? True love, unconditional love seemed beyond my reach. I would like to say that everything changed the day my eyes were opened and I became a Christian, but the long difficult learning process continues to this day.

Did my bullies determine my outcome? I used to think so, and it made me angry, bitter and miserable. Did my former bullies suffer from that? Of course not, I never even saw them again. It took a long time to come to the realization that I made my bad decisions, they didn’t. Therefore, I (not the bullies) am responsible for my consequences. It’s easy to blame others when things go wrong, but that’s a cop out.

What do you think? Did you live through being bullied? Are you being bullied now? How are you dealing with it? Maybe you are a bully and want to make amends. Tell me what you think.

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