Sunday, October 14, 2012

Anti-Bullying Month: My Story

After some much needed attention, posted my dear friend Lori Sizemore (check out her post), I was reminded October is National Bullying Prevention Month. At first I wasn't going to post, why post really? There's tons of people who were bullied as children, myself included, but there are others out there with worse stories then mine. Then Bill Cameron, on my tweet feed, posted this link. The story inspired, enraged and put forth the moment where I had to speak out.

My story:
I was in elementary school. My family: a middle class, hard-working unit, with 2 parents and every 3-4 years adding a new sibling. I was the oldest. My father's words were:
"You can do anything you want to do. All you have to do is use your head."
Beauty, make-up, fancy clothes, those were things we couldn't afford so the fail safe involved my smarts. And boy, was I smart. Straight A's, and I loved learning. The kids didn't love me. My hand-me-down clothes were ugly. My family was poor, and many a time I found myself exposed to the cruelty of my friends, whether getting hit in the head with a kickball and laughed at until I ran crying or ganged up on by a group of 15 girls with teachers standing by and doing nothing.

I went to my father with my troubles, the pressures from my peers making we long to stay home. I hated recess with every fiber of my being. I couldn't hide at recess. My father said:
"Don't fight. Walk away. They'll give up after a while. Tell the teacher."
Except none of those things worked. I walked, they followed. They had 30 minutes to follow me around. I almost got my head pushed into a brick wall, and I'd told the teachers. They were cruel, mean, and when I got to middle school I worked doubly hard to fade into the dark. I tried to avoid bringing myself to the center of attention. Didn't want to make friends, except for a small group. Sure I knew every one's names, but my circle of 4 friends were enough to keep me happy. They didn't make fun of me or try to push me around.

The unfortunate thing is that my sense of self worth diminished. My father's endless tirades of awesome I was because of my brain power paled in comparison to the pretty girls, with the nice clothes, and the boyfriends. Secretly I wanted attention. I wanted to be liked and loved by everyone. I sought those feelings in the wrong places and by high school lost my virginity a few months into freshman year. My belief was it would give me some sort of staying power. It didn't, and if I wasn't careful I'd become a slut behind closed doors or an emotional wreck because the one guy who took a precious part of me shared it with everyone he knew. Thankfully, all of this occurred before the age of the cell phone and social media, and I stopped myself from committing the worst. Because at some point you realize these people who are making fun of you don't matter. You'll grow up and you'll get away from them, move away to greener pastures.

In this day in age the silly things we do as high schools and teenagers are no longer just a part of life or privy to the inner circle of 20-30 people that can't 'prove' what happened. The idiot who took my maidenhead couldn't prove it. But now with cell phones being in every one's hands, Facebook and YouTube uploading a press of a finger away, your most intimate moments become available to the world seconds after they happen. Children and teenagers must be taught to avoid peer pressure. Don't fall into the trap that says let's do this, whether on the bullying or the not-bullying side. When someone calls you weird embrace it. When they make fun of your clothes say 'thank you'. Attempt to walk away, but be ready to stand your ground. Sometimes the best reaction is a positive one. The words hurt, and even as an adult I hear things about myself that hurt, but I always remember at the end of the day I'm the one who's got to be happy with who I am. Not them, and most bully's do what they do because they aren't happy.

Side note: On the last recess of fifth grade, the next year would be middle school, I confronted one of my elementary bullies. I finally said: "What's your problem? Why me?" Her response was: "Because you act all high and mighty because you have a daddy and I don't know who mine is."  Now, I never acted high and mighty about anything. Yes, I have a father, but I didn't parade the fact around like it was something special. This other girl had nice clothes, got to each lunch at school every day while I took bologna sandwiches, and everyone liked her.  Funny how this one social difference she held against me, even though it was something outside of my control. If I'd asked her a long time ago what her problem was would she have kept bullying me? We'll never know, but after 5th grade she didn't bully me ever again.

This post was inspired by Lori Sizemore and @WhenALionSleeps. Visit Rachel @ When a Lion Sleeps, Let it Sleep and blog your own story. We all have one and it's important to share them. Let's learn from past mistakes, and others actions. Let's learn how to teach our children to break the cycle.

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