Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bullying Is a Gift

I probably won't be able to maintain an intelligent level of snark about Bob Parks' ode to bullying, because I was bullied. Relentlessly, mercilessly, cruelly bullied from the time I entered the first grade until about 16. I never had any friends. I threw up before each and every school day and usually before lunch, too. I honestly don't remember too many happy moments of my childhood because the bullying overshadowed all of it.

I was regularly called names I wouldn't repeat as an adult. I was pushed, pinched, slapped, punched and spit on regularly and kicked in the head a couple of times. I was picked last, no, not just picked last, they fought over who had to take me. I distinctly remember praying to god that I would die before gym class. Once, a girl befriended me over summer vacation between 7th and 8th grades. I was pathetically eager to have a friend, so I followed her around like a puppy and confided in her. She befriended me purely to mock me in front of everyone on the first day of 8th grade, and to tell my confidences to everyone who hated me. Which was everyone.

The teachers did nothing. I needed to learn to "get along" with everyone, as if I were the problem. I needed to learn to ignore the name calling and physical injuries. I needed to stop being different. I was a suicidal 9-year-old and it was ALL MY FAULT.

To this day, I don't trust easily. Or really at all. I expect people to hate me, to betray me. I know that if anyone ever really knows me, they'll reject me, because there is something wrong with me. Every kid I ever went to school with could see it, and eventually, so will you. So will everyone.

Bullying isn't a joke. It isn't a normal way to grow up. Its victims are scarred for life in all the places no one can see. It will never, ever be okay. And teachers and parents and the Bob Parks of the world wave it away with "kids will be kids" and "toughen up". Fuck them all.

(This is even harder than I thought it would be. So if this post ends abruptly, that's just where it's ending.)

After more than a decade of sports with no score kept as not to hurt the feelings of the defeated, the banning of Tag and Dodgeball during recess, “Do Something!” state legislatures are now poised to outlaw bullying because young people are too intimidated by Facebook posts and mean text messages.

Odd, they keep score at my niece's softball games. She's eleven. I do know that they don't keep score in really little kids' t-ball and soccer games, but that's because scoring means nothing to small children. Go read a child psychology book, asshat. As for outlawing bullying, it should be outlawed. See above.

In the uproar around the suicides of Ms. Prince, 15, and an 11-year-old boy subjected to harassment in nearby Springfield last year, the Massachusetts legislature stepped up work on an anti-bullying law that is now near passage. The law would require school staff members to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them. It would also demand that schools teach about the dangers of bullying. Forty-one other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.

You tell me what's wrong with those laws. Seriously. Teachers and school administrators will be responsible for protecting children from harm- just like they already ought to be. Does anyone send their children to a school where live electrical wires line the walls and the water is infected with e coli and rabid raccoons roam the halls? No? Is it maybe because parents care whether or not their children are safe? Ya think? OMQF, you are a stupid jerk!

While what happened to Phoebe Prince was truly tragic, what are today’s youth going to do tomorrow should they be in charge during an international crisis with a taunting, foreign enemy? I’m sorry but dealing with bullies is a part of childhood that develops character. How you deal with it determines what kind of person you’ll be.

Apparently, I need to be made senior ambassador to Iran, because being bullied has made me the most qualified person in the world for that job. Seriously, that's what Mr. Parks just said. Even if I were willing to grant you that bullying was a normal part of growing up- and I'm not- measles, mumps and polio used to be normal parts of growing up, too. Does Mr. Parks want those back, too? Because I have no problem giving them to him. Hell, I'll throw in starvation and lead poisoning for free!

Then we get Mr. Parks' story of bullying:

While in second grade and attending the Blessed Sacrament School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was the target of the school bully (whose name I won’t mention because he may be a nice person now).

I remember it going around one day that he was going to beat me up after school. It was a terrifying experience as the threat loomed.

But instead of just succumbing to my fears and deciding to end it all, I began to use my brain.

I tried to plan an escape route, determining which exit to use vice how much time I’d have should the bully find out and become even angrier that I was going to make his life harder. I planned an out-of-the-way route home. Asking a nun to walk me home was out of the question, so being stealth was key. Eventually I was caught, the beating was not as bad as advertised, and after that, the bully moved on.

That's not bullying, Mr. Parks. That's a fight. That was one event, one person, not an entire childhood of constant torment. For you to compare your one after school fight with what Phoebe Price went through is obscene, and you ought to be ashamed. You even imply, with the statement I’m sorry but dealing with bullies is a part of childhood that develops character. How you deal with it determines what kind of person you’ll be that you are better than Phoebe. She killed herself, you took your beating, so she's a whingey little bitch and you're the better person. Picking on a dead 15-year-old girl, your momma must be proud.


  1. I'm so sorry for what you went through. For what it's worth and what I do know about you, I like you - a lot. I read you every day and your blog is one of my favorites.

  2. Having been a victim of bullying of varying intensity over the course of my childhood and teen years, ranging from incessant name-calling and petty theft to physical fights (with having objects from erasers to metal pencil sharpeners thrown at my head in between), bullying that made me positively dread school for years until I finally quit the fucking hassle a year ago or so …

    Well said, PF. Well said. May that asshat’s kids never experience bullying, even if it would teach the moron a worthy lesson. To say that bullying makes children “tougher” certainly is true – that is, for kids who don’t end up killing themselves, or living in fear the rest of their lives. I suppose I’m lucky I ended up in the first category.

    Not to mention, there’s scientific research indicating that bullying can actually lead to cognitive impairments and other neurological changes. See here (fourth link down).

    Damn, you nearly made this heart of stone cry. I fucking hate my past.

  3. "Damn, you nearly made this heart of stone cry."

    Me too. In fact, I'm a little disturbed at how much the post effected me. I've been there.

  4. As someone who generally agrees that society has become more "pussified," and who opposes unnecessary government intervention, even I think that Bob Park's argument is idiotic. I love how he thinks his one single experience that turned out positive, can be generalized for every child that has to deal with bullying, when there are all sorts of different types and situations. For every kid that gets stronger as a result of bullying, there are others that become depressed, withdrawn, scared of going to school, or even commit sucide.

    I see nothing wrong with laws requiring that school administrators and teachers actually do their jobs and make sure children are protected from abuse while getting an education. The idea that a child should be expected to fight off abuse from a gang of kids hounding him by day at school, and at home through the internet, phone, etc., is just insane.

  5. Oh PF, I am so sorry. My heart is breaking for you.
    The only good thing that came from Phoebe's death is that people are finally starting to understand what this asshat does not, bullying is NOT OK.

  6. Thank you for your honesty. I don't think I have anything else to add that hasn't already been said, but.....just thanks.

  7. A bully broke my jaw when I was 13. I remember being on the toilet block floor crying and the girls surrounded me and laughed at me. I'll never ever forget that. This post made me cry. I felt just like I did at 13. I wanted to die and I thought I would be hated and ridiculed my whole life. I don't know how I got through it all. I changed high schools seven times. Still to this day I don't know why I was always the one that got picked on. I still wonder if I have a defective personality even though now I have a good group of friends.

    I'm sorry you went through what you did. I know what it's like and Bob Parks doesn't know shit. He needs to shut the fuck up.

  8. i was never really bullied - i was mostly ignored. which i was thankful for then, and am thankful for now.

    you know who was bullied? kids who couldn't fight back. the kids who weren't *allowed* to fight back.

    the bullies i knew were, invaribly, someone's "pet". the principle's, thje PE teacher's, the basketball coach's.

    i got in a fight one day - not a school, at the mall. bunch of people surrounded the girl i was at the mall with, taunting and bullying her. i came to her [verbal] defense. the "lead" bully tried to slap me; i blocked, grabbed her arm, and held on as she tried to hit me.

    this was on a saturday. on monday, said girl - girl who has sought out my friend to bully, girl who had started the fight, girl who never landed a single blow, and who had not been hit at ALL [ALL i did was stop her from hitting] had the fucking GALL to go and report me to the principle for "bullying".

    and i told him exactly what happened.
    luckily, so did one of the guys who had been with her.
    and THEN the principle spent at least an hour trying to make me feel BAD for that girl, and all the other bullys - they have "bad home lives" and their "parents aren't nice to them" and "expect perfection" and blahblah,
    and i said "wait - my step-father beats me on a regular basis, sometimes worse, my mother beats me for getting an A-, if i don't get whatever part or solo she wants she beats me some more - but i'm supposed to feel SORRY for the girl who gets an allowance of $100 a WEEK because her parents don't spend time with her and EXPECT her to be a bully?"

    it's fucked up.
    bullys bully not because other kids let them, but because ADULTS ENCOURAGE IT. like THIS fucker's doing.

  9. Your story made me cry. I'm so sorry. I will do my best to make look after my girls, and make sure their school looks after them, and to make sure that they treat other children with respect and kindness.

  10. I read his comments also and one man actually said that he makes fun of his own daughters so they'll be ready when they go go school. That's f*cked up.

  11. I read this and hit home hard, so I hadn't commented.

    I had to go to a psychologist in junior high. I was picked on because I would react violently. I have learned to control it and I started getting into sports, those two things cut the bullying down for me.

  12. I tried to commit suicide one time, that is what brought on the talk to the psychologist.

  13. Sorry to hear about your experiences, PF. I don't know what else to say other than to agree with you that grown-up bullies who oppose anti-bullying laws suck.

    I was bullied too. Mostly for shallow things (uncool clothes, uncool hairstyles, having a single-parent mother who couldn't sit at home and be a soccer mom) that were a result of being poor as a kid.

    Sports and academics were pretty much the only two things in life that consistently made me feel good about myself. I suppose that's part of why I feel so strongly about issues like Title IX and feminism. Where would I be now if these opportunities had been closed to me, as a girl?

  14. Sorry about your experience. Reading about it made me sad and also reminded me why I hated junior high. My girls are there now, and I wish I could protect them. When they were younger, they were tormented by older kids on the bus, who called them very bad names. The head of transportation actually told me, "Ma'am, we can't go back there and hold their mouths shut." What a jerk. He went on to say that he was not going to discuss whether other people's kids needed discipline with me. So, in Texas, it's fine for bigger kids to pick on smaller ones, and their mothers need to mind their own business??

    I don't think that people like Bob Parks have any business even commenting on how "truly tragic" suicide is. To lose a loved on this way is heartwrenching. Those who haven't been there can't possibly understand.

    Also, I like you, too. I read your blog every day, and I wish I could write half as good as you.

  15. (un)Holy Shit, guys. I thought that I was bullied when I was younger, but reading your stories I realised that I was teased, if that. Many, many electronic hugs to all of you, friends (well, fellow SMRTies) and strangers alike. That people can do that to other people makes me cry inside.
    Anyway. Nothing of any real worth to add; just wanted to express my sympathy to you all.


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