Bullying is an important issue for kids that I don’t think gets all the attention it deserves. I think it is on the public radar now more than ever due to kids’ access to electronic devices and social media, but still should be talked about and dealt with.
I was bullied growing up- quite a bit, actually. I haven’t really thought about bullying in years, until today. I never imagined I would be facing it at thirty-five and on a professional level.
One time in second grade a boy in my class cornered me as I was walking through the empty schoolyard on the way to my mom’s car. He pushed me down, sat on my back, and forced me to eat nasty dry dead grass. The same boy also enjoyed pulling my chair out from underneath me as I sat down. I wore tortoise shell rimmed glasses and was made fun of daily by the same kid. “Anti-snake eyes,” he would call me, because he thought the tortoise she’ll looked like snake skin and he apparently didn’t know the meaning of “anti.”
Once I got sucker punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of me just because I couldn’t remember the name of the new kid I was playing with. I told my babysitter, the mom of the kid who had punched me, and she did nothing.
After I moved to a new town I was bullied by a mean kid that picked on all the new or “weird” kids in our school. I remember walking home from school one snowy day and he appeared out of nowhere, throwing rock filled snowballs, which hurt like hell.
I was made fun of because I began puberty sooner than other girls. I was body shamed about my weight and my breasts because I looked womanly when other girls were still small and flat-chested. In middle school, the anti-snake eyes idiot loudly embarrassed me in the gym in front of the entire school after an assembly asking how big my boobs were and if I had to buy bras in the old lady section at the store, and more.
In my high school Geometry class I sat next to a girl who didn’t like me and only positively interacted with me when I had my homework done and she didn’t. If I had mine done she would make me feel as though I had to give her my homework so she could copy it before class started. If I didn’t she was mean and made fun of me. She never realized that the joke was on her because I hated Geometry and didn’t try at all, hence my C grade instead of an A like I got in all my other classes.
When I was younger I never thought there was anything that could be done against a bully. Trying to tell a teacher or principal just made the situation worse. Telling other adults got me horrible advice like, “Sometimes boys tease you when they like you,” and, “Just ignore it and eventually they will get tired of it and stop.”
Today as I was sitting at my desk after a meeting I realized that a person I work with is just like the Geometry girl from high school. She only acts friendly and nice towards me if I have something she needs or if I can do something for her. If she has nothing to benefit from interacting with me then she ignores me entirely or is not pleasant. In fact, lately she has been downright rude and mean because I have disagreed with her and I stood my ground and didn’t back down when she disrespected me in front of others. Today in a meeting at work I dared to question something she said and she yelled at me in front of everyone. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. My boss was on vacation so she wasn’t there to back me up, my boss’ boss didn’t say a word, and her boss didn’t say anything either. After she yelled at me she moved on and acted as though it didn’t happen.
I won’t lie, in that moment I felt transported back to that playground in second grade with a bully on my back stuffing grass in my mouth. I felt four feet tall and helpless. I didn’t know how to react, but also felt that if I did allow myself to I would say something inappropriate to the situation and get myself in trouble. So I did nothing. It was horrible.
What can I do about it? I don’t know, probably nothing. But it won’t stop me from standing up for myself in the future.