I sat there trembling…looking at the bottle of fingernail polish remover. I kept telling myself to just put it to my lips and drink it. I couldn’t go on like this. I couldn’t do it anymore. I ran to the laundry room in our basement and studied the ceiling. Metal poles were everywhere: connectors that supplied water and heat to our home. Rope. Rope. I need rope. How was I going to do this? I found a sheet and wrapped it around my neck to see what it felt like. Tightened it.
I fell to my knees. I have to get out of this. Adrenaline ran through my veins. I will not cry. I’m tired of crying and running scared. Done. I needed a way out. How did this happen? It was surreal. Unbelievable.
I am 40 now, married with 2 boys – 9 and 10. Facebook has hit the building. I tentatively build a page for myself. I have had no luck on MySpace, but all of the hoopla around this new Facebook had me curious. After I created my page, I started looking for people. I had moved when I was 13, so I had two high schools to explore. I found some of my friends from high school and added them, delighted to be in touch again. After contemplating the pain it might drudge up, I look up some people from my home town. Familiar feelings of inadequacy fill me. Still? Really? Can some old people from 27 years ago still stir such feelings? I couldn’t believe it. The faces start bombarding me, and the disgust for virtually everyone in that town creeps in. I needed a drink.
How does this world come back into my life? How did I let it? A stupid computer that "connects" everyone? I feel so lucky I can just walk away and sit on my couch to enjoy my beautiful family. My "after" life.
Why would I be the type of person to be bullied? How did my individual personality play into this? My upbringing?
I was 13 yr old, and made it through most of my life without torment from any of my peers.
I look at the way I was raised. My mother, who is probably a manic depressive, would always praise me for my beauty and brains. "You can do anything! Write a book now! You are not too young. "I had the perfect desk in my room, complete with a stack of paper and pens. I would sit there and pretend to be an established author, starting story after story but never following through with them.
Then there was the dark side of my house. My mom would lay in bed for days and never get up to get us ready for school. My 11 yr old sister and I would try not to wake her, because if we did, she would inevitably yell and probably hit us for being loud. We would come home from school and she would be just waking up and having her coffee. We would try and be on perfect behavior and hoped our little 5 yr old brother Keith would not cause any trouble either, because then WE would get it. Dinner would be served; we would all sit down and adhere to remarks such as, "Shelly, sit up straight. Put your fork down while you are chewing." "Eat ALL of it" Later, we would go to bed, hoping and praying we didn’t get a beating. Please, Keith, don’t act up!
"Get to bed Keith! Stop jumping and lay down!"
"I’m counting to 3. 1….2….3…
"Alright. Where’s the hairbrush???" She would scream.
I lie there, my heart thudding and tears coming to my eyes. This is so not fair. I have done nothing. The hairbrush hurt more than the hand. Keith used to hide it, but this infuriated her.
"WHERE IS THE HAIRBRUSH Keith?"
"I don’t know!"
I knew Christy was lying there as scared as I was.
Mom rushed to my room, went right up to me, and smacked me on my legs. Then she would start hitting me, over and over while I screamed "I didn’t do anything!!!"
"I’m sure you did something I don’t know about!!"
Finally I would give in and cry. She rushed to Christy’s room and I heard the smacking on her legs and butt. Christy would just cry. Then mom would come out in the hall, panting hard.
I lied there and cried. I hated her. Sometimes she would come and apologize, but I didn’t want her fucking apology. It meant nothing. I would wonder why she even had kids.
My father took a lot of abuse also. Dinners would sometimes consist of mom berating dad while we tried to chew and swallow.
"Son of a bitch! You will never amount to anything, because you don’t try! Why don’t you get a better job?" Then she would look at us.
"Your father has no ambition. You could be living a lot better, but he won’t try."
Then happy times followed. We would wake up to hot cream of wheat. Kisses goodbye.
"How was your day?" Followed with a big hug when we came home. This was a safe time, where we could be normal kids. Christy and I would squabble like normal siblings, and we could even tattle on our little brother Keith. Keith never got beatings like us, and she always favored him. "You need to play with your brother." Christy and I would watch in disgust as he got away with kicking us and changing channels on the TV while we watched our favorite programs.
"He just wants attention." Mom would say.
This was the time I would walk in on my mom and dad hugging and kissing. It made me feel safe yet embarrassed.
Mom would buy us all m&ms and we had our own bowls. I would suck on them forever, to make them last. Weekends were filled with making cookies and the occasional movie.
But you never knew how long it would last.
Houses were being built in our neighborhood. New people were invading our 13 year history of friends and neighbors.
My "neighborhood" girlfriends consisted of Pam, Lori, Annie, Amber, and Carla. Pam went between Annie and I, manipulating us to the point we were practically competing to be her "bestie". She had money, confidence, and somehow made us feel we were special when we were with her.
The new houses grew, and with it came young growing families and new boys. One particular house down the street stood out. As 13 and 14 yr olds, we discovered the couple that lived in this house was "cool". They adored all of us kids, and we LOVED having a place to hang out. Our parents did not approve. What would a 30-something yr old couple want to do with a bunch of kids? My mom seemed to figure it out. DRUGS. I never saw any, but that did not stop my mother from banning me from that house. Unbeknownst to me, it also didn’t seem to stop her from calling every single one of my neighborhood’s friends’ parents to inform them that their children were doing drugs, and this new couple was dealing them. Oh, and by the way, please keep your kids away from MY daughter.
So, I was banned from the house. OK. Pam didn’t seem too interested in the house anyway, so I still had my neighborhood friends, right????
I am roller-skating, round and round the rink. My hair is blowing back and I am laughing. I look back at my friend Jennifer. She is laughing and I am supposed to spend the night with her, even though I had already told my controlling friend Pam I would stay the night with her. But Jennifer was much more fun. I couldn’t wait. I stay the night, and we have the time of our life.
I walk to the bus stop. I haven’t seen or talked to Pam for awhile. She and Annie walk to the bus stop, glued to the hip giggling. I look at them, and they totally ignore me. Carla walks up and joins them. Doesn’t say a word to me. Luckily my friend Amber comes out and joins me, oblivious to what is going on. She is a year younger and always has stuck by my side. Lori walks up and joins Annie and Pam. I walk on the bus seriously confused. Luckily my sister was still in grade school on another bus.
My school day is normal. I get on the bus to go home. I sit by my devoted friend Amber. I don’t understand why no one is talking to me. I hear giggling behind me. I hear "Nark"... "Bitch" I don’t ask what is going on. I am bewildered and confused. I get off the bus and run home. Cry.
"I have no idea why they would ALL be mad at me though. What could Pam have said to sway them ALL?’ I was sharing my dismay with my friend Jennifer. "I knew she was mad at me because I’ve been spending the night with you, but what could she have said?"
"I have no idea. Hmmmm…." Jennifer answered.
"I think she told everyone that I narked on that druggie couple down the street"
I wasn’t too freaked out yet. I had my school friends still. There were 3 good friends in all:
Dee, Carol, and of course Jennifer. Luckily my neighborhood friends were in none of my classes. The school decided to separate the "smart" kids and put us all in the same classes. I saw the same people over and over. Dee also was with me in every class, and we formed a bond since we weren’t as "popular" as the other smart kids. Our confidence was shot this year. I had nothing in common with the richer, smarter, better dressed kids. Jennifer and I’s bff’s dumped us for each other, so even though she wasn’t in the smart classes we became close. Carol was in band with me. She was a tough chick no one wanted to mess with. If I stuck with her at school, I felt safe.
All I had to do was get through the bus and bus stop. I had Amber to sit with, and I just wouldn’t talk to the rest of the girls who now hated me. That, I decided, I could live with.
After I boarded the bus after school the taunts started. "Shelly’s a fucking bitch!" Mortified, I took a seat up front and willed Amber to hurry up and sit down with me.
Amber finally sat down. After a few minutes, she realized the situation and got scared.
Finally the bus starts moving.
"I’m gonna kick her ass"
I didn’t even know who was saying what. Words just kept flying around behind me.
"You’re gonna fight her Annie?"
"I want to!" Was the reply
Crumpled pieces of paper start bouncing off our heads and into the seat.
A piece of gum lands on my lap. GUM. Shit.
"Did it land in her hair?"
"Oh my God!! Look what I found! Throw this rubber at her! "
"She probably has no clue what it is"
A packaged rubber bonked me on the head followed by peals of laughter.
"I can’t believe you did that!"
Silence and giggles. The hard textbook slammed against my head so hard tears sprung to my eyes. Amber looked at me in disbelief.
"Did you just hit her? " Lori asks someone.
"Look at her. She just sits there and does nothing about it."
FINALLY. My bus stop. The weekend.
What do you mean you’re not going back?" Mom asks
"I’m just not. I made up my mind."
Mom bites her lip and looks thoughtful.
"I hate this neighborhood. We need to get out of here." She says
That’s it? That’s all she says? What about the situation going on right NOW with her daughter?
"Can I go to a different school?" I ask hopefully.
"Can’t afford it. Do you think you can make it until summer?"
"No. I just won’t go"
"Shelly, you HAVE to"
Tears run down my face.
"Don’t worry. I’ll take care of this" She assures me
I lie in my bed and stare at the ceiling. How could this happen? I am soooo scared. I cannot go back. Tears stream down my face. Sunday night I decide there is now way I would go back. Simple as that.
Monday morning I went through with my plan. Lucky for me, mom slept in and I stayed home. When she awoke 2 hr later I surprised her.
"OH! What are you doing here?"
I start begging and pleading. "Please mom, just let me stay home today. Please…. I need a day off from this."
"I guess so." She looked thoughtful again. "This is ridiculous."
She grabbed the phone and dialed the school.
"Hello? Yes, I need to speak with Mr. Lockhart. Alright…
Mr. Lockheart? Yes this is Margie Parker, Shelly Parker’s mother. My daughter refuses to go to school because she is so afraid of these girls from our neighborhood. She thinks they are going to beat her up. Mmmhmmm? No, it’s not happening at school as much as the bus. What about the bus? You need to protect my daughter on the bus to and from school. Mmmmhmmm. Ok. Thank you."
She hung up and looked at me. "Tomorrow should be better."
I gathered up my strength and headed to the bus stop. I knew it would be bad because they haven’t been talked to yet. The giggles and stares started as soon as I walked up.
I didn’t reply.
No reply from me...
"Annie wants to fight you."
Nothing from me. I just had to make it to school and then they would get talked to. Then it would stop.
Amber watched from her house across the street, coming out only when the bus came. I decided I would do the same from now on.
School was usually a safe haven for me from these girls. But today it started spilling over into my school day. Jennifer and I were walking down the hall together when I heard snickers and giggling behind me.
"Bitch! Nark! I knew she was a nark but now MOMMY is calling." I heard new voices. The followers were growing in numbers. I heard a new voice, a seriously scary big girl that no one wants to mess with. "I want to kick her ass right now." The new voice said.
"I dare you to run up and kick her." I heard Lori.
Jennifer gave me a pitiful glance.
The "warning" the principal gave the girls obviously back fired.
The bus calmed down a bit. If someone yelled "Bitch!" The bus driver would yell "Knock it off"
I decided to stay home again tomorrow.
I spent then night with Jennifer Saturday. WE had pizza and ice-cream, listened to music and watched "Officer and a Gentleman."
"Maybe you should fight them." She offers.
I thought about it.
"What if I lost? I could get beat up and then it would be even worse."
Jennifer had nothing to say.
I knew I had to go to school Monday. I decided from now on I would take Tuesday and Thursdays off to make the week more tolerable. Lucky for me my mother was too lazy to actually drive me to school, so all I had to do was miss the bus.
Monday I walked on the bus and the first words I heard were
"SHELLY GO HOME! SHELLY GO HOME!!" I rolled my eyes and sat down with Amber.
Someone yelled "Are you going to fight Annie? C HICKEN!!" Thank God tomorrow was Tuesday.
As the days passed, the pressure on Annie and me to fight became worse and worse. A fight was a lot more entertaining than a bunch of bullies picking on a girl that did nothing back. The girls stood behind Annie and told me I would get my ass kicked. I definitely believed it.
That weekend I hid in my house. I could hear them outside while my parents were gone one night. They has gathered together in our neighborhood and decided to walk up and down my street." Shelly!!! Come out and fight you fucking bitch!" I felt like I had no safe haven anymore. They were finally invading my safe weekends with my family. Finally the voices stopped.
I began thinking of a plan.
My father was a police officer. I knew he had a gun upstairs in his closet. I even knew where it was. I figured all I had to do was waiting until the middle of the night when everyone was dead asleep, get the gun, and sneak out. I would walk to Annie’s house, go to the bedroom window and tap on it. When she came to the window I would shoot her in the head. As soon as she was shot she would look at me like, "OH MY GOD, this girl is serious. She has WON." Then she would fall over and die. I would run away, put the gun back exactly where I found it, and run to my bedroom, her parents would find her the next day. They would know nothing about why it happened. "WHY? WHY? "They would cry y. As soon as Pam, Lori, and Carla would hear about it they would think of me. "Could Shelly have done this? NO WAY. You think? She had to. Who else would want her dead? Wow. She is crazy!" What would everyone think about that???? Fuck them. Then they would know I was serious and I wouldn’t take any shit. This thought comforted me. I would just shoot her. Simple. Easy. Then all the bitches would look at me with fear in their eyes. I would look back and say "DON"T FUCK WITH ME"
I drifted to sleep with a smile. The first smile I had had in weeks.
Next day I was still feeling very strong. I remember Annie had loaned me a shirt last summer. I went through my dresser drawers, searching… Once I found it, I ripped it with fury, saying "You fucking cunt. Don’t mess with me. Don’t fuck with me." Adrenaline ran through my veins as I ran outside. I would cut it and put it somewhere between our houses. Once it was torn, I ran outside and looked for a puddle. After finding one between her house and the bus stop, I wadded it up and stomped into the mud puddle.
"Cunt. Take that. I got a gun too" I smiled in satisfaction.
Here we go again. Monday.
On the bus, backed by my ex- friends, Annie decides to taunt me.
"When are you going to fight me? Chicken. Oh, and you think I didn’t notice my shirt? Fuckin’ lame bitch!"
I had had enough.
It was either suicide or fight her.
At the time, suicide looked like a better option. A way out. That way I wouldn’t get beat up anymore. I could just drift away and then they would have to find someone else to pick on. I got excited about this idea.
I just had to figure out a way. Another day of threats and taunting. I felt pushed to the edge.
I decided I would end this today.
"I guess I have to fight her." I explained to mom and dad.
"No, you are not!"
"Look, you guys talking to the school didn’t work, and I can’t go to school like this any more. I have to do something"
"We can call Annie’s dad." Mom says
"PLEASE don’t "
MY Dad looked thoughtful.
That night Dad came to my room.
"Show me how to punch" He tells me
I show him.
"That’s wrong. Your thumb goes here. Like this. Put all of your body strength into your arm and punch." He demonstrates.
I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing however.
I’m scared. My options now are
Fight her. (And not winning, and having things get worse.)
They all sucked.
I started punching my pillow, getting psyched up. I knew I had a temper; I just had to let it out. At least inheriting my mother’s rage would help in this situation.
I decided not to draw this out. I wanted it done and over with. ; NOW
This was it. It was Monday and I was ready. This would be dealt with today.
I planned to confront her today. I would go to the bus stop early.
But before I do that…I open up the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Hmmm...vodka.
I was shaking and I needed to relax. I lifted the bottle to my mouth and took a swig. DISGUSTING. It burned my throat and felt warm in my tummy. I hoped it would help a little.
I grabbed my books and walk bravely to the bus stop. It was raining so they were all standing under the garage. I walked up and faced them all.
They looked surprised.
"So… when are you going to fight Annie?" Lori asks.
"Hmm… how about now?" I reply
Shock registers on their faces.
"We’ll get in trouble here," Annie stammers. "We need to do it somewhere else"
"When?" I ask
"How about after the dance?" Lori offers, excited. Pam and Carla just stand there smiling.
"Ok." I agree
Things actually settle down for awhile. Everyone on the bus is excited for the fight.
"Shelly might even win!" Someone says excitedly.
Fear pulsates through my body. Dear Lord, this was actually gonna happen.
I didn’t feel like my situation was much better. True, the bullying had stopped temporarily. But I felt like a professional boxer that was forced into his career. It was all the neighborhood could talk about. The dance was in a week. I actually went to school every day that week knowing I was on hiatus until Saturday.
I talked to Jennifer about it "I’m scared"
"I ‘m sure Carol will help if it gets bad." She assures me.
"Well, I want to be relaxed for it. Do Dean and Mark still deal pot?"
"I think so. Why? You want to try it before the dance?"
"Yes! I need cigarettes too."
"Ok, I’ll ask them for a joint"
"Five dollars for one joint? That’s a rip-off." Carol told us. She dabbled in pot, and actually knew something about it.
"Well, they are pretty strict about the price" Jennifer answered
"Lets just all chip in" I say "Better than nothing"
The Saturday night dance came all too quickly. The gym was filled and Duran Duran filled the air. Carol, Jennifer, Dee and I decided to skip out early to try our joint.
We ran over to the local pizza joint and ate quickly.
"Did you get cigarettes?" I asked Annie.
"Here." She says. I light up quickly and feel the familiar dizzy, high feeling.
We then snuck over behind a building on the street and lit up the joint. We all passed it around, but after we inhaled we blew the smoke out quickly like we did with a cigarette.
"Not like that. Like this." Carol says, and holds the smoke in for a minute.
"Ooooh" we all said.
We passed it around a couple more times.
"I don’t feel anything" I admit.
"I think I feel something." Jennifer says
We find a picnic table at a closed restaurant and hang out. Suddenly, across the street, I see Annie, Pam, Lori and Carla.
"HEY BITCH!" They yell.
"FUCK YOU!" I yell back.
They keep walking.
That was it?
The good news is I didn’t have to fight that night. Bad news was I knew I would have to sooner or later, and I wished with all my might it was just over with.
I wondered what would be said at the bus stop on Monday. I found out soon enough.
"Why didn’t you fight Annie Saturday?" Lori asks right away.
"Why didn’t you guys come over?" I ask
"I don’t know. She’s sick today, so you guys can fight after school tomorrow."
I bet she was sick. Annie was now in the same boat as me.
I would stay home tomorrow.
I came back Wednesday and figured today was the day. Mike, a boy at our bus stop, asked excitedly if we were fighting today. Everyone was hyped up for the fight. It was infectious.
Annie says "No. I have to go the dentist today; my dad is picking me up."
"Tomorrow then?" Mike asked
Annie wasn’t at school the next day.
I wasn’t at school the following day.
The fight keeps getting rescheduled and rescheduled.
I consider talking to Annie and working it out privately so we didn’t have to fight.
That never happened.
"Hey you guys are both here today! Fight after school!" Lori yells.
My heart sank. I’m sure Annie’s did too. There was no getting out of it now.
Voices from the bus:
"I’m betting on Shelly!"
"Shelly’s a bitch, I hope she gets her ass kicked today!"
I looked at Amber. She said, "You can do it."
When I saw Dee at school I told her "Today is the day"
"Oh my god, it is??"
Dee and I were sitting in Social Studies. I pass her a note.
"I’m scared. It’s going to hurt"
Dee: "Don’t worry. You’re going to win!"
: "I don’t think so. I’ve never fought before."
Dee: "has she?"
"I don’t know. "
Final words: "PUNCH HARD!"
Anticipation and excitement fill our whole bus on the way home.
To my amazement, I hear people say I am actually going to win.
"I’m thinking Shelly’s gonna kick her ass!"
I am in my usual front seat with Amber. I glance back. Pam is smiling. Annie is sitting next to her looking confused.
A flood of different emotions coursed through me. Among them were
Confidence: Maybe I COULD win this thing.
Fear: I had never been punched in the face. I don’t think the body would hurt as much as a punch to your nose, mouth, or eyes. The idea made me wince.
Dread: Part of me never wanted this bus ride to end.
Anticipation: I could not wait for this to be over! I was so excited that after today I might be left alone.
Pity and compassion: I couldn’t believe I was feeling this. I was feeling sorry for Annie. The tables were starting to turn and I’m sure she was becoming as confused as I have been. She only had wanted to be best friends with Pam. She looked as bewildered as I felt about this whole mess.
Finally the bus stops and we get off. Adrenaline flowed through every vein. I didn’t even feel my own body.
Amber’s mom called her in as soon as she could see what was going on. Amber gave me a pitiful glance and ran away.
Annie and I put our books down and looked at each other. We had no idea what to do, and it was obvious to each other we didn’t want to fight anymore, but how to get out of it now?
A circle gathered around us but still no one made a move.
"Punch her!" Mike yells. I have no clue who he is talking to.
"Take off your glasses Annie!" Annie shakes her head no.
Finally the crowd could stand it no more. I felt somebody shove me into Annie. She defensively pushed me back.
I think the whole thing lasted a minute. I felt arms flailing towards me. I grabbed her arms to stop her from hitting me, and tried to punch her face. I felt something touch my eye. Then Annie yells, "You broke my glasses!" And stop. I stopped and stared at her, panting.
Her lips started to quiver. She gathered her books, and started home.
"That’s it??" Mike yelled. "You left!! Shelly won!"
I smile, gather my books, and start home.
"Shelly won! Shelly won!" I hear Lori behind me.
I walk in the house and notice right away the parents aren’t home. Christine and Keith arrived home after me.
I felt elated. A huge weight was lifted. I run to the bathroom to inspect my face. The eye that I felt Annie "touch" was bloodshot and a little swollen. Would it turn into a black eye later? I was worried about that.
I heard the door slam and my parents’ voices.
"Guess what?" I excitedly ask my mom. "I fought Annie today! I won!"
"Oh no." she says. "Are you hurt?" She instinctively started looking me over. Thank God she was on one of her normal phases.
"Just my eye."
She studies it. "It’s red. Do you want some ice?"
My dad just says, "Well, good for you."
I felt absolutely giddy.
As I lie in bed that night, a flood of worry overcame me.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but this victory might mean nothing at all. The bullying could very well continue. It was still 3 months until summer, and I wasn’t sure I would survive it. But at least I felt a little more secure in my fighting abilities. It was cool; you hardly felt a thing all through a fight, like I was a third party to the whole thing. I drifted off to sleep.
I hesitantly walked to the bus stop. Annie wasn’t there, but Lori, Carla and Pam were.
"Hey Shelly" Lori says.
"Hey" I say back. Pam just smiles, and Carla doesn’t say much. Then again, she never said much, just seemed to go along with the program.
Amber walks out and joins me with a big smile on her face.
The bus finally gets there, and when I walk on I am greeted with,
"Shelly’s a hero! Shelly kicked her butt! Yeah!"
Pride welled up in my chest. I blushed and sat down next to Amber.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. But then I still couldn’t believe any of it happened. I would never be the same. The trust was broken forever.
"Can you please send Shelly Parker to the office?"
Dee turned around and said, "I CAN"T believe it!"
I couldn’t either. That took a lot of nerve.
I walked to the office. Surprisingly, I wasn’t that scared. I had my parents support on this, and in the long run that was all that mattered.
I sat down in front of Mr. Lockheart.
He looked at me.
"So you’re the big fighter, huh?"
"I guess so."
"Did you know the bus stop is still considered school grounds?"
"No. But she fought me too. She’s been mean to me for months."
"I know, I remember your mom calling. I’m going to let you off with a warning but I don’t want to see you in here again."
"Ok." I went back to class with a huge grin.
Annie never showed up that day. The sympathetic side of me cared less.
"Shelly, you really fucked up her arms." Lori confides in me later. "There are like these deep scratches all over her arms that look like they were bleeding a lot."
"Really?" I ask. I am beyond thrilled Lori was even talking to me. This mess was really over.
We were at the bus stop and Annie hadn’t shown up yet. Luckily nothing ever happened with my eye, so I had no proof I was even in a fight.
Annie showed up with Pam. We all glanced over at her and Lori mumbled "Hey" Carla never really talked to me again. Actually, nothing was ever quite same.
Later that week, Lori asked if I wanted to come over after school. I said yes. Mom and dad weren’t home after school, so I just headed over. When I called mom later to tell her where I was, all hell broke loose. "WHERE ARE YOU?"
"Get your ass home. What are you thinking, hanging around those girls?"
"Ok." I said.
After I got home, mom and I had it out.
"I HAVE to hang out with them MOM! Otherwise they are going to give me crap again!"
"Hell no, you’re not. They are all on drugs anyway. We are moving out of here!"
Our house was for sale. We moved away after 2 months to a town 10 miles away. I told myself that was it. I would never be in this situation again. A brand new start. Thank God.
Christy, (my sister), and I are running into the mall to pick up some makeup. Unfortunately, I have a fussy, crying 8 month old baby on my hip. I am 31, and I look like I feel- Tired, frazzled, and unkempt.
"Can I help you?" The girl at the makeup counter asks.
"Hi. I need foundation."
"I know you. Is your name Shelly?"
"Yes." I reply. I don’t recognize her.
"Oh My God!" I say. "How have you been?"
We talk about her kids, her parents, and the old neighborhood. The "Fight" is not mentioned. As I leave the store, I am not thinking about anything but the fussy baby and getting out of there.
But when you are being bullied and you’re just a kid, or a teenager… or a "tween", it’s your whole life. All you have is school and friends. School takes 7 hr a day, 5 days a week Imagine going to your job and having the whole office call you names and throw stuff at you all day. How long before you "snap"? When you have a whole group of kids taunting and teasing you all day, you start feeling beaten down. It’s not a situation you can even get out of. Children can’t look around for a new school and relocate. You’re just stuck in the situation, and it is a very serious situation for a kid. When I hear about the suicides or shootings in the news it hits home with me every time. That could have been me. How much more would I have taken before I snapped? I empathize with every suicide victim. As for the shootings, well I realized that could have been me as well. It is hard as a parent to realize that I had these thoughts; that I actually would have taken somebody’s child away by shooting them.
My 9 yr old recently was suspended for "bullying". He discovered that if he made fun of a "slower" kid in class that got on everyone’s nerves – he got attention. Soon he had a group of followers that laughed at him as he talked about "Ways to kill Nick"
I was horrified. For 2 days I talked to him about tolerance and compassion. I made him read books about it. Yet, I don’t know if he understood. My son has asperger’s, and empathy is very difficult for him. It’s hard for him to make friends, and when he noticed he was getting attention for making fun of someone, he ran with it. The mind of a bully? It reminds me of a "Hitler" type power trip.
How do we enlighten these kids? Especially the "mean" popular girls. They have a powerful grip. The best we can do is talk to our kids and hope they make good choices. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work. I don’t think bullies realize the damage they are doing. Kids don’t understand that they could die, or their victims could kill themselves.
I realize I could easily have been part of a bullying group. I remember some people I never stuck up for. Maybe they looked different, or weren’t as smart, or rich… or whatever. I never said anything when I heard people make fun of them.
Maybe that is why my old friends reached out to me on Facebook and seemed not to remember a thing. They were THRILLED to talk to me, called me their old bff. We’ve gotten together over drinks and dinners. We stay in touch to this day and consider ourselves all friends... They have no idea that what took place for a couple months when I was only 13 was such a traumatic event for me. They have no idea I contemplated suicide, and yes, even murder.
I once asked Carla about that time. I asked why she never talked to me and that’s when she told me that my mother told her never to talk to me again because Carla did drugs. I was mortified, but it explained a lot. For all I know, Pam probably didn’t even start the whole thing; she most likely went along because she was already mad at me. If my mom talked that way to all of my friends, they probably felt bullied and attacked themselves. To be completely honest, my mother was a bully in her own right.
I am glad I felt empowered enough to stand up for myself at that time. That might not be the answer for everyone. But empowering our children and giving them the self confidence to stand up for themselves might be all that it takes for some.
I am so glad that people are finally taking notice of this problem, especially with all of the new ways kids can bully.
As parents we need to be as nosey as possible with our kids. Always try to know what is going on. Snoop. Notice changes in their moods, talk to their teachers, see what they are doing on computers, read their texts, listen to their friends’ conversations…. Whatever it takes. You could actually stop your kids from bullying other kids before it’s too late, or notice if your own children are the victims.
Unfortunately, I don’t think parents have much control once they walk onto that school bus. It is impossible for the teachers/aides/principals to watch the children every minute also.
If your child is getting bullied to the point where you notice them being despondent, take them out of the school. Send them to a private school, move, or home-school. It could save their lives. Or other children’s lives. I know I sound extreme, but to these kids getting bullied it is a life or death situation.
More from living