Bullies Suck

Bullies Suck

(Note: This is the author’s note from our short story, Monsters, and was written in 2012. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers.)

Last week my wife and I (Dave) brought my son to his first day of kindergarten.

He held my hand as we made our way up the sidewalk to his school. As we approached a set of double doors to go inside, we had to pass a group of kids outside, aged between six and 10.

All eyes were on us as we walked past the kids. Being shy, my son looked down, not meeting any of their eyes.

And yet, the kids didn’t take their eyes off of us.

We were early, and the only new people there at the moment, so obviously, we were the center of attention. I watched as the children looked him up and down, judging him, seeing how he fit into their world.

And I had flashbacks to my own childhood, that feeling of being the new kid. Being judged on a first impression and being cast in some role or another.

And it all came back to me in a flood of memories and sensations.

Suddenly I wanted to grab my son, hold him close, and bring him home, so he never has to deal with the difficulties of being judged, singled out, or picked on.

Of course I didn’t do that.

For one, my wife would freak out.

For two, I’ve got to let my son find his feet and his own way.

And I didn’t want to kick off my son’s first school year by being the most embarrassing dad ever!

Fortunately, my son seems a lot better equipped than I was. He has no problem making friends, and is a happy, sociable child. By the end of the day, he’d made friends and was having fun.

THE MONSTERS

However, I dread when my son gets older and has to deal with fitting in, and possibly even dealing with bullies. Once I hit middle school, I had a lot of trouble with both.

So I’m not really sure the best way to handle either situation.

But I’m not going to scare him with stories of my monsters. I’m not going to shape his world with MY experiences of it.

Fortunately, bullies are talked about a bit more these days. The problem is complex and there is no easy solution, especially considering that many bullies are victims themselves.

When I was a kid, however, you rarely talked about bullies.

There was a deep shame in being bullied. You were somehow less than a man (despite still being a child) if you couldn’t stand up to them.

The few times I’d found the courage to tell an adult, I was usually met with skepticism. Like I had somehow provoked a bully. Or there was something I could’ve done differently — maybe flown a bit more under the radar, not be so goofy and attract attention or something. And of course, some people asked why didn’t I just fight back?

There were a couple of incidents where I did fight back. And both were scary, because I almost lost control.

One incident involved a threesome of kids who picked on me. I ran from the fight at first. But when they found me later, I lost it, and wound up on top of one kid, dragging his head to a sidewalk to smash it in, so he couldn’t possibly get up and hurt me again.

Fortunately, that fight got broken up before I wound up doing any real damage.

But that’s the sorta thing that can easily happen when you get bullied over and over. Eventually, you snap and you either harm yourself or someone else. Which is why there needs to be more discussion about the subject of bullying.

MY OWN ‘ELLIE’

Fortunately, in middle school, I met my own version of Ellie.

Her name was Tanya. And though we’re separated by miles, we still keep in touch from time to time.

She was there for me when I had no one else.

She gave me a confidence I didn’t have.

She taught me how to fight the monsters.

And one time, she even scared off a whole gang of people who wanted to kick my ass for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tanya didn’t put up with bullshit. Never did, never will.

I always admired her strength, though it took me years to be even close to as brave.

So this story is for Tanya, and everyone else out there who has helped someone fight the monsters. Thank you. And thanks to Sean who helped bring this story to life with his usual flair.

And to those who are fighting monsters, I don’t really have advice on dealing with them. I’d say to stand up for yourself, but sometimes, it’s wiser to lay low.

But one thing I can say is to never be silent about it.

Tell someone.

Tell many someones.

And to others, if you see someone being bullied, offer your support, even if it’s just a friendly ear.

Because if I didn’t have Tanya, I’m not sure I would’ve ever survived the monsters.

What’s your bullying story? Did you have a friend to help you through it? Or were you that friend for someone? Leave a comment below and share your story.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to read Monsters, one of 18 short stories in our Dark Crossings collection. Of course, if you are already a Goner, you just received Monsters for free. Not a Goner yet? Sign up here.

 

9 Comments

  1. Not my own, my sons: When he was young he rode a bus to school with kids with disabilities because he went to a charter school and lived a ways away. There was a girl who was overweight and had multiple sclerosis (I think) and he was her Ellie. He defended her and even took her to a prom one year. He was a child of a single mother (moi) and felt a bit different himself, although he was well liked and very good looking and popular. He has grown up to be a very kind compassionate man and he is a very good dad.

    Reply
    • Sounds like you raised your son right!!! Moms like you make my heart smile…I hope my daughter finds a boy as kind and caring as your son!!!

      Reply
    • You did a great job, Donna. I’m sure his kindness has helped many.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for sharing, Dave. Too many children are bullied, it needs to stop. It’s up to us adults to lead our children down the right path by teaching tolerance and empathy.

    Reply
  3. Great post. Bullying is a serious thing and is only getting worse. My kids school has warning posters up everywhere. I worry how things will go for her as she grows up. I hear stories of poor kids killing themselves over the stuff going on, even more so with FB and YouTube type bullying. Bringing attention to it is a great thing. Bullies need to be put on notice.

    As for my bullying story, I probably had some. I was lucky enough to fit in with several groups at school, so while I had fights and got bullied on occasion, it was never for long or that bad.

    I did have a friend who was bullied about some of his life choices throughout school and into college. I didn’t really pay as much attention to it as I should have, he always laughed it off. Never spoke about it to me or any of our friends. Then one day he killed himself. It had been tearing him up for years and he couldn’t take it anymore. I made a decision to always ask how my friends were doing after that.

    Reply
  4. Aw man, I just typed a whole comment and then went through the disqus sign up thing and it wiped it all. Anyway, I was commenting that I was “bullied” as well, putting it in quotes because it wasn’t nearly that bad. After going to a sheltered, tiny school (a German school in the Netherlands, for all the expats and diplomats), where everything was awesome and nobody picked anyone, I switched because mom could no longer afford the high fees. All of a sudden I became the outsider with the weird accent (henceforth known as the “filthy nazi”), who had no fashion sense whatsoever because all my clothes were either home made or second hand. If I ever have kids I’ll make sure I don’t send them to school looking the way I did. It also didn’t help that I was a reasonably fast learner and then proceeded to skip a grade.

    While the worst that ever happened to me was being called names for being crap at sports or dressing all in black in High School, I got through it by hanging out with all the other outcasts. It never escalated into violence, mainly I guess because my High School was sort of the “better” one in town and only well off kids went there. Seeing as I was a complete coward, I would not have been able to cope with violence of any kind, so I’m still grateful today that things never got that bad.

    I wish there was a way to ensure more people brought up their kids not to be cruel monsters and I often worry what kind of adults the bullies grow into. But surely stories like this one and other attention given to the subject should help point out how actions always have consequences and being bullied as a child will affect that person long after they’ve grown up.

    Reply
  5. This is a subject very important to me.

    When I started a new high school, I was picked on and bullied relentlessly right from the start. It was
    all for no reason other than I was the new kid, shy and quiet.

    My lowest point was when I was beat up by 6 kids. One of whom I thought was a friend. After that it was
    open season on me by every bully in the school. I had to find different ways to and from school because kids would actually wait for me. I ran a lot.

    I was tired of being scared. Something had to give. A switch went off inside me. Being scared now made me angry, furious. I decided to turn the tables. I was tired of being hunted, and chose instead of being the hunter.
    This was unexpected out of the social norm.

    I watched and waited, plotted and planned to catch each one of them alone. Bullies like to fight in groups. Most of them are cowards on their own. I caught the first of my attackers alone at his locker. I beat the
    living hell out of him. I was suspended for two days.

    Outside of school I waited for a bully who thought it was fun to chase me home. I surprised him and kicked his ass.

    It took me two years, but I caught up with each one of the original 6 attackers and took them apart. I got half of them in school, and half out. The ringleader, the one who started it all, I actually caught him walking alone right past my house! I was in my garage when I saw him, I didn’t even think, I just went right after him. To his credit, he stood his ground, but it was no good against my blind rage.

    Even before the end of my first year on my path to revenge, I had the reputation I was not a person to fuck with, Nobody ever bothered me in school again.

    Some people think it sick or scary that I plotted, planned, watched and waited to get each one of them back. But I tell you what, at least I didn’t go all Columbine – or on the opposite side of the spectrum – allow it
    to define my life by being scared all of the time.

    I know lots of people who were bullied in school, and it still affects them to this day. They still let people walk all over them. They feel powerless. They stayed scared instead of getting angry and rectifying the wrongs done to them.

    To this day, I don’t let anyone try to bully me – man or woman – whether it’s an ill-tempered boss or a loud-mouthed neighbor. Though I no longer bang heads, I always stand up to them and give better than I get. When you stand up to a bully they often back down because they are not used to people standing up to them.

    Reply
  6. Wow. Just found this post and it’s a good one. It brings back bad memories too, lol. I was extremely shy as a kid, and until I hit my early 20s in fact. I was also bullied, beat up three times throughout my school years (just because I was shy), and stabbed in the leg with a pencil. I don’t put up with bullies too much these days, and when my autistic son started getting bullied in school, I didn’t put up with it at all.

    For parents who find that teachers and administrators aren’t doing much (or anything at all), the promise to file child endangerment charges against them, the students who are doing the bullying, and the parents of the students … let’s just say there was no more bullying after that. 🙂

    Reply

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