4 Things No One Understands About Being Bullied
When I was a kid I was overweight. The worst part about this for me was that, for a long time, I wasn't aware of it. I never saw myself as a fat kid. I wasn't hugely obese; I was a chubby kid. It took others telling me for me to realize it. And to this day I remember being in school and knocking on the door of another classroom during some school-wide event that saw all the students semi-free to work on whatever project it was that we had to do in a very casual atmosphere. I was looking to speak with a friend of mine, a girl I'd had a crush on for about two years. I knocked, another student answered, a girl I didn't know well, and I asked to speak to my friend. She shrugged and went into the room and I heard her tell my friend someone was at the door for her. My friend asked who. This other girl said, "Some fat kid."
That must have been 20 years ago. I didn't get beat up, it didn't happen more than once, and it was barely even directed at me. I never forgot it. Probably never will. It was the moment I realized in a real, tangible way that I could be reduced to an offhanded insult to someone who didn't give a shit about who I was. I was some fat kid. I've been some fat kid ever since.
I know logically that this was a random, unimportant label applied to me by someone whose name I not only don't remember but may have never even known in the first place. But that doesn't change the fact that I still remember it. It's burned in there, along with the guy in my high school shop class who used to yell "Fat boy!" every time he saw me. I always laughed it off, I never dwelled on it, never told my parents or friends, and to this day I have never outwardly expressed any dissatisfaction with my weight or appearance to a single other person until writing this article. Truth is, I've had a bit of hatred for myself since that day and had no idea how to change anything, so I never tried. I felt like that was who I was, there wasn't a method or a means to change anything. To change would mean becoming someone else, and that was impossible. I was some fat kid. I could never not be that kid.
"I'm gonna be so damn funny when I grow up."
As I got older and became more comfortable with myself in some ways, it also became clear to me that if my life were a John Hughes movie, I was not the guy getting the girl at the end. Some fat kid is not some handsome kid. I focused on being the funny kid. Like so many other funny people, humor was a good way to mask the troubles in my life. Shitty parents, poor self-image, bury it all under a pile of hilarious observations and quick-witted comebacks. Just so you know, I was really good at being the funny kid. People liked me. I went to parties, I went to concerts and bars, I was out there and loving it. I had a good time. But there was some damage already done that I never realized.
If you read my work somewhat regularly, you'll notice my go-to source for humor is sexual perversion. One might say I have a preoccupation with sex and sexuality. If I were a more introspective person, I'd tell you that's because the fat kid in me was and remains remarkably insecure about how he's perceived by women. For the entirety of my teens and into my 20s, despite being popular as the funny kid, I didn't date much and never had any serious girlfriends. This reinforced for me that the problem was the way I looked. Girls didn't like me, in my mind.
"No thanks, I'd rather make out with a poop-covered cactus."
When I actually started having some luck with women, and even up to this day, if I'm not being cognizant of it, I find myself straying down the same path of joking around with explicit sexual imagery because part of me wants to know that you, whoever you may be, are OK with that from me. You can see me as a sexual person and not be repulsed. You may even be interested in me sexually, a concept that for all the world was as foreign as seaweed-and-mayo-flavored soda to me during high school and college. I need it because I don't believe it. I'm like a skeptic who hunts ghosts for a living. I never expect to be validated, but I want it real bad. Plus, also, if I did find a ghost, I'd totally parlay that into a show on A&E or something, and probably a three-book deal at least. I don't think that correlates at all to sex, though.
The first girl who expressed any interest in me in a physical way ended up being my girlfriend for about 75 years longer than was healthy for either one of us, and it was because I couldn't imagine doing better. How fucking sick is that? In reality I would have been better off fucking a lobster carcass and conversing with a Ouija board and a Furby, but hindsight is 20/20, and a fucktarded human psyche can convince you of a lot of sad shit in the moment, even if that moment lasts a few years.
I realized at some point we were not doing each other any favors by being together (sometime after she cheated on me and the guy she cheated with kept updating me online about it) and put the crippled horse of our relationship out to pasture. Then I spent a few weeks wondering how it was I ended up in a sitcom-level relationship that no one in my life had the courtesy to warn me about.
"Sorry dude, I thought you had a fetish for soul-reaping harpies."
Sometime later I was able to appreciate that a number of women whom I felt were drop-dead gorgeous and ridiculously out of my league had actually been expressing interest in me, and had done so regularly. I wasn't dropping panties like Tom Jones, but seriously, there was actually more than one girl in the world who thought enough of me to want me to know what her boobs looked like. I could have shit a brick. I didn't, because that's not charming or seductive, but I could have.
Rather than detail my sexual conquests here, which you would love and probably copy into a notebook so you could sleep with the stories under your pillow, we're going to backtrack for the benefit of you folks asking what the fuck the point of this is. The point is, I'm an adult. I'm an actual man. Legally, biologically, possibly mentally. And that goddamn insult is still in my head, and it shaped me for my entire life from that moment to this. Does anyone prepare you for that?
You, (and even I) could easily call me an oversensitive bitch boy, a whiner, a whatever you please. I don't think it applies, however; I don't think I've consciously focused on it until writing this. Turns out bullying has these long-term effects on people that we never really imagine when we're kids or when we're dealing with it as it happens. We toss out the ol "sticks and stones" rhyme until some poor kid kills themselves because the harassment never ends, then we sort of shrug and say something must be done. Where are the schools? Where are the parents? Want to know something super fucked-up? Bullies are healthier than the kids they bully later in life. Being a good bully will actually ensure that as an adult you'll have lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is an indicator that has been linked to cardiovascular risk and other health issues. If you kick another kid's ass, you will be healthier as an adult.
A study tracking over 7,700 children for 40 years showed the victims of bullying, even at age 50, reported a lower quality of life than their bully counterparts and tended to suffer more depression and anxiety. Those classified as bully-victims, ones who sometimes bullied others but also got bullied themselves, were at greater risk for psychiatric disorders, more likely to smoke, and most likely to be susceptible to serious illness. Who ever thought a series of wedgies and swirlies could do that?
The Creation of a Person
I said earlier I became the funny kid. The recent death of Robin Williams and the analysis that followed, including the article David Wong wrote, cast a bright light on just what goes on behind laughter. Why are there so many damaged people in the comedy world, anyway? No doubt a good number of people who make others laugh are completely well-adjusted and can barely recall a trauma in their lives. But something seems awfully awry with the best comedians when they stop being funny and let you glimpse who they really are.
Bullies don't make comedians, of course. But bullies create something. A mental state, an awareness of being Other. You are different. You have been singled out. And it's very hard not to internalize that, apparently for the rest of your life, and use it to create, consciously or unconsciously, the person you will grow into.
Despite how it sounds, I'm not actually a basket case and haven't particularly given much thought to how I was bullied; most people don't. But it is something worth reflecting on when you consider how society so readily accepts the effects parental abuse, alcoholism, neglect, or even something as innocuous as violent video games supposedly have on kids.
As it happens, you do internalize your bullying. After all, it's an event that shows how powerless you are to defend yourself against something in the world, and it also lets you know that others, at least one other, see you as weak and undeserving of respect. And when they successfully and, worse, continually beat you down, how is anyone, let alone a child, supposed to not incorporate that into who they are? Of course you're a loser: you keep getting your ass kicked and people keep calling you names. If you weren't a loser, people wouldn't do that.
You're Not Helping
How did your parents or schools tell you to deal with bullies? The general line of bullshit most kids are fed tends to include things like "walk away" and "bullies are just cowards." What a fucking load. Bullies aren't cowards, they're kind of the opposite. They're brash enough to stand up and say, "I want to punch that," while pointing at your face. Our society has a tendency to want to try to rationalize negative things in a negative way: bullying is bad, so there must be something about the bully that is weak and exploitable like his victims. Well, no, not really. Maybe he's just an asshole, knows he's tougher than a lot of kids, and is amused by beating them. That seriously amuses some people.
Walking away is another silly-ass piece of advice that you'd look like a complete jackass giving to any adult in a similar situation. Do you say that to victims of muggers or rapists? You could, and then maybe someone could punch you and you could walk away.
As a kid, you're supposed to trust parents and teachers, so if you find yourself in that role later in life, don't be a douche and tell a kid who is the victim of bullying to walk away. Literally every bullying program I have ever heard about is useless bullshit and includes buzzwords to make educators and asshole parents happy. "Open a dialogue!" "Make banners and buttons that say we're not going to tolerate this!" Fuck you, you patronizing assholes. That's literally what every 6-year-old would say to you if their minds were as jaded as mine.
"How about you shove your advice up your ass and fetch me a beer?"
Dialogues and buttons and "education" do nothing. Who the fuck isn't educated about bullying in 2014? If someone doesn't get it, that person has a turnip for a brain and no amount of colorful pamphlets will help them become useful to this discourse. Campaigns to stop bullying and raise awareness do nothing to help the kid being called a retard by another kid who's 50 pounds bigger than he is and who's kicking him in the gut. That kid, on the ground, one kick away from pissing himself, needs to know how to defend himself, or he needs a group of friends who, together, can fight off an attack.
Oh, but more violence isn't the answer! That's exactly the dumb-fuck thing people say when confronted with the idea of war. North Korea wants to bomb us, but there must be a peaceful way to resolve it. Why? Why must there? Because you want it to be so? If the world worked that way, if your peaceful whims were the way of everyone, then the bullying issue wouldn't exist to begin with. We're not talking about people who want to sit down with a chai tea and discuss why they feel empty sometimes. We're talking about people who, because they were abused, because they have a chemical imbalance, because they're ignored, neglected, or just because they think it's funny, want to beat and degrade another human being.
"I'm genetically an asshole -- there's nothing to be done for it!"
People, especially educators and parents and politicians, need to embrace the fact that you can't plan a peaceful and rational way to deal with something that by definition is neither peaceful nor rational. You may as well try to legislate dog attacks or bee stings in the same way. Listen bees, a lot of us are allergic to you, so we're taking a stand. No more bee stings. From now on, we're against you. We've learned the dangers of an anaphylactic reaction, and we're saying no! We're enacting a "no bee sting" policy, and we will not tolerate even one sting this year.
Know what a bee says to that? Nothing -- they can't talk. They'll just fucking sting you for getting too close because. In your ignorance, you had no clue what the hell you were doing.
So what is the solution to bullying? What will allow future generations to grow up free from mental anguish and self-doubt? Not a damn thing. There is no single solution. There never can be, and that's why every anti-bullying campaign is doomed to fail. There's more than one bully, more than one reason they bully, and more than one victim. The variables are too great and ever-changing, and if that depresses you or makes you feel like the ending of this was anti-climactic, that's part of the problem. Life isn't a story book, bullies don't get what they deserve, and justice doesn't prevail. You shit and get shit on in life. You have good days and bad, highs and lows.
How could you ever hope to stop bullying if you're not the damn bully? You can't. Instead, you should be teaching kids methods for dealing with the aftermath, for understanding self-worth, for defending themselves, for understanding why someone else sees the world in their own shitheaded way and how we all have to roll with that. To do otherwise, to constantly put effort into these shitty campaigns, just further teaches kids they failed somehow when they get bullied and does nothing to help them deal with it, move on, and be healthy enough to grow into a hilarious master of seduction and awesome, like myself.
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