7 Time-Tested Ways to Deal With Bullies
Last week a video made the rounds of a group of bullies verbally terrorizing some poor woman on a school bus. It was a pretty awful example of humanity at work, and if anyone watching the video wondered if we should just pull the plug on this whole civilization-building thing, they could hardly be blamed. There was a happy ending of sorts to this story, with donation links going viral faster than the video itself, resulting in anonymous strangers raising a few hundred thousand dollars to help the victim. Which is, I guess, a nice thing for that poor woman, but hardly gets to the root of the problem: putting those boys inside of a volcano where they belong.
More generally, it represents several hundred thousand dollars thrown at one case of bullying, and not in any way helping the poor souls getting picked on off-camera. Here at Cracked, we're far more interested in helping the rest of these dorky, pointy-shoulder-bladed folk, knowing that they're probably a large part of our readership, what with our tendency to write wordy articles about history facts, littered with highbrow jokes about Proust and such.
Proust, seen here haunted by the memory of a long-forgotten mustache ride.
I know a bit about being bullied myself -- up until the end of Grade 11, I weighed about 45 pounds or so, and spent most of my lunch hours quietly reading Dateline transcripts beside my locker -- and have put more than a little thought into techniques to combat bullying. So, after poring through some of my old spite-filled Trapper Keepers, I synthesized those thoughts into something a little more coherent and less tear-stained. The result: a list of proven anti-bullying techniques, with their strengths and weaknesses listed below.
Grinning, Bearing It
This is a classic piece of advice you're likely to receive from your gruff father or boozy, disinterested mother. And surprisingly, it's not completely off-base. Especially if the bullying is a temporary phenomenon, this will by far be the smoothest course to chart. Bullies tend to pick on anyone who stands out, and by playing the good sport and then sliding back into the general population, you'll reduce the odds of any future bullying occurring. If that sounds oddly familiar, it should: Being a kid is basically the same as being a herding animal, possibly because of their immature brains. Or strong grinding molars.
Later, one of these fish will be accused of still wearing Pull-Ups.
But this only works if you stand a chance of blending back into the background. If you're dealing with a persistent bully, or have some condition like red hair, where the bullying is likely to persist, it's possible that no amount of grinning and bearing it will help.
This can work very well for some people, particularly adults. Most of the acts that make up bullying, like verbal abuse or threats or assault, are, whoops, crimes, which, whoops, would land an adult bully in extremely hot shit. Even subtler stuff like workplace bullying is taken very seriously in most companies. An employer that doesn't act immediately to address any reported cases of bullying can soon find itself paying settlements for big cash money.
Or solid-gold scales.
In general, tattling effectively requires some foresight and understanding of how the world works, and what the consequences of tattling are likely to be. Is the bully going to get a meaningless punishment, some verbal warning, warning of more verbal warnings to come? Or is there a harsher, more permanent solution in store for the bully? Suspension? Expulsion? Propulsion?
And perhaps most important of all are the consequences to the tattler. For kids and teens, tattling is of course a very grave violation of the code of the schoolyard, which, sort of like Santa Claus, exists solely by the power of children's belief in it. At the heart of this "code" lies the premise that children should be able to handle their own problems, because fuck adults, that's why. Whether this is reasonable or not (as an adult, my thoughts on the subject are compromised), the fact that it's so widely believed is what's important here. By tattling, victims thumb their noses at the code, only isolating themselves further. Whatever relief they might feel from the tattling will quite possibly be trumped by worse bullying down the road.
Make Yourself Look Larger
This is a favorite technique of cats and other small mammals, designed to make themselves look larger and less appetizing to any potential predator. Cats achieve this effect by arching their backs, which isn't something I recommend you try; it will at best make you look a bit shorter and fatter, if not imply that you have scoliosis, which would just be something else to get mocked for.
"Nice spine, no-spine."
But there's no reason to be so literal-minded and make yourself look actually bigger. Instead, just make yourself less of a target; figure out what's making you stick out, and change that immediately. Wear better clothes, get a haircut by a person who cuts hair for money and stop talking so much about Justin Bieber, who sucks now, and talk more about One Direction, who are the best.
All bullies are weak against fire. All humans, really. There is something deeply unsettling about being set on fire, and that's something that can be taken advantage of, vis-a-vis setting a bully on fire.
However, like a double-edged metaphor, fire can bite you in the ass. Because if you do in fact set someone on fire, you are going to look like a crazy person, and be treated accordingly.
It turns out that fire can't solve every problem -- it won't solve fires, for example.
And this is actually where we run into an interesting problem with bullies and the bullied. One of the problems people who are getting bullied likely have is that they're not very good at realizing how they look to others. And when that lack of perspective is left to simmer for weeks and months in a stew of molten rage, it's possible to end up with someone who looks at fire and wonders, "Hey, why not?"
I'll take a stab at explaining why not, for anyone who happens to be getting bullied right now and has some fire ready to go. This is a path that will end with you in jail, or burned, or dead. And if those options don't sound that bad to you, well, you're wrong. Those are always the worst options open to anyone, at all times. Take another hard look at tattling, because if things are bad enough that you're about to set fire to something, then things are sure as shit bad enough to make tattling have some actual results. Someone out there is on your side; the Internet just barfed several hundred thousand dollars over someone who didn't think she had anyone on her side.
And assuming you do manage to steer you way through this without involving fire, you'll be pretty surprised to learn that life gets better. Nothing is worse than being a teenager, and although you may be having it worse than most, the simple passage of time is a guaranteed escape. Before too long you'll be something bigger and better, like a car owner, or a president. And even if those options don't pan out, you can always get into comedy writing, which seems to be a pretty popular path out of this type of mess.
OK, this is better than fire, because it at least shows a certain amount of creativity and panache. People will still think you're messed up, but messed up in a really fun, daring way.
Though honestly, I've looked into this, and there's just no way to make a pile of loose foliage look inconspicuous in a school hallway.
Living a Good Life
This is traditionally the most effective way to get back at a bully, with the minor caveat that it doesn't "get" the bully in any particular way at all, because he won't hear about the good life you're living, or care if he did.
"You say Billy Scunthorpe has a lovely wife, two kids, makes $75,000 a year and is thinking of buying a small boat? RAAAAARRGH. THIS FEELING IS SO MUCH WORSE THAN BEING ON FIRE!"
It turns out that one of the side effects of living a good life is that it helps turn you into a psychologically well balanced person who doesn't actually need to get back at the bully, or even think about him at all. In between all that wife-getting and boat-purchase-considering, the fact that you got mocked mercilessly for liking the wrong Pokemon in Grade 4 simply doesn't seem that important anymore.
Living a Good Life, and Then When Everyone Is Impressed by How Well You're Doing, Fire
This works just the same as the previous entry, except that one night, after you've put the children to bed and told your wife not to wait up while you peruse your boat catalog, you slip out the side window of your house and go set your former bully on fire. If after 25 years you're still angry about it, then heck, I guess they deserved it, and really, you're so far past the psychologically well balanced thing that I'd be stupid to stand in your way. Fire ahoy!
CHARMANDER WAS ALWAYS THE BEST POKEMON, YOU SON OF A BITCH!
The plus side about this technique is that you're way more likely to get away with it 25 years after the fact, because who the fuck could be that crazy? The downside being that you are the fuck that crazy, and will be haunted by ghosts and spells the rest of your days. There is a strong possibility that your good life, and all its many wives and children, are little more than figments of your imagination.
Although on the plus side of that downside, that means you can probably just imagine yourself considering to buy a larger boat.
For more from Bucholz, check out 15 Things I Regret Doing At Your Petting Zoo: An Apology and 29 Observations From the Back of a Line on Black Friday.