kit (mizkit) wrote,

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On bullying.

(I would have posted this on my main site, but it's down, so.)

There is a solidarity movement against bullying going on (at least, it's going on online), prompted by the highly-reported suicides of half a dozen gay kids in recent months. And those, of course, are only the ones that got national or international attention.

I have two reactions to this. Well, three, because I've read some of the stories people have posted about being bullied and "Jesus Christ, the *horror* some people went through" is a reaction all its own.

The other two--the more personal ones--are to recount my own experiences with bullying, and to remember a boy in my high school who inexplicably killed himself our sophomore year. I'll put it

The boy who killed himself was soft-spoken, good-looking, popular, kind, and from a fundamentalist Christian family. He had moved to Kenai...recently. Within 18 months. I can't remember if he was there for part or all or none of our freshman year. And then one day he was dead, and I had no idea why he'd killed himself. I still don't. Possibly he was really miserable having moved from wherever it was to the back end of beyond, which Kenai pretty much is.

About fifteen years after the fact, though, I suddenly wondered if he was gay. I've never gotten the thought out of my head. One of his family members is still a friend of mine, and I've never asked, because if they even know, I have the uncomfortable feeling that even suggesting it might be very, very upsetting to the still-fundamentalist family. But I do suspect he fitted the pattern of a gay youth who could see no other way out.

The other part, being bullied, is so mild in comparison to many of the accounts I've read it's sort of ridiculous to talk about. I wasn't popular by high school standards--not part of the In Crowd by any stretch of the imagination, but as someone pointed out in the last few years, by any *reasonable* standards I was in fact quite popular. I had a lot of friends from across the social strata--everybody except the In Kids, pretty much--and the only people who bothered me were In Crowd girls.

I was not bullied by the vicious standards people are relating. I don't think that even at the time I'd have said I was. I called it being picked on, and twenty years later I don't actually remember what anybody did or said to qualify as picking on me, though I do have a few visual memories (and those of you who've been reading for a while know visualized anything is not my strong suit) of three girls sitting behind me during school assemblies and...well, picking on me. Sometimes literally: pick pick pick, physically.

I honestly had no idea at all what my crime was, aside from being smart*. Since "You're so smart," is not exactly a cutting insult, I suspect much of the picking-on came in terms of that physical kind of thing, and presumably some sorts of belittling comments along with that. It did not, however, go beyond minor behavior like that, because god knows if somebody'd *hit* me I'd have belted them back. (And I rather suspect they might have known that on some level.)

Unlike many, perhaps most, kids in that situation, though, I had a secret weapon in the form of an inherent confidence so unassailable that I believed then (as, frankly, I do now) that if somebody didn't like me, that was really their problem. It wasn't that I didn't care, but at the end of the day, it was clearly not my issue.

In retrospect, that probably made the problem worse. Mom trained into me early the "don't respond, it'll only give them fuel for the fire" mindset, and so I didn't respond. I'm not entirely certain that's the right way to go about it--certainly within a few years of graduating high school my thought was that probably asking them what the *hell* their problem was wouldn't have hurt (if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity about, y'know, what the *hell* their problem was)--but it's the least confrontational path, anyway, and it did me no harm. But it was tiresome, and possibly calling them on it--not getting in a fight or responding in anger, but just calling them on it--would have eliminated it. I donno. I suspect, though, that calling them on it might be my advice for future generations, since ignoring them certainly didn't *stop* them.

*This topic--not knowing my crime--came up a few days ago while I was talking with my Mom, who said, "You were, and are, pretty." I was gobsmacked, because although I eventually became aware of that fact, I had no idea in jr high/early high school, at least, that I *was* pretty, nor did I care to do anything with or about it. That, as my mother said, did not mean the girls who picked on me also didn't know it, which perspective--smart and pretty--really presents me as much more of a potential threat to them than I ever actually was. I'm still sort of reeling from that. It makes a lot of what I put up with in high school make so much more sense. The In Crowd *guys* were always either indifferent or nice to me (except the senior guy my sophomore year who said some of the most unimaginably stupid things to me, the crowning one being when he walked up to me in the hall one day and said "Did you know you have no breasts?" Since this was so blatantly untrue, nevermind so unexpected, I stood there and gawked at him while my friend Kelly at least had the wit to respond, "And apparently you have no *brains*." Several years later I realized this behavior probably meant he'd had a crush on me.); it was just a bunch of the girls who were horrible. So that was rather revelatory, and I might tell it to a kid like me in the same situation. Truth is, I was never *going* to do anything with my looks, because it's not my personality, and I don't think having had that knowledge in my arsenal would have much changed my behavior. But I think it would have clarified their behavior for me even back then, nevermind in retrospect. It would not, mind you, have made them like me any better, because instead of sitting there thinking, "Ignore them, they'll go away if you ignore them," I would have been thinking, "And yet I'm still prettier and smarter than you," which would have made me walk away from their actions with a grin, and that would've gone down like a lead balloon.

*I* would have loved it, though. :)

I got totally off topic there at the end, didn't I? Oh well.

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