Thursday, March 24, 2011

Post 1 - Bullies

I'm doing 2 posts today because I decided the topics I wanted to write about could get lengthy so 2 posts in 1 day.  Lucky you.

So if you follow Draz, you know that her daughter has been experiencing bullying at school and Draz has been trying her best to help her through it.  I wanted to give a little post about it here because I think the bullying I experienced as a child has affected my psyche some and possibly has played a role in my weight gain/loss over the years.  Bullying is certainly a growing problem.  There have been news stories about the kids who have committed suicide because of cyber bullying, the Columbine and other incidents where bullied kids have lost it and tried to kill their tormentors and most recently, the incident in Australia that has now gone viral.  If you don't know about the Australia thing, I'm sure you can find it on youtube (I can't access youtube at work; otherwise I'd post a link) but basically a chubby kid was being picked on by a little skinny kid.  It's obvious this had been going for awhile and the skinny kid is taunting him and then punches him a couple times and the bigger kid doesn't even flinch.  Finally, the chubby kid freaks and body slams the little twerp.  So now the twerp is going to sue the big kid for injuries, blah, blah, blah.  You can probably tell my take on this.  I say good for the chubby kid!  That little kid deserved it.  You can only push a person so far before they just can't take it anymore.

I was bullied as a kid.  I think if you're a chubby or fat kid, you're either the bullied or popular.   My theory is all people fall into 1 of 3 categories.  You're either the leader, the follower or the loner (individual - take your pic of phrasing here).  Fat kids are no different.  If you're a fat leader, it's OK because your personality will take over and people will like you regardless.  Generally, speaking if you've always been fat, you may even alter your personality to be bigger than life and "funny" (How many of you have been described as funny?) to take the attention off of your weight.  I later adopted this policy...if I laugh at me first, then they're laughing WITH me and not AT me.  If you're a follower, it can go either way but chances are you're now the "fat friend" of someone more popular.  Everybody likes you well enough and you probably aren't picked on but you know it's just because of who you're friends with.  But if you're that loner.  You're screwed. 

I had friends all through school but not A LOT of friends.  I just wasn't a person to have a big social circle.  I had a small group of really good friends.  I played sports so was friends with everyone on my teams.  But I was chubby.  Not real chubby and in pictures, I can see that I really didn't have a weight problem.  But it only took one kid calling me fat on the school bus one day for me to get it ingrained on my brain for the rest of my life.  I also grew up in a small town in South Carolina.  You should need a passport to go there as it's a whole different world.  I learned that the Civil War was actually "The War of Northern Aggression."  This wasn't the 60's folks...this was the 90's.  So racism is still alive and well down there (not making generalizations - we all know there are a lot of non racist folks but let's call a spade a spade) and, make no mistake, that racism goes both ways.  Everybody hates everybody else down there for one reason or another and the color of skin doesn't help anything.  So I was a minority in my school.  A fat little minority who got picked on...every day.  I got threatened with physical violence by girls bigger than me (I'm full grown at 5 feet so EVERYONE was bigger than me) and got taunted mercilessly by little punk boys who just thought it was funny to make the chubby girl cry.  The school bus was my worst nightmare and there were certain parts of the field (where you waited before school and after lunch before you went inside) that I avoided altogether. 

I remember after a particularly brutal kind of day, I came home crying and my mom told me to talk to my sister.  She'd tell me how to handle it.  So I did.  I can't remember exactly what she said but the gist was simple.  Ignoring them wouldn't work.  Trying to be their friend wouldn't work.  The only way to stop it was to actually stop it.  On my own.  By myself.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  OK.  What did my sister know?  She was always popular in school, had tons of friends and spent most of her time on the phone or out.  She's 8 years older than me so what did she know about being a kid? (I was 11 - what can I say?).  So a few days after that, a girl started in with threatening to hit me, etc.  So I told her to do it.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  I told her I was sick of listening to her talk about it and if she wanted to do it, do it.  And she did.  Well, she tried.  She took one swing and then I popped her in the gut.  I should probably mention that things were more civil then (LOL).  If you were going to fight, it was just the 2 of you.  You didn't have entire groups of people beating one person to a pulp.  You had entire groups yelling at each other or teasing you - but the violence was usually just between you and the other person.  She started crying, told me she was going to tell on me and ran away.  She didn't tell (who would believe someone a full foot smaller than her would make her cry?) and that entire group left me alone from then on.  Was violence the best answer?  Probably not.  But it worked.

Now what about those boys on the bus?  Well, after I beat up all of them....  just kidding.  That continued until about 7th grade.  What happened in 7th grade?  2 things that made those last 2 years on the bus outstanding.  The first was my neighborhood got our own bus.  There were only 8 of us but because of district lines (blah, blah) they had to give us our own bus.  So those boys?  Not on my bus anymore.  The second thing was I met one of my best friends that year - a boy.  Now he would later become one of my first die-hard crushes and heartbreaks as well but he was a good friend.  He lived a few houses down and he was tall.  So I had a boy who was bigger than the twerps who made fun of me as one of my best friends.  Voila.  Bullying done. 

We moved to AZ my freshman year of high school and I swore it was an opportunity to start over.  I would be popular.  I would be liked and I would never be picked on again.  2 out of 3 aren't bad.  I never became popular.  But I was liked, I had friends - a couple different circles.  I had people to hang out with and once they got to know me, my personality shown through.  I had a couple boy friends, a couple dates.  I went to dances.  High school was good.

Unfortunately, the damage was done.  My social anxiety (albeit minor compared to people with REAL social anxiety) stems from the bullying I think.  I've always been shy but now I always wonder what people are thinking about me, what they might be saying behind my back, etc.  It doesn't help that a lot of women are just catty creatures in general, even as adults.  As I've mentioned before, I'm working to move past my social issues, trying to get out more.  Trying to be more confident.  Trying not to let what others think affect me.  It does.  I think it always will to some degree but it seems to get a little better every time I take a risk and try something new.


Amy W. said...

I found myself nodding along as I was reading this. I was the bigger than life option...but when I got to the last paragraph and you said that it still plays a part in your social anxiety, it made me stop and think...and I still need to process it...but I guess I still feel like that girl in high school when I was super fat and picked on by some.

great post

Theresa aka Tessie Rose said...

Great post, I applaud your honesty and bravery. I still find it hard to talk about painful moments from my childhood. I'm glad you shared. I was not a fat child, but I was always the tallest kid in the class and was called names, like Big Bird, Mamma Long Legs, that sort of thing. My mom was sick and I had a great deal of anxiety, so it was really hard for me not to take every little thing personally. I had a moment similar to yours when the picking quit. When I was in the 6th grade, one of the boys who was a real bully was picking on a girl in my class, she was crying and he put a thumb tack on her desk, my heart broke for her and I snapped, I picked him up by his shirt collar and unleashed 6 years of fury, it was not pretty, we all went to the Principals office. I did not get in trouble, he did...and the next day at school things were different. Then over the summer a couple of boys got taller than me and things just started to change. But it's moments like those that form a child.

Amanda said...

I wonder where I fit in exactly. I was athletic and I had friends. I was friends with most types of people but never popular persay. I have some anxiety in certain situations but I never associated it with being the bigger of the girl. I always felt I was the biggest one and I think I protected myself from getting hurt or my feelings being damaged. I think I was never called fat or chubby. But then again maybe I was and I just chose not to remember the negative.

Really good post Manda...

~Lisa~ said...

Excellent post. Children can be so cruel.. I have memories of a childhood of few real friends - and not the popular children either. Thank you for your honesty and for making me really think about this..

Gen said...

This is a great post. I think I started out being the shy chubby kid in middle school, but when I hit high school I dieted my way into the popular crowd. So my damage comes mostly from the cycle of dieting that started so early - I never experienced that kind of bullying. I'm sorry you had to go through this and so sorry your daughter is dealing with it now. She is lucky to have you helping her with this -- back in the day, parents were not so involved. I hope this stops for her very soon.

Ronnie said...

I totally agree with the "big 3," I was definitely the loner. :/

I am praying that by taking this proactive step for our health, our children never have to go through these same things.