Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So about bullying

While this blog started out as a place for me to write about my thoughts on motherhood and my experiences with my only child, it's also about ME (lately several posts have been unrelated to being a mom). Bullying has been a big thing in the news lately. Today people are wearing purple in support of bullying (I guess purple because the LGBT community chose the color as a symbol and that boy from Rutgers was Gay). But bullying is not necessarily a "Gay" thing.

I barely remember a time when I wasn't teased and tormented.  Perhaps not the first 5 years of my life, but I remember DREADING going to school when I was only 7 or 8 years old. The people who lived in my neighborhood were just cruel. The other children called me Cheese. Seriously. Cheese.  Why? Because this girl who lived down the block from me, Alyssa, ate cheese on the bus and because she cried. She was Cheese 1 and I was Cheese 2.  Then she moved away (good for her!) and I was the lone target of the bullies in our neighborhood.

The girls next door were a few years older. I remember they asked me to play hospital with them. I was SO excited. They wanted me to play. So I went over and they had me lie on the picnic bench like it was a table. They wrapped me in bandages. And then they poked sewing needles in my arms. I was only 8.

I was told I was ugly. I was told that nobody liked me. In the Winter, I was pelted by ice balls. In the Spring, I was shoved down into puddles. There was a school bus stop just across the street from my house, but I walked to the other bus to be with my friends Michelle and Jennifer as support.  I remember in 6th grade that this boy, Russell was his name, had a big party and he invited ALL the kids—except for me and a few others, who were all my friends. I did have friends, but we were the misfits. It hurt so badly.  And I don't remember ever telling my parents what was going on. Or if I did, I may not have told them everything. I'm not sure why.

Middle School was better.  I made more friends as the 5 elementary schools in our town combined. So for two years (7th and 8th grade) I was happier. I met my best friend there and we're still friends today, 27 years later. But of course that didn't last and I went to high school, losing many of my friends since we had a regional district and most of the girls I liked went to the other high school. Great.

High School SUCKED the first two years, since the bullies who had tormented me were older and still there. I remember three of them flicking cigarette ashes in my hair on the school bus home (the bus driver was no help, they never are) and I ran screaming off the bus to my BFF's bus (she lived in another area of town) and went home to her house. That time I told my mom, who then told the other girls' moms what they had done. They never physically hurt me again, but the emotional abuse was torture.

So for years I was told I was ugly and undesirable. I believed it. So I never dated in high school and only barely dated in college. I gave a weak attempt at suicide when I was 16 (downed most of an aspirin bottle). Thankfully it didn't work.  But I'm not going to give a "bio" of my life here. It will be too long. But it did get better. I made friends. I found my niche when I went to Hofstra. But I still felt inadequate. And I didn't have serious relationships and I sabotaged the ones I did have. My self-esteem was shot. And when I turned 30, I was clinically depressed.  Thank goodness for therapy and my dog Casey. Seriously, both of them helped turn things around.

So there are reasons I didn't meet Dude until I was 36.  I really didn't date seriously until I was 34... I had no faith in myself. And even today, I often feel like I don't deserve to be happy.

Bullying affects your life. And sometimes you're just bullied for being sensitive. Bullies like to make people cry.

If there is one thing I hope to do with my son, it's to teach him NOT to be a bully. It's to teach him to treat others with respect. And to tell me or his father if he's being bullied, so we can figure out ways to combat it. I pray he's not treated like I was. I started out like he did. All smiles and friendly. And while I'm still outgoing, there is always a knot in my stomach when I talk to new people. I don't want Little Man to have that knot.

There will always be mean people, but I do hope things can get better. At the very least, all the news on bullying have brought this problem out in the open. And perhaps as my son gets older, there will be more ways to combat it.


  1. And all this makes the fact that you packed up and flew 3,000 miles to stay at my house for a week even more incredible. Especially when you consider we had never met in person. Frankly, I'm not sure I would have been that brave.

    You are amazing.

  2. I was teased most of my school life too. I didn't mind myself being picked on as much, but my best friend was teased mercilessly by a few people (she also had some home problems) and in the span of probably a year attempted suicide 4 or 5 times that I am aware of, was talked down by myself and another friend we had back then countless times and I learned after the fact that she had been cutting for a while also.

    I am SHOCKED that it is only now being brought to such light by the media. I am guessing it is the ability for things to go "viral" as they say with FB, Twitter etc.

    My baby sister is mentally disabled, it's mild but still enough to be a problem, and my aunt took her out of public schools because kids were literally poking HOLES in her shirt IN class with pencils and then poking HER with the sharp pencil. The way you are treated early on can seriously screw you over as an adult. A friend who never knew my friend's struggles mentioned something offhand and she burst into tears for an hour. I was so used to be called ugly and flat chested and told I'd never date that I to this day still can't accept compliments with grace I think I'd have if I hadn't been taunted.

    There was a news story locally about a girl with cerebral palsy who was being bullied on a school bus and her father actually got on the bus and ranted at the kids doing it. The local media forums have shown an astounding amount of support in the father's favor.

    I think that you and Dude will do right by Little Man and make sure that he is a great kid, and I think if anything he'd turn into the savior for a bullied kid.

  3. Lynda, by the time I did that I was at a different point in my life. But I'd always taken risks. I think it's just in my nature. Perhaps if I were less open, I'd have been bullied less. But I also think I would have missed out on a lot of things—like meeting you in person and having a great L.A. vacation.