Once upon a moon ago, I was a Girl Who Was Bullied. To be honest, I’m rather surprised that it still stings. I’m turning 36 this spring and I have a wonderful husband, two adorably impish children, a nice home, and a meaningful job.
So why do I still care? I care because on the most basic level – Bullying is not nice and Bullying hurts.
Luckily for me, my bullying experiences were mostly limited to the 6th grade, but that one year turned a very happy child into a very sad one.
You see, I was booted out of the “popular crowd” mid-way through the 6th grade, and my dismissal from their inner-circle was cruel and heartless. Up until that point, I led a pretty normal life, and didn’t really think about how to make friends – I was just in a crowd and stuck with it. That was until one night, at a slumber party, the girls found out that I had a horribly uncool secret…I still sucked my thumb…and was afraid of the dark…in the 6th grade.
To say that the girls “pounced” on this tidbit of information is an understatement. They went full-throttle with the news and told everyone we knew. My removal from the popular crowd was swift, ruthless and mean. For starters, they had my boyfriend – who was a jerk to begin with – dump me…in front of everyone. Then they made sure that there weren’t any seats left for me to sit at during lunch. And after that, they started ignoring my phone calls and snickering whenever I walked by.
Ugh. Even now – writing about this – I get a bitter taste in my mouth.
Unfortunately, they weren’t done with me – yet. My bullying had turned into a favorite playground hobby for them and each one tried to outdo the next in regards to humiliating me.
When they finally ran out of ways to hurt me, they ordered my ex-boyfriend to torment me instead. He created glorious nicknames for me and screamed them at me whenever I passed by. It started with “Bucky Beaver” – thanks to my pre-braces, buck-teeth – and then, when he tired of that one – he renamed me “the Buffalo Twin” – after my father took my sister and I for a very ill-fated haircut one day.
He was also quite fond of pegging me with rocks whenever I got off of the school bus, and he even went so far as to tell people that my father burnt our house down for the insurance money. Really, he was hideous to me.
Unfortunately, when I was in elementary school, bullying wasn’t a hot topic. Kids were kids – and sometimes kids were mean, and sometimes they were nice. Schools weren’t really paying close attention to bullying and those statistics never made their way into our classrooms…but they should have.
Imagine how much different my year would have been if instead of seeing “Just Say No”, or “Buckle Up, It’s the Law”, we saw posters taped to the school hallways that said:
- 1 in 4 kids are bullied.
- As many as 160,000 students stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.
- Playground statistics: Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. Adult intervention – 4%; Peer intervention – 11%; No intervention – 85%.
But back in the day, it was just chalked up to normal kid antics – and nothing was ever done. Even with my numerous trips to the Principal’s office and Nurse’s office – in tears – nothing was done. Sad, but true. The school wasn’t interested in my “sob stories” and I was advised to ignore them, and wait for the year to end when I could make new friends in Junior High.
Even though I thought that the school officials were completely unjust in their lack of assistance, I was lucky. I had parents who loved me, siblings that were my best friends, and I was smart. So, I adapted – and one day, I asked the “Smart Girls” if I could sit with them. To my surprise, they kindly took me and gave me a place within their circle. Why? Simply because they were nice, kind-hearted people who valued what was on the inside versus what was on the outside of a person. These girls, whose names I still hold close to my heart, were the kind of people that I want my own kids to be…
In an ideal world, children would remain innocent until they were old enough to understand that sometimes people are bullies simply because of their own insecurities. In an ideal world, children would be nice to each other – all of the time. In an ideal world, children would be happy with themselves – no matter what.
But, that’s not the real world.
This story probably seems outlandish to people who met me after elementary school. You see, the lessons I learned in 6th grade made me very determined not to be a victim to idle meanness. That summer, I got braces, I swam every single day to maintain a healthy weight, and I focused on what a good person I was on the inside. I started eating better, I rode my bike everywhere, and I spent a lot of time with my family focusing on all of the good in my life.
By the time I entered the 7th grade, I was scared, but ready to make new friends. I was enrolled in mostly Honor’s classes which meant I wouldn’t have to see my old crowd, so I just waited for the right opportunity to make new friends. Happily, I didn’t have to wait too long. My moment came in English class, in the form of a purposely dropped pencil, next to a very nice girl – and a new friendship was formed…
Like I keep saying, I know how lucky I am. I had opportunities to change. Some kids aren’t so lucky. Some kids are stuck in a very small school district with no chance of reinventing themselves. Some kids don’t have the familial support that I have. Some kids are just left to fend for themselves.
It’s with this in mind that I write this post. I’m writing this post for all of the kids who deal with bullying each and every single day of their lives – and don’t know where to turn. It’s with this post, that I hope my friends – especially the teachers, administrators and parents – will realize how much they can help: One kind word, or one moment of intervention, can change a kid’s life forever.
The reality of bullying is that you don’t always know the impact it will have on a person’s life. But trust me, it will always have some sort of impact.
This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people in the U.S. experience. Clever Girls is proud to support Bully, a film directed by Sundance- and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch. Bully is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary—at its heart are those with the most at stake and whose stories each represent a different facet of this bullying crisis. Website: www.thebullyproject.com
About the film:
Following five kids and families over the course of a school year, the film confronts bullying’s most tragic outcomes, including the stories of two families who’ve lost children to suicide and a mother who waits to learn the fate of her 14–year-old daughter, incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With rare access to the Sioux City Community School District, the film also gives an intimate glimpse into school buses, classrooms, cafeterias and even principles offices, offering insight into the often-cruel world of children, as teachers, administrators and parents struggle to find answers.
Bullying can affect you in many ways. You may lose sleep or feel sick. You may want to skip school. You may even be thinking about suicide. If you are feeling hopeless or helpless or know someone that is, please call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Be kind to people,