present participle of bul·ly
Verb: Use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
This is merely one of many definitions of bullying. But it is close enough to what we all recognize. I think bullying is a lot like porn. Hard to define exactly but you know it when you see it.
My book club is reading Dear Bully and I must say that it is proving difficult to finish. I am only about 25% of the way through and have been inspired to write this entry. Not to mention all the unpleasant emotions that have reared their ugly heads.
If you would have asked me two weeks ago if I had been bullied in my lifetime I would have looked you straight in the eye and said no. I would not have been lying to you but rather lying to myself.
I usually cry for one of a few reasons: I am Happy. I am Sad. I am moved to such degree that words fail me and this is the only response I can muster or there is a very tender button that is being jack hammered by circumstance.
I think the later speaks to this situation. I have had to stop reading this book at work because for some reason it might draw undue attention to myself when I have tears running constantly down my cheeks. Go figure.
We all have our coping mechanisms and here is one of mine. When there are very painful situations or high anxiety moments I do my best to deal with them, gleaning lessons to be learned. I then wash and dry, them starch and iron them and neatly fold them, placing them in a beautiful box somewhere down and to the right of my awareness. Things are tidy but there is a problem.
Because I do this I do not always readily remember specific names and situations but am left with a vague sense of dread when thrown into certain situations. I tend to avoid people and situations that reek of turmoil. Thus my responses appear on the outside to be great leaps of intuition or bizarre avoidance. When reality they are an intricate dance between my conscious and unconscious minds.
I am not sure how effective this is but it definitely keeps me from carrying around anger and resentment. I am not always consciously aware of why I take certain actions but I sometimes fear that my unwillingness to try again makes my life a little smaller and causes me to miss out on good things.
So I will recount a few of my experiences of bullying…
In first grade I had a friend. I loved her and would never have dreamed of hurting her in any way. I really wish I could remember her name, Lynn comes to mind. Being six I know that when I wore a skirt one if my favorite things to do was to spin around and around while my skirt flared out around me. So when Lynn wore an ankle length skirt to school I was ecstatic . We ran ran off together and found a place where we would have plenty of room and began to spin like dervishes. In our excitement I took the hem of her skirt in my hands and began to lift it up and down allowing it to billow in the breeze. We both continued to giggle and squeal until the bell rang.
On our way in I passed Billy the stereotypical class bully. He had a crush on Lynn and did not appreciate us having so much fun together. I was later called to the hall way by my teacher who told me Billy told her I wad pulling Lynn’s skirt up and based on this alone, despite my protests, without talking to anyone else she paddled me. My heart was broken. I was the student that sat front row center with my hand shooting up in the air at every opportunity. I no longer trusted my teacher. I don’ t think I ever spoke to Lynn again.
Come 5th grade I developed much sooner than my classmates and had to endure the leers and taunts of my male classmates. Their favorite pet name for me was Dolly Parton so you get the picture.
Around this same time I developed a friendship with a girl named A. She had flaming red hair and was one, if not the most popular girl in my school. For the life of me, I can not why such a thing occurred. Although a social butterfly on the outside A had her problems. A’s parents were wealthy by comparison to our rural neighbors. Her family owned land. Her Father was superintendent of schools and her mother worked for the county extension office in some capacity. Although her parents kept her in all the latest style of clothes and her hair always smelled of Paul Mitchell watermelon shampoo, A was unhappy. She was adopted and I think struggled with feelings of rejection. This caused her to be petulant, moody, and unable to appreciate her abundance. There were many raised voices in her house, even around company.
When we were alone, we got along like a house on fire. We would jump on the trampoline for hours giggling as we fell exhausted on our backs cloud gazing. We would play endless games of Monopoly in her tree house feasting only on what we could sneak out of the kitchen. However, when ever we interacted with a group it was like she did not even know me.
At the Halloween slumber party, the 4H lock in, and most of the time at school we were strangers. I am sure our parents thought we were the best of friends and found it curious when my family moved out of state why I did not keep up our relationship.
Bullying is not just child’s play. There have also been adults that have taken it upon themselves to say and do things that are out of line. I once went to an adult bible study where I wore a very beautiful chemise with a shirt over it but unbuttoned. Evidently one of the older women there felt my outfit was lewd and did not hesitate to take it upon herself to say something about it to me in front of everyone. I was mortified and went home where I cried, took off the shirt which I never wore again and did not discuss it with anyone. I need to add that as a young girl I was about as conservative as you could get not to mention self conscious beyond all bounds so I find it hard to believe that what I wore was inappropriate.
Sometimes you are the Bully and sometimes you are the Bullied. I may need to have some conversations with my siblings.