Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Factoid: Bullying

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Were you ever bullied in school?

Oh yeah. You better believe I was bullied.

I don't think it was incredibly intense. I don't recall being the specific target of any large-scale bullying campaigns or anything, but you know, you do the math. I'm quiet and small and daydreamed a lot and read a lot and took advanced classes. People like me were always targets.

I don't recall any extensive physical bullying, thankfully. I did have a boy in fourth grade who used to try to touch me on the playground (petting my hair and stuff) and when I'd run away from him he'd chase me, catch up to me easily, and then put both hands on my shoulders from behind and jump so his weight went down on me and I'd fall. He also used to pester me to give him my snacks in the classroom. I told the teacher and she got him to stop, though I also got to hear from other people that I should find it flattering because he probably liked me.

When I was older, in middle school, there was a boy whose last name was so close to mine that we were always next to each other if lockers or seats were arranged in alphabetical order. He was an absolute ass, and used to do stuff like waiting until I was done with an assignment before leaning over and scribbling on my paper with a pen so I'd have to copy it over, or wiping spit on me, or one time he hit his own head on my locker door when he wasn't looking and he blamed me for it (and "punished" me for it by slamming my own locker door against me so I had a bruise, and weirdly he called me a "faggot" while he was doing it, so I guess he didn't know what that word meant). 

That same guy used to chase and kick my best friend, and I mean they would kick each other very hard and practically wrestle. I counted myself lucky that no one would do that to me, but she was bigger than him and I guess maybe it's not very satisfying to hit or hurt someone who's really small. When we were in high school he tried to be nice and sociable to me and I didn't accept it.

Boys who rode my bus in middle school latched onto harassing me pretty early on. These two clowns from my neighborhood would sit behind wherever I sat, and they would make fun of me for not having friends to sit with. One of them would lean over the seat and ask me over and over again "Are you a loner?" and then both boys would laugh. One day one of them put gum in my hair and everyone laughed at me for crying about it. I was also again told that these boys liked me and didn't know how to show it.

I'm not really sure if the bullying "stopped" in high school or if I just didn't give a crap? I had a lot of other stuff going on and had things to be passionate about, I guess. I was also more confident and had more friends around me who had common interests, so I guess I looked like less of a target. I did tend to be friends with people who weren't typical, though, so I guess I'd occasionally deal with nonsense, but nothing like elementary and middle school.

I did have a couple weird little incidents in college, though. And again, it was a symptom of being alone, apparently. In music school we were required to be in an ensemble, and for singers that meant choral groups. I auditioned to get into the audition-only selective group, University Choir, figuring if I didn't get in I'd just join one of the open groups, but I did get in. Which, unbeknownst to me at the time, meant singing with people much older than me (upperclassmen and grad students). I believe there were two freshmen in the group of fifty. So I didn't know anyone from my classes.

I took to reading before class and during class breaks instead of talking to people around me--most of my interactions with the older sopranos around me were weirdly antagonistic, so I kept to myself. At the end of the year there was a sort of unofficial yearbook that someone made, and it had some photos of the members. All of the photos of other people were with groups, smiling or posing, and then there was a shot of me, by myself, reading. I don't think there was a caption. At an event celebrating the culmination of the year, I got a gag award for being an airhead. It was called the "Hello! Up here!" award. Yeah, I got to get called to a podium during an event and receive the "award." That's a really gross thing to do. Though I do recall that a bunch of the awards were in poor taste. (I don't remember the title of this one, but one girl received an "award" that implied no one knew who she was or could remember her name unless you refer to her by the size of her boobs.)

There was also this dude in that class who took a liking to pestering me. He had a girlfriend and was a frat boy, but people I talked to about it STILL said he must just be an unconfident guy who didn't know how to talk to girls. (I'm really, really sick of that narrative.) I actually forget what he even did. I just remember he'd come find me and say inappropriate things to me and then laugh when I didn't like it. And the interactions always felt like he thought we were playing, but I'd make it clear I didn't want to play and didn't like him, and he'd still give me the "you know you like it" nonsense. Weirdly, this bully had a redemption. We did Secret Santas in our choral group, and I have a history of getting secret partners who literally give me nothing or get me something inappropriate (in Girl Scouts my secret pal never got any gifts for me except ONE time and it was a candy cane pen--for the girl who doesn't celebrate Christmas). But that year I got a couple really nice packages, including a tee shirt for a cartoon I liked.

When the secret partners were revealed, I found out not only was my Secret Santa this guy, but that he'd gone to the organizers and requested me. He wrote me a note saying he realized he'd been teasing me all year and had only recently realized that he'd gone too far and wanted to make it up to me. That was relatively cool of him. Still kinda felt like too little too late (and people somehow always manage to underestimate how small I am; the tee shirt was too big), but it's a way better story than most.

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