Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Bully Chronicles: Volume I

I was bullied in my Christian school from 5th to 11th grade.

Those six years stand out in stark contrast to the rest of my life. The verbal, emotional, and physical abuse I endured at the hands of those bullies shaped the rest of my life.

Those are the scars I bear everyday. Their familiar voices whisper to me. They tell me I’m fat, ugly, and that no one will ever love me. They chant my insecurities in chorus and laugh loudly at my failures. They try to remind me how I am, in every possible way, a ludicrous, disgusting mess.

My shame in being bullied lies mostly in the fact that one no one ever believed me. Not my wonderful parents, not my teachers, not my principal, and not my pastor. At first, I thought it would just go away. So, I tried to ignore it.

But when the lack of adult intervention caused the boys to become braver and more hostile, I began to complain to the adults in my life. Some told me to keep ignoring it, and it would go away.

Other adults told me that the boys “liked” me and that’s why they were “teasing” me. After being corralled into the gym’s ball closet and hit repeatedly in the head with basketballs by the bullies, I’m glad they didn’t “like” me all the way to a broken jaw.

My classmates were the only ones that knew the truth. But they were afraid. Afraid that if they stood up for me, they would become the bullies’ next target. And I couldn’t blame them. So they stood by and did nothing. Some of them even blamed me for things they had done to upset the bullies. And, of course, the bullies never believed my protestations of innocence, and punished me mercilessly anyway.

I’m detailing the bullies’ actions in my life stories collection, but I thought I could sketch them out here, one by one.

Elementary/Middle School
Main Bully – Josh
Henchman 1 – B
Henchman 2 – D

High School
Bully 1 – C
Bully 2 – J
Bully 3 – S

Let’s start with the lesser of all the evils, as posts about Josh could tend to get a bit long.

My high school bullies were a walk in the park compared to middle school. It was not a pleasant experience by any means, but infinitely more bearable.

My cousin Charity says I should “forgive and forget” what these guys did to me. I have to remind her that although she wasn’t popular in high school, these guys didn’t make fun of her for sport. They simply ignored her. I would have given anything to be ignored!

C, J, and S were all in the class ahead of me. Most of the time they left me alone (for which I was grateful, especially after my everyday harassment by Josh in middle school), but occasionally they dragged out their verbal bats and used me as their piƱata.

I remember two instances, specifically. These are (of course) not counting all the sarcastic remarks and guffaws made in public at my expense.

C, J & S all sat at the same table in the lunchroom. One day when I walked into the lunchroom, C stood up, pointed at me, and yelled, “Ahoy! It’s Moby Dick! Look at that blubber! Run for cover!” At that point, in a moment that must have taken a great deal of planning and choreographing, the entire high school dove under their lunch tables. I stood, alone, in the doorway.

I don’t know how I didn’t cry. I know I wanted to. Perhaps the hardest thing was seeing the faces of the people I considered my “friends” peeking out from under their tables. Their eyes were penitent, apologizing to me. But I was expected to understand, since I “knew how it was” if they didn’t “go along.”

A second vivid memory of C, J & S happened in the economics class the Junior and Senior classes shared. The highlight of the Junior/Senior Economic Class was the end of the year life-size Monopoly game. The economics teacher has created this wonderful game board, complete with giant dice, where members of the class were their own game pieces.

We worked the whole year with the promise of playing this game. It was a tradition in our high school.

We started to play the game, and at one point, our teacher had to leave the room and left C in charge. C began to mock me saying that I should represent “houses” on the board, since I was as large as a house. J chimed in saying that I should represent “hotels,” because they were even bigger. My face was burning with embarrassment while my classmates laughed.

They made me skip my turn the next few times, until the teacher eventually returned. At the end of the class, J was behind me walking out. He whispered, “Get out of my way. You’re so big I can’t even get around you.”

I held up pretty good all the way to the bathroom where I locked myself in a stall and cried until the ache went away.

There are other incidents, but those are the two I remember in detail. Now, I know there are a lot of people out there who had much worse experiences with high school bullies than mine. I send them my empathy.

But mine did hurt. Even a whale as large a Moby Dick can feel pain.

3 comments:

WendyJanelle said...

Ann-Marie,
I wish I could hug you. I just cannot even tell you how sick and sad and angry this makes me.

First, adults need to believe the kids. This is why child suicide rates are climbing. And teen massacres.

There is NO room for bullying. Frankly, if someone ever did something like that to one of my kids, Fred would ...hurt them. Badly.

Or we would move away. I agree with Dobson when he says that bullying cannot be tolerated, even if it means you move out of state or switch jobs so that your kids can go to a different school. This is not a rite of passage. It is cruel. And you may say that it "shaped the rest of my life," and that is true. You are an intelligent, witty, and compassionate person...but you didn't need to bear these scars to get you here.

This is one of the many reasons why we homeschool: Safety for mind, body, and soul.

Heidi said...

I empathize with you. I was a larger person too and was made fun of and few people stuck up for me either. Christian school? I don't think so.
That is why I am so obsessed with my weight. I am heavy still and hate every minute of it. Some experts say that to lose weight, you need to learn to like yourself, but that is near impossible.

Living Creatively said...

Ann-Marie,
Just wanted to let you know that I linked back to this. Bullying has hit too close to home. Again.
People need to be aware.
Thanks again for being such an open person.