I read reviews and watched the trailer beforehand so I fully knew what I was getting into. Meaning, I'm glad I brought my box of Kleenex, because I needed it. Even though at times it was hard to watch, I’m glad I went and I’m extremely glad I saw it with my family. The movie has sparked many conversations in our house this week. Mostly from our girls, 10 and 12, but between my husband and myself as well.
Was I ever bullied? Yes. But thankfully, nothing like what they showed in the movie. (Note to self: VERY glad I never had to ride a school bus to and from school!)
In middle school, there was a girl who liked a boy who liked me. We were only friends, but she was having none of it. Regardless of the fact that he did not like her romantically, she hated me. It started with crank calls, then she started demanding that I meet her at so she could “beat my ass.”
Here’s the crazy part. I’d always go.
Please don’t ask me why I’d show up. Maybe it was because I thought if she just got to know me, she would realize I was no threat to her. Maybe because I didn’t want to be thought of as a coward. Again, I have no logical answer for you.
Funny part is, it never happened. The ass beating, that is.
Sometimes we’d be alone, sometimes we’d bring a friend, but every time, nothing happened. She might call me names but just as often, she would hang back, then leave. This happened two or three times, but by our last encounter, I’d had enough.
She called and, per usual, she told me to meet her at the park. But this time I spoke back.
“What for? So you can do NOTHING?”
I didn’t stick up for myself because I had gone all Karate Kid and suddenly learned martial arts but because I was inherently lazy and didn’t want to walk all the way to the park for no reason.
Alas, she told me I’d better go, “or else!” So off I went.
Guess what? She was a no-show! That’s right, she didn’t even bother to show up! Oh man, I came unhinged. She made me get up for nothing! Fuming, I stormed home and finally told my mom and sister what was was up.
Soon after, the phone rang. I knew exactly who it was before I answered. I ran to the phone and picked it up. With no stopping for breaths, I yelled something like:
“What's wrong with you! Stop calling me! Don't you have better things to do than walk to the park? Well, I do! I was watching TV! Do you know how often I get to watch TV? Never! So stop calling me! Never call me again! Do you hear me? Never!"
SLAM went the phone and, miraculously, the bullying stopped.
That’s the thing about those old rotary phones. They could take a beating. You could really slam ‘em down and make an impact! Sigh, those were the good ol' days.
A few years ago, I got an Facebook message from said bully. To her credit, it was a very nice note and she apologized. I did not reply. I can’t say that I never thought of her again, I have, but it’s long over and I’d like to keep it that way.
Now, was I ever a bully? I honestly feel I can say no. I was something worse. I was a bystander. I was one of the many at Edison, and then at Lincoln, who did nothing when bullying was happening. Two bullied individuals stand out in my mind and I have frequently thought of them throughout my life. I am so ashamed that I turned my back on them and pretended nothing was wrong. I never spoke out in their behalf. I was weak.
According to The Bully Project, 13 million kids will face bulling this year and 3 million will be absent because they feel unsafe at school. In short, their advice is that if your child or if someone you know is being bullied, don’t simply shove it under the rug. Give these kids the attention, confidence and support they need to be successful in these situations. Tell the appropriate authorities and do not let up until a positive, healthy change is made for everyone. Also, don’t be a bully. Don’t teach your kids that bullying is acceptable and please, don’t be a bystander. Trust me, it’ll haunt you.