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Bully: A Movie, a Memory

“We have an obligation to change this. We can’t let intolerance and ignorance take another kid’s life. Things will get easier, people’s minds will change, and you should be alive to see it.”—Ellen DeGeneres. Taken from the, "It Gets Better" campaign.

With what seemed like most of Alameda, I went to go see the free screening of the documentary Bully Monday night, It was held at the and it was sponsored by Vice Mayor Rob Bonta.

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.

Mickey Neill May 11, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Nice article but I'd like to hear more about the q and a that went on after the movie.
Mickey Neill May 11, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Nice article, but I'd like to hear more about the Q and A that went on after the movie, because I was unable to attend
Kate Quick May 11, 2012 at 09:50 PM
The panel were all school people. They all said all the right things and indicated that they had active, and pro-active anti-bullying programs at their schools. They all encouraged reporting. I have seen kids being bullied on the playground at Washington School with an adult nearby doing nothing ( I went in and asked the adult to intervene). She was dismissive. I think there is a problem with kids and adults looking on and doing nothing. We all have to call each other on unacceptable behavior and adults have to model appropriate speech and demeanor for kids. We have some grown-ups in Alameda who are bullying others and nobody calls them on it. Some modeling.
Alana Dill May 11, 2012 at 10:22 PM
For the record, I've been an observer; I've been bullied; I've defended others against bullying, and I'm ashamed to say that a few times as a kid I actively participated in bullying others, and when my mom found out, she tore me a new one. This was good, because she made me swear I'd stand up for people who are defenseless. Out of all the options I just named, defending others feels the best. If you haven't tried it... give it a shot. I've put in volunteer time at Otis and at Lincoln. Otis has student mentors, and Lincoln has "wallbreakers" and I'm sure other programs in place as well. But kids need to be reminded at this age, because they feel safer in herds, and sometimes the herd becomes a mob. There's a lot of bullying at Lincoln (physical or verbal aggression, sometimes disguised as horseplay or teasing). If I see bullying I'll put a stop to it, but there are 900+ students on the grounds any one day, and there's no way staff can watch all of them. While I am probably the world's most embarrassing parent, I wish there were more embarrassing parents out there. Your kid may say they don't want you to volunteer on campus, but do it anyway, if you possibly can. You'll learn a lot, and you might help someone think twice about either bullying, or internalizing a bully's message. Just my two bits. :-) Nice article!
a94501er May 12, 2012 at 03:11 AM
The movie is very timely ... especially given Mitt Romney's bullying skills (even though this was several decades ago, still speaks to his character. http://dailykos.com/story/2012/05/11/1090813/-Mitt-Romney-childhood-actions-and-character http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/11/1090821/-The-bully-s-bully-Mitt-Romney-s-consigliere-Eric-Fehrnstrom

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