Monday, October 4, 2010

this inquiring mind wants to know

Many of you already know that I was bullied as a child and a teen. Some of you witnessed it. Some of you experienced bullying alongside me. Those of you who have only met me in this space may have read my stories, or other blog posts about my experiences as a child. The thing is, I am not finished writing about them. I may never be finished...those memories still permeate almost every story I write, in one way or another. They creep into my consciousness when I least expect it. They shaped me, in both positive and negative ways, into who I am today.

Like most people, I am appalled by the recent rash of bullying-related suicides. We live in a society that permits children to hate, that condones violence and name-calling because someone is different in some way. But I am guessing that many of my readers, for a variety of reasons, were also bullied as children. I think that even those who were identified as bullies were bullied in some way, by other groups of people, by family members, by the system itself. If this experience is so common, why is it perpetuated, generation after generation? Why is it somehow codified into our education system as "rites of passage" or "hazing" or "initiation" or "freedom of expression" when the very act of singling out an individual or group because they do not conform to an arbitrary standard causes known and lasting damage? Can cause children, who should be safe and accepted for who they are to take their own lives?

Today I want to hear from my readers. What are your stories? Were you bullied as a child? Did it, indeed, get better? I want to start a conversation, and see where it takes us. I allow anonymous comments, so if you are too shy to identify yourself, please leave a comment anyways. But be warned: bullying will not be tolerated in this space.


Anonymous said...

My sister continues to bully me, to this very day. She's 43 years old and should be ashamed of herself. She is a bitter, dramatic, unhappy woman, and has told me to my face that I am not better than a "fucking welfare case" for running to the government to get help to lose weight (Weight Loss Surgery). I called her last weekend to tell her that Dan and I are getting married and asked if she would come to the wedding. She said to me "you hate my husband, I hate you, I won't be there". So yeah........the bullying continues, and I'm 45 years old. But anymore.......I let it go in one ear and out the other, because I know she has an unhappy life, and that she is just a jealous bitch :) And THAT is the truth!!!

As you know yourself Anna, I too was made fun of because of my weight. You saw it first hand too. And where are these people now? I can tell you this much.......they are not near as fulfilled as either you or I are :) And bittersweet justice :)

Luv Sharyl.

Redbone210 said...

The earliest I can remember, I had a friend in 5th grade names Dana. She was the coolest, most stylish, prettiest girl in class. She was also the meanest. We were some of the tallest people in the class, so we were always paired up together in line. One minute, she was my very best friend - the next she was a bully, screaming and pinching and being horrible to me and others. Looking back, I wonder if she had some form of emotional or psychological problem.

One day, a mom saw how Dana was treating me on the playground and confronted her. I was too terrified to tell her what was happening, so I just denied how I was being treated. This seems to be a common theme in my life unfortunately. I felt so powerless and frightened and alone, even though this stranger reached out to me.

I’ve not always been nice to people when growing up. I’ve been unkind and rude at times. But the older I get and less self-absorbed I become, the more I realize how important it is to respect other people. To choose to be kind to someone just because. To take care of others who may feel the way that I felt that awful day.

B said...

Oh, yeah.... 7th grade. Two girls named Natalie and Jocelyn stole my billfold out of my gym locker. How they got in, I'll never know. They tried to flush it down the toilet. All my photos of family and friends from my old school were ruined. I never reported it. I never did one thing to them to deserve it. Still hurts right here <3.

Camlin said...

@ Sharyl - yes. You were there, so you know what it was like.

@ redbone - they prey on those who feel powerless and alone, and their actions make the bullied feel more isolated and less confident. A vicious cycle.

@ B - that would hurt!

Kalisis Rising said...

I'm not sure that the bullying I endured is anywhere near what kids deal with today. In elementary school, I was the girl who chased the boys away. I could only hang out with the 'cool' girls if I did their dirty work. Thankfully, in high school, I was just a smart nerd, but managed to blend in and not affront anyone too much. There were others, for whom blending in wasn't as easy, and they took the brunt of that bullying.

I'm saddened by these suicides, although I really understand that darkness. It must be doubly worse as a teenager, with even less control over one's own life. The current political climate is doing nothing to help these kids either, what with us being portrayed all sorts of ways as we push for equality. I think this might be one of the first times in history that a push for equality by the seniors of one group has so negatively affected the youth of a movement.

The question is how do we draw them in and give them purpose within our movement? How do we include them in this fight, help them own it and see it as theirs? How do we engage them and ask their help and give them meaningful jobs to do, without 'outing' them or upsetting their religious parents?

I do believe it gets better. It's gotten better for me and I just barely turned 30. There is more freedom now, for me to be who I am, than even a dozen years ago when I graduated high school. But these kids have a bigger burden, we are, as Americans, ingrained with "Manifest Destiny" and the thought that we deserve to be who we are. Yet, for all the progress that we've made and the safety that I feel, as a white, middle-class, suburban woman to come out and be free to be who I am, the oppression for many of my fellow LGBT brethren is intense. So, they're stuck - be who you are, but not so much that it offends anyone in the community.

Even if you think the "It Gets Better" campaign is silly, at least it's a lifeline, showing LGBT people of all ages, shapes, races, backgrounds in a future sense. There is a way to identify and see hope and progress. I remember, as a teenager, I bought this book in secret, pictures of lesbian couples and that book, those pictures of smiling, happy women, sitting side by side, holding hands, hugging, touching, being who they were, those images pulled me through some questionable times because they instilled hope in me. Hope that I could leave that middle America hellhole where I was expected to be "everything", but also "nothing" all at the same time.

Sorry, Cam, this got long, but I've been thinking about this a lot as it's gone around the blogosphere.

Camlin said...

I don't think the "it gets better" campaign is silly - I am so awestruck by the number of people who were there - and who reached out to those who suffer in silence.

I wish - for all of us, no matter our ages or life circumstances - that the diversity that is everywhere could be embraced for the healthy reality that it is. I also think that teens live in the present moment and they need help now - as you said, they need to feel that sense of purpose and belonging that most of us yearn for. It's a bit easier to find it in a larger centre (where I live, there are a number of programs and services for LGBT youth and there are two universities with all kinds of programs). But it's much harder for youth who live in isolated areas, small towns and villages where there is no one to connect with, no group to identify with. This is where the internet, and campaigns like "it gets better" will do the most good...even if one teen changes their minds it's all wothwhile.

But I also hope for a broader solution, a societal change that condemns any kind of bigotry and hatred. I think I might be waiting a bit longer for that....

Zebsmom said...

I was bullied as a child! That should not come as a surprise as I have to wonder who wasn't? I think it has been the way of the world for longer than anyone living can remember. It is an unfortuate thing about being a child, an adolesent, an adult. How many people go about life and then enter the working world just to be faced with a bully who has total control over your pay cheque? It is just one more thing about humans that is not pleasant, but nonetheless is.

I am concerned with the number of children and young adults that truly feel that the only way out of the embarassment and constant attacks is to take their own lives. Where are we failing as a society? This did not happen when I was a kid, at least we never heard about it. Some of my idea's on that is as follows.

We have become a society where the betterment of others is not in our minds...we do for us and no one else. Sad but very true.

People have become so focused on being the Jones that they run around like chickens with their heads cut off and blinders on. No one is in their vision except that bigger house, that wider flat screen, and that amazing summer home.

I also think that we forget what it means to really teach our children, and also to teach them wrong from right. When I was being raised I learned discipline. I was expected to do certain things in my home, and to respect my elders. I was taught, although in all the wrong ways, to treat others with respect and to not do things that would hurt others. I think we fail in these areas. Parents today honestly think if I don't hear about it, it means that everything is okay. There are no parents participating in their childrens can they? They are too busy being the Jones, remember. We also don't teach self respect with our children. We need to spend more time finding what makes our kids tick than to stick them in all the classes we can afford and just know that they are there for the next hours so I can go get some shopping done.

We do need to inform our children that all this gets better, but isn't that a message we have all heard all of our lives? Does it really make it easer?? No. What we need to do in get involved. Find out where our kids shine! If they love to dance, set them up in dance classes and if they are really good at it, they will make a group of friends that will boost their self esteem. Find the kids that will stand by your kid and above everything else...keep talking, keep looking, keep your eye on the prise. And for the love of all that you find holly make that prise your kid.

Just my humble opinion.

poet said...

been reading your blog a while now, and am quite enjoying it. this topic is a hard one to post about, for i was bullied in jr. high. i was one of three new students in the whole school (small rural school where everyone was related somehow to everyone else) i stood out like a sore thumb, easy target. gr 7, 8,9,10 were pure hell for me. i had gone to the principal's office on more than one occasion, only to be asked what "I did to provoke the attacks". um excuse me? WTF??? in gr. 11 i had my first nervous breakdown, and suffered from depression from i guess 14 to present day. (actually i don't "suffer" from my depression anymore -- paxil works for me--) i wished that someone would have stood up for me back then. but that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? that part of my life is over now....the past is gone forever, learn from it and move forward. there are many parts of my life that fall into that category. anyway, just my 2 cents (canadian) for you. make today GREAT~