There’s so much in the media lately about bullying and I have to admit that sometimes I think that it’s a little bit much. Haven’t there always been bullies and haven’t we always just had to deal with it? Isn’t it just part of growing up and part of life? I always think of the Back to the Future movies – when George McFly decks Biff in the parking lot – and we all wish someone had done it sooner, but we all cheered when George finally stood up for himself. I guess I always think of bullying as being something that happens only in school, so imagine my surprise when I got to deal with it as an adult.
It’s been a long, long time since I have been in school and I only had a couple of experiences with bullies. There was a girl in sixth grade that decided she didn’t like me for some reason. I started at the public school in the middle of the school year, after transferring from a private Baptist school (more on that in another post). First day of school I wore green corduroy jeans, a rainbow v-neck sweater with a green turtle neck, and a long necklace I had borrowed from my mom’s jewelry box. Clearly, this was reason enough for her to treat me like less of a human being and say ugly things about me. I told my mom about her and she said, “Just kill her with kindness, Angela”. I took to saying hello to her every time I saw her, and saying nice things about her clothes or hair or whatever. Within a couple of weeks, the girl decided I wasn’t a freak and that maybe her and I could be friends. Kindness seemed to work in the sixth grade. Flash forward to junior high, and Tina was a ninth grader that decided she hated me and told other kids she was going to beat me up. We rode the same bus and for weeks I was terrified that I was going to get my ass kicked in the middle of my suburban neighborhood. I tried saying hello to Tina several times, which was greeted with a flick of a cigarette and a scowl. Kindness was not going to work with Tina. I was tired of being afraid, and as I exited the bus one day and heard ‘bitch’ whispered under her breath, I decided I had had enough. I turned to Tina and said, “If you want to call me a bitch, tell me to my face”. My heart pounded through my chest and I just knew that getting punched was going to hurt a lot. Tina got up in my face, and I waited for the pounding…which never came. But I stood my ground, and Tina never bothered me again.
Over 30 years have passed since Tina, or anyone for that matter, has tried to make herself feel bigger and better by making me feel smaller and lesser, and in the least likely of situations I found myself being bullied as an adult. Not by a stranger or a colleague, but by a relative. Out of respect for my other relatives that now know what happened, the bully shall remain nameless. And also because I think the bad guys and antagonists in our world get way too much press time, and his name will not be getting any press time in my blog. My blog, my rules.
It started with what seemed like just a bit of a control issue – being told what knife to use in the kitchen, a sarcastic comment about how I was doing something, and a simple twisting of my words. All of these episodes were with other people around and were easily written off as “just how he is” or “he can be a bit OCD”. But a bully is often like a predator – and this bully waited until we were alone and he had found some extra courage in a keg of Budweiser. I was immediately attacked with his words and negativity. A simple miscommunication had sent him into a tizzy and I was the one to blame. I always try to think the best of people, so assumed he was tired and stressed, and tried to defuse the situation with kindness – not a big deal, I can return the item in the morning, I didn’t know. Each of these offers of kindness was met with a verbal attack on my intelligence, my intentions and my mother. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I felt myself stand a little taller – until finally the last straw and the bully became demeaning, ugly and hateful about my mother. And I told him that he was being ugly and hateful. Through the derogatory comments and interrogating questions, I gathered up my things and when asked where I was going, I simply stood my ground, said, ‘I will not be treated this way’and walked out the door into the night. I’m still not sure how I managed to carry everything at once, but I’m crediting adrenaline and anger.
I don’t understand people that are mean and hateful. I don’t understand why some people feel better by making other people feel worse. I am thankful that I don’t have people like this in my daily life and that when I do come across them, I can choose to not make them a part of my life. I am thankful that I have a kind and loving husband that is truly a knight in shining armor. I am thankful that I am a runner and that it has helped develop a confidence in me that is (almost) unshakable. I am thankful that running keeps me on an even keel and full of energy, ambition and positive attitude.
I refused to put up with a bully last night, and his attempts to beat me down and control me failed! I am strong and determined and I will not be bullied!