“R.I.P.: High School Jerks”
I would say that through my junior high and high school career, I had four real consistent bullies. Well, at least four people come to mind. There were plenty of other minor players, but four serious ones.
One sat behind me in history class. He would flick the back of my head and ears, he would make that fake sound that he was spitting on my back, and he would call me fag, faggot, and queer. He made it really hard for me to pay attention in class and learn anything. He was also in my gym class. He would always hit me harder than needed for whatever sport we were playing. He died in a car accident our senior year.
Another bully called me the all standard names, but also added hard shoves into the school hallway walls. I was very small compared to everyone else my sophomore year, my mother bought a winter jacket for me that was on the big side with anticipation of my growth. The first day I wore it to school, this bully asked me while he was standing in front of the class if the jacket was my boyfriends. He sat in the front of the class right near the door and the clock, the obvious direction that everyone would look. He would embarrass me by telling me loud enough for the whole class to hear to stop looking at him. Then he would turn to a friend and say how gross it was that I was checking him out, I obviously was not. I rearranged my entire route between classes to avoid going down the hallway where his locker was. He did and said things to me that he knew annoyed and upset me and he clearly got pleasure in my torment. He was instrumental in me hating myself, my school, my town, and my life. He died last month. They never say why people die in the newspaper.
One is a minister in Canada now, he sent some bullshit grace/bless message to our class for the high school reunion last year. Maybe he found a different path. Whatever. The other one is probably not dead.
I do not feel sad, I do not feel anything really. I guess I feel odd that people my age are dying in general. I guess that I feel sad that they are dead and the only thing that some people remember about them is that they were assholes in high school. That has got to suck because I know or at least hope that they got to love and be loved by someone. I hope they did. I hope that they got to experience passion and and deep connections to other humans. I hope that they managed to deal with the unmanaged fear or rage or whatever it was that caused them to strike out at people.
I do not believe in karma like that, it isn’t a fair trade. While I admit that they did make my school life horrible on purpose, I really do not think of them or what they did much anymore. I know that it is because of them that I went through a very rocky period in my late teens and early 20’s. I hated myself so much, I thought I was stupid and worthless and futureless. But I came out of it and it is because of that journey that I am who I am today. For the most part, I like who I am today.
I guess that I also am a bit sad that I will never have the chance to see and meet them now. That I do not have the chance to see their growth and change and say, “Think nothing of it, I know I don’t.”
That said, it is most important that parents do not dismiss their children when they say they are being bullied. Advice of ignoring it is horrible, it does not work. You have to understand what your child’s reality is. While it may seem trivial and no big deal to you as an adult, school and fellow classmates are your child’s entire reality. Being an outcast in your reality sucks. Being called horrible names day in and day out by the inhabitants of your reality really sucks. Do not expect the school to change anything. You need to teach your kids to fight, not necessarily physically, but fight for themselves as people who have just as much of a right to be there as they do and to be there unharnessed. And if it comes to it, fight physically to protect themselves. And if you are a parent, teach your kids to not be bystanders. When they see something happening, teach them to stick up for what is right. There were 30 other kids that sat silent in that classroom while one kid called me “fag” and knocked my books out of my arms every day. They did nothing. While it may not be your child that is the bully or the one being bullied, they can still change the situation.
For whatever reason, even in liberal non-confrontational Seattle, I still get called “fag” to this day, usually from across the street. If they are closer, I simply reply “I know. Does calling me names make you feel better about yourself?” It is a lot to take in all at once, so I have rarely had a reply. That, and I weigh 50 pounds more than I did in high school. That helps.