On this Thursday I don’t find myself reminiscing over some great adventures or fun times with friends. I find myself drawn back to the dark days of my youth, days that I thought had died but which lingered too far into my adulthood.
To say I was bullied in school isn’t a revelation and it certainly isn’t a call for sympathy or support. It was what it was. It happened in my high school years and it was awful, and it was lonely, and no one gave a damn and no one would have stopped it had I asked. It was a different time and as much as we’d all like to act as if we are crusaders and would have stopped all injustice as young people most of us didn’t. Most of us couldn’t. We all had our own bones to boil back then and I don’t harbor any manner of resentment. Things were what they were and I survived and that’s what matters. A lot of kids had it worse. I had a lot going on in my head and I certainly need the unwanted attention but a lot of kids have had it worse. A lot of kids don’t survive.
The sad thing for me isn’t that I was bullied as a kid, because we change a LOT once we get out of that dome of high school and out into a bigger world we can make our places in, no, it’s that I was bullied as an adult. Bullied by people I had called friends and loved ones. Bullied to the point where they mocked my father having cancer and a cousin dying. Bullied so that they tried to undermine relationships I was in. I was afraid to go to certain places because there was a good chance there would be a confrontation that would get physical. I was targeted not by a person but by a group. I remember being somewhere and having a woman come sit with our party speak to the people I was with only to have her announce that she was going to be in trouble with her husband for coming over because of me. There’s more, but you have a pretty good picture of things. I was well into my twenties by this point and near to thirty. It’s a long story and one that never quite ended and that’s the thing. THAT is the thing.
These people never changed. Never grew up. Never became better people. Sometimes bullies are just bullies. They are shitty people who do shitty things. Sure, some of them you can back down. Some you can knock down. And some you can avoid. But what does it say that these people were beloved by their friends and family, these people that took me back to the bad days of my youth. I worked awfully hard to get over my past only to have it return a hundred fold. That’s fucked up. But again, these people still have friends that think their natures are charming, that the bullying is funny. Oh, it’s all just fun. Yeah, it’s a laugh riot. And these people were proud of the pain they inflicted and damage they did. There is so much nothing within them that they felt it a source of pride to know they could hurt someone. Always a sign of great character, right?
I have known too many people that have scars, deep scars, from bullies. There are some who don’t survive. Too many who don’t survive. Yet we condone these people. We laugh. When it’s online we encourage it. Online bullying, something I first learned about almost ten years ago, isn’t new, it’s just worse. We call these people trolls, because most just want to get a rise out of people. Not all of them. Some just want to burn everything around them because of some broken thing in themselves. Some people just want to hurt everything around themselves. And some, some just think it’s funny.
I still think of the people who put me through this. Still marvel at how beloved they are. Still tend to avoid certain places at certain times. I am older. I am bigger. I am meaner. But deep down I am the same kid. The problem never went away, I just don’t see them anymore. And it’s better that way. Bullies tend to create other bullies if we aren’t careful. I sometimes wonder how different I am from the people targeted me. I worry that sometimes I have done to people what they did to me. I hope not. But the sad fact is that our society is becoming fuller and fuller of bullies. People who take pride in the pain they instill. People who think that they’re just ‘keeping it real’ or who have convinced themselves that badgering someone with a different opinion or outlook is some sort of duty. There’s something dark in these people that love can’t seem to conquer. And I pity them. But part of me still hates them as well.
Things are what they are but they don’t have to be that way. We don’t have to accept bullies, or encourage them, or become them. We don’t have to shrug it off. We’re all better than that. We’re better than this. If we want to be, that is. If we can start with taking a step back and thinking about what we say to others online, that’s a start. If we can then start to pay attention to how we treat one another and how those around us treat people, that’s another step. A BIG step. But the only way to stop a bully is to rally around the bullied, something we are also doing more than we used to. So there’s hope. There is hope. I guess there’s always hope.
I just hope the kids of today can survive this Age of Bullies and hope all of us are willing to come together to hold up those kids and adults who find themselves under siege from bullies from time to time.Maybe if we all hold on to a little of that pain we experienced as kids we can better see what we’re doing to one another, and maybe start to push back against this culture of bullying that seems to be growing by the day.
I write books. They are sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always weird. Some are horror, some are fairy tales, and one is for kids.