Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bullying - Dot, 70

My experience of being bullied began with a girl stealing my shoes when I left the school bus.  This girl tortured me from September to April of my 8th grade.  She called me names and threatened me daily with her fists.  Although everyone in my small, coal mining town were pretty much in the same economic status, there seemed to be a pecking order to our life styles.  Ann lived on the "other side of the tunnel" rather than on the "other side of the tracks."  Her verbal abuse was excessive, and she clamored to get others on "her bandwagon."  Some joined her; others did not.  Although the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me," was taught to me at a young age, being called "fat" or "Tina the elephant" made me cringe inside and are frozen in time and eternally seen in my mind's eye when the topic of being bullied comes up in conversation.

Everyday for nearly the whole school year, Ann threatened to "beat me up."  I ran breathlessly every day the whole way home only to explain to my mother that I wanted to watch American Bandstand on TV, but the truth of the matter was Ann threatened me with her mouth and fists every day on our long walk (or run) home.  The final assault came after Easter holiday when I sported my new, first high-heeled dress shoes.  I begged my mother to allow me to wear them to school.  They were the new pointed variation that ruined a generation of feet; however, they were the high fashion of their day, and every teenage girl just had to have them.

I altered my time to go to the bus stop to avoid Ann's torment by watching her pass my home.  Of course, that made my walk (or run) to the school bus more rushed, but at least I avoided Ann's warnings of threats. On our way home there was no altering of that time to hide and watch for the "wrath of Ann H."  What a name to recall from permanent ghosts that were stamped and embedded in my memory bank.

As soon as I boarded the bus and my friends commented on my new shoes, I looked at the face of my bully.  She mouthed the words, "I will get you and your shoes on our way home from the bus."  She kept her promise and beat me up, stealing my new shoes.  The secret of my flight home everyday had to be revealed as I arrived in a disheveled mess with no shoes on my feet.  As could be expected, Ann's family dismissed the event/s as, "Kids will be kids."  My shoes were returned to me, and I never wore them to school again.  The time and place are frozen in time for me, but I'm sure Ann has long forgotten the event.  I wonder what ever happened to Ann H.  I know what happened to me.

My life has been filled with wonderful experiences and people who have been kind to me, and I never bullied anyone because I learned how hurtful and damaging bullying can be.  As a teacher, it was a high priority to protect children from abuse of any kind.  My first purchase in establishing a classroom was a "Patch the Pony" kit called, "If someone hurts you, let a helper know," and "Nay, nay, from stranger stay away."

The opposite happens to many others, who grow to be mean bullying persons, who inflict pain on others, who bend and break and commit suicide rather than outlast and surpass the tormentors of their youth.  How can man's inhumanity go on and on to do harm to our sensitive and fragile citizens?  It does seem those are the children who suffer the most—the sensitive ones.  They seem to be labeled "prime for the pickin'" by those bullies.  We place "fragile" on cardboard boxes to warn us of things that can break but do not alert our children to not make fun of other children on school buses, playgrounds, and schools.

Although the topic of bullying has reached peak interest in our day of rapid communication and technology, it is not a new phenomenon.  As early as the last 1800s, writers have written about the impact of childhood experiences affecting children for the rest of their lives.  One writer said, "The impact of early memories lasts forever." It imprints the soul with indelible ink.  This is not necessarily a negative effect on a person as many famous persons have grown to be successful in spite of or in response to many bullying experiences.

As I watched an early television personality, I recalled Michael Strahan, remembering how his friends and brothers made fun of him.  They called him "fat butt," "bubble butt," "fatty," and many other nicknames.  He grew to be a great football player, a TV host, and sports commentator in spite of his tooth placement that makes his speech pattern a lisp.  Who's laughing now?

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