>Image via WikipediaIn fairness to myself, I was never really a bully in my formative years. I was a good kid. I hung out with “the computer geeks” even though only one of us had a computer as I recall. My understanding of bullying is that it involves some amount of power on the part of the bully — physical strength, intelligence, etc. In other words, it’s not the activity of the powerless. I never really had much “power” or social cred in my school or groups.
However, a la Howard Gray, I could go along with a crowd. I remember who it was I never stood up for. It was a girl named Cindy. I had known Cindy for many years before we got to Jr. High. We had been in the same grade and so we knew each other. Cindy was obese. All through the years I knew her, she was obese. And I’m saying this as someone who was a big kid in school and remains big today.
But, Cindy was bigger. And, whereas, I could cover up my bigness with a big personality and some ability to play sports, Cindy, I don’t think, had any of it. And she was the butt of many a joke. She was the punch line. She was the person people were laughing at. I still remember a couple of those jokes at this time, even though I have tried very hard to get them out of my head. Even as I’ve been thinking about this today, it made me sad that I still remember how to join in and laugh along. I feel shame because of that.
Cindy took a lot of abuse. Now, I don’t know if it’s really true but a friend of mine said he saw a talk show in the early 90s and Cindy was on it. She had lost a bunch of weight and had said that the incessant teasing she had received in elementary and Jr. High School left her with a lot of emotional issues that she would be fighting for years. It is true that somehow Cindy was gone as we approached 9th grade. She wasn’t my friend and he absence was hardly noted by me or anyone that I was close to.
But, part of the damage that was done to her was mine. I laughed along. And I could have helped it stop. But, maybe peer pressure…my own lack of self-worth…or really just the desire to have someone lower on the social totem pole than myself kept me from speaking up.
I find my participation in the wounding of Cindy rather disturbing because I was one who knew what it was like to be bullied. From 2nd grade to 5th I had a nemesis in Adam and by the time I was in Jr. High, my friends and I were the ones who would have their playground equipment taken by older kids. In 9th grade, I was picked on in a Graphic Arts class and thrown against a machine…basically because I was an easy target. I was pretty strong, though and had more of an attitude than I let on in public.
So, I’m left to wonder… If I had known the pain of being picked on because I was a “geek”, why in the world would could I have let the bullying of Cindy or others go. One would think I would be first in line to stop the bullying from happening.
But I didn’t.
Maybe I can be first in line now.