Bullying has been in the news a great deal recently, with the suicides of young kids resulting from it. If you’ve never been bullied, it might be easy to dismiss it as ‘kids being kids,’ but I can attest to the long-lasting damage it leaves, even when suicide is not the immediate result, because I was bullied for several years.
Our elementary school bully just happened to live across the street from us. He was a big kid, and very, very smart. In fact, I heard that he grew up to be a lawyer. Believe me, I was more relieved than I could ever say when we moved at the end of sixth grade, leaving the eastern US behind to live in Arizona, because I had become his favorite target. If this kid had acted alone, perhaps his harassment wouldn’t have mattered so much, but, of course, he led a group of boys. They clustered together, riding bikes around the neighborhood, running home from school as a gang, and backing up each others’ pranks. Even though these other boys didn’t have his vindictiveness, they still followed him and his sidekick, copying them, repeating their words.
The emotional scars from being tripped constantly in the classroom, from being stalked by his gang of boys, and from their nasty words didn’t go away when we moved. If anything, they intensified as I moved through my teen years, which are difficult enough for any girl, but which were made more difficult because my self-confidence had been eroded day after day for so long. Even though I knew he’d said things to get my goat, even though half the girls in my elementary school hated him and his gang (well, maybe more than half hated him along with a lot of the boys), and even though my brother and others had tried to protect me from them, I’d felt hopeless, helpless, and vulnerable. My mother would tell me not to let his words affect me, but she wasn’t there, dealing with his sneer and his deliberate nastiness.
Looking back, I’m sure he learned his behavior from his older brother and sister, who probably learned it from their parents. He didn’t become that way without suffering under a constant barrage of demeaning words, pushing, poking, and tripping, plus jokes told at his expense. He didn’t seem insecure to me at the time, but no doubt his arrogant stance and behavior hid his true feelings. He didn’t know any other way to behave. As one of the smallest girls in the class, and his competitor for the top grades, I made a perfect target.
All things are fair in fiction. This bully, Kenneth, for no one I knew ever called him Ken or Kenny, gives me wonderful material to use in my writing. You’ll see. Read the next chapter in Golden Threads: Bullies. Or, if you haven’t been following along, find all previous chapters by clicking the novel’s title: Golden Threads.
How about you? Were you every bullied? Did you know someone who was, or who did the bullying? Comments are always welcome. And, yes, I know that I’ve barely even scratched the surface of this topic.