Let me make this clear: before you read this and project all kinds of assumptions on me – I’m in a reasonably happy place in my life right now. I’m not going to apologize for that or qualify it; if another person having any kind of stability enrages you, something is wrong with you. What I talk about below is my own experience with daily, persistent bullying at home and at school. Once I got away from that environment, the bullying slowed down and stopped altogether when I moved to Minnesota. What I experience here is random, high context social violence. It still pisses me off, but it’s nothing like the persistent teardown I had to deal with living in Northwest Indiana. Nobody has a preconceived role for me here so no one has a reason to try to force me to be anything but myself. I would guess – I have no data for it – that most adults really affected by bullying are to some degree still repeating the relationships they established in childhood in one form or another, or are still in those relationships that encourage the pattern of repetition.
The above is a video by Shane Koyzan, talking about his experience with bullying – and the experiences of others. I’ve been pretty up-front that in my childhood I was the target of emotional and physical violence inside and outside the home. It made for an atmosphere of constant fear. As Shane notes, adults had an attitude in the 1980s and 1990s that kids that were bullied “needed” to experience it so they could learn to deal with the real world. Now we know that that’s just a symptom of how messed up and unsuitable for parenting those parents were. Because letting this stuff slide – it really does do long-term damage.
My situation was less overtly violent (most of the time) but more complicated for a lot of reasons, too many to list here. I’m still guessing as to what the hell some people’s problem with me was. Most of it, ultimately, was that I refused subservience. This was not the conscious reason, just the primary one. I want to say “I made it worse for myself” by fighting back when I did. But that’s about as true as a rape victim “making it worse” by fighting back. It’s already bad – and fighting back lets you keep a sense of self by refusing to behave like a target/object just because someone has made you out to be one. Of course, since most people were only trying to force me into a subservient role subconsciously, all their conscious (and often not very smart) minds could put together was that I was somehow “uppity,” and “needed taking down a peg,” even though in the vast majority of cases I had done nothing to them personally beyond showing up in class and once in awhile having an interesting answer for the teacher. Smart people aren’t the submissives – and that pisses the monkeys off, thus all the anti-nerd violence in the past.
Moral: always fight back when you can. You may not win but you’ll at least feel better about yourself than if you didn’t. Also, “just ignore them” is bad advice that will only cause people to escalate. Better advice: work up an arsenal of ways to confuse the hell out of people.
So, as a response to the poem, this is my poem:
Female through no fault of my own
collared as “uppity trash” based on one or two words spoken by my mother
the sticks and stones thrown, those were OK with teachers, OK with parents
as long as I didn’t do better than the favorites
for quarterback, starter, donor’s kid
under teacher’s watchful eye and full ear and full insistence
I stood still and silent to take the pelting.
Hiding couldn’t happen –
born too big, never dwindling
and it was a game, the few days I tried to hide –
Drag that goat out into the spotlight
for a full on beatdown. Most of it words.
Oh sure, it got better –
for me. Just me.
I escaped. That’s how.
Thanks to me, the bullies have made it harder
for any other goat-slave to get the hell out.
Nobody’s an adult until age 25 unless you let the government use you up and throw your body away;
it’s that, or the endless slavery of debt now.
I took the debt. It was easier to live with than my so-called community.
I broke a lot of old traps – they lie to you about who you are, that’s one of them.
Then they lie to you about who they are, how they feel, what they want for you. They act like wanting things for you is any of their business.
That’s the other big trap. Or they just don’t tell you anything at all, mock you for daring to ask because they think it gives you no tools to defend yourself.
In every single case, these bullies want to help themselves to a piece of your mind and a piece of your life, your peace, your life, because for too many reasons and no reason at all what they have is not enough for them.
Maybe what they have sucks.
That’s not your problem – but they will lie to you hard, raining forth rocks of how little you are and what you have and why therefore, you owe them.
It is all bullshit.
It isn’t as easy to get out anymore, it isn’t as easy to break the traps.
Maybe that’s kind of my fault.
I never learned the games, the games girls play
because I still wanted to like me.
So when Maureen the Queen came around with her entitled bitch sting,
my only strategy for her attempting to nickname me “Beating Post”
was to tell her to fuck off.
It was all slavery or enslavement – I can’t believe how many people wanted me for their future secretary, or worse, mother of their child. ((A reference to how I feel about having a child with *those specific people. Not a fan of motherhood for myself but I do not automatically equate all motherhood with slavery.))
She acted like no one had ever said that to her before, like no one had objected to her abuse. Oh, the trauma! Victim! Victim! Shriek to the teacher!
There were other, subtle things, asking me about how I dressed or to agree that band wasn’t as important as basketball
(To me it was all an absurd Roman circus, perhaps a lost circle of hell.)
When I could manage it, I just didn’t talk to those girls.
They were and often still are horrible people.
The gamers and grabbers, though, they were worse –
relentless yelling, grabbing my body, usually boys but girls too,
entitled by parents’ money and teachers’ silence
to amuse themselves upon my protesting person.
Oh, the whining when consequences did land –
it wasn’t like they did those things to a person,
not when the Goat was involved. ((Or the Roach. Of course I knew about that. They were my friends first, moron.))
The adults gently encouraged these gropings, graspings, screaming of “slut!” when I refused their touch –
“Boys will be boys!” and other rape-encouragements;
“This bullying is how you learn,” thus absolving themselves of all responsibility –
and learn what, exactly?
I learned that adults are no use and that my community was not to be trusted.
I learned that I am safest among strangers.
It’s been almost twenty years since then.
I’m still uppity. Maybe more so.
I live among strangers, and thank the gods for it.
Some parents – those untrustworthy adults of before –
want to know why I don’t return,
as though I should be grateful for the abuse.
I tell them, “There’s nothing and no one here.”
I hope they know that I count them as no one.
The scapegoat escaped,
and most likely got replaced.
I fear for her, that girl,
whoever she is –
fat and uppity and imaginative.
For me they had traps
and I had the privilege of heterosexuality.
If she’s the slightest bit gay …
I’m rooting for you to duck the barbed wire
before you graze somewhere safer, maybe California.