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Bullying (01/01/21)

Recently, a short video came out from Happify about a group of people who shared their stories about being bullied, and years later, reflecting on how this bullying had affected them—and, what would they say to the people that bullied them. It was a really powerful video.

It made me think about the bullying I dealt with when I was a kid. But what was interesting, I only had to deal with bullying from one person for a few months of one year, when I was in 7th grade. The bullying stopped after a specific incident.

My family has moved from my childhood home during the summer after the 6th grade, so I was now in a new town, new school, with a new step-dad that I really didn’t like, and with a mom that had forgotten she had a son. Her dedication was to her new husband, and I just happened to live in the same house.

Needless to say, all of this was a challenge. Now add to the fact that when I went into 7th grade, I was 6’4”, weighed 120 lbs., had size 12 shoes, and my ribs stuck out like I was starving. I wasn’t, just was not at the age that I gained weight easily.

My parents spent no money on me for clothes, so I went to school a total fashion wreck. I could have cared, but the kids at school who lived in the country club made sure to make fun of my attire, and even those that were not as well off took it upon themselves to taunt me constantly.

I was extremely smart, had no issues with schoolwork, flew through classes with straight A’s, but was considered a serious nerd.

All this led to one particular kid, Victor G., who made it his function in life to terrorize me. He hit me, poured bags of chips down my shirt, pantsed me regularly, took my clothes from the locker room when we were all forced to take showers, and during PE, especially when playing soccer, constantly pushed me down, tripped me… this went on for months.

And like most kids that get bullied, I didn’t say anything to my parents, like they would have cared one way or another, and never said anything to anybody at school. During PE, one of the student aids would usually get involved to stop what was going on, but he was never around the rest of the day, and only showed up after an incident occured.

I didn’t want to go to school, especially didn’t want to go to PE, and would come up with every excuse I could to avoid all of that. But staying home sick was almost worse than going to school to get bullied! I thought I was stuck in an endless cycle and just tried to avoid it at all costs.

One particular day we were all in PE, had just gone out onto the soccer field, and were getting ready to play soccer. I was not good at soccer since my legs had never caught up with my brain, so I looked like a new-born giraffe trying to dance.

It had been raining, so the soccer field was soaking wet and full of mud. If you are reading this, you can see where it’s going and what happened. Victor came up to me, stuck his foot in front of me and pushed as I was running, and down I went. Right into a puddle of mud! He was laughing like crazy, along with most of the kids around us. The teacher’s aid for the class saw what had happened and as usual, was coming over ‘after’ the event.

But underneath me in the mud was this hard rubber ‘dock bumper.’ Never knew what they were used for, but it was there, I was laying on it, and in a moment of just pure rage, I picked that rubber bumper up, swung as hard as I could. The bumper made contact with Victor’s head, and down he went - out like a light!

All I can remember is the quiet that fell on the field. Nobody was laughing any more. The teacher’s aid came up to me, took the bumper, leaned in and said “that should stop it!” But the teacher for the class told me to take a shower and report to the principal's office.

By then Victor had stood up, was dazed, but knew what had happened. He just looked at me like ‘nobody has ever stood up to me before.’

After all that, I got suspended for a week, and my parents were told I needed to get anger management counseling. Me? I wasn’t the problem. The guy who bullied me for months before was the problem, yet I was suspended and had to get counseling? Really. And of course grounded by parents, again, not that they really noticed.

I actually snuck out my window one night to go with some older friends to a KISS concert—parents never even knew I was gone for the night.

But when I got back to school after my suspension, everything had changed. Victor wouldn’t get near me on the bus, never said another word to me, and the entire group of kids that had been part of the taunting just nodded when they saw me, but were quick to stay out of my way.

Who would have known that fighting back actually would end the bullying.

Now that I am grown up, not sure I would condone smacking somebody in the head with a rubber dock bumper. But I definitely would not recommend doing nothing and simply putting up with it. At some point in life we need to stick up for ourselves, defend our right to exist, and make sure the bullies know they will be stopped.

Almost 40 years later this advice had some positive results.

For those of you who haven’t read any of my other stories, we brought a homeless kid, well, a 24 year old, into our house several years ago. He’d had a really rough life and had been out on the street for 6 years.

His name is Darren, and you can read about him in several other stories.

When we moved him in with us, his confidence was at an all time low, so one of our friends, an instructor at the local boxing gym, took him under his wings, and started to teach him how to box. Darren caught on quite well and became pretty good in a short time.

Several months after he had started his boxing classes, Darren was taking the trash out at our apartment, and a couple guys from the complex started to harass him. They were local thugs and were just trying to cause trouble.

As Darren was walking back to the apartment, one of the guys pushed him really hard with his shoulder, that ‘get out of my way’ type of push. Wasn’t necessary, again, just trying to start something.

Darren’s boxing instinct kicked in, and he swirled around and cold-cocked the guy in the face.

The hit itself probably wouldn’t have down much damage, but since the other guy was standing close to the wall of the walkway, the hit pushed his head back against the wall, and knocked the lights out of him. Down he went.

The guys friends just looked at Darren like “oh shit.”

Darren took off running up to the apartment to tell us he had “killed” somebody. "I didn't mean to kill him!" Darren cried. Huh? He explained what had happened, all of us looked out the balcony to see what was going on.

The guy Darren hit had come to, got up, looked like he couldn’t believe anybody would stand up to him, and off him and his friend went, constantly looking behind them as they walked away.

From that day on, Darren just got friendly nods from the group and no longer had an trouble with any of them.

So again, not that I would condone violence against a bully, but once again, standing up for one’s rights had a positive effect when it came to a bully!