I want to write about something I recently recalled about a bully from my High School.
Now, I was bullied throughout my life on many occasions by many different people. But this particular bully was someone who was supposed to be a mentor or a leader. She was highly educated and well respected at my school. This bully was my teacher.
This woman took time out of her day to SPECIFICALLY pick me out of the crowd in the lunchroom. She mustve been upwards of 50 years old. I honestly could not for the life of me, figure out why she had it out for me. When I finally worked up the courage to ask her what her deal was, she hastily explained, "You are NOT supposed to be sharing school lunch with other students."
WHAT!? I remember thinking: "Is this lady serious?"
Vanessa (my hanai cousin raised more like a sister) and I shared everything. Our clothes, our friends, our twin bed, and our school lunch. We may not have appeared poor but we were in fact living below poverty in the Kerby Trailer Park. That year Vanessa qualified for free school lunch like usual. My mom had just gotten promoted at her new job, putting us just above the cutoff. Despite the fact that she could barely cover the costs of supporting a family while my dad was out of work due to disability, the system determined that I no longer qualified. SO we shared. Big deal right?
My Teacher didn't think so. She started out by giving me dirty looks and pointing at me to intimidate me and let me know she saw me. It progressively got worse over time until she would verbally confront me in front of my peers. This went on for weeks. I remember trying to hide from her by eating in another teacher's classroom. Vanessa and I thought this was absolutely ridiculous and we decided we weren't going to let her stop us from sharing a meal like we frequently did in and out of school.
We would crack jokes that she was racist because we were a little more ethnic-looking than most of our classmates. Comic relief didn't change the fact that I was haunted by her every day.
While the cost of lunch was only around $3 per day, that was still more than I was willing or able to pay if I didn't have to. While $60 per month may have been affordable for upper class people such as My Teacher, it certainly was not for me. My family could barely afford school clothes, and at this point in my life I was happily busting my tush working at the local Dairy Queen for $7.25/hr to buy my own clothes so my mom could spend more on my little brother.
My Teacher ended up calling my mom into the office for a meeting on the issue and my mom was utterly appalled at the entire situation. Still there was nothing stopping this woman from punishing me. Eventually this resulted in My Teacher placing me on "Academic Probation" - I was Vice President of the student body and she finally got me to sign a contract stating that my position would be revoked if I did not comply. So she won. My mom started packing me lunch.
To this day I can't help but cringe at the fact that this woman spent so much time and energy trying to stop two poor girls from feeding each other. Maybe there were federal guidelines about sharing school lunch that I am unaware of, maybe there are real rules beyond her nit-picky bully power trip. Regardless of her reasoning, If children are taking it upon themselves to feed each other shouldn’t that be of more concern? Shouldn't that be morally allowed?
Speaking of school clothes, here's another bully. Rewind a couple years prior. My mother and I hitchhiked 30 miles to the nearest Walmart so she could buy me some school clothes for the start of my 7th grade year. I remember going home with my new stuff feeling excited and accomplished. I was so proud of my mom that she didn't let the fact that she didn't have a car stop her from getting me some new clothes. While hitchhiking is probably not the safest thing to do, fresh out out of options she made it happen so that I could feel confident on my first day back in the shark tank that is Jr. High. I felt so loved.
The next day I stepped off the bus and walked through the doors of Lorna Byrne Middle school. I was optimistic about the new year. As I excitedly wandered through the hallway I walked past a group of popular girls. I so wanted to be like them. They were so cool. All the boys liked them. I made eye contact with a pretty blonde girl but nervously looked away.
"What are you looking at? Fucking 4 eyes. Ugly Bitch." They laughed.
My heart skipped a beat but that insult was nothing new and so unoriginal. I kept walking as if it didn't bother me. I guess she didn't like that I had no reaction to her insult so she said something else.
This time she yelled.
"NEXT TIME YOU GO SHOPPING WHY DONT YOU GET SOME PANTS THAT FIT YOU! Fat ass." They laughed hysterically.
My world stopped. I quickly looked down to see my pants dragging on the ground. They were too long. I was just under 5ft tall at the time. My mom couldn't find shorter ones but I told her:
"It's ok mom, I'll just fold them, nobody will notice."
I was wrong. My heart sunk. I felt the blood rushing to my face. My mind raced, "Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry." Every ounce of pride and confidence I had about my entire new wardrobe was crushed.
I went home from school that day dreading the moment my mom would ask me how my first day was. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was the worst day of my adolescent life. I don't think I ever did.
My heart aches for all of the people who fall victim to bullying. The truth is, I still find myself face to face with bullies even in my adult life. Why? Because children who are bullies grow up.
They become the guy at the bar yelling obscenities and picking fights. They become the jealous girl at the meeting that deliberately makes you feel unwelcome. They become the Facebook "friend" you end up blocking due to his rude comments. They become the girls who pretend to be your friend to your face but talk trash about you amongst themselves thinking you'll never hear what they say about you. (And then you do.) These bullies grow up to become the mean co-worker, the unfair boss, the frenemy.
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Even my teacher, did she have nothing better to do than hunt me down at lunch every day to make sure I wasn't sharing a piece of pizza and a chocolate milk?
As I sit here close to tears reminiscing at what I experienced in school, I am still shaken by the cruelty of others.
These were just two instances out of many. Dear bullies, past and present: I forgive you, but I will not forget you.
"People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
Thank you for being so cruel that I have the courage now to share my story in hopes that it will help others. I show my scars so others may know that they too can heal.
13 Million kids will be bullied in the US this year. This problem is real. This problem is being ignored. If you or someone you know is being bullied you may find comfort, information, and help at www.thebullyproject.com
Statistics show that the most effective way to cope with bullying is to be educated on bullying. I can rattle off all of the facts but the most important one is: IT'S NOT YOU. It is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong. Bullies thrive on bringing down innocent people and the misfortune of others. They are the villains of society. In a world full of bullies, Be a batman.
Kindness is free. It costs $0 to be a decent person.
And you know what they say?
How's that for school lunch?
All jokes aside, Be kind my friends.