Bullying sucks. Feeling like a victim sucks. Being nervous about every subtle move of your awkward knees or if your brand-new reading glasses look dumb on your acne-ridden nose sucks. Your nose that you’ve never liked (thank you, genetics).
Bullying is based in shame. It can escalate to violence (cue that really terrifying scene of Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story), but is usually quiet. It is a sly comment, just under the hearing radar of every teacher, parent, firefighter, adult do-gooder in the vicinity.
Bullying is repetitive. It is every day. It is every encounter. It is every attempt to change.
Bullying is permanent. It is never quite feeling good enough because some boy who’s name you will never forget didn’t think you were good enough. A boy who thought he was better than you got the best of you. You weren’t the first choice, but you were definitely the first to go.
The only good thing to come out of bullying is the most important: the desire to stop the cycle. I don’t want any other middle school girl to have to feel like me. Big in all the (societally-constructed) wrong places, unsure of every step and every I-want-to-voice-this-but-I’m-petrified-of-being-wrong opinion, afraid to be herself.
We should never be afraid to be ourselves. I want to live in a culture that celebrates the weirdness in each of us. That celebrates the wonderful, off-kilter, never perfect, always loses her keys, never manages to button his shirt right the first time, magic that is humanity.
Children want to learn. It is up to us to teach. We have to help young children appreciate the awe-inspiring, never-ending power of respect: of superiors, of peers, of self. Children are observant – we can’t get away with anything other than leading by our best example. Have kindness in every exchange. Tip your waitresses. Acknowledge your mistakes. Have two slices of cake. Respect not only those above you on your own personal ladder, but those below as well.
Society’s bullying problem is not going to change with an inspirational poster. It’s not going to change with a bumper sticker. It’s not even going to change with really excellent victim counseling.
It’s going to change with the bully. And that’s where we’re going to start.