Back in time, when Neanderthals roamed the countryside, looking for sabre tooth tigers to kill to take home to their women folk, there has been bullying. I can just see the conversation between two guys out hunting for the day – “Me big and strong.” “You puny and weak.” “Me take meat home.” “You take green stuff and make into food.” “Me good provider.” “You dumb, loser Neanderthal.”
Fast forward to the early 80’s. Jordache jeans, white Nike running shoes with the blue swish on the sides, combs in back pockets and feathered hair. Ah, junior high. What a delightful time in one’s youth. Those are the years where your body does unspeakable things – out of your control, you develop those fuzzy warm, sexy feelings (GOOD GOD, WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM) and you desperately try to fit in with the cool kids by dressing, acting and looking the same way (there is no room for individuality in Grade 7).
Enter the fat kid. You know, the one that’s really funny and just wants to fit in? That was me. It didn’t help that I had the exact same name as one of the jocks and I was always referred to as ‘the other one’. I did my best to fit in, and for the most part I did okay, I had some good friends, did my homework – the usual stuff.
However, my mother seemed to want to thwart me at every turn. They didn’t make jeans for fat girls back then. So, my mother would drag me kicking and screaming to the local fat store for clothes. It was humiliating and embarrassing and I hated every, single thing about it. I just wanted to wear a pair of jeans! I wanted the cool Nike running shoes like everyone else (nope, I never did get those, I got the generic brand instead). I don’t think I’ll ever forgive my mom for making me wear baby blue gabardine pants with a baby blue blouse to school. I just wanted to be normal; THAT did not help.
For every fat kid back then – was a bully. Mine’s name was Rhonda. She hated me and threatened me every chance she got. She made it so I was scared to leave by myself after school. She teased me endlessly. It’s something that I’ve never forgotten. Back then, you didn’t tell anyone, because that would just make it worse. So, I kept my mouth shut and lived through 3 years of hell. Between that and my life at home, the only comfort I got was from a bag of potato chips. I’d look forward to every Friday, because my dad would have gone grocery shopping, so I’d get home, grab the box of chips, chip dip and a good book and hideaway in my bedroom. I still do that.
Fast forward to today. Sadly, bullying is everywhere. It’s in the schools, it’s on the playgrounds – but the worst thing – is that it’s now online. You can bully someone from the comfort of your own home. You can spread lies, call someone names, share private pictures and even (and this horrifies me) show videos of young women being gang raped.
I’ve seen the videos of kids sharing their pain through the internet. I’ve read the stories of how bullied kids have committed suicide. I’ve listened to the news where they talk about how widespread bullying is. There are ‘no bullying’ rallies, conferences, newsletters – you name it – it’s out there.
As a kid that was bullied, I think it’s great that these initiatives are trying to help the kids that need it the most. The ones being picked on because they can’t afford the same clothes other kids are wearing – or because they are gay, because they are fat, because they wear glasses – insert affliction here. The list is endless. But, I hate to say it – it’s only going to get worse. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a political debate, a reality show, a teen movie – because it’s not just kids that bully each other. Adults are the worst perpetrators of them all. If kids are being exposed to this kind of behaviour, this type of programming – hell, they can’t even watch the news without being exposed – where do they go and who do they talk to, to really figure out what is right from wrong? Frankly, in some cases, adults aren’t exactly the perfect role models.
Those 3 years of being bullied never really left me. I still wonder about the sincerity of people, I still feel self conscious about my weight and I still suffer from self confidence issues. However, I lived through it. I grew to become a functional member of society. I have wonderful friends, a beautiful sister, a good paying job, a nice vehicle, and a home that I love. I’ve been very lucky over the years to have been afforded some of the opportunities I have been given.
But – sometimes I feel like I’m still the fat kid waiting to be accepted into the cool kids club.