The following is an expanded version of what I posted on Facebook today, and in a comment to my original post. (Facebook statusesuseses can only be 420 characters, so I had to cut a lot of what I wanted to say there.)
Bullying is getting a lot of attention lately, and so I think it’s time for me to speak up from a different perspective. There’s no doubt I was a weird kid in school – too smart for my own good, not much on social skills, mouthy, more interested in books than in much of anything else. I wore glasses from age 3, bifocals. I was the smallest one in class and the youngest, having skipped kindergarten. I had friends, but never had a date in high school, and didn’t get invited to a lot of parties except the ones from youth group or the school play that anyone involved could attend. Classic victim material, right?
Yet I was never bullied. I never went in fear or had to hide, as so many of us did. Someone threatened to beat me up once in seventh grade – that was the worst of it. There are a lot of people on Facebook who went to school with me; I don’t think they were saints, I think they were ordinary decent people who were busy enough dealing with their own lives and insecurities, and didn’t need to beat up on anyone else to justify themselves. And for that, I have just said thank you (on Facebook). The world needs more ordinary decent people, and I hope they bring their kids up to be the same way, or better. (I know at least one parent, the little sister of a friend of mine through my school years, who has stated that her goal is for her daughters to have fewer biases than she and her husband do.)
Part of why I wrote this is in response to Kate Harding’s excellent post and all the similarly excellent responses to it I’ve been seeing. Kate wrote:
“I simply can’t understand why so many adults are so eager to dismiss bullying as a childhood inevitability of no real consequence, something on a par with skinned knees, maybe a broken wrist at worst. Something that heals quickly and turns into a distant memory or even a funny story. I can only assume those people were once bullies themselves — perhaps they still are — and are thus loath to acknowledge how much serious, long-lasting damage they might have done.”
I’m speaking up to say that bullying is *not* inevitable – my experience proves it. It’s not an inescapable part of human nature, and it’s not a thing that can’t be changed. Youth is no excuse for not knowing better. My classmates did.