My Bullied History, Part 3 – High School
If I thought Junior High School was bad, I was really unprepared for the level of bullying that came when I went to High School. It started pretty "tame" (that being a relative term). One guy would make insinuating comments to me in the locker room before and after gym. As an overweight teenager, I was frankly more than a little embarrassed about the changes my body was going through. I had just "discovered" girls in the first few days of High School whereas many of my fellow students made that discovery in Junior High. With many people dating, walking around holding hands, etc, I was very unsure and frightened when it came to my sexuality. So this person’s remarks questioning my sexuality struck particularly hard.
Over time, though, it got worse. There was a group of kids that teased me. (This initial guy was part of this group.) They didn’t sit behind me in class spitting spitballs, though. They followed me from class to class taunting me. If I altered my route, sped up or otherwise tried to lose them, they kept up with me and taunted me more for trying to lose them. If I passed one of them in the hall, nothing was said and I was ignored, but should that one be joined by a friend or two of his, they suddenly got very courageous. I tried to ignore them as much as possible because I quickly learned that anything I said would just lead to more teasing. (I certainly didn’t fight back physically as I was afraid of getting in trouble.)
Another favorite past time of theirs was blocking my entrance to class. They would stand in the doorway, refuse to move and taunt me as I tried to get past them. One particular incident has burned itself into my memory. They were blocking my way, as usual, and I got angry. Very angry. You know the expression "seeing red?" Well, this literally happened to me. Everything I saw was suddenly tinted red and I felt as if I was going to lash out at the nearest tormentor in a very violent way. As in "send the person to the hospital" violent. Luckily for all involved, my teacher showed up at that moment, saw what was going on and told my tormenters to get away from his classroom.
The torment didn’t end at school, though. All of the teasing was taking a psychological toll. My brain would interpret any laughter as meaning "They’re making fun of you." Bus rides to school and home inevitably had kids having fun somewhere behind me. This fun had nothing to do with me and I knew it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were laughing at me. I found myself slinking down in my seat, trying to shrink myself into nonexistence to escape the imagined teasing.
In hindsight, I was heading down a scary road. You know those stories of kids who are bullied and then commit suicide or go on shooting sprees? Well, had certain events fallen out differently, I might have been one of those kids. It scares me to even type that nearly two decades after graduating from High School.
For reasons I’m not completely sure of, I felt like I couldn’t confide in my parents. Perhaps it was because I was a teenager and had the "they’re adults, they can’t understand kids" attitude. Perhaps I was too embarrassed by some of the teasing. Whatever the reason, I was extremely lucky that I had a friend to confide in.
Remember I mentioned G last week? He’s the guy with whom I became friends with in Junior High School and recently whose wedding I attended. He happened to be friends with both me and my tormentors. When I confided in him that I thought their teasing was doing permanent psychological damage, he went and talked to them. They didn’t realize the damage they were doing and promised to stop. To them, they were just having some harmless fun. When G told me that they’d stop tormenting me, it was like having an enormous suffocating blanket pulled off. I can’t say I was able to enjoy my remaining time in High School (this happened in our final year), but I certainly didn’t suffer through it the same way I did the previous years.
Let me make one point clear: I didn’t ask G to do this. He saw this problem, saw a way he might be able to help a friend and took the initiative. I’ll be grateful for his actions for the rest of my life. Without his actions, who knows what would have happened. I wish every kid being tormented in any grade would have a friend like G in their lives. I think we’d see a lot less school shootings and suicides.
I think I need to highlight something else before ending this post. That’s the point that my bullies thought they "were just having some harmless fun." I think that’s the root problem with bullies. They see an action (taunting kids) as enjoyable and don’t bother thinking how their actions affect anyone else. It isn’t happening to them, so it doesn’t matter. This is likely why standing up to bullies works so effectively. Once someone stands up to them, it isn’t fun anymore and they move on to the next target. Unfortunately, this doesn’t address the root problem of someone seeing taunting someone as "fun."
During my first semester of college, I was taking Creative Writing and decided to write about my High School experiences. I recently found the essay and rescued it from a long-obsolete file format. I’m going to post the essay in it’s entirety next week. Yes, a lot of the same themes will be repeated from this week’s post but the difference is that this post is me looking back nearly 2 decades. Next week’s post will be "Fresh Out Of High School" me writing from a mere matter of months away from the torment.