By Teppi Jacobsen of When You Put It That Way
October is National Bullying Awareness month, and as a victim of it as a child, I am more than aware. Much more than I want to be, as it nearly ruined my childhood. A childhood that had hoped to have been filled with lots of laughter, friends and great memories.
I don’t think the word “nerd” was popular until The Fonz made it so in the early 1970’s. So what to describe myself as a kid escapes me. I was terribly thin, my mother always kept my hair cut in a short pixie style and I was painfully shy. If nerd were a popular word back then, the shoe would have fit. But I didn’t need to constantly be reminded of it, tortured about it, and have my life ruined by it.
I grew up in a neighborhood that could have been idyllic. We moved there when I was five and dozens of other kids lived there as well. It was a neighborhood of town homes (in sets of four) so we all lived very close together. Between every outward-facing group of homes, there were courts filled with more town h0mes. There was a great park across the street that I loved to play at, if I could get there unscathed. Had the kids been nice to me, it would have been a perfect place to live.
To get to the park, I had to pass the home of many boys that would soon become the bullies that would cost me all self esteem, confidence and instill fear in me daily. It seemed a bully lived in every court-- every set of four homes. It was almost as though it was a strategic placement so that I had no way to get anywhere without having one of them attack me.
I really don’t remember how or why it started but to this day, I can feel the sting of their taunting comments. I guess I was just a prime target for mean boys. I wasn’t pretty, I was terribly awkward and never knew how to fight back
First the bullying consisted of little comments or name calling. I was “Tepless is topless” because I had no chest. They would chant it when I was outside. I remember also being called “flatsie”. Boys, if you could see me now, you’d see that I no longer fall into that category. So there.
There was a whole group of them. Ronnie, Glenn, Joe (deceased) , Steve, Mark, Dave (deceased) , Chris and a few other whose names escape me. I wish all their names would. But their constant taunting makes that impossible. Anything these boys could think of to do or say to humiliate me, I was open game.
They made fun of my thinness, fun of my short hair, calling me a boy and my flat chest as I mentioned. I’m a 34DD now boys, all natural, not paid for. Eat your hearts out.
In 6th grade I attended science camp through school and had the horrifying experience of falling down and passing gas; loudly. I was called Excessive Gas for the remainder of the school year, or “EG” for short.
Years ago when there were events called Hunger Hikes. I signed on to be in one. I had to walk thirty miles, but just after one of the boys dumped an entire chocolate milkshake on my head.
For eighth grade graduation, my parents gave me a new bicycle. Every time I rode through the park, the boys would hum the tune from Wizard of Oz when Miss Gulch (The Wicked Witch) was riding her bike. Once they chased me and were able to get me off my bike and nearly destroy it. I remember exactly where I was standing, how I was crying and how useless I felt.
They made walking to school a living hell; they set a fire on my doorstep. I have no fond memories of grade school.
There were dozens of other situations that occurred, but I really believe that I have blocked them out. I used to wonder what I did wrong to deserve being treated like that. And it didn’t stop with those boys! In seventh grade, I was beat up by three different girls. I remember just wishing and praying that someday I would be accepted.
Never once though, did I ever think about ending my life as many victims of bullying have. I held onto my hope. That was all that I had. I hoped I would gain some self confidence; that someday the bullying would end. And finally it did. Because I chose hope. (A fellow blogger knows the importance of this)
During my sophomore year of high school, I began to blossom. My hair grew long. I started wearing make-up. My figure actually started to show a shape (although I was still teased that if I turned sideways I would disappear, but that was by a dear friend, not a bully). And I made friends. And boys actually started to like me. And I made the pom pom squad. I arrived. I was determined.
Yet no matter how much my looks may have improved, I still never thought I was pretty. Once I started dating, every relationship left me so insecure that I drove the boys away. I was clingy and had no self esteem. Having a boy interested in me was validation. I didn’t realize I could be a whole person without it.
I had faith that as I got older, all the things that those boys, AND girls did to me would become insignificant. I used to wish for them all to remember me and feel sorry for what they did. I remember my senior year having the honor of being nominated for homecoming queen. I cried. I was in shock. How could this have happened? It must be a mistake. A cruel joke. This was what they did to me. This was how they made me think.
To this day, I never take a compliment for granted. To receive one is a gift; because I spent the first 14 years of my life without one. I still find them hard to believe. Bullied people need to know that they are better people than those that are bullying them. They will survive it; they will find happiness someday. The bullies themselves are the ones with the real problems, the true self esteem issues.
Of all those boys that bullied me, I can’t think of one that went on to really make anything of their lives. One had even gone to prison.
Last year, one of them actually sent a friend request to me on Facebook. I wrote him and asked how in the world he would ever think I would want to be his friend after he tortured me as a kid. He was the ringleader, he was the worst. He apologized and said that it was his loss that he never saw me for who I was. True that, buddy.
When I had my own children, I taught them early on that bullying would not be tolerated. If I ever caught them making fun of another person, it would not be pretty. We have also instilled good self esteem in them but taught them to never take their looks, friends or popularity for granted. They could have been on the other side.
Fortunately my kids never were victims of bullying. They often tell me that I am the most overly sensitive person they have ever known.
I wonder why.