Guest Post by Former Bullying Victim Teppi Jacobsen

Guest Post by Former Bullying Victim Teppi Jacobsen

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.

Teppi Jacobsen, ChicagoNow blogger at When You Put It That Way


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  • Oh, dear Teppi. Meeting you for the first time as the smart, accomplished, beautiful mother you are now, I would have no idea what you experienced as a child. You hold yourself with such grace and poise and, yes, beauty. You have a voice and humor and heart.

    I am so sorry for what you experienced. I want to know, immediately, the names and numbers of these bullies, so I can teach them what their parents should have. What you taught your own girls.

    So glad to know that you chose hope for yourself, even in such difficult circumstances. It does get better, doesn't it? All my love.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    Wow Sheila you are so kind. I will send you their names and numbers asap :) And like you always say "shoose hope". I did and it got me through it. You are one amazing woman - I am so glad to be part of this Chicagonow community. I would not have met you wonderful women, that's you too Carrie :) Thank you, thank you.

  • In reply to teporama:

    Ahh, thanks, Teppi. The ChicagoNow bloggers are a big lovefest! Great job speaking out, Teppi. You are a brave woman!

  • I meant CHOOSE HOPE. Always thinking about shoes....

  • This post really touched me...and took me back to when I was a shy, very self-conscious 13 year old and the neighborhood boys would snicker and make lewd comments about my big boobs. I hated going out of the house and facing the taunts. My boobs are just as big now, but I am different - I hold my head (and my boobs!) up high :) Wonder where all those loser boys are.

    So many of you ChicagoNow women write so beautifully and from the heart (I follow MTM and Carrie, among others). Keep up the great work - wish I lived in Chicago so I could get all your autographs!!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    I'm holding my head (and boobs) right up there with you! Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope you will continue to hold your head high and enjoy life knowing those loser boys had nothing on you. Hugs!

  • Dear Teppi,

    Your post was heartbreaking. Your bravery was incredible to endure such suffering then to write about it and raise daughters that do not have the aggressive traits you fought against.

    As I posted on Twitter earlier today, the epidemic of bullying must stop.

    I wonder if more cases of bullying are occurring, more cases are being reported or both reports and cases are increasing.

    Thank you for sharing your story. If you can attend the next GeekGirlCon in Seattle in 2012, I would be honored to meet you in person.

    Best wishes.

    Michael P. Owen

  • In reply to owenmp:

    I am so conscious about it, everytime I read of another child that is a victim of it I wish so much there was was something that I could do. Tell me more about the GeekGirlCon, I'd love to know more about it! Thanks for writing, I appreciate it so much.

  • My life was much the same, except the bullies knew better than to come near my house. My Dad would have thrashed them. However my parents would never go to school and stand up for me. My dad was abusive himself and my mom taught me that I was never allowed to defend myself. I was kicked, hit, and tripped all day long in school. I had my books stolen; ones that i had to pay for to replace. I even had my grades altered. I got a D in one class because the popular kids stole my rough draft and copied my paper and told the teacher I was a cheat who copied them. Every day, all day long, through every hall, between every class, while everyone was getting seated in class, during lunch, waiting in line, waiting for the bus, going to the restroom I was told how awful and horrible I was and why didn't I just kill myself. I woke up every morning asking myself if I was going to run away or go to school. I always chose school because I'd seen what had happened to a friend that had run away. Running away was worse than the bullying. But I also had hope and curiosity. I wanted to know what the future would be like and I knew I'd never see these a-holes again once I graduated. I stopped trying to get accepted a long time ago. Sometime during 6th grade I stopped seeking any acceptance at all. In fact I'd do things to irritate them. I was so excited when I finally graduated and I felt like I could finally start living. I ran into people who had bullied me and they said it was kid stuff and they never meant anything by it. I was really confused then. It was a concerted effort by such a large group of people and they never meant anything by it? And I am also happy to report that few of them have much of a good life. The ones I did bump into were all pot heads.

  • I am so glad that you chose to rise above and look to the future. Like I said, bullies are the ones who have the problems, NOT US. And the ones that bullied me don't have much of a good life either. Not that I wish that on anyone.

    It's odd how they tell us now that they didn't mean anything by it. What bullies do not realize is the long term damage they are doing to a persons psyche and soul. This needs to be taught in school starting at young ages and NOT be tolerated at any level, any age. Thanks for sharing, I'm so glad you did.

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