I wish I had made that title up, but I must credit Anne Lamott for saying it first.
I think some people think I’m gutsier than I really am. I’ve simply learned to hide my fearfulness behind a a decent vocabulary and poised self-confidence. The ruse seems to be working quite well.
I was bullied as a child. Living across the street from me was this nasty kid who would come out and threaten to beat me up when I walked by his house. Unfortunately, that just happened to be the only way for me to get to school.
I had no choice. I had to walk by that loathsome kid’s house every day.
No. I never told my mother. She wouldn’t have done a thing about it anyway. Parents didn’t mess in the business of kids in those days. You were expected to work out your own problems. I do remember once begging her not to make me go to school. She pried my desperate fingers off of the doorknob, pushed me out the door, and slammed it in my face. There was going to be no rescue there.
I suppose most everyone has experienced being bullied in their life. If you haven’t, then you ought to look deep within yourself because that probably means YOU were the bully.
In a recent conversation over on Penelope Trunk’s blog, there was a long discussion about homeschooling and I was shocked at how many people think that bullying is GOOD for kids, and that somehow we’re all more socially well-adjusted for it. That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. And I’m 100% certain that Jamey Rodemeyer would agree with me. That is if he were still alive.
I’ve never fully recovered from being bullied. Have you?
Your tummy doesn’t grow just a little tight when you remember what it felt like to be called names or have your person threatened? Mine sure does.
But it isn’t the memory of the fear of physical violence that haunts me. The worst part of being bullied is wondering, “What if what they are saying about me is true?”
What if I really am as short, fat, stupid, weak, ugly, pathetic, weird, queer, or whatever, as they say I am?
The old children’s rhyme that was supposed to help us cope with bullying should have gone: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but hurtful words stick with us forever.”
I think people look at me today and think, “Oh, she’s a pretty, little blonde. She must have always been popular.”
But I wasn’t. I was a weird, Mormon girl who smoked a lot of pot. I read the The Harrod Experiment, Catcher in the Rye, all the works of Carlos Castaneda, and, probably the book that had the most profound impact on me as a teenager, The Scarlet Letter. Living with my own secret sexual shame not of my own making–all the while blaming myself for it–Hester Prynne was a personal hero to me. I can tell you with supreme confidence that if Hester Prynne is your personal hero in high school, you are definitely NOT one of the cool kids.
Tawny Kitaen sat at the Cool Kids’ Table in high school. Not me. I rarely sat with any of the kids. I had a 22-year old boyfriend who came and picked me up for lunch until I graduated early at 16 and got the hell out of there. I couldn’t function within the system, so I left it. That’s how I roll.
That nasty kid who bullied me on the sidewalk? He had nothing on my father. My father, bar none, was the biggest bully in my life.
When I was 16, my father held me up against a wall and screamed into my face all the things I secretly feared were true about me. One day maybe I’ll write about the horrible things he said, but for now it is enough to know that the things he said, said more about him than it ever will about me.
I also know this: I won’t ever be held up against any wall again. Not anywhere. And I won’t allow someone else’s opinion of me to shame me or dictate my own opinion about myself. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it is hard for me to do sometimes.
I’m thinking about this song by Meredith Brooks as I go about my day. May it inspire you to let go of what others think about you, or have ever said about you, and set you free on your own path of authenticity.