Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What you need to know about those high school bullies ...

My daughter has been into Food Network shows for a few years now.  She's very interested in cooking especially after taking a kid's cooking class a couple years ago.  She's actually very good at making breakfast stuff like eggs and pancakes.  When I was ten years old my mom would never let me near a stove or god forbid sharp knives so I never did any cooking at her age, but she's learned well how to be safe around stoves (although she's heavily supervised with knives because she's still pretty clutzy).  Her dad had her helping him stir a roux by the time she was four years old so she knows about stoves.

Anyway, we were watching Chopped (despite that an old aquaintance who is an executive chef said no self-respecting chef would ever go on that show - I'm curious if other chefs feel that way?) and there was a contestant who said he wanted to win Chopped to show all those kids in high school what he had become.  He wasn't that old, probably late twenties or early thirties, but it still drove me nuts every time he brought up the old high school bullies and how he was going to show them.

I think it drove me nuts because I was bullied as a kid and it's hard to watch someone giving past bullies that much power in their life still to this day.  It went on for a couple years in grade school and when we went on to middle school two of the boys and three of the girls from grade school tried to keep the momentum of picking on me going, but things were too watered down with so many new students and I didn't care any more if they picked on me anymore because I had my own set up new friends in middle school so it wasn't quite as fun for them I don't think.  And they were not achieving their "top dog rule the school" status they'd had in our small grade school.  I know my self-esteem was heavily affected by that experience and it took a long time to internalize their behavior was not my problem.  I've been a supporter of the It Gets Better Project because of that.  I even wrote a story for their page based on my experience - though I wasn't bullied because I was gay or transgender, I was bullied because I was quiet, studious, did not wear fashionable clothes and I wanted to spend all my time in the woods with animals.  That was all sorts of rife for the picking on from the girls who wore leather jackets and smoked pot in fifth grade and bragged about having sex with their high school boyfriends.  They called me "Sandra Dee" (the movie Grease was big at that time) and "Fleabag" and threw me up against walls threatening to beat me up "just for fun" and threw rocks at me when I'd walk home and had all sorts of fun at my expense.

For years after that I felt a need to prove to them that I wasn't a goody-two-shoes and I blew off school and took up drugs and in general hated my real self because I thought I'd brought on the bullying.  But eventually, I realized I was fine the way I was and then I wanted to be successful at something to "show them" that I was a good person and they'd had no right to pick on me.  Then one day in my early twenties I saw one of the boys who used to pick on me at a party.  By then I was a little hottie and as one of my old boyfriends described me "Part of being a guy in Seattle is having a crush on you at some point" and I had honed my image to perfection.  And I went up to the guy and said hi and then said bluntly "You tried to make cry every day in seventh grade.  What the hell?" and he looked horrified.  The two pretty little goth girls sitting next to him suddenly scooted away and gave him the stink eye and he said completely honestly, "I did?"  He didn't even remember! And it was that moment I realized that I was the one who had been so affected by it and he (and probably the others) didn't even remember it and could care less whether I was a success or not.  In fact if I'd become a world famous star of some sort they would've probably not thought any more about it than, "Didn't we go to grade school with her?"

Needless to say he was truly sorry and I ran into him a few more times after that he was lovely and pleasant and had grown up to be a pretty decent person.  I ran into another of the guys at our 25th high school reunion and he too had grown up to be a very nice person and wasn't a bully at all anymore.  Unfortunately, another of the guys (I heard from the guy from our reunion) had never grown up and had ended up dying young from a drug overdose.

So, with all that said, I wanted to jump right into the television last night and say "Stop thinking about those kids that picked on you! I can guarantee they are not thinking about you! And they either won't care if you become famous and successful, or they will briefly think of how they went to school with you and be happy for you.  It is you you are trying to prove something to.  And externals will not prove that.  Accepting and loving yourself for who you are an knowing that it's not your fault you were bullied is what will truly bring you peace."

And with that - parents, don't bully your kids.  I see that a lot.  You may not even realize you are doing it but anytime you make a joke at your kid's expense because you think you're being funny, or you publicly shame your kid to make a point or you just plain don't listen to them and talk to them but just talk AT them and push them around - you are creating a situation where your child may become a bully or become a target for bullies.  And talk to your kids about bullying.  Even the nicest little kids instinctually  want to fit in and they need guidance from the very start all the way through their childhood that it is better to NOT bully with the others than to fit in.

With that here is a totally unrelated song that I've been subjected to by my daughter's pop music and I (not so secretly) love it:

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