Recalling ‘The Bully’ from my childhood.  When I was a kid, there were no support groups for bullying.  The parent mantra for bullying was, “Tomorrow, there will be someone else. You’ll see.” For me, there was no tomorrow for someone else. It was only me…day after day after day. I would never have dreamed how much horror one person can dole out to another.

I was a free-spirited 14 year old freshmen in a small Florida high school when I met Margie. She was a very popular, pretty black teen. She had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. They were intense and seemed to capture the very essence of the sky. And she hated me with a passion. It was as if for her, I personified everything she hated about white people. She was followed by a group of very devoted girls who seemed controlled by her every whim. If she wanted to run, they all ran. She never carried a book, never did her homework and never got in trouble for anything she did. It seemed as if everyone was charmed by her. In fact, had things been different, I probably would have been under her spell too. But things were not different.

Margie and I had gym together. This was the first encounter I had with her. She walked by me and pushed me into the locker. It hurt like crazy, and I whipped around and sharply said, “Hey! Watch what you’re doing!!”  She smirked and said, “What you gonna do about it, white girl?” This was when I noticed her girls crowding around her, some of them chewing gum like it was a weapon. My heart began pounding. These girls were not innocent looking high school girls. They were very athletic and menacing. Some other girls in the class watched curiously.

My face was hot and red. I was very angry, but I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could get into it with Margie without the others getting involved. I mumbled, “Nothing. Sorry.”  They all laughed, Margie loudest of all as she gloated, “Yeh, that’s what I thought.” I was humiliated. The school year had barely begun. “Great”, I thought.

Walking home with my friend April, I talked to her about Margie. She shook her head and said, “That’s really bad. When she decides to pick on somebody, she never lets up. Last year, she pulled a girl’s earring right out of her ear.” I was shocked. I’d never heard of anything like that going on. My heart sank right down into my feet.

I’d love to say that I handled things well. I yearn to say that I’d found a well-spring full of great ways to handle Margie’s bullying; which went on incessantly and more aggressively every day. The truth is that I pulled into myself and refused to fight back. When I was young, bullying wasn’t something you could run to your parents for. They would be sympathetic, I knew that, but they would have very little to offer me in the way of a real solution. I really felt mom would not see what it was doing to me. I started having stomach aches and headaches. I walked to school in tears. I did not enjoy anything anymore. I didn’t do my homework. I fell into a depression. I developed a nervous tic of pulling at my hair. It was coming out in clumps. Mom was having to push me to get ready for school. She was frustrated, and I was scared. It translated into morning after morning of arguing. Mom would throw her hands up and yell, “I don’t know what’s gotten into you these days!”

The worst day, and the day it all came to a head was during gym. We had a baseball game going, and I was guarding first base. Margie was up to hit the ball. The gym teacher had to take a call right as Margie stepped up. It was like something out of a movie. The teacher left the field instructing us to continue the game, and she would be right back. Margie glared at me and swung the bat at an invisible ball. She was sending me a message. I felt sick to my stomach and sick to death of her bullying. I saw myself laid flat out on the field with a concussion.

Her buddy was pitching the ball, and you can bet the pitch was going to be very conducive to Margie’s intentions. To my surprise, Margie hit a very smooth ball which went sailing cleanly over the middle of the field and over second base. I was just standing there staring at that perfect hit when I was knocked down to the ground. Later, I was told that she had put her head down and ran as hard and fast as she could right into my stomach. She hit me so hard that I felt a whoosh of air leave my body. I had instinctively pulled her down with me which put her in a state of furious frenzy.

My self-preservation kicked in; and I instinctively blocked blows and hit back where I could. We were both rolling around on the ground with screaming girls surrounding us. I heard a roar in my head; and I got extremely scared; and some deep reservoir of the survival instinct welled up within me. I decided I was going to fight her with everything I had. All the weeks of frustration and being scared poured out of me. I laid into her with a furious, unbridled energy. I punched, kicked, scratched and pulled hair. I didn’t stop until I was being pulled off her by the teacher.

We were both bleeding. Her nose was bleeding badly. She was screaming that I had attacked her. I was screaming she attacked me. I had scratches on my face and arms. My stomach was a mass of bruises; and I was blessed no ribs were broken.

After everything was said and done, we were both suspended. I told mom everything. She asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I related how I felt like they would have just expected me to handle it myself. I told mom that she had always said bullies find someone else to pick on after a day or two. I stared at mom with tears in my eyes and told her that I felt alone. I didn’t think anyone could help me. She grabbed me and held me. She said, “I’m sorry. This is my fault. I should not have told you those things. Because sometimes bullies don’t move on. Usually, they do. But you should always feel safe. If this ever happens to you again, you tell me, okay? I will help you handle it so you won’t be alone.”

 

I don’t know what became of Margie.  We moved shortly after that incident.  I’d like to think that she matured and stopped bullying kids.  I surely hope she did.  But, truthfully, I don’t know.

And more than anything, I wish I had told mom. She would have helped me. But as a kid, we tend to lock onto what we’ve been told. Everything seems so black and white. Parents think a child should be able to discern between when he/she should come to them and when they can handle situations themselves. Parents think in shades of gray. Kids don’t. They hear, “Everybody gets bullied; it’s just your day. Tomorrow it will be someone else.” What they don’t hear is, “but you should always come to me any time you feel threatened and overwhelmed.”  I am glad that there is a better understanding of what bullying can do to a child emotionally. More kids are standing up against bullying. It has become cool to stop a bully.

I did recover from those two months of bullying with my parents’ love and care. It took awhile, but I realized that I did not have to do everything by myself. And I was able to help my sisters over the years when they looked to me for help. I was able to say, “This is a problem, and you need to tell mom and dad.”

I realized it was a whole lot less about the bullying and a whole lot more about understanding how kids think and opening communication. Mom knew there was something wrong; but she never really stopped to think about what was going on to ask me. She assumed it was a teenager thing. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t think it was there. My biracial children have benefited from my experience. And a great many children are now able to access resources that we didn’t have. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Casting Your Pearls Before Swine Review:

How did I pick my pearls up and polish them?  How did I put them back on my neck to wear them proudly?  I decided after that incident that I would not be the victim to any more bullies.  I would access the resources available through counseling and my parents.  I would not be afraid of being labeled a coward for reporting bullying behavior.  I realized that this is part of the fear.  I would contact school officials if necessary.  I’m glad to say I didn’t have any more situations like this one; and it was mostly because I did not allow myself to have a bully mentality.  I would not be a victim of someone else’s insecurities and fears.  I picked my pearls up and turned them into a beautifully polished, shining example of how to avoid these situations!

How do I keep my pearls polished?  Over the years, I acted as a counselor to others who have been bullied.  I talked to friends who were feeling threatened about their situation and gave them insight about where I thought a bully was coming from.  I related that they were really cowards, afraid of life, afraid of not having control.  I counseled my sisters growing up.  I was able to help my children in dealing with bullies in school and in life.  I gave them tools to be critical thinkers.  Most of all, I encouraged them to help others too!  There’s power in numbers.  I really tried to instill in them ways to circumvent a bully’s intent.  My son was in 1st grade when he completely unraveled a bully on the playground by making everyone laugh when he pulled out a superhero action figure from his pocket and announced, “The Captain will take care of me!”

I was so proud of him.  And even the teacher, who witnessed it, was impressed.  I taught them that each situation requires a different type of response and that it was up to them to either ask for help or, if they could, figure out the best way to handle it.  My kids are able to figure out now which they should do in their adult lives too; because as we know, bullies can come in all shapes, sizes and forms.  Bosses, co-workers, and just people in general can cause problems by using bully tactics.  It’s crucial that adults know how to deal with these issues.

I am happy to say that my pearls are cleaned, shining and in place!