Bully For You
Today when I was out taking a walk at lunch, I passed a bunch of grade school kids playing kickball in a narrow stretch of grass outside the public library. I’ve seen them playing all summer long – I think they’re part of some summer camp at the library – and every time I walk past them, I am absolutely obsessed with keeping my eye on that red kickball to ensure that it will not come flying at me and nail me in the head. And why am I worried about getting hit in the head? Because it will hurt? Because it might lodge my iPod earphones into my brain? Because my hair looks particularly nice today? No, my friends. I’m afraid that if a wayward ball hits me in the head…those kids will laugh at me.
Y’all. I’m 30. These kids are 9 years old. It kind of struck me today how fucking pathetic that is.
The thing is, I know that if it happened I’d just smile and laugh it off (unless my earphones did lodge themselves in my brain, in which case I’d probably just lay there, twitching and soiling myself). One of the counsellors might yell out an apology, and because I try to not be a bitch in public, I’d probably chase after the ball and toss it back to them. I know some of the kids would be laughing, and who am I to judge, because if I saw it happen to someone else, you best believe I’d be laughing (on the inside, of course – see: not being a bitch in public, above) and then emailing everyone about it once I got back to the office, especially if the kickball made that hilarious hollow “BOING” sound when it hit the person’s head, because that’s just how I roll. But yeah, if it happened to me, I’d laugh, I’d throw the ball back, I’d keep walking. I’d fucking handle it, because I’m an adult and these are 3rd graders, for Christsakes. But I know myself, and I know it would take me the rest of the afternoon to shake the tightness in my stomach and in the back of my throat that I get when I know someone is laughing at me.
Of course, I know why I have that reaction. In 7th and 8th grade – mostly in 8th – I was teased, mercilessly, in school and on the school bus. I actually hestitate to call it teasing, because “teasing” sounds so gentle and so harmless – something that would stop as soon as feelings got hurt. The stuff these kids said to me was cruel. I still remember most of their comments word-for-word (and I can still hear them saying it). Maybe that’s a testament to how my weird little mind traps inane details like flypaper, or maybe it’s proof that I don’t know when to just let shit go, but I think the real explanation is that those little cruelties that happen to you when you’re young never really go away (which is why I can’t even imagine how people who were abused as kids even manage to get through a damn afternoon). This is not to say I regularly weep and wail over the relatively insignificant unfairness of being a nerdy junior-high target for the popular kids – because I don’t – but that awful, heavy feeling of being tormented by that slutty bitch Erin on the bus tends to crop up when I least expect it.
What I really don’t understand is why kids have this need to bully other kids in the first place. I don’t think that kids are inherently assholes, and it’s easy to see that most of the stupid/mean stuff they do stems directly from them just not knowing any better (e.g., pulling the cat’s tail, roller-skating in the house, saying a bad word just to see the reaction it gets, hitting your sister with a shoe while fighting over the remote control) but none of that stuff has any kind of lasting effect. Yeah, my sister had that shoeprint on her thigh for the rest of the afternoon, but now we’re very close (just as long as bitch does not make a play for the remote control). What I’m saying is, none of the dumb stuff kids do really ever leaves a mark, so why do they have the sinister capacity (and a downright need) to be mean to other kids – something that leaves a mark so deep that it still hurts me 17 years later?
The sick thing is, this kind of behavior isn’t limited to kids. I was still on the receiving end of this horseshit in high school, and I see adults acting like 4th-grade dickwads all the time. And even though I wasn’t a career bully, I can remember a few specific times I was a total shit to someone, and I’m sure there are countless more times I hurt feelings without even knowing it. I dunno – maybe people are inherently assholes. Which supports my proposal that God should design your ovaries/testicles to shrivel up if you haven’t outgrown the need to bully by age 20, so the rest of the world won’t have to be subjected to the inevitable douchebag fruit of your asshat loins.
I guess I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot lately because we’ve been planning on having a kid in the next year or so, and the thought of bringing a person into a world where he or she will unquestionably get hurt is a struggle for me. Granted, I will never allow my child to sport a perm, glasses, AND a tapestry vest all at the same time (thanks, 7th grade school picture, for capturing that moment and burning it into my brain), but I know I won’t be able to protect him or her from whatever awful things the kids at school/camp/the bus stop cook up.
What I can do, though, is tell those little bullying shits about the zombie living under their bed who is waiting every night to grab their ankles if they get up to pee. And that divorces are usually the kids’ fault. And how dogs, cats, and grandmas burn in hell when they die.
That should even the playing field a little bit.
Entry filed under: And you KNOW THIS!.