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Feb 24 2013

Didn’t you just love public school?

Miri is ruining everyone’s fun again, telling stories about being bullied in school, and showing this fierce video.

I was lucky. I wasn’t really bullied; my fate was to be neglected and marginalized. I was the dirt poor kid who wasn’t a jock or popular, so I was mostly uncategorizable and overlooked. An example to illustrate the weird social limbo I was in: I was only one of four kids at the school to be a national merit finalist; I’d gotten a near-perfect score on the SATs. We all got invited to the principal’s office when this was announced, and he sat us down: the basketball star, the doctor’s kid, the straight A student (and no resentment against any of those three — all were good people), and me. The principal knew all the others well, they had a good reputation, and he was joking around with them, and then he turned and gave me this look…’whothehellisthis and whyshouldItalkto him’, sniffed and turned back to the others, without saying a word to me.

We got the honor of a few minutes announcement at a school assembly, and it was similarly weird. Each of us four were announced, the teachers and principal said a few lovely things about them, and then they came to me, last, and just said my name, nothing more, before moving on. It was nice to be mentioned, but man, I was clearly regarded as the aberrant weirdo who was only there by mistake. I was the outlier, the person from the wrong class (make no mistake, classism thrives in America), the nobody who didn’t fit.

Again, I wasn’t bullied much in high school. I wasn’t angry at that treatment. What it did instead was make me someone who never felt a lot of self-worth and just kind of generally alone and miserable. But fortunately another thing I lacked was the serious depression that many people experience, even when they aren’t neglected, and so I’ve managed to cope.

I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to actually have a teacher take an interest in me and encourage me, but at least I never had one make my life difficult. I was too invisible for that.

105 comments

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  1. 1
    tacotaco

    Thanks for posting this. It explains a lot.

  2. 2
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    Thanks for linking to my post, and I’m sorry your school years kinda sucked. I’ve often met people who say that they’d rather be hated than ignored, because at least then they’d feel like someone notices that they exist. I don’t know how much better that would really feel, but this post reminded me of that.

    Depression or lack thereof also makes a huge difference, because people who don’t have it are able to tell themselves, “Wow, these people treated me inappropriately” rather than “Wow, I’m a fucking waste of space.” For those of us who have it, the reaction to bullying and rejection is generally the latter, and then everything snowballs and both the depression and the bullying/rejection tends to get worse.

    Here’s a really adorable gif of a kitty and a bunny because I can’t possibly end a comment on this note: http://polishfeminist.tumblr.com/post/43433540079

  3. 3
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    When I was in high school, I hated it when adults would tell me that I would look back on these days as the best in my life.

    As it turned out, they were wrong.

    So grateful that those days are gone. Wish I did not need all of the therapy that came in the wake.

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    I’m afraid to ask what “it explains a lot” means. “No wonder you grew up to be such an asshole!”

    But you really can’t tell. My circumstances changed a lot once I escaped from high school.

    And yes, Miri, I know that clinical depression is something I was extremely lucky to avoid. High school seems to be a machine for amplifying self-doubt a thousand-fold…or if you’re lucky to be one of the blessed ones, teaching you to ignore self-doubt.

  5. 5
    Ichthyic

    Thanks for posting this. It explains a lot.

    thanks for posting that, it explains a lot.

  6. 6
    chigau (違う)

    When I was in high school and I had nothing but pity for those people who thought that that segment was going to be the best in life.
    60something more years to go and 18 was best?
    eeewwww

  7. 7
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    High school seems to be a machine for amplifying self-doubt a thousand-fold…or if you’re lucky to be one of the blessed ones, teaching you to ignore self-doubt.

    Who are these people?! I want to meet one.

  8. 8
    shouldbeworking

    My high school years weren’t as bad. I was the only one who actually went to university or post secondary within 3 years of HS graduation. AFAIK, the only one to graduate. I only went back to that small town to visit my parents.

  9. 9
    Ichthyic

    Who are these people?! I want to meet one.

    you mean people who were taught to ignore self doubt in high school?

    *raises hand*

    you have to understand though, that this is NOT necessarily a good thing. things like “think positive” clubs can indeed teach you to ignore self doubt…. at your own later peril.

  10. 10
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    you have to understand though, that this is NOT necessarily a good thing. things like “think positive” clubs can indeed teach you to ignore self doubt…. at your own later peril.

    Interesting point. I think, though, that there’s a difference between doubting that your behavior and opinions are always correct/appropriate and doubting yourself as a person. People should have a healthy sense of skepticism about their actions and the things they believe, but that should never mean that they doubt that they have worth as people. You know?

  11. 11
    throwaway

    I cried both times I watched earlier. Now it seems as if I shall cry again. Though not sad, I feel I must confront these demons for the sadness to have a chance of escaping me. His words are indeed that powerful, a true gift to the world. Though, I do take exception, in that he got something wrong – I haven’t made it, I’m probably walking with an empty gas can. But at least I’m no longer on that nightly tightrope of dread… The worst is over and it’s time to clean up, and his lyric helped me to realize that.

  12. 12
    Ichthyic

    I think, though, that there’s a difference between doubting that your behavior and opinions are always correct/appropriate and doubting yourself as a person.

    true, but it’s a fine distinction when you’re a teen.

  13. 13
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    I can’t bring myself to watch it.

  14. 14
    dsmwiener

    It was not until many years later that I realized that many of the people who I envied in high school also peaked in high school. Now that I’m in my 50′s I find that I’m really hitting my stride and am quite happy. Many of the formerly envied are dead or forgotten. My daughter is about to enter high school, and my boys are not far behind, and I can only warn them that what seems important in high school is trivial and what seems trivial (the school work) is actually quite important.

  15. 15
    Lofty

    Aaaagh, high school, the anvil of conformity. Bullying is the lump hammer wielded to make you fit your allotted role. I escaped and eventually found my niche, in self employment. I like working alone.

  16. 16
    Becca Stareyes

    High school wasn’t that bad for me…

    … but mostly because I was bullied in later elementary and middle school, and the few overtures some of my classmates may have made were handled with a complete and utter cluelessness on my part*. (Also general life stuff was not so good around that age.)

    So going to a high school where none of my bullies were, and where there were obvious after-school clubs for geeks to gather at, was reassuring since it was a statement that it was middle school that had been the problem.

    * This was around the time my little brother was diagnosed with autism, which lead to Mom pointing out that I showed a lot of autistic traits in milder forms, which lead to me being put on the spectrum. It’s strangely reassuring to know that you’re struggling with something because your brain is ‘wired’ a different way than other kids’, not that you’re some kind of social reject.

  17. 17
    chigau (違う)

    dsmwiener
    I hope you are not using the word “trivial” when you address your offspring.

  18. 18
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Okay, I thought I was the only one who didn’t understand what “It explains a lot” means. I do not recognize the commenter so I was worried that xe is one of your many detractors, PZ.

  19. 19
    kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith

    Thanks for linking to my post, and I’m sorry your school years kinda sucked. I’ve often met people who say that they’d rather be hated than ignored, because at least then they’d feel like someone notices that they exist. I don’t know how much better that would really feel, but this post reminded me of that.

    Believe me, you don’t want to know.

    For me high school was the single worst experience of my life, and I am quite lucky to have made it through alive. I still have problems relating to teenagers from what happened there, all those years later – I never quite could bring myself to thrust them.

    Being ignored would have been a huge relief compared to what I got. I had dreams about it. The nightmare was waking up from those.

  20. 20
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    That video was really, really hard to watch/listen to. It stirred up memories I’d tried to ignore.

    My mother took me out of public school and home-schooled me after the third grade. I don’t recall any of the kids who teased me or actually beat me up ever getting in trouble, but I know I was suspended once after fighting back when a girl sat on my chest and started punching me in the face. Because, of course, the kid on hir back is obviously the one responsible.

    The administration was worse, though. A teacher who had been repeatedly accused of snapping the bras of girls in the junior high kept getting assigned to younger and younger grades. Their thought process was that eventually he’d reach an age that was too young for him.

    He was assigned to be my fourth grade teacher and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Ahh, and then there was the time the school nurse freaked out and insisted someone had broken my nose because it was so grotesquely swollen. I looked in the mirror and said, no, that’s how my nose always looks. Not all people have cute little button noses. But that story got around and then I spent my final year in public school as “the ugliest person ever.”

    I know I missed out on some stuff, but honestly…I’m okay with having been home-schooled after that.

  21. 21
    PZ Myers

    You know, one thing I think I took for granted was how sadistic my teachers were. The worst were the coaches: I could have avoided them, except that the school employed those scum to also teach history and health (poorly).

    This was back in the day when teachers could bring out a great big wooden paddle and swat you so hard you’d bleed. And they did. We just accepted it.

  22. 22
    unbound

    I was the product of public schools except for 2 years. I was bullied for most of it. The 2 years I wasn’t in public school, I was in a Catholic school. The Catholic school was worse…in addition to the bullies being worse there, the nuns that taught the 2 years I was there were nasty as well.

  23. 23
    Rip Steakface

    I’ve had the benefit of a great band program at my high school with an excellent teacher (if someone is in band, they will usually cite him as their favorite teacher). Lots of good people, and a teacher that actually cares for everyone. However, middle school was when it really sucked for me. None of those benefits plus the general annoyance and stupidity of middle schoolers.

  24. 24
    dsmwiener

    chigau

    No – I do not trivialize their issues, but I do try an put it in perspective.

  25. 25
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    I have no negative, or terribly positive experiences to relate about my time in the public school system.
    My heart goes out to all of you who were treated badly (or invisibly). You didn’t deserve that.

    Given my love of Buffy, Joss Whedon’s well known quote seems appropos here: “High School is hell”.

  26. 26
    dsmwiener

    Hm. I did have problems with bullies till I kicked some ass (and got my ass kicked). But once they knew that there was no free ride I was left alone. However, things are different now (at least at my kid’s school) where there really is zero tolerance for bullying, physical or otherwise. In fact, you can actually get kicked out of school for defending yourself, which I disagree with, in principle.

  27. 27
    yubal

    Wow.

    This is just … awesome.

    *Short movie award*

  28. 28
    chigau (違う)

    yubal
    Do you have a point?

  29. 29
    yubal

    what do you mean by “point”?

    I relate strongly to the movie clip.

  30. 30
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I mostly avoided physical bullying, at first by a propensity to go into berserk rages when verbal taunting got past a certain point (Therapy helped), and later on by clever use of large friends (Who also knew tae kwon do; they were in my gaming group, and the few people who still noticed me enough to harass me didn’t want to risk getting them involved).

  31. 31
    barbara4

    Many years ago, an adult walking through the high school cafeteria told some of us, “You should enjoy your time in high school. These are the best years of your life!” I wondered how he could be so cruel.

    I was angry by the rejection I experienced from fellow students. Now I know that the problem was that I was an introverted, socially clueless, biology nerd. Now I have found my people and am happy. : )

  32. 32
    chigau (違う)

    I just realised that no-one in my high-school (early 1970s, small city Alberta) was bullied for being homosexual.
    Because no-one was ‘out’.
    Not one.

  33. 33
    barbara4

    Many years ago, I was working in the high school library when the school counselor came to get me. She wouldn’t say why; I should follow her to her office; she’d tell me there.

    I was bright; I could figure this out. Something was clearly very wrong, something so bad I couldn’t be told in public. I wasn’t in trouble at school, though, I felt sure of that. If it were a problem with my brothers or sisters, one of my parents would come to tell us. My parents weren’t there, and if one of my parents were in the hospital, the other would be there with him/her. Which one was injured? Was he/she dead?

    Once she had me sitting in her office, the counselor explained that I was a National Merit Scholar.

    Oh.

    The counselor was disappointed to get no enthusiasm from me; I was just grateful no one was maimed or dead. Being a National Merit Scholar never meant as much to me as it might have.

  34. 34
    Crissa

    I was bullied alot in school, but the Principal knew me quite well by the time the PSAT scores returned as we had 3 of us (of our class of about fifty at that time) that qualified. I’d been in a dozen fights, assaulted one teacher, and had my locker and backpack stolen several times over. Oh, and I’d managed to not fight back in the fights that the teachers observed… But I did fight back enough to be one they had an eyeful of. By the end of high school, though, bullying had kinda ceased – the bullies either graduated, were expelled, or dropped out. Of our starting class of over a hundred freshmen, only 38 graduated from our highschool. Another handful graduated from other schools, including the newly opened school on the nearby reservation.

  35. 35
    tgriehl

    I don’t feel like I was bullied in the broader sense, but I had one bully who just perpetually (usually low level) harassed me from middle school through high school. What amazes me is that I was on good and friendly terms with a lot of my bully’s friends, who really were good people, and knew what was going on, and (it seemed) did absolutely nothing to stop it. That’s what tore my brain up in high school: I am friends with my bully’s friends… Even today, I still resent them to a small degree.

    As for teachers? Yeah, anyone who says teachers are intrinsically heroes or good or whatever don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. (In my case) How anyone in authority can walk in on one person kicking another, and presume the person being kicked is in the wrong… I completely understand the desire to bully someone else once you’ve been bullied. That apish desire is fucking scary.

  36. 36
    erikthebassist

    I was severely bullied until I sprouted at about 13, then I stood a foot taller than any on else in my class, as big as the seniors in high school. Nobody messed with me then, but I always remembered the bullying and still do. It’s amazing how angry I can get when thinking about the faces of the kids who beat me up daily, held me down and shoved dandelions in my mouth.

    As a football player and a musician, I oddly straddled the social groups between the geeks and the jocks and ended up dating a geek through most of high school. Yeah, I was a football player that was also in the school play and pretty popular, so I got to experience both sides.

    I never tolerated seeing people get picked on and the bullies knew the keep it in check if I was near by. I was kind of proud of that. One of the kids that I befriended through chorus committed suicide a few years after we graduated. He was relentlessly bullied. I regretted that I couldn’t always be there for him. I think about him all the time.

    I also lost my best friend at 22 to suicide. He was severely depressed, but he was a scholar athlete, the varsity quarterback, a baseball star who was expected to go pro after college. He was very well liked, one of those kinds of people who everything they do they do extremely well, Mr Popular.

    Depression can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  37. 37
    flamethorn

    People should have a healthy sense of skepticism about their actions and the things they believe, but that should never mean that they doubt that they have worth as people.

    What’s it like, to believe that you have worth as a person? Somewhere along the line, if I had that, I lost it and now I’m in my thirties and how do I get there from here?

  38. 38
    erikthebassist

    What’s it like, to believe that you have worth as a person? Somewhere along the line, if I had that, I lost it and now I’m in my thirties and how do I get there from here?

    I’m 40 and have been dealing with depression for half of my life. I find it helpful to think about how lucky I am to be alive at all. If nothing else, I get to stare in awe at the sheer beauty of the universe, watch as people much smarter than I tinker with nature and figure it out.

    When the depression starts to kick in, I dive in to science, it’s my refuge. I think of myself as a spectator at the Greatest Show on Earth, so it doesn’t really matter what I think of myself at that point. “I” am just lucky to be cognizant of what is going on around me.

    It’s not a cure all, but it helps. Of course, there are times when it’s just too much and that’s usually when I resort to drinking and withdrawing, luckily for me though it’s seems to be getting better with age.

  39. 39
    erikthebassist

    Or Flamethorn if you prefer the short answer, seek professional help, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. I have, it’s helped.

  40. 40
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    So… what do you call it when someone intentionally deflates the tires on your wheelchair?

    Sure, the kid was forced to apologize, but… still… knowing that due to your disability, you’re at the mercy of the people around you, and all you can do is hope none of them gets it into their head to do something “clever” to the gear that functions as your legs… it’s pretty fucking scary.

  41. 41
    Jacob Schmidt

    I’m really glad this is making the internet rounds. It convinced me to finally apologize to that one kid I was an asshole to in highschool. I’m years too late for the apology to mean anything else but words, I’m ashamed to say.

  42. 42
    jamescarlton

    I went to several different schools as a kid growing up in both Australia and the UK. Weirdly my worst experience with bullying came while I was attending what was basically an American style school in England. (when we first moved, I couldn’t start at a UK school because the semesters started at different times so I went to the only school that didn’t really mind because they dealt with this sort of thing all the time – an “International” school which was essentially an American school transplanted into England for US expats and their families).

    I was bullied a bit at my Australian school, and the other school I ended up at in England, but nothing like what I received at the US style school. My firm opinion (albeit from a not particularly large sample size) was that the biggest reason was the US school didn’t have uniforms.

    As I kid I never really cared that much about what I wore, (I was still about 10 or 11 at that stage so to be honest I’m pretty sure it was more my Mum’s decision than mine most of the time). Everyone else at the school seemed to put huge stock in their clothes and appearance though and IMO that determined the pecking order more than anything else. If you had the latest sneakers, jeans and a cool t-shirt – you got to pick on the kid dressed in trackpants. That seemed to be how it worked for me.

    None of the schools I went to that had uniforms ever seemed to be as brutal as this place. Maybe visual cues are just more effective in establishing this kind of hierarchy than non-visual ones, or maybe I just went to a school that had a lot of assholes I don’t know. I do know I don’t think I’d ever send my kids to a school without uniforms after the experience I had. Kids should go to school to learn stuff, not to take part in popularity contests. Boring as they are, uniforms have their purpose IMO.

    As an aside, as if you need more incentive but bullying is a great reason for gun control. After enduring a year and a half of misery, I basically snapped one day and went berserk – thankfully the worst that eventuated was some bruises and more than a few tears. If I’d had easy access to a firearm I’d have probably used it one way or another. Kids pushed to the limit shouldn’t have that as an option.

  43. 43
    PZ Myers

    Oh, yeah, I did get bullied a bit in jr. High and high school…by a girl gang. It was nothing physical, but maybe once a week they’d catch me walking home from school and follow me, taunting me about my appearance. That did wonders for my self esteem, that’s for sure.

    I started walking home sometimes with this girl I would later marry. For protection.

  44. 44
    Edward Villarreal

    I was a perfect target for bullying in school and they tried; it didn’t take though. As long as the attacks weren’t physical I mostly just ignored them. But I once got jumped by eight guys who had threaten to beat the crap out of me. Sadly the fight only lasted about 3 seconds before they ran away, even more sad it was still the most fun I had in school that year.

  45. 45
    ubique

    I remember going to a few parties where Shane came, and I’ve seen him at Cafe Deux Soleils open mic night. He’s a f*cking amazing poet. I’m glad to see him getting the recognition he deserves. I was an always-on-the-outside-looking-in kid, too big and scary to be physically bullied, but never connected to the other kids, thanks to moving schools every year or so. It’s not much that can make me cry, but this did. Good for you, childhood bullying is nothing to minimize or laugh at, the scars last forever.

    The emotion in that man’s voice….

  46. 46
    bad Jim

    I had a pretty easy time of it, as did my siblings and their kids. I think it’s mostly because the places where we live are pretty laid-back, but I have to acknowledge that we’ve been pretty privileged to live in coastal California communities, and however broke we may have been from time to time we managed to maintain upper-middle-class pretenses. In my own case, I thought that growing up in the 60′s was a leveling experience, with everyone sharing the felony of marijuana experimentation.

    Like PZ, I was an NMS finalist. My only recognition from that was a photo in the local paper. I was pretty tight with my teachers, though, and I belonged to a loose, generally liberal, intellectual clique, and at least a few of the girls I had a crush on still like me.

    The first two high school reunions I attended forcibly reminded me why I was in such a hurry to get to college. People seemed stuck, they hadn’t progressed, they were still as shallow and self-regarding as they had been as teenagers. The most recent, the 40th, wasn’t like that. We’re getting pretty old. The most distant, the least successful, the least healthy of us probably didn’t attend, although as far as we could tell few had died. Several were, like me, caring for an elderly parent (and hence tethered to the home town).

    I don’t remember high school fondly, and perhaps only the fog of an aging memory conceals the pain of that time (though my nieces and nephew say they weren’t bullied there either), but to me the sharpest difference between high school and college was the sort of people I had to deal with. Most of the kids in high school thought education was an irrelevant pain in the ass. In college at least they realized it was an important pain in the ass. (At Berkeley we also had more tear gas and LSD.)

  47. 47
    mikee

    @chigau #32

    You don’t have to be out to be bullied for being gay. hell, you don’t even have to be gay to be bullied as gay. Gay taunts have always been used, particularly in all boys schools, to put someone down.

  48. 48
    Ichthyic

    Gay taunts have always been used, particularly in all boys schools, to put someone down.

    more than just taunts…

    something the Romneybot did at his school rings a little bell…

  49. 49
    A. R

    I was bullied to some extent in my first two years of High School, but I was lucky enough to have the entire (excellent) science department, and my computer sciences instructor take an interest in me. Apparently they saw a biologist under all of the self-doubt. As for the bullying, that stopped after I became business manager and executive editor for the yearbook (the computer science instructor was the staff consultant). Something about not getting their photos in the yearbook put the bullies off of the whole idea of taunting me.

  50. 50
    MichaelE

    It hurt, sure it did. And maybe the abuse I was subjected to wasn’t as bad as what others had to endure, but it hurt bad enough to sometimes make me feel glad that I was not the one who suffered the worst. That kinda hurts more, because it makes me feel like a horrible person.

    At least I never turned to bullying others to defend myself. Some people do and I must admit that I both loathe these people and feel sorry for them. Because what kind of abuse did they have to endure for them to start abusing others just to get away from the abuse thrown at them?

  51. 51
    Trickster Goddess

    I was frequently beaten and assaulted by bullies in elementary and junior high. Often it was by kids who were physically smaller than me who would sucker punch me in the hallway or in the school yard because they knew I wouldn’t fight back. (I just wasn’t that kind of person.)

    Puberty brought transgender-related depression and I eventually became so numb from the depression that even physical violence didn’t phase me anymore. One of my last memories of being bullied was in grade 9, I was sitting on a bench with people on both sides of me alternating punching me for most of the lunch hour. I had zero reaction: I didn’t fight back, I didn’t run away, I didn’t complain. I just sat there and quietly smoked a cigarette and absorbed the blows. I guess they eventually got bored by a victim who just didn’t give a damn and I was basically bully-free for the rest of high school.

    In the reverse of the usual narrative where bullying leads to depression, for me depression saved me from continued bullying. Unfortunately, 40 years on, I am still dealing with the depression.

  52. 52
    ischemgeek

    As a kid, I was the smallest in the grade for a long time (so small that I was usually mistaken for a kid in a class three grade-levels below mine). I had an immense overbite, a severe stutter, a lisp, and no fashion sense. My social skills were far below grade level, and I had a habit of reading the dictionary and trying to use a new word in a sentence every day – thus, when talking about cartoons in second grade, I described Wile E Coyote as being “defenestrated” rather than just saying he got hurled out the window.

    All of that made me a very target-rich environment for bullies, and also guaranteed that the adults around me treated me like I deserved the harassment I got for being such a weirdo. If I didn’t want to be bullied, I could just try harder to be normal – never mind that the overbite made it physically impossible to not lisp and the stutter made it close to impossible to get through sentences some days. Never mind that my social issues weren’t a matter of me not giving a shit what others thought of me (how could they think that, when I went home crying about it literally every day so that they labelled me “oversensitive” in addition to uncaring?) but rather were a matter of just. Not. Getting. It. “It” being those social rules that everyone else in the universe seems to pick up as easy as breathing – like why I should drop what I’m doing and say hi when someone comes in the room, even if I literally don’t notice them enter because I’m hyperfocused. How do you notice someone come in when you’re concentrating on something? Why is it okay to say hi to some people but weird to say hi to others? Small talk, how does it work? Why do white lies exist if honesty is the best policy? Etc. Never mind that my desk was a disaster and I could either catch the bus on time or get everything I needed for homework before leaving class but not both not because I was a lazy, willful brat (teacher’s words) but rather because I had an undiagnosed learning disability (and, yes, smart kids get learning disabilities, too. It’s not that uncommon, actually).

    But once they label you a problem child, you’re a problem child forever, and all of your problems are assumed to be your fault until proven otherwise and how can you prove that you weren’t stupid enough to start a fight with seven other kids, all of whom are twice your size, to people who’ve already decided that’s how it went down when you’re so upset that your stutter is making it impossible to get even a single word out? So you start pulling your hair in frustration and then they lock you up in the isolation room to “calm down” and ignore you there for the rest of the day while you freak out because nobody listens and not one person in your entire life actually gives a shit that you were just jumped and beaten by a gang of seven kids and are now going to be the one punished for it. And you get a new name: Crazy.

    It didn’t help that my parents were less than supportive (to put it mildly) because they resented me for existing (see also: why I’m in favor of abortion in all circumstances – every child a wanted child is important in a way that those whose parents wanted them will never get) or that my siblings got in on it.

  53. 53
    eidolon

    I think one aspect of the teen experience that is often overlooked is the fact that is a tough period for just about every teen, not just the outcasts. Not physically necessarily, but parents can put serious pressure on kids to excel athletically and academically and failure is not viewed as an option. Sibling rivalry is no picnic. For every teacher that smiles approvingly at a jock, there is apt to be another who regards him/her as having little else to offer.

    I experienced bullying in middle school but that changed in high school when I was able to find a group of similar outsiders. I can still remember the open surprise when the gym teacher handing out the SAT results saw my scores – he just KNEW I was none too bright. My experiences helped me a great deal when I became a teacher myself and I was not alone in that. Yes, there were teachers I worked with who were real pieces of crap, but there were also plenty who were willing to reach out and support students who were having problems. They far outnumbered the mean spirited ones.

  54. 54
    bubba707

    Oh, I remember my high school days well. I got the snot beat out of me on average of once a week because some jock on the football team thought it was fun to get his buddies together and “have a little fun” with the bookworm. The reaction from the administration was always “what did you do to provoke this?”. Yeah, high school was wonderful. On my 16th birthday I walked out and never went back. Two years later the Govt decided I was good material for the meatgrinder in Southeast Asia, but that’s a different circle of hell.

  55. 55
    Doug Hudson

    Oh my god, that video is beautiful and terrible.

    On the first day of 6th grade, at a new school, I wore plaid pants. Here I was, a new kid, with no friends, no reputation, nothing, and because I made the “mistake” of wearing plaid pants, I got mocked mercilessly and relentlessly.

    25 years later, I still hate plaid pants.

  56. 56
    crylock

    To this day… I’ve spent my life fighting that voice inside that tells me everyone else is right and I’m wrong.
    My school years were misery, a different school every year, always the outsider, always a target for bullying and beating. After being beaten down the first few times you begin to carry yourself like a victim, and it’s like catnip for bullies. Public school is a crucible for winnowing out and discarding the bright and sensitive.
    One bright spot for me: Third grade at Adastra, a short-lived school for gifted children in Kent, Wa. Surprise, surprise, when you select for intelligence, no bullies! Then Dad lost his great job at Boeing and it was back to public school.
    Thanks for having this thread! I can’t resist the subject, and it’s good to read others’ experiences.

  57. 57
    Vijen

    Careful with your US-centric language. To some significant portion of your readers (the British) “public school” actually means “private school” (bizarrely).

  58. 58
    AshPlant

    I ran into one of my bullies several years later at university; we were in halls of residence together. He recognised me, and followed me around the pool table I was playing at, taunting me with the same sort of shit he’d been giving out half a decade before.
    “Doesn’t it bother you being a virgin?” (I wasn’t)
    “Does it bother you, knowing that everyone else in this room had sex before you did?”
    “Are you upset that your brothers got to get off before you ever learned to make yourself come?” (WT actual F?)
    I just ignored him, then when it kept going I looked at him with a sort of pitying smile and asked ‘are you done yet?’ I never said it out loud, but it was a fucking revelation to see him still acting like that, and I felt fifteen fucking feet tall, and mature and grown up as all goddamn in comparison. I think that encounter was, not just a, but the reason I got over my bullying in school. It made it very clear which side of the dynamic was the one that should be ashamed and miserable. I lost the pool game, but I always do that.

  59. 59
    nora

    Reading these comments reminds me how lucky I was in high school in the sixties. I was miserable some of the time but never really bullied.

    I don’t know where it came from, but I suddenly realized at 15 that I didn’t care what anyone thought of me because I didn’t value anyone’s opinion. A bit anti-social of course, but it worked. And that thought helps me to this day.

    I wish I had a way to tell every kid that it gets better.

  60. 60
    Akira MacKenzie

    For me, high school can only be described as my four years in hell. I jungle of adolescence I had to things that would set the cruel bastards who were my classmates: 1) I was (and still am) a unathletic, Star-Trek-loving, RPG-playing, sci-fi reading geek. 2) I had (and still have) emotional problems that landed me in the academic and social ghetto that is “special education” upto the start of my senior year. My panic attacks, manic episodes, and physical fits made me an easy target.

    My larger tormentors would use to physical abuse; book dumpings, trips, being slammed into walls and lockers, thumb tacks lefts on my chair, a random punch to the shoulder or arm, and go old intimidation. Everyone else just resorted to insults and teasing, both subtle andovert depending on whether any adult authority figures was around–not that teachers would help me. It was a daily torture and I looked forward to any vacations and dreaded the coming of autumn because that’s when it would start up again.

    I’d like to that it “got better” (as one commentator puts it) for me after graduation, but it didn’t. My high school years had left me with no self-esteem or confidence (my parents didn’t help either, but that’s another thread) as well as ruined my ability to trust people. I have no love life because I’m scared of rejection and being teased by women like they did when I was 16. My circle of friends is small because I still have problems with social skills. Even 20 years later, I have nightmares about being sent back to that hole were all the same people are waiting to laugh at and beat me up again.

  61. 61
    slowdjinn

    I went to English state (public for you USAnians) schools, and didn’t have a problem until secondary (high) school where I was bullied by for my appearance, lack of interest in sports, and high academic achievement – sometimes physically, but mostly just constant petty bullshit – verbals, property damage etc.

    And then I moved away to university, and it all just stopped. Best days of your life, my arse.

    I’ve bumped into some of them since, and they seem to have this bizarre idea that we were friends.

  62. 62
    viajera

    Oh how I can relate. I was bullied both at school and at home all throughout elementary, junior high, and high school. Oddly, the bullying at school and the emotional abuse at home were directly inverse to one another: at school I was bullied for being too much of a goody-two-shoes, and at home I was punished for being too rebellious and difficult. There was no winning. For years I cycled back and forth between trying to be a Good Girl, which only got me bullied worse at school, and trying to be a Cool Girl, which only got me abused worse at home. Plus the depression I’ve fought for as long as I can remember told me it was all my fault (really, it took me until my late 30s to realize that what I went through was Not OK, and not somehow my fault for being a horrible person).

    My refuges were books and the outdoors. I grasped for dear life onto my identity as “the smart one” and threw myself into learning everything I could, and losing myself in books. Outdoors or around animals I was safe and could feel a part of something bigger than me, get caught up in the wonder of nature. It’s no wonder that I ended up going into Ecology.

  63. 63
    prfesser

    We grew up poor—truck-driving father, stay-at-home mom, twelve kids in a 3BR house with one bathroom and one outhouse—and to top it off, I was the antithesis of “athlete”, so I got lots of crap from the bullies and even from some of the moderately-decent kids.

    It was during grad school from a close friend that I first heard the quote “Living well is the best revenge.” It’s not entirely true, of course. And most of us know and have stated how incredibly difficult it can be to put one’s past aside. But the recognition that you are indeed “living well” can aid in healing the damage from those early years. Certainly it helped (and continues to help) me.

  64. 64
    alkaloid

    I was bullied all the time in junior high school and high school (although in high school it wasn’t quite as bad because as a very smart student, I made the Catholic HS where I went to basically look good so they were willing to be more protective). As the only “black nerd” where I lived, I basically had little to no social support from much of anyone, whether it was the other students, the teachers that mostly blamed me for not fitting it, or parents that told me how evil I would ever be for fighting back but eventually had to grudgingly admit that the endless conferences and attempts to get the administration to do much of anything were less that worthless.

    I mostly satisfied myself, and still do, with fantasizing about how much the people that hurt me deserve to suffer horribly. My life would honestly be a lot better if a lot of people dropped off the face of the goddamn earth.

  65. 65
    hillaryrettig

    People aren’t picking up enough on that it’s the principal and teachers who treated PZ so badly. It’s bad enough to be maltreated by your peers, but when the people who are supposed to be grownups and protectors and models act like callous assholes it’s far worse.

  66. 66
    tbp1

    I wasn’t exactly bullied, but I was definitely not in the in-group. I went to a reunion recently because there were some people I really wanted to see again, and because I have aging relatives in the town I grew up in that I don’t see often enough. To my surprise, I was suddenly one of the “cool kids,” the one everyone wanted to talk to. Several of my nerdy friends reported similar experiences. It was an amazing about-face, and I confess I got way more pleasure out of it than I should have.

  67. 67
    rumson

    I was bullied until middle school, when I became violent and began lashing out. Not my finest moments. But soon after a bunch of us metal heads and general weirdos found each other, and our group of friends became a faction of our own.There were band kids, overweight kids, children of working class poor parents, abused kids. Life was hard for each of us in some way, but together we found strength. I was really lucky to have found those odd balls. I don’t keep touch with most of them now, but they will always be there with me, at least in my mind.

    I also witnessed teachers who bully. It seems like some people feel school is the place where you are allowed to torment those who are “below” you. I have never seen the same or similar level of bullying occur in the work place.

  68. 68
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    I was never really bullied at school. I had long hair and was into metal; I was a bit of a chameleon, I suppose. I had my circle of close friends, and a friend in every clique, and most people knew who I was, but if you’d asked them they probably would have said something like “Oh, him? Yeah, he’s allright. A bit wierd, but a nice guy”. So I had it pretty good, all in all.

    I was smart, but I was tall and like I said I had friends, so no one really bullied me. Some people tried, but frankly I was smarter and better with words than most of the bullies, so I got the better of them verbally; and I did Tae Kwon Do so when they got frustrated that I wouldn’t back down and threw a punch, I beat them physically too.

    Still, I had one guy who really didn’t like me, because he kept trying to pick on me, expecting me to lay down and take it, and I kept showing him up. So he pretty much hounded me every opportunity he got, absolutely refusing point blank to learn anything from previous experiences. So one day in the main corridor he’s leaning against the wall outside a classroom, I walk past, he sticks his leg out and tries to trip me up. I’d seen him and was half expecting it, so I felt my leg hit his and just swept his leg out, so he ended up on the floor. I kept walking, but everyone’s laughing so he can’t let it go. He jumps up, runs after me, and punches me in the back of the head. So I turn round just in time to block his next punch, punched him in the solar plexus and whacked his head against the wall. He never really left me alone, but he never tried to hit me again. Although he did spit on me once, that really pissed me off.

    Anyway, I tell this story because I got in trouble for that, and he didn’t despite a corridor full of witnesses including my entire physics class who saw this happen and said he hit me first. So yes, teachers often side with the bullies. It’s like they’re perfectly happy for the victim to be the victim, but the bully gets a taste of their own medicine and suddenly there’s a problem.

  69. 69
    Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff

    Holy, holy shitsmoke, that video is stirring up my insides.

    First: to ischmegeek:

    rather were a matter of just. Not. Getting. It. “It” being those social rules that everyone else in the universe seems to pick up as easy as breathing – like why I should drop what I’m doing and say hi when someone comes in the room, even if I literally don’t notice them enter because I’m hyperfocused. How do you notice someone come in when you’re concentrating on something? Why is it okay to say hi to some people but weird to say hi to others? Small talk, how does it work? Why do white lies exist if honesty is the best policy? Etc.

    Quote for Motherfucking Truth! !! !!! Plus: I could write a fucking book.

    I only began to learn social interaction at 35 when I was thrust into my first “normal” job, a job helping people face-to-face. I’m 55 now and pretty good at the “social” stuff, the only problem being, I’m always torn between “do the effective social thing” and “I’m older and mature and I really couldn’t give a shit any more.”

    Second: My son is autistic, thirteen, and in first year of high school. He’s finally in a good program, and he did not have a good elementary school experience. I showed him this video and waited for his reaction. When it ended, he turned to me, dry-eyed, and said, “That seems pretty accurate.” and left the room.

    Third: My private hell was exacerbated by the following factors
    1) I was shorter and smaller than virtually everyone in my grade
    2) I was smart, really smart. On my first day of class in 2nd grade, I corrected the teacher, not only verbally, but by going up to the blackboard, putting down the right answer, then taking a book from the shelf and showing how I was right.
    3) I had an effete British accent.
    4) I was a FLK (funny-looking kid). Ears stuck out. Hair stuck up. Weak chin. Blind in my droopy left eye. I’m not kidding; in my elementary school pic I look like one of those kids from the short bus.
    5) I was a PK (Preacher’s Kid)
    6) Due partially to having no depth perception, I was utterly useless on the sports field. The commonest way for me to catch a ball was to intercept it with my forehead after it sailed through my hands.
    7) A religious upbringing which taught me that I was sinful just for being born, that I was worthless in god’s eyes, and that I deserved everything that happened to me.
    8) Threats from my parents that any trouble I was to bring home from school would be bad for them. And so I kept the bullying secret. All of us bullied people learn the art of compartmentalization very early on.
    9) Religious teaching that I was not to strike back, plus #8 meant that all bullies could whale on me indefinitely without consequence.

    I’m rambling now, but the result has been a life of depression, fear, and unmet potential. I’m really fucking smart, there’s no way getting around that. I’m really, really fucked up, THOUGH NO-ONE WOULD EVER KNOW IT. Just three years ago I admitted myself to psych because (once again) the urge to kill myself was powerful, constant, and specific.

    I live because I am there to protect, teach, and guide my son. I’m doing a pretty good job. And I’m always telling him that it WILL get better . . .

    Sorry for rambling . . .

  70. 70
    Vidar

    I went through school as an undiagnosed aspie. I was finally diagnosed a few years ago. I now drink myself into a stupor whenever anything reminds me of my youth. School and ‘normal’ people have not been good to me.

    @ischemgeek: About the social rules that everyone but you understands: I don’t understand those either. I was told to ‘just understand them’, or else. After all, everyone else did.

  71. 71
    notsont

    Fighting back doesn’t help, this is a lie made up by people who wish to victim blame. “If only he would stand up for himself they would learn to respect him” bullshit. Fighting back generally makes it worse. I fought back all the time, usually with the result of getting bigger older kids involved on the side of the bullies or worse adults who take one look at the parties involved and decide that the poor kid in the old clothes is obviously the trouble maker. “adults” wont help because like everyone else they believe being “different” is a crime and your getting what you deserve.

  72. 72
    redwood

    I guess I was an outsider so people just left me alone. I attended six different schools through high school as an army brat, even after my father retired from the military we moved around a lot, so I was usually “the new kid.” I was never bullied for being new. I was just ignored and that was fine. In junior high I wore jeans before they were cool and shirts made of feed sacks (yes, they really exist and my mother sewed them–did I say we were poor?). In high school I played football and was even the captain of the team as well as getting the best grades but my friends were the nerds and other outsiders. Once in ninth grade one of the top jocks had a meeting after practice to talk about why it was wrong for the coaches to tell us not to smoke. He said, “We all smoke, so it should be okay.” I said, “I don’t smoke,” and he just looked surprised and said something like, “Well, you’re different,” not in a nasty or unfriendly way, just stating a fact.

    In that respect I was like PZ–more ignored than not, but an oddity because I was good at sports and good at school but no one seemed to know what to make of me so they left me alone. I kind of wanted to be part of the “in group” early on, but when I realized that their heads were pretty much empty, I was happy to go my own way with my outsider friends.

    Maybe it’s not surprising that I’ve lived the past 34 years outside the US.

  73. 73
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @notsont

    That’s not entirely true, it helped me, as detailed above. But bullies do have a depressing habit of getting older brothers/cousins involved when someone beats them at their own game. I have landed myself in trouble before due to this tendancy, but I was too stubborn/prideful/stupid for my own good… I could only take so much before I started giving it back.

    I’m sorry that happened to you. There’s something so much more shit about the situation when an adult takes the bully’s side.

  74. 74
    Sastra

    Right after Junior High my family actually moved to a different town because I was being bullied. I didn’t realize that at the time, but I was told later that the real reason we ended up selling the first house my parents had ever owned and rented again was not because the house was “too small” — it was because I was too miserable and my parents didn’t know what else to do to fix the problem. I had experienced some physical abuse, but most of the bullying involved the sort of low-level sneers, taunts, and casual contempt which generally flies under the adult radar of what is fixable by authority. I cried all time (or so it felt.) So we left.

    And — remarkably — the problem went away. The Junior High had been small, insular, and snobby. In retrospect I think a lot of the abuse was the result of my being lower on the economic/social scale than most of my classmates. The new high school was in a city with a very diverse population. And it was huge. I mean really, really big — the largest in the US iirc. Over 5,400 students. There were 4 cafeterias, 6 courtyards, 5 principals … and no cliques. No popular kids — and no loner rejects who stuck out.

    There couldn’t be, not in a school of that size. I could blend in. Hell, I could find others like me and make friends — and then change them all and practically never see them again if I wanted to simply by changing the places I chose to hang out. It was a heady feeling. I remember how my mind reeled when I saw that somebody had evidently gotten sick in one of the halls and I realized that nobody knew or cared who it had been. No nicknames, no mockery, no notice taken and no reputation made which would thus follow that poor kid around for the rest of their days. Not even if it had been me.

    Freedom. Invisible. It still took me a while to get over the feeling that I was constantly being watched, scrutinized, and judged for any sign of “wrongness” — but it eventually went away and I started to breath again. When I’d first started elementary school (it had been in the same city as my high school) I’d been popular enough — normal — and I felt I was returning to that. I think the credit goes less to anything I did and more to the dynamics of a situation where teenagers were forced to mingle so constantly with strangers that identities could not fix.

    When I was an adult my mom confessed to me that I had been the reason we had moved back when I finished 8th grade. I’d been so unhappy and they hoped a change of place would help me. I was responsible. Thank goodness I didn’t know that.

    And thank goodness it worked.

  75. 75
    lilandra

    As I commented on Brute Reason, I see this from both the teacher’s and the student’s point of view. As a teacher, I intervened to stop a teacher from harassing a student about saying the pledge. As a student I have also been subject to teacher bullying. I had a high school teacher who was a shrew with frosted hair and dark roots. She would complain about marrying for love instead of money. She would have us copy copious notes off the overhead rather than teach. We would spend hours writing and grading each other’s papers. She would tell people they weren’t honors material to weed down her class size. I also had another teacher in grade school that would talk about me behind my back to the class and in front of my face without naming me, because my mother neglected me.

    I have always been an outsider at predominately black or white schools when I was older, because I am Eurasian. In grade school, I couldn’t walk down the halls without children slanting their eyes at me or taunting me with “Chinese, Japanese, Dirty knees..!” One time someone pulled my long, black hair and I started crying because it wasn’t the first time. A teacher actually told me it was because they thought I was pretty, and didn’t know how to express it.

    In high school, it was different it was the 80s and if you didn’t have the right kind of shoes or jeans, you didn’t fit in. I already didn’t fit in because I was often confused for the Japanese exchange student. It was also a time when there was Asian stereotyping like Long Duck Dong in the movie Sixteen Candles. I was also refereed to as a brain with resentment, but that didn’t stop them from copying off my paper. Teachers pretty much ignored the bullying. A very few were materialistic, shallow bullies themselves. Although there were other teachers that cared about me, and encouraged me to write poetry. They usually had classrooms where students didn’t bully because they had a caring classroom environment.

    However, I have had teachers that have intervened on my behalf like a Black teacher that would drive me and my siblings to where we lived when we missed the bus, and probably reported to the authorities that we were living with abusive nuns rather than our family. One day my Dad picked us up and we never went back. Even though I was subjected to racism and class-ism by some teachers and students, I don’t stereotype in return. You have to get to know people as individuals before you decide you like them or not.

  76. 76
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    I was bullied during junior high school, and it resolved itself because the bully lost interest. I was terrified every day for nearly two years though, and I am sure that left scars somewhere inside of me.

    As a parent who has been through this, the very thought of one of my kids being bullied or beaten by some jerk drives me absolutely spare. I don’t know how other parents handle this, but I doubt very much I would be able to restrain myself if I ever caught wind of a bully or a gang of them hurting one of my children. While very rare, we’ve had tragedies in my city of Vancouver (Google “Reena Virk” — her story is heartbreaking) that come to mind whenever I think of how vicious bullying can be. While I don’t want to believe I could bring myself to put a teenager into ICU, even if that teenager is pondscum, just the idea of my kids being hurt by a malicious bullying asshole makes me rage. It worries me.

  77. 77
    bovarchist

    “I wasn’t angry about this…”

    Did anyone else just do a spit take? I mean, what is Pharyngula but Myers’ ongoing rage-flail against being a marginal figure in the atheist community?

  78. 78
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I mean, what is Pharyngula but Myers’ ongoing rage-flail against being a marginal figure in the atheist community?

    Another attitude laden scripted post from the MRA contingent. Nothing cogent here, just sour grapes.

  79. 79
    notsont

    Did anyone else just do a spit take? I mean, what is Pharyngula but Myers’ ongoing rage-flail against being a marginal figure in the atheist community?

    If hes “marginal” what does that make you?

  80. 80
    notsont

    @thumper199D What you described isn’t being bullied, you may think it is, but its not. What you described seems more like a disagreement between two people. In fact you might want to reexamine who was the actual bully in what you described. Everyone laughed at him, you were too witty and too strong to be taken on physically or mentally? Really? And yet you were bullied? Something in your account isn’t making sense to me. Sounds like something out of a teen angst movie.

  81. 81
    unclefrogy

    good post and even better thread it is why I like to read this blog.
    I could write the book of my life all the ups and downs all the confusion and mixed messages received and it would not tell it all .
    The erroneous lessons I learned still haunt me and influence my attitude and choices it is an ongoing struggle.
    I find myself on an “alumni lists” from the Catholic all boys high school my mom thought was a good idea to go to,
    Needless to say I have absolutely not interested in interacting with any of them.
    At one point I had to use positive affirmations recited into a mirror to begin to overcome the negative internal dialog, I still have to pay close attention and think and do things deliberately my automatic-pilot is tuned to auger in mode.

    uncle frogy

  82. 82
    nora

    Notsont,

    I believe you missed the part where Thumper 1990 said “I was never really bullied at school.” Thumper relayed the story of getting in a fight at school to show the authorities took the side of the other person, who hit first.

    Thumper never claimed to be bullied himself.

  83. 83
    mythbri

    My worst years and worst bullies were in junior high school.

    I have to struggle to keep from remembering them, because when I do, I lose all my focus and happiness and it takes forever to build it back up.

    I can usually do that by reading. I’m lucky that way (in the sense that it’s easier for me than it is for others). It’s how I cope(d) with a lot of bad things that happen(ed) in my life.

    For a long time I was an outsider at school, at work, and at church. I was lucky not to feel like an outsider at home.

    I left church.

    I gained confidence at school, and later at work.

    It’s funny how easily and quickly all of that can go away so quickly when you remember something like this.

  84. 84
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    mythbri #83

    I’m sorry to hear it, and I do empathize. Emotional scars such as these run deep, yes? I wonder at the cruelty, why my tormentor couldn’t have just left me alone. For whatever reason he seemed to enjoy what he did, terrorizing a child smaller and weaker than he. I remember the first time he connected, his ham fist pounding into my mouth like a sledge. A coarse laugh and delight squinting out of his eyes. Hot tears and waves of pain, and humiliation. Most of all the humiliation.

    I’m not sure why he eventually lost interest, but he did. Maybe he found someone else to torment, someone who was more “fun”. I hope not though.

  85. 85
    daniellavine

    Another attitude laden scripted post from the MRA contingent. Nothing cogent here, just sour grapes.

    Aww, be nice. Jealousy is probably the closest thing bovarchist has to feeling real, human emotion.

  86. 86
    rwgate

    About two weeks ago I received an invitation to attend my 50th class reunion in 2014. I have never attended any of 49 in between, and not so regretfully, declined the offer. From 4th grade until 11th I endured the bullying that comes with being too small, too smart, wearing glasses, etc. I had bullies knock me down, fire BB guns at me while I was walking home, and following a bowling tournament (which my team won), beat me unconscious, breaking my glasses and two front teeth, kicking me repeatedly in the face.

    I still remember their names. Almost 50 years later, I still remember them. Time does not heal all wounds. But I’m not the same person.

    When I left Seattle to go to a community college in Vancouver, Washington, I left behind the years of bullying. I decided that no one knew me, that I could be anyone I wanted to be. No history, no one to remind me of my “place”. There were no former classmates at my new school. I re-invented myself; I became what I most wanted to be. My next two years were some of the best of my life, and when I returned to the Univ. of Washington, I carried that attitude with me. It didn’t hurt that I had grown from 5’7″ to 6’1″. I had a new “persona”, one that I had invented for myself, that discarded the years from grade school through high school.

    I have never made any attempt to contact anyone that I went to High School with. I started a new life when I moved on. I’m not the same person, but I still remember their names.

  87. 87
    sonofrojblake

    People used to know I was a clever kid, so they’d ask me if I liked school. I’d tell them the truth – I hated it. When they told me these were the best years of my life, I’d seriously and rationally consider suicide, on the grounds that if it got worse than this for the rest of my life, I wanted it to end now. I never “attempted” suicide, because something in me told me life *couldn’t* be worse than how my school life was, that these adults HAD to be either idiots or liars, otherwise everyone would just fucking kill themselves, surely?
    “Sticks and stones will break my bones” – yes, thanks teacher, I know that. I also know that a Stanley knife blade will break my skin. I know this from personal experience. What the FUCK are you going to do about it? Nothing.
    “If you stand up to a bully, they’ll back down because they’re cowards.” No, you disingenuous fucking douchebag, they won’t. They fight a lot. They’re used to getting hit, at home, at school, on the rugby field. When you try to stand up to them, they’ll start laughing and get one of their friends to hold you down and instead of just hitting you once or twice like they probably would have done if you’d just gone down with the first punch like you usually do, they’ll first gather a crowd. They’ll actively solicit an audience, because this is going to be good, and then they’ll take a short runup and kick you in the stomach until you puke. And then they’ll tell the teacher you hit them, the crowd will back them up, and you’ll be in trouble.
    “Standing up” to a bully does not mean confronting them. It means attacking them from behind with a weapon and disabling them for life. I only found it necessary to do this once, and it makes me physically sick to think of it to this day.
    Fortunately, a couple of years later when I was eleven I left that school and was amazed to find that what I’d been through was not “normal”, and that hey, school actually can be great. Not the greatest time of my life, by any means, but actually actively enjoyable and somewhere I’d look forward to going, instead of dreading every day. I was still occasionally bullied a bit there, but nobody ever beat me bloody or unconscious or stuck a knife in me after I left primary school, so I was able to brush off the amateurish efforts of the high school “bullies”.

  88. 88
    alexanderjohannesen

    I was one of those kids, although not marginalized for being a geek, but for being foreign. And not High School, but all through primary. And I cried watching this 30 years later. We humans suck.

  89. 89
    qwerty

    I remember high school as not a bad time even though I wasn’t in any of the cliques that all schools seem to have.

    I recently went to my 45th reunion and it is amazing how some people haven’t changed a bit. Probably won’t go to another. The people you want to see aren’t there and the ones you never wanted to see again are.

    As for bullying teachers, an Italian friend who attended a Catholic elementary school told me how he was bullied by a Sister Ursula. He got so sick from her taunting that he ended up in the hospital. And this was when he was in the third grade! After he recovered, his parents transferred him to a public school where things were much better.

  90. 90
    azgeo

    It’s not public schools, it’s public schools that don’t handle these things properly, and it’s the other students.

    I was an extremely shy, weak, scared little nerd kid with low self esteem until roughly sophmore-junior year in high school. I was only bullied by two people in elementary school that left enough of an impression to even remember it. One was a kid who picked on me for about a month in third grade. The teachers would have done something about it, if only I’d had the courage to tell them. One day I got so fed up with him that I grabbed a pile of these small seeds from the trees outside and threw them at his head all day in class (I sat behind him). He’d chase me and rough me up a little (shoving, name calling, etc) before school, and I’d bother him all day. After a few days I told him that if he stayed away in the morning, I’d leave him alone. It worked. In fifth grade a student (who was much bigger and meaner than I) got mad at me for a dumb reason (long story) and started shoving me on the recess equipment. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t. So, I got enraged, grabbed his arm, twisted it around and shoved him off the equipment. He never bothered me again. junior high was at a traditional school (which was public, but you had to apply). I had no real problems there.

    My high school was a generic public one. (before I go on I should point out that none of these schools were in the greatest of neighborhoods, and all of them served some pretty dismal areas, so my experience has nothing to do with being a rich kid). I was incredibly scared going into high school due to all the horror stories. I was never bullied in high school. Not once. I was still painfully shy, weak, frightened and nerdy, the perfect target for a bully, but there simply didn’t seem to be any. I joined NJROTC. After a couple years of that I had many friends. I was fit, and I had the self confidence and self esteem I’d been lacking all those years. Those were the best four years of my life. Even all the shame caused by being a sexually healthy teen boy who was also a fundamentalist could not bury the joy of those years.

    Then I graduated. College and University were by far the worst educational experiences of my life. Struggling to pay rising tuition costs, and commute to a school on the other side of town without a car (the only place I could study geology) all while holding down a job and paying my many dental and medical expenses stressed me to the limits of endurance. From my first day signing up for classes my impression of the US university system is that it views me as a cash spewing form of cow whose only purpose is to be milked dry. My scholarships were completely insufficient, and most of them went away as stress and limited free time caused my grades to dip into Bs with the occasional C, instead of an equal mixture of As and Bs. I took on an extra job at Home Depot to pay for my school. It left me with a permanent back injury that they managed to evade responsibility for (I didn’t understand the workman’s comp system until it was too late. Now there’s no way I could win a trial to get coverage.) Eventually I fell victim to what I believe was serious depression. It was literally impossible for me to study. I couldn’t remember what I had just read. My grades fell even further. Needless-to-say I didn’t have time for friends or socializing, and I gradually lost contact with all my great friends from high school.

    Finally a semester came when the tuition hikes made it literally impossible for me to pay without loans I couldn’t possibly afford. It’s been seven years since I graduated high school, and the only difference in my condition now is that I have significantly less hair, a ruined back, a much dimmer view of life, and $3000 in the bank instead of $1000. Fuck the American public university system. In fact, fuck our whole society. I used to have the traditional American Dream (wife, kids, house, healthcare, retirement, etc). Now my American Dream is to immigrate the fuck away.

    That got a little off topic at the end. Sorry.

  91. 91
    Gigas

    In Manitoba, the provincial government is on the point of passing anti-bullying legislation, but is facing opposition from religious groups because (a) gay-straight alliance clubs would infringe their freedom to be bigots and (b) bullying is part of their religious identity. Yes, apparently in some religions bullying is a sacrament:

    Educators in the religious school community also worry the definition of bullying is too broad.

    “We have concerns that if we had parents and students that might feel their feelings might be hurt in terms of a church teaching or policy that would be considered bullying. So that would go against the faith dimension of our schools,” said Robert Praznik, director of education for Winnipeg Catholic Schools and chair of the Manitoba Federation of Independent Schools.

  92. 92
    bubba707

    It might sound cold but the greatest satisfaction I got regarding the ones that bullied me in high school was 3 of them were in Vietnam at the same time I was. 2 were killed and one messed up for life. I skated with minor injuries. I’d call it karma if I believed in such.

  93. 93
    csue

    It doesn’t always get better. Sometimes a lifetime of abuse leaves its stamp, and bullies can always recognize it, no matter how many years later. I’m almost 50 now.

    I tried standing up to a bully less than half my age at my barn about 2-1/2 years ago; she attacked me from behind. I tried to fight back; she beat AND kicked me then. She didn’t care that there was an audience (who did nothing). But the fact of witnesses in broad daylight didn’t convince the DA to prosecute. And I KNOW she had a (sealed) juvenile record.

    No, sometimes it doesn’t stop.

  94. 94
    Akira MacKenzie

    In my experience “standing up to a bully” and “fighting back” only works if you are capable of consistently dealing enough physical damage to them that they stop. If you try to fight back and fail, all you’ve done is provide amusement to to asshole and shown them that you are easy pickings.

    Gien the shit I put up with in high school, I endorse a zero tolernce policy toward bullying, complete with spitting the fucker’s severed heads on pikes displayed on the school’s front lawn as a warning to the rest of them.

    I’m fucking serious.

  95. 95
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    I was bullied at four different state schools from 5 to 16. Not once did a grown-up bother to notice; despite the fact that the schools were aware that I had a blood condition that meant I needed to be treated pretty much as haemophilic (i.e. a lot of blood per cut, not actually fatal). At one school the PE staff actually thought it was a good idea to make me play Rugby – which for non-UK viewers is American football without the protective gear.
    Of course, I must have deserved it. I was a little short sighted and wore glasses. I was seen as fat, though looking at childhood pictures these days would leave me seeming relatively thin by current averages. And I liked to read, always a mark of cain at a school. It was not fun. At each school I eventually had enough and finally attacked one or more of the bullies and I really wish I had had the sense to pre-emptively deal with them rather than suffering so many injuries. I’m not overly fond of violence but anyone that thinks it never solves anything has not had to cope with bullies.

    Bullying is a cancer on the buttocks of humanity. It is the root behaviour of all the -isms that plague us; racism, sexism to mention just two of the nastiest. And in the same manner, most people do their best to ignore, minimise or laugh off the problem.

  96. 96
    Crissa

    How many national merit scholars have we here? I’d expect more than the distribution, but really…

  97. 97
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @notsont #80

    What you described isn’t being bullied, you may think it is, but its not. What you described seems more like a disagreement between two people. In fact you might want to reexamine who was the actual bully in what you described. Everyone laughed at him, you were too witty and too strong to be taken on physically or mentally? Really? And yet you were bullied? Something in your account isn’t making sense to me. Sounds like something out of a teen angst movie.

    I did actually say I wasn’t really bullied, other than one kid who was involved in a persistant, mostly verbal campaign to intimidate me, most of which I ignored but occasionally spoke back. As I said, there’s only so much I can take before I gave it back. The kid I spoke of was this one. Because I wouldn’t just lie down and take it like most of his victims, he grew to dislike me and the situation escalated. Trips and pushes weren’t uncommon, and eventually the whole thing culminated in the situation I describe above. The reason he was laughed at was because he was one of those kids who is supposedly “hard”, and I was the placid smart kid, and yet he ended up on the floor.

    If you mean to insinuate that I was the bully in that situation, then I wholeheartedly disagree. He hounded me for over a year before this situation happened. He tried to trip me, I merely fought back. He hit me first, I merely fought back. I was not perfect at school and I certainly was involved in at least three isolated incidents that I look back on now and realise were bullying, and I’m ashamed of them, but in this situation I was certainly not the bully.

  98. 98
    ischemgeek

    Is National Merit Scholar an American thing? Never heard of it.

  99. 99
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Notsont

    I should make clear, I am not even trying to compare my situation to the self-evidently more serious situations others here have found themselves in. I am fortunate enough to have never been put through anything that bad. I told the story originally to illustrate that when someone fights back against the bully, they are often viewed as the trouble maker by teachers and other adults who don’t bother to find out the full circumstances.

  100. 100
    ischemgeek

    @notsont #71

    Fighting back doesn’t help, this is a lie made up by people who wish to victim blame. “If only he would stand up for himself they would learn to respect him” bullshit. Fighting back generally makes it worse. I fought back all the time, usually with the result of getting bigger older kids involved on the side of the bullies or worse adults who take one look at the parties involved and decide that the poor kid in the old clothes is obviously the trouble maker. “adults” wont help because like everyone else they believe being “different” is a crime and your getting what you deserve.

    QFFT.

    And you note how they always advocate fighting back to those who either physically or verbally or both can’t fight back effectively. Like telling the smallest kid in the grade who has a stutter so severe it’s hard to get through a sentence to talk back or take on a crowd of seven twice her size… and when they beat her bloody, give her the freakin’ in-school suspension because she’s too upset to get her side of the story out past her stutter and of course the people beating her up are going to be totally unbiased.*/sarcasm*

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  102. 102
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    The physical and emotional bullying I was subjected to in Catholic grammar school wasn’t helped by the fact that the principal, a nun, was really good friends with the parents of my bullies, but disliked my mother because she worked for a living.

  103. 103
    Crissa

    Yes, you get called into the principal’s office at just beating the distribution. But then you have to beat your state’s distribution (because it’s apparently unfair to have too many from any one state) and then you have to be promoted by a school official, who then has to go through the paperwork /and/ then beat the SAT scores. I didn’t get to finalist stage, no.

    I’m just saying, there’s less than 4% of highschoolers that even get to the ‘called to the principal’s office for beating the distribution’ part – some in every class, sure. But it does seem they’re over-representated here and in the groups that were bullied.

  104. 104
  105. 105
    DLC

    In my case, fighting back only got me paddled, detention, suspension, more paddling, academic probation, administrative punishment, administrative segregation. Yes, I fought back. and I paid for it, in more enemies, older kids sticking up for the bully, or being ganged up on. Ever been circled?
    That’s where 20 or so kids gather round you in a circle and all start shouting taunts at you. There’s too many to fight and too many to report and too many to push your way out and run for it. So you take it. All of it. Until either you can’t take any more or a teacher finally takes pity on you and breaks it up. By the way, none of them get paddled, detention, suspension etc. they get sent home, perhaps with a “now don’t do that again” but almost always without any form of reprimand at all. Me, I just got angry, depressed and bitter.
    I dropped out of school and took the GED as soon as legally possible. No merit scholarship. No scholarship at all. despite my crummy grades — I aced all the tests and skipped all the homework — nobody really gave a damn about me. “toughen up, son!” “you’ll just have to take it!” “boys will be boys!”
    that reminds me:
    “when we grew up and went to school there were certain teachers who would hurt the children any way they could. ” — Pink Floyd, the Wall . We had more than a couple of those.

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