Today we tackle an insidious situation, one that’s only been made worse by the proliferation of the intarwebs: The Bully.
There are articles galore out there testifying how the centuries old trend of picking on the weak is alive and well, with tons of heinous examples of people being driven to the very brink by the assholes of society. I hate those filthy swine with every fiber of my being, hate to the volcanic core what they do to others in the name of popularity, insecurity, small genitalia compensation, whatever.
Clearly, I was bullied as a child.
And I remember them all, as vividly as I remember the beatdowns they inflicted upon a once-upon-a-time skinny kid like me. Shea Morenz, Bodine French and Austin Prince doled out regular charley-horses, public shunnings and playground mock-o-ramas on a semi-daily basis to me and a handful of other weirdo types. It didn’t help our cause any that we had no cohesion, weren’t part of some lovable gang of losers like you might find on an after-school special. We weren’t nerds who then went on to become ultra-billionaires, either, so there’ll be no Bill Gates moments in the future. No, I was in the company of characters like the kid who insisted on being called “Punker Joe”, even though his name wasn’t Joe and his distinguishing characteristic was that he always had two slug trails of snot hanging from his nostrils to his upper lip. It was hard to form an allegiance with someone who mostly spent time talking to the monkey bars and had an aversion to Kleenex.
So we suffered in an isolated fashion, taking refuge in our own minds, quietly, secretly hoping that the recess yard monitor lady would turn the corner at some point and catch them in the act, whip a pistol out of her purse and shoot them dead. That never happened, oddly enough. And, as the unpopular objects of the attention of the kings of the school yard, we were only too happy to be left alone when they doled out harassment to others, thereby becoming silent enablers of the taunting.
Except for Charles Spaulding. The only thing I really remember about Charles was that he wanted to be called “Charles”, not “Charlie” nor “Chuck” or anything else. That, and he seemed to have an affinity for wearing a yellow rain jacket, even on sunny days. He really, really loved that jacket. Nonetheless, he was the only one who would intervene on behalf of the bullied, when he himself wasn’t being punched or ridiculed. He was a scrawny punk, little Charles, but he had a sense of justice that wouldn’t allow for him to stand by when the gang of the popular were dispensing wedgies. He took more than one hit to the face trying to stop some other kid from getting a smacking. I hope Charles is the most successful guy in the world, because he? Was one brave little third grader who had the clankers to stand up for what’s right.
I responded in a more traditional fashion: I retreated into my own head and became a sarcastic little son-0f-a-bitch with a substantial chip on my shoulder. It seems to have served me okay, at least to this point. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve become a giant hairy sarcastic son-of-a-bitch who, according to my wife, looks like a homicidal maniac by default, thereby thwarting modern-day bullies through the art of the unintentional bluff.
Unfortunately, fantasizing about just desserts doesn’t leave you as satisfied as you’d like. So what, the bullies became meth-addicted male prostitutes who live under the pier and get their meals from the dumpster? Or, more likely, they’re the bosses we’ve come to hate, wildly successful with thinning hair and wives half their age and bank accounts to match. Either way, it makes it no easier to go through the rituals of their bullying ways during the school years.
So, as a solution for my own boys, I’ve tried my very best to instill the value of sticking up for those who can’t, with the not-so-veiled undertones of my intolerance for bullying by them. Already, Heathen #1 has had his share of dealing with the yard bully, the football bully and the schoolbus bully. I wonder if their parents know their own children are behaving like little cretins; maybe school-age bullies are the children of adult assholes, which would seem to make sense.
Myself, I say we arm the yard monitors.