Sst! Buddy! Wanna See Pics of a Girl Fight?


Every morning, while we big kids wait for the school bus, Lauren walks up to the tiny kids waiting and stomps their lunches flat.
 

Paper Lunch Bags

From Happy Bags Like These…

Crushed Lunch Bag

…To These


 

We keep telling them to hang on to their bags and not put them down, but they keep forgetting. They’re only little kids.

Lauren picks on older kids, too. Luckily, I don’t know Lauren, and she doesn’t know me (she’s two grades ahead of me). This day, though, Lauren and I are introduced.

 

Putin and Obama Shake Hands

It’s Always Nice to Make New Friends


 

I’m sitting on the bus in the next-to-last seat, next to my friend Vicky. Lauren is sitting in the last seat: The bench seat. The troublemaker’s row. Suddenly, right through the back of my spine, her giant fist is introduced to my breastbone.

 

Punched In the Back

I Remember Exactly How It Felt


 

Once I manage to straighten up and resume breathing, I wonder what to do.

If I ignore her, she’ll just punch me again. If I punch her back with my puny baby fist, she’ll just bite it off, and still punch me again.

So, tapping into my autistically-intuitive people skills, I decide that shame might work. I turn around and slap the meanest bully in school right across her face.

She goes CRAZY!! Lauren LEAPS over the back of my seat and starts punching me with the Volkswagens at the ends of her arms.

 

Breaking Bad Hank Punches Walt

We Had Surprisingly Little Hair, For Girls in Grade School


 

“Fight! Fight! Fight!”

I draw strength from the hearty encouragement of my classmates and curl up into a turtle shape, protecting my soft squishy center. Vicky, my wonderful, loyal friend, jumps on Lauren and pounds on her back, trying to distract her from my fragile shell.

Vicky can hit hard, but Lauren doesn’t feel a thing. She’s built like a long-distance trucker.

 

Girl Bully

Lauren’s Idea of a Casual Hello


 

The bus reaches our stop. The driver, responsible adult that he is, makes us get off. We’re not HIS problem!

As soon as we hit the ground, Lauren knocks me down to it, and starts kicking the h#ll out of me with her steel-toed work boots.

 

Boot Above Scared Ant

Guess Which One I Am.


 

“Ooh–she got in a GOOD one!” “Kick her again!”

Who is it who decided a direct kick to the privates doesn’t hurt girls as much as boys? Again wonderful Vicky jumps in gamely, but Lauren instantly flips Vicky on her back, too, and is able to use one hand and foot to fight each of us.

 

Girl Fight With Gentle Hair Pull

Yeah, Girl Fights Look JUST Like This (“Oh, What Silky Hair You have…”)


 

Suddenly, the clouds open! A ray of sunshine breaks through! Actually, the crowd of cheering kids opens, and a big ole’ station wagon careens through:

Vicky’s tiny German/Russian/Polish (depending on which year of the war you pick) mom comes riding to the rescue. She crashes the front tire into the curb, jumps out leaving the door wide open, and brings the full wrath of her four-foot six-inch body down to bear upon Lauren.

 

Angry Badger

A Wee Woman Wi’ A Wee Bit of Temper


 

“WHAT do you think you do!? (Swatting her with her purse.) “Are you CRAZY girl? Go home right NOW!”

Then, she gathers Vicky and me under her full skirts and into the car with her. Once home, we tell her the terrible tale while she repins and smooths her coiled braids, loosened during battle, and clucks and fusses and smooths us over, too.

 

Braids Around Head Back View

At Night, She Unwound Them and They Reached Her Hips


 

We tell our story again to Vicky’s professor dad when he arrives. The two of them share our outrage, and blanket us with their warm sympathy. Then, they call Lauren’s mom and have an extended phone conference.

Afterward, Vicky’s folks sit us down seriously, and take the time to explain to the two of us girls that Lauren’s mom has recently divorced her dad. That her brother joined the Marines. That he has been teaching Lauren Marine fighting moves when he’s home on leave. That Lauren’s mom now understands that this isn’t appropriate, and she will do something about the bullying, but we should try to understand that Lauren has a lot of anger.

 

Mom and Dad Arguing

Anger That Has Nowhere To Go


 

I feel proud that Vicky’s parents speak to us like we are almost grown up.

Feeling Proud Peacock

These Wonderful People Turned “I Was Beaten” Into “I Feel Proud”


 

Then, I head for my own home.

I tell the story of the attack to my mom. Her sole unsmiling response? “Tell your Dad when he gets home.”

 
Deflated Balloon on Asphalt
 

When my male parent arrives, he sits on the ottoman, and points me to the floor at his feet. I get to only the very start of the story—to where Lauren punches me for no reason—before he interrupts:

“What did you do to her first?”

 

Indignation Gif

“I Didn’t Do ANYthing!”


 

“Don’t give me that! She didn’t just punch you for no reason! What did you do to her to make her punch you?!”
I repeat my denial. He repeats his disbelief and accusation. We go back and forth.

He just can’t accept the truth of what I am telling him, and his voice gets louder and louder as he repeatedly seeks the trigger incident. Terribly frustrated at my refusal to provide “the truth”, he finally moves on, yelling at me,

“And THEN what did you do? After she punched you, what did you do BACK to her?”

By this point in his third-degree, I am stressed and flustered, and extremely worn out—let’s face it, I’m nine years old, my adrenaline has been pumping hard all day—so, suddenly, my mind goes blank, and I yell back:

“I don’t know—I don’t remember!” and burst into tears.

Stressed Girl Doesnt Remember

It’s All Too Much

My father (yelling loudly): “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DON’T REMEMBER?!!”.

After a few moments, in the middle of his yelling, the light dawns, and, with great relief, I say, smiling through my tears, “Oh—I remember now! After she punched me, I turned around and slapped her!”

Which is when…

…my father slapped me. As hard as he could, right across the face.

 

Gasping With Disbelief Gif

Just Like I Had Done To Lauren


 

“Don’t you lie to me! You’re going to tell me she punched you as hard as she could, and all YOU did was SLAP her?”

I repeat the truth. And am slapped in the face again for lying.

 

Crying Because I Want to Punch You But Cant

sigh.


 

Thank you, Mom and Dad. By being the worst parents you could possibly be, you taught me how to be the best parent I could possibly be.

All I had to do was the opposite of everything you did.

 

Repeated Face Slaps of Man By Woman

Today’s Mantra: “Let It Go… Let It Go… He’s 90 Years Old Now… Let It Go… The Next Time You See Him, Let That Hand Go, Right Across His Face…” (Darn! Time To Get a New Mantra.)


 

ADDENDUM ONE–What CAN Be DONE?

Like our Mr. Hickey did, schools CAN decrease bullying. One effective way is by challenging bystanders to do more than just STAND BY.

Joyce Ott of the research-proven “Olweus” anti-bullying program: “Bystanders…are one of the most important groups to reach…they can [otherwise] look like [the bully’s] supporters.”

In one implementation of the program, bus drivers were told to report any bullying they saw on their buses, or as students entered or left them. Students in grades 3 through 12 filled out questionnaires with items such as whether teachers interfered to stop bullying.

Victim rates dropped (at one school) by 27 percent.

This information comes almost verbatim from here.

Isn’t it interesting that it never occurred to any of us kids to tell an adult about Lauren? Why didn’t we?

1. Kids Don’t Tell Because They Don’t See Adults Helping

Like that bus driver.

2. Kids Don’t Tell For a Buncha Reasons
 
CURIOSITY ADDENDUM

I would very much like to know what happened to Lauren. She never bothered me again, and I heard no more about her after that year, so my guess is that the bullying calmed down. I hope she and those around her found happiness.

I really hope those little kids stopped having their lunches squashed the rest of that year. (I can’t remember.) They were so sad every time that happened!
 
BELATED THANK-YOU ADDENDUM

Thank you, Vicky. If I know the girl I was then, I never thought to thank you then. I would have been badly beaten that day–possibly even bones broken–had it not been for you. Thank you, my friend.

Tiny Heart Beating Gif



SANITY ADDENDUM

 

Credit For Not Being a Psychopath

Like It Says.





This is the second part of a multi-part series on bullying
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16 Comments

  1. I came for the girl pics, and stayed for the story. That false advertising class is really starting to pay off! 🙂

    As always, your tribulations are conveyed so eloquently my response falls into that mushy soft spot between sympathy and praise:

    Thank you for sharing, and for sharing so well.

    On behalf of myself, those kids, and a thousand sack lunches, we are grateful for your (and Vicky’s) service.

    Like

    Reply
    • Hey, Joey,

      Thank you for rising from the grave (where have you BEEN?!) to stop by, and most ‘specially for the warm compliments! I do appreciate your advice (needed) about putting more oomph into my titles. In this particular case, however, I think I went too far with this bait-and-switch one. Seeking a new title to change over to. If you’ve got any good ideas (and are still lurking above ground), by all means shoot ’em my way.

      Outted-as-Liar Babe

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      Reply
  2. Ow-ow-ow… seriously, reeling here from the visuals, the story, the jokes, the no-jokes… like your buddy Joey said… it’s hard to know where to focus – on the well-deserved praise for a very finely executed post or offering assistance to retroactively execute a parental unit or two.

    I know that you have moved beyond this personally and are now focusing on the issue of bullies in general. But still, I have to say this: I am so sorry that your were brutalized three times in one incident.

    As for the title, when I first saw it in my email list, I thought that my spam detector was broken. Then I saw… oh, yay, it’s OB!

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    • Moved beyond it? Heck, I’ll buy you da gat and tickets to Chi town (where my folks live). If I’d truly moved beyond it, I wouldn’t still feel the need to write it out. But once ALL of it is written, THEN I hope I shall have finally moved beyond it.

      And the praise sure helps (preen, preen). Thank you, Maggie : )

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  3. The bullying by Lauren was bad enough but seemed to be random. Although her type of bullying can cause serious damage (or death) the worst parrt was the bus driver and your parents. Responsible aduts who JOB was to take care of you specifically, who then, not only didn’t take care but did further harm. It’s a F**KING wonder that you turned out to be as thoughful and sane as you did. I agree with the previous commenter who said that a bit of parent extermination would feel good. I’m a peaceful, law-believing, relatively civilized adult who is normally non-violent and yet when I see or hear about children being abused like that it makes my blood pressure rise and I get so angry that I’m really not sure that I could keep myself from killing (the adults) if I ever saw such a thing happening. The world is full of sad stories about children who are violent becasue of what has happened to them Sometimes it is not avoidable – better a divorce than being raised in a poisonous atmosphere. Shit happens regardless of how hard we try to stop it. However, there is absoultely no excuse for adults who are tasked with being legally and morally responsible for the welfare of a child and who not only fail but further the abuse.

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    Reply
    • You are right in everything you say. And your words hit especially close to home, for I made the wrong choice, when I still had a choice, in staying with my then-only-emotionally-abusive spouse because he would get full custody of the children (his parents with limitless funds for his legal side, and I with one (as yet) autoimmune disease with brain involvement which he openly threatened to cite against my custody. I felt my children were better off getting SOME parenting from me, versus 100% parenting from him and his ilk (e.g. the mom who helped create HIM). But the choice was so very, very wrong. I failed to meet my responsibilities for the welfare of my own children–and myself. You’ll see an example in one of the posts in this series.

      Like

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  4. Yemie

     /  2014/05/29

    Wow! This is a phenomenal piece! I’m gobsmacked at how certain parents deal with issues. As if the bullying in itself was not enough grief, you had to be snubbed by your mum and smacked by your dad. Now that’s just downright sad! Who cares if the bully’s having anger issues, she should go vent it on her folks and not on innocent, harmless kids! That’s just a sorry a$$ of an excuse to raise a monster. I’m however happy the bully’s parents were approachable and forthcoming in ensuring that the bullying’s nipped in the bud! Thanks for this piece, you write wonderfully! Your wits and humor though, mind blowing! Kudos!

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    Reply
    • I’m glowing! Thank you so much!

      My childhood was a horror, but there are many who’ve had it even worse, and many who are now having it as bad and worse. The most-most-most important thing is to get the word out to children that this kind of normal is NOT normal. And maybe we need a campaign with kids challenging do-nothing bystanders–kids and adults:

      “Well? What are you going to DO about it?!”

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      Reply
      • Yemie

         /  2014/05/29

        I love that you asked what I’d do ’bout this endemic! Truth though is, I don’t know what I’d really do but I do know what I wouldn’t do and its all thanks to you for this delightfully, insightful piece!

        I definitely will not be a casual bystander as in the case of the clueless, insensitive bus driver. I’d act against my better judgment and intervene to put a stop to that ugly situation.

        I will most definitely not shun off anyone, who finds me worthy enough to confide their fears and worries to me with the hope that I’d offer some sorta respite and comfort to ’em.

        Finally, I’d be damned, if I as much as attempt to smack a person who says he/she’s been bullied, further causing such, more grief where they expect to find succour, just because I feel their stories reek of ridiculosity and thus, I consider such stories unbelievable!

        Tx for sharing. You Rock! Lolz

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  5. RR

     /  2014/05/29

    We all have scars, it is what we chose to do to heal them that matters. Clearly, you have risen above the difficulties of that incident (above Lauren, your parents).
    Sadly, bullying seems to be a part of childhood we humans refuse now to part with. We need to teach children to do and be good with a greater ferocity than we currently do.

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    • Hello again, Rebecca,

      I was so defensive and eager to jump all over you before, and so egocentric in my response, that I didn’t truly respond at all to what you said–or at least, not fully:

      “…bullying seems to be a part of childhood we humans refuse now to part with. ”
      1) I would like to know if bullying in childhood IS universal. For instance, do Amish children bully (a culture where, I read long ago, no one shoves to be first in line, for “the first shall be last”).

      “We need to teach children to do and be good with a greater ferocity than we currently do.”

      Yes. Yes we do, Rebecca.

      2) This is where I believe that the way to put the genie back in the bottle is through censorship of the input that reaches children.

      Children’s first mode of learning is auditory: Children believe what they are told more than what they see. Their second mode of learning is mimicry. Shows, whether on television, DVD, or webcast, cover their main involuntary learning modes. Show them moral shows with moral content, and deny them other content until at least 2 digits of age.

      Last, as they age, reading becomes a tertiary mode, and a vital one, and most children’s books pack a lot of morality between their covers. Children should be reading by the time they enter kindergarten. They used to be. How can we get there again? Universal preschool with videos as babysitters–“teach your baby to read” videos–or something similar.

      But how, and by whom, will that this big honkin’ cat be belled?

      Hope this was a better job of listening to you, this time ’round. Sorry about the first time.

      Like

      Reply
      • RR

         /  2014/06/06

        My apologies – I had not even seen your previous comment. Thank you for both responses.

        I was bullied for the better part of my life. In a variety of forms from a variety of people (be it 200 kids mooing as I entered the cafeteria in grade 7 or the boys who used to write horrible things in permanent marker on my desks or the snarky comments made by my own parents at times) I received an abundance of negativity.

        Sometimes I think our expectations of children are unfair. We want them to be better people and yet we adults go unchecked. We set bad examples left and right. WE need to be better.

        While the Amish you referenced may not have bullying as we know it in their communities they have the same playground politics. Community leaders will shun those not adhering to the standard of life they have set. Those people and their families are singled out. Forbidden to work with the other folks in their community. Their children cast out from the childhood gatherings. They are harshly judged and must earn their way back in to the community. Isolation until assimilation? No thanks. That’s not for me. (Please note, I do not judge the Amish or any religious group, everyone is entitled to their beliefs.)

        Children have changed because the world they live in has changed. But I agree that something is lacking. My wee one will enter kindergarten this fall. We went to an info session last week. There were marked differences between him and some of the other children. He spoke better than they did, was engaging and inquisitive, knows all of his colours, shapes and letters (he was the only child out of 30 who could recognize his own name!) and can count well beyond 100. He also started reading by himself last week. He has never been to daycare. We made a conscious decision to keep him home. To scale our lifestyle back, live off one modest (retail) income, and invest our time in to our child. He is socially equipped as well, having lots of involvement with other children (a lot of people assume he doesn’t because he is home with me) and I have noticed some big differences between him and children in daycare. He does not push or shove to get his way or prove a point. He does not cry or scream to be heard. That is not to say that all children in daycare behave this way (or to criticize those who place their children in daycare or the workers who care for those children) but it has in my experience been a noticeable difference. I understand that keeping children home is not an option for A LOT of people. And in that lies many other problems (such as the economic state of things).

        Technology – while it has been greatly beneficial (I for one, as a Type 1 Diabetic, appreciate the medical advances it has assisted) – seems to be the culprit for our change as human beings. We hide behind keyboards and Gravatars. Feeling bolder on the other side of the screen we forget that our words will reach someone or many someones. Now we have cyber bullying and laws (at least in Canada we do) to punish those who chose not to respect on-line others. But I think the worse thing we have allowed technology to do is rob ourselves of our ability to properly deal with each other.

        As I sit here and type this I have reached the realization that the world keeps on turning and we keep on keepin’ on…hopefully, before it is too late, we inspire change within ourselves and come again to love one another.

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  6. Hi, Rebecca,

    Thank you for your confidence that I have risen above past abuse.

    Yes, you’re right. Everyone has been through some amount of trial, and is carrying some current burden(s), as well. But I don’t know that everyone has formed scars. With severe emotional abuse (more even than physical), the scarring can be delayed or incomplete, and there can be permanent damage.

    Epigenetics is teaching us that this can be physical. For example, it is thought that some cases of autoimmune disorders may be linked. (I mean, really: Systemic lupus AND Behcet’s disease. Come ON, now!)

    It can also be psychological.

    In my case, even these many years away from my parents’ direct influence, every time I have any choice to make, large or small, it can be colored by my parents “gift” of my worth, and the poor behavior patterning with which I was raised. If a male is present, I can behave with less confidence than when one is not. I can also find myself being less “me”, which is infuriating.

    The primary learning modes for children are 1) What they are told. 2) What actions they see, and hear, which they mimic. Seventeen years of that did its harm–harm which could have been all or partly ameliorated by a warm and loving friend or partner. These I did not have. My Asperger’s and shyness limited my social circle, and those who knew me–even partners–never suspected my background or insecurities.

    I had learned early to be an actress–forced myself to act confident when I was innately terribly shy, learned to act more normal in order to walk like others, not rock when I sat, make eye contact when close up to people…. I had learned early to keep my troubles bottled up. All abused kids learn THAT. Unknown to me, I was considered attractive. So: Everyone assumed I was a confident, happy individual.

    I did not even realize how much of a victim I was until a few years ago. THAT’S how much of a victim I was. Even now, every so often, there’ll be yet another “Aha” moment–one I would prefer I not have–where I reinterpret something in the light of my new understanding.

    Yes, I am forever f#cked up. But in a GOOD way : )
    Which is why purging everything by blogging and sometimes succeeding in making people smile is so much fun!

    P.S. (Whew!)

    I very much like who I am now, and am proud of myself.
    And thank God, and my friends, on- and off-line, now and in the past, for all the love, which has definitely helped get me and keep me here!

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