All these horrible stories about bullies and kids committing suicide this past week made me think back to the days when I was in the emotional, hormone-laden whirlpool that are the pre-teen/teen years. I remember back in junior high when a guy in my grade or maybe the next one up kept playing grab-ass with me. His hand was an unwelcome visitor on my body, and I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. The boy, a big country bumpkin, was much larger than I was. And I was “a girl.” So I talked to my dad about it, and he gave me advice that has stuck with me (and come in handy) ever since.
The next time he does that, look him dead in the eye and tell him, “If you EVER touch me again, I will kick you so hard in the nuts that you won’t be able to have children.” The key, I was told, was looking just crazy enough to do it, seeing as this jerk was twice my size.
My dad’s an intimidating guy, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Ol’ turnipseed grabbed my ass the next opportunity he got, and I responded with the suggested words from my father (which I’d rehearsed in my head from the moment I heard them). Though I can tell you with some certainty that I am a horrible actor, I made it work that day. I had fire in my eyes with just a touch of the crazy, and that big boy never laid a hand on me again.
I’m not trying to suggest that these kids can silence their tormentors with threats to their balls. I’m sure – in the case of young men who are being bullied for being gay – threats to other guys’ balls would only exacerbate the situation. But I am gently suggesting that we should do whatever we can to empower children on the front end. Protect them, of course, but also let them know that they are strong and capable and can be fierce when the moment calls for it. It may not keep them from being bullied, but it may keep them from feeling like suicide is the only way out of their situation.
High school does end, though at times it feels like it’ll go on forever…