your mileage may vary

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.

He said:
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…

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2 responses to “your mileage may vary”

  1. I experienced a lot of bullying throughout elementary and intermediate and what would have truly helped was if just one of my teachers had done something about the situation or at least talked to me about what was happening. That never happened, and it wasn’t like a lot of the bullying didn’t happen within earshot & eyesight of my teachers. I’m pretty certain that is also true of the recently reported cases that to which you refer. When you know your teacher has observed the situation and then does nothing about the situation, it greatly exacerbates the despair and depression you experience.

    • I hear what you’re saying. It’s silent complicity on the part of the lone adult in the situation. When we were young, teachers spanked the kids and made them stand in the corner facing the wall or whatever. Teachers were scary. I don’t think that’s the case now. I think that teachers today are so hamstrung by rules and regulations and fear of getting fired/sued, they have a harder time stepping in. Except maybe the nuns at Catholic school…

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