9 times out of 10, the concept of bullying is fairly straight forward… except in my case, of course. I would like to think, or rather, I would hope that in today’s more holistic understanding of a child's psyche that the situation I found myself in would have been handled differently than it was in the early 90s. (Although I believe even back then it was poorly dealt with.)
It began in grade 5 with a girl named Lynda; Lynda was not even in my class. People, whether it be peers or adults, always perceived me as the leader, and though I may have leadership qualities, I wasn’t really ever at the driver’s seat of the girly mob… I was just the loudest, that’s all. Some of my friends in Lynda’s class decided to pick on her. She was shy, homely and had less-than-cool clothes – the typical prey for a pack of vicious 11 year old girls. My friends wanted to make a song about her – to make fun of her. Now, I’m not proud of this, but obviously I was the prodigious song writer behind this project. It was to the tune of “Bad to the Bone” and went like this:
Lynda was dead, Du-na-nu-na-na;
A bus came down the street, Du-na-nu-na-na
And ran over her head, Du-na-nu-na-na.
Now after admitting that less-than-stellar moment from my childhood, I can honestly say that was the ONLY mean thing I EVER did to that girl – but unbeknownst to me at the time, I had inadvertently begun a 4-year war, however completely controlled by Lynda.
It started with her small, petty tattling, like I had said something or took something from her; stupid shit like that. By the time grade 6 rolled around (and the cruel fates then had us in the same class now) it had escalated so badly that I was a regular fixture outside the Principal’s office. It was ridiculous and frankly annoying the fuck out of me considering I wasn’t doing or saying anything – to which the teachers would then accuse me of lying. In fact, I would go out of my way to avoid her; not ignore her, AVOID her – she was crazy and completely out to get me. By the end of grade 6, I was threatened with suspension if I didn’t start “making an effort” to be nice to her. My parents had to get involved by this point.
There was a bit of a lull in 7th grade, but the tension was always there. They made sure we were separated into different classes. Boys had begun harassing her by then and they were being out-rightly cruel to her, yet she NEVER complained about them, not even once. The climax didn’t occur until grade 8 when, during a school trip to Quebec, she had proclaimed to the teachers that I had threatened to kill her and her family.
WHOA! We were getting into serious shit now.
You would THINK that some alarm bells would have tingled by this point, but nope. I was completely screwed over that particular incident. They never believed my word; the word of the popular and outgoing girl against that of poor little Lynda. This event also ruined my once-positive relationship with my teachers; it was a nightmare.
The last so-called altercation with Lynda that I distinctly remember was near the end of that year. I was in the hall with a boy from our class and we were laughing about something. She came around the corner and dramatically threw herself against the opposing lockers and screamed, “WHAT NOW? WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ABOUT ME NOW, STEPHANIE?” Both me and the boy I was with just stood there, stunned.
I made the decision to go to a different high school than everyone else; which even trumped a reunion with Kevin! I had many reasons, but one of the top 2 was to get the hell away from that girl. I knew that her obsession with torturing me would follow us into high school and I had to put an end to it. How bizarre that I was perceived the bully throughout all of this. There I was, the “bully”, changing schools to get away from the apparent “victim”. Isn't it usually the other way around?
Fast forward a decade. I had become privy to some top secret information: Lynda had been hospitalized for being a paranoid schizophrenic. NO, REALLY? Again, I would like to think that with today’s greater understanding about mental health that they could have, no, they SHOULD have caught it sooner instead of automatically assuming that it was a simple case of bullying, with ME being the bully.
Do I feel different about her now that I know she was sick that entire time?
Does it change the fact that 4 years of primary school completely blew donkey nuts for me?
Is there a lesson in all of this?
Don't always assume that kids are lying, or disregard their opinions and concerns solely because of their young age.
They know more than you think; listen to them.