Friday, May 8, 2009

Bully Or Teacher?

The summer I turned 12, I was terrorized and held hostage for weeks; almost the entire summer. I couldn't leave the house. Afraid to walk down safe streets; panicked about what might be coming around the corner. I was afraid to be alone. Refused to go to my friends' houses on my own.

I even stopped going to my Aunts' houses, just on the corners from ours. And when I did go, I'd scurry along the walls like a rat in daylight. When it was time to go home, I'd only risk it if they stood outside and watched until I got safely back to my own front door.

The four block walk to my job answering the phones at the church rectory became the longest walk of my life. Especially in the early evenings when I'd fearfully walk back home, the lowering summer sun in my eyes.

There was nothing funny about it. My life was slipping away as I sat a prisoner in my own house. A prisoner to my own fear.

And, all this was started by a little fat, greasy blond haired, dirty clothed, foul mouthed, loud, girl who lived down the street. Her name was Robin; funny, now I can't even recall her last name. But, in that 12th summer of mine, she walked my nightmares and completely controlled my life.

I don't even remember how it started. I didn't know her that well. She didn't go to my school. Didn't hang out with our group. She had several kids in her family. Her family was from West Virginia. She spoke with an odd twang to her voice. Her father worked hard, yelled at the kids harder, drank even harder. Her mother was generally heard shrieking and cussing at her kids who didn't listen and were rude.

Robin never walked anywhere alone. She always had two stringy minion in tow...walking right behind her. She walked in front creating the flying wedge of neighborhood destruction that cast fear into my life...probably for the first time.

Why? I never said anything about her...she never even registered on my radar. But, one day another kid ran up to me and whispered, "You better run. Robin says when she finds you she's going to kick your ass!!" I had a hard time taking it all in, "Why? I don't even know her."

"I don't know why, but she's headed this way and she says she's gonna' do it. I hate her. She's really mean."

With that, the three walked around the corner. My friends stopped. I stood there. She walked up close, pointed in my face saying, "You better git in your house. Cause when I see you on the street again, I'm gonna' whip your ass. And, I mean it!" Not knowing what else to do or say, I turned and headed home.

And, that's how it started.

I told my father. He listened. He watched. All of it. As the days went on he watched.

He watched when I slunk inside off my own front porch where I was reading. Why? Because Robin walked by, looked up to see me sitting there and hissed, "I told you I'd beat you if I seed you out. Get the f**k back in that house!!" She scared the crap outta me. So, without a word, and heart hammering in my chest, I walked inside and shut the door. And, Daddy watched.

My Aunts all said, "Listen, don't you stoop to her level. Stay above it. Don't let her change you. You're not like her. We're not like that family. The next time she comes up to you simply tell her, 'Robin, this is crazy. I don't want to fight with you. And, I'm not going to do this.' That's how a young girl with manners and class behaves. That's how you deal with her."

The King listened as they coached me.

Shortly after, I was standing on the street with a couple of friends at my own back gate, when Robin and minion came around the corner. She stomped right up. Demanded, "What the f**k are you doing?" She got really close to my face. Everything got quiet.

I said, "Robin, I don't want to fight with you. I don't do that sort of thing. Just go away. I don't have a beef with you. Go on with your friends." I stood there feeling like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. But, I was proud of myself for saying those things to her.

And, you know what happened next? She slapped me right in the face saying, "Git inside or I'm gonna really hit you."

Shocked. Stunned. I turned and walked into the yard and up the back stairs into the house. Cried. Sobbed. I was scared shitless. And, all that good advice about reasoning with her? That was useless, wasn't it? Dad had been watching out the door, but I didn't know that.

Dad listened to the entire tale. Nanny, up until then, The World's Meanest Woman, said something to my father in Albaneze, and got me a glass of water.

And after all that watching, observing, and listening, Dad spoke, "Queenie, in this life there will people who dislike you for no other reason than just because. They're mean. They're not reasonable, so you can't reason with them. If you allow them to push you, they will. If you allow them to chase you, they'll run you down. If you do not stand up to them, they will take your life over and make it theirs. If you do not face them and take a licking if one's coming, you will spend the rest of your life in fear."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Dad wasn't yelling that he was headed over to Robin's house to talk with her father about this incident. He wasn't saying he was going to find Robin and give her an adult threat. He wasn't suggesting anything that he was going to do. No! My father wasn't defending me at all. He wasn't sticking up for me!

Instead, he was saying what I had to do. On my own. No help from him. On MY OWN. And, I wanted no parts of that. Crap. Who wants to have the tar smacked out of them a second time?!

I told him I didn't ever want to see her again. And, I was fine with staying in. He looked at me and said, "Sweetie, the choice is yours. You can either run your life, or you can lose it by letting someone else control you. I can't make the choice for you, but I'm telling you, you have to learn to stand up to this." With that, he gave me a kiss and went on about his day.

So for days I stayed inside. Everything seemed to return to more or less normal. I didn't see Robin around much. I didn't go out of the house much and I never ventured from my backyard. My girlfriends came over, but not often since they all wanted to play outside in the sprinklers and warm weather.

I sat inside listening to the yelping and laughing. I wanted to be out there with them, but it wasn't worth the risk.

One afternoon, I got up mega courage and scampered to my friend Mickey's house. She lived on Maryland Avenue, about two blocks away; I about sprinted the entire way. I had a great time. When it was time to come home, Mickey said she'd walk me part way. She knew I was afraid, and that's what friends do.

It was a fine evening, not too hot. The sun was shining, turning orange as it headed to bed. We were walking and talking when, around the corner comes Robin and Girls. And, I didn't know whether to shit or go blind.

She says, "Hey Mickey, I want to talk with you. But, bitch you better git back to her house and stay there or you know what's going to happen to you ifn' you don't." I turned and started walking back to Mickey's. My head couldn't grasp it all. There Robin stood speaking as sweet as pie with Mickey! Like a regular girl she was talking to her. Nice as can be. But, she snarled like a rabid dog when talking at me.

As I stood in the entry way of Mickey's house, crying, feeling trapped, heart thumbing out of my chest...something came over me. I stood there in the dark little space and very slowly my fear started to dissolve into something else. I got freaking pissed! Really mad! Like, blind mad. And, I realized that I'd rather take a beating than live this way! I couldn't stand running anymore. I couldn't stand hiding. I hated my life and how I was feeling all the time! I simply hated it! NO MORE!!

Blind with nerves, I opened the door; walked down the steps; down the street. When Robin saw me coming she got enraged. She screamed, "Okay Bitch, you asked for this and now you're going to get it!"

With that she threw herself at me. I remember Mickey and the other two girls stepped back. Eyes wide. And, then everything slowed to a crawl...like slow motion.

I felt her fat arms grab me around the waste. I felt her typical girl move to go for the hair. I felt her slammed up against me. I saw the side of her head on my chest as she reached around to yank my hair.

Luckily my hair was long, so while she was pulling hard, it wasn't causing much pain. However, since the day I've hit this earth, if you want to make me blind-spitting-hurt-you mad, you'll pull my hair. I HATE IT!

The trigger was activated. I raged. Took my fist and started wailing on the side of her face until she loosened her grip and then I slapped her when her face moved forward. I took her arms and pushed back with everything I had. Down she went on her round ass.

I remember pointing at her, my chest heaving. And I said- not screamed- I said, "Don't you ever touch me again. Don't you ever talk to me again. Don't you even look at me. I'm done with you. But, if you try it again, you'll get worse than this. Hear me???!!!!"

She didn't answer. She got up and walked away. Mickey didn't say anything either, she turned and went back to her house. And, I walked home.

Dad listened as I sobbed out the tale. But, this time he hugged me while I cried. And, patted my back. Waited till I stopped to ask with a slight smile, "So how do you feel now?"

I realized that I felt completely wonderful; like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Like for the first time in weeks, I could breathe...like taking a big deep breath after running a race. But, most of all, I realized that I felt calm...all that fear and static inside was gone.

I don't remember more about Robin. She was no longer important. I do remember passing her one day, I do remember the satisfaction I got when she tentatively smiled at me and with respect in her voice said, "Hey Holly." I nodded slightly and kept walking without a word.

Now, here's what I know to be true. There are two rules in life:

Two Very Important Rules of Engagement-
Rule One: People will treat you no better than you expect them to treat you.
Rule Two: You train the people in your world how to treat you.

It's on you; not them. On You.

The topic of bullying is being talked about more and more: It should be classified as a hate crime.It's a problem. It's an issue. It's something that all parents should be worked up about. It's something that we should try to eliminate. It's something in which adults should always intervene. Now we're even panicked about an epidemic of cyber-bullying! On and on....

Up until now, I've remained silent on the issue because I run counter to the current thinking. Silent because I believe that my father was right. I believe our role as adults is to teach children the two rules that I just listed. That's our job- not running interference for them! We won't always be there. It's our job to teach them to feel their own power. And be their own champions whenever possible.

So I was more than delighted when, the other day on St. Oprah, I hear a child psychologist say exactly the same thing. The new improved wisdom and current viewpoint on this whole topic is:

Teach children that they have a personal space that they must keep safe. Teach children how to keep it from being invaded. Teach children to shout, "NO," to the bullying attempts. Teach children that the cost of asserting themselves is that they may be smacked a bit, but that it is a price worth paying.

No bully has courage; that's why they do what they do. If you're not willing to be the easy quarry, they'll move on till they find someone unaware to pounce on.

I'm not talking now about all the psycho-dynamics that go into a bullying personality. We know what that's about. I'm talking about the lessons bullies provide us to learn to love ourselves enough to willingly stand up for ourselves. I am weary of our attempts to eliminate all the hard lessons of life. That's not the way to develop into Real Human Beings. Life without conflict does not teach us to be compassionate. It does not help us to learn kindness.

The world is not supposed to be perpetually gentle and kind. It's suppose to give us the opportunity to be Real and to learn our value. Our worth. And then to help others understand that as well. These hard spots are where we hone these skills when given the support and love to do so.

That is the lesson for us- it's not about the confrontation or the bully. It's about the triumph of learning to love and respect ourselves enough to stand against it. To Champion ourselves. Like all true magick, when you are brave enough to turn and face a fear- when you can name it, you can tame it. Here's to teaching young spirits that the way to tame fear is to it and through it!

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka The Champ

20 comments:

Ribbon said...

Bravo Holly!

x Ribbon

Journey Wildly said...

Oh Holly...

Thank you for writing this! As you've gathered from my blog, I'm sure, there are a couple of playground bullies that present themselves in my life from time to time. I'm sooo over it. I have been for sooo long. I just refuse to engage them. At all. It may be rude, but I really no longer care. That amount of psychosis and negativity can do no good. It sucks you in. And, know what? It feels just like you described after you whipped her booty.

As the mother of a "practically tween, Mom!" I will keep all this close to my heart should this be a problem for Dylan. So far, we've been so lucky!

I hope this helps someone out today, Queen Mother. I believe it will!

jkc said...

What a very wise father you had, Holly...easy to see his influence in the way you view and understand the world.

Kavindra said...

Wow! What a story. Your writing is powerful and clear and beautiful.

I never thought I would agree with the conclusions you reach in this piece - but you make a very strong argument. I have to think about it. And it's quite a compliment to your writing that you are sending me off to contemplate a new point of view.

Also, I LOVE that your dad called you "Queenie" it so fits!

You are the Queen.

Eileen said...

Holly ... thanks for sharing your own life experience on this subject and in so many ways I think what your Dad said is true. And then I have to say as a mother, it's darn hard to hold back from going after the person or persons that hurt one of your own. I'm just saying, it's a lot harder than it might seem. One thing I have always wondered about ... it seems to me that the parents of the "bully-type" would suspect that about their child and why are parents not as concerned about the lessons needed to be taught to the perps; as much, if not more so than the lessons for their intended victims?

Holly said...

Eileen,
I completely understand. I am a warrior who sees it her mission to protect all that I love and care about. However, I will never be able to defend a person who does not know how to defend themselves. So, teaching young ones to hold their own in the world is the most important call to action.

Toni said...

I was completely smitten with/by this tale ... don't we all have a bully story? Mine was an assmunch named Brent Lederer who terrorized my 5th & 6th grade years ... in 7th grade, though, he made the mistake of spitting on me (well, in my direction anyway) which is the grossest thing in MY world, men spitting ... I chased that stocky piece o'shite down and proceeded to pound him, both fists, til he was squatting down with his back on the cafeteria's tiled wall, both arms up over his head in defense ... in full view of everyone in the cafeteria. Worked out well, cuz some of his damn cronies had been helping him out here and there -- that mess ended THAT DAY. And I never said a word.

What you said about WE TEACH OTHERS HOW TO TREAT US? I do exceedingly well with that outside of my own home, but am struggling with my sons, sometimes. Weird. We make more allowances for those closest to us, or what?

cinner said...

Oh Holly, good for you Qweenie. We all at times have to make a stand. Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man. My best friend is always saying.."YOU TREAT PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT YOU!" it has just been reinforced to me! Changing the subject did you get my email. I can recieve them but not send...so I am waiting for your pic. Working on getting that fixed....Beth wanted it to....Not sure what is wrong with it. Have a great weekend.

Opie said...

Well, where to start, so much I can say on this topic. Growing up looking like Opie, I met quite a few people who thought they could bully me. However, also growing up with 4 older brothers did a few things as well. I was a little bit tougher than most kids my age, I had to learn to take a punch, and I could. Also, my brothers were a lot bigger than me, so when someone that had 20/30 lbs on me tried to bully me, it actually made me laugh. I would literally laugh in a bully's face and say "do your worst, and WHEN I get up, hope I don't remember your face." Surprisingly (at first anyway) I have never been in a fight with a bully. Not to say I've never been in a fight, just never been bullied into one. Good for you Holly. Great bully story, I'll have to share some of mine with you sometime...

Opie

Life With Dogs said...

I did heard a rumor that you were starting an under age fight club in your basement Holly. Now I get it ;)

In all seriousness, what happened to the idea of letting children be children? Parents coddle children to the extent that nearly none are self sufficient any longer - as is evidenced by the throngs of thirty year old "kids" moving back in with Mom and Dad.

Perhaps I'll open a new summer camp...toss the bicycle helmets, scatter some broken glass on the beach; let the kids do the 50 yard dash holding scissors.

Oh wait, that's not a camp, that's just the way it used to be.

Mel said...

Wow...loaded topic. I truly loved your bully story though....and yes, your father is a very wise man.

I'm not sure how well I'd do watching someone terrorize my child though....not very well, I imagine. *sigh*

On empowering children - if I may play the devil's advocate for a moment...I don't know how effective telling these children to stand up for themselves will be when most kids are hearing exactly the opposite message every day from every other person in their lives. In school and in their own family dynamics (yes, even the 'functional' families) children are not valued, they are not heard and therefore they're already starting off at a disadvantage in confidence and self-esteem. Yes, most children overcome this and adapt, but they aren't the ones who are being bullied....

...and I really can't condone violence on any level...especially since these days its more likely to be guns and knives over fists and feet....

My Beloved and I have had this conversation many times...his father taught him to throw the first punch because he was small and likely to be picked on and it did work for him.....but it doesn't sit well with me at all...

Thank you so much for talking about this...I absolutely agree one thousand percent that empowerment is the answer...I just don't see it as an easy one...there's too much contradiction and damage already done...

eek, I've rambled.....

in love and light...

Mike said...

Wow, Holly, don't mess with you! Hopefully Robin learned a lesson from all that. I love the way your dad handled it, too. At some point you have to just make sure kids are equipped to deal with the world and then let them do it on their own.

I agree entirely with your two-part philosophy. I've known a lot of cowards who blame the whole world for hating them and are constantly pessimistic about everything (well there was a well-established goth and emo crowd in my hometown.) One just has to forge one's own identity because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

Holly said...

Mel,
Thanks so much for your insight and questions...all of us need to consider them.

I understand about the conflicting messages...I went to Catholic School where told that we should act like Christ and turn the other cheek.

I agree the act like Christ part, but it's the Christ that justly and rightly turned over the tables in the temple and scattered the money changers.

I will say this...it's always interesting to me when an individual says they can't condone violence of any sort. And, I have to ask, then, how can you condone violence done against yourself? If a person wishes to harm you for the only reason in that they think they can, isn't that condoning violence? Just asking.

Oh, and as to the length of your comment, are you kidding? Especially after the tome I just left on your site?

People, never worry about the length. Just talk until your thought is shared with us.

Again, thanks Mel!

Mel said...

~~And, I have to ask, then, how can you condone violence done against yourself? If a person wishes to harm you for the only reason in that they think they can, isn't that condoning violence?~~~

*sigh* And this is why you're my Loving Crone....so true, Dear One, so true....ya got me.

I find the older I get, the flinchier I get. I was watching a young boy being bullied on television the other night (pure fiction) and it made me want to cry....perhaps for all the times I didn't stand up for myself...I'm such a contradiction at times.

I also had a thought after I'd posted....perhaps if ALL children were empowered from the beginning, then they wouldn't feel the *need* to bully as a way to reclaim what was taken from them....

More fodder for us all to ponder...

~with love~

PS Thanks for YOUR comment...I'm still giggling...*pictures self with wiggling weiner dog under arm, marching to anal-retentives house and asking for doggy behaviour advice*. and yeah, she'd fold like a soup sandwich....:) Collars it is then....

Opie said...

Mel, so true to you as well...if everyone was empowered as children, then maybe these "bullies" wouldn't feel the need to attempt to take what they "need." My mom, a die hard Irish Catholic, actually told me when entering kindergarten that if anyone hits me, to hit them back. That if the nuns ever pulled out that paddle (because yes, they had one in the principles office) that I was to rip it out of their hands, break it over my knee and run to the rectory to use the phone to call her. However, being the 5th Parker boy to enter this school, and my mom making this fact perfectly clear to all of the teaching staff and the parish priests, needless to say, the paddle never came out when I got in trouble, or any of my brothers. This empowerment that my mom instilled in us at a young age could be why my oldest brother, even though he was always one of the biggest kids in school, never bullied anyone, in fact he was a bit of the underdog hero, he would always stand up for the little guys and could not stand any bully.

beth said...

Holly Holly Holly....you really are a Queen....

and you're right, this is a huge subject right now and makes me so glad that my kids are out of "that age of ugliness"

Holly said...

As spirits in the quest to become real, none of us is ever past the age of ugliness, my Beth. That's the beauty of it all. We always have the opportunity to grow.

Erin said...

Thanks for sharing...I had a bully once. In HS, very much like your Robin, I had no interaction with this girl before I was in her crosshairs. She stalked me in between classes, shoved me, cursed at me, all that good stuff. One day she literally tried shoving me into a locker. As I was trying to avoid it, two seniors decended upon the situation, one grabbed her arm, and one mine. The one that grabbed me, looked me dead in the eye and asked "You are Emil's little sister aren't you?" More powerful words could not have been spoken in those hallways. I nodded my ascent, and I was dragged, along with said bully upstairs to the vice principals office. For the two years that I was in HS with my brother I was a protected entity. You may not have liked me, but it wasn't worth incurring the wrath of Emil. Period. End of Story. Ill Advised Decision to say the least. Well these girls took me to the office, along with my tormentor and proceeded to force me to narc on this girl. She was promptly given a suspension of some kind. When she came back to school, it was made very clear to her that if she ever came near me again that she would be incurring the wrath of my rescuers as well as the wrath of everyone who loved my brother, which was most everyone. I didn't speak to her again until our senior year, long after Emil had graduated. She was sitting in the guidance office and I was a hall runner, I tried to just walk past her, but she stopped me. And she apologized. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

I guess she just needed to understand what it felt like to be stalked and threatened a bit. Funny how these things come around eh?

Arcta Firebringer said...

When I was 13 or so, a gang of kids chased me and slapped me around. I was scared all summer, but they never came back. Our neighborhood was a lot bigger (suburban-rural).
Much worse was the mind-fuck that came later. 25 years after the fact, I've sworn that nobody would ever curse in my face and scream at me, no matter what their position. Hasn't been tested yet, but I feel confident.
Good for you for taking it on at the time!

Ribbon said...

Hi again...
Holly if time allows I have a link posted under the title "a delightful read"... it's a story about Gorillas in the wild that I feel you would enjoy.
It will make your heart sing.

best wishes
Ribbon

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