From 3rd grade onward – when we moved from the city to the rural area in which I spent my childhood/teen years – I was bullied.
I don’t remember my playing with dolls, hanging out with girls or dislike of balls, sports or other such things being a problem at all. Loving Star Wars, LEGOs and science was enough to fit in. Once we moved, it was like a giant wall went up and suddenly I was a total freak. Of course, being an outsider coming into a tiny community (pop. 300) has its challenges, but also being nearly a foot taller than anyone else, gangly, buck-toothed, with heavy glasses AND being a sissy-boy was a horrible combination for any sort of acceptance.
I did make a few friends, mostly girls, none of whom were really all that close, a couple of boys, also nerdy outsiders like myself, and became popular in many ways by sheer force of my personality. I was a straight-A student, outspoken and likable. I’m a damn nice guy, even now; even then, when I was beaten, taunted and treated like total shit by bullies AND by kids who called me ‘friend’. Any speck of ‘otherness’ was cause for ridicule and I dreaded going to school every single day, EVERY day, even though I LOVED academia and my teachers. There was a period in elementary school where I would vomit uncontrollably every Sunday night just thinking about Monday morning. To this day, I hate Sundays for that very reason.
The worst is that these things happened in full view of many of those same teachers and other adults and no one did a damn thing, never intervened, stood up to the bullies or for me. Ever.
When I first came to Facebook over a decade ago, it seems, I was bombarded with friend requests from people who bullied me, others who watched it happen and still others who I don’t recall having more than a passing conversation with more than once. I couldn’t understand it. I was mortified. The anxiety it created was overwhelming. Why would they want to ‘friend’ me? Did they have some other shitty thing to say and want to do it publicly on FB once I accepted their request? I couldn’t imagine. I now know I suffered a form of PTSD. But, those other kids from school, they were oblivious, they had no clue what my high school years had been like. They just saw my name and said, Aww, I know that dude. Cool. To them, the fact that they had called me a faggot, punched me in the face or yelled queer across a crowded classroom or down a hallway meant nothing now, that was ‘just being kids’, but it fucked me up for decades.
I’m surprised I’m posting this on my wall, but I guess maybe someone might see it and understand me a bit better. I only have a couple of friends on Facebook from those days now – they know.
If you have a kid, pay attention to what is going on with them. Don’t let these patterns repeat.