Friday, July 8, 2011

once upon a lifetime-memories of being bullied

I hated school, hated it with a passion deep and thick. No, wasn't school that I hated as I love to learn. Did then, do now. Even though the stacks of books I carried were heavy and I swore stretched one arm longer than the other trying to carry them, I didn't mind. Some classes seemed useless, when the teacher appeared ineffective, but that wasn't it. The lunches were actually good from time to time- so that wasn't it. The high school was new, I was a part of the first class to go all the way through in that building. It wasn't even fully completed when the school year started, so it wasn't a problem with the actual structure. So maybe it wasn't school I hated, and maybe, just maybe it wasn't hate as much as fear.

What did I have to fear? There wasn't any real physical violence going on. Oh there was the occasional fight that would erupt. One would get angry with another and a few fists would fly, maybe a bloody nose and then it would be over. Anger would blow over and all would be right with the world in that aspect. This was back before there was a problem with weapons on school campus. Most if not all of the guys carried pocket knives. It wouldn't be a surprise for there to be a hunting rifle or two in someone's truck. Violence, like we hear of today- was unheard of then. So, what was the problem?

I was different. I knew I was different...and so did they. I had lead a sheltered, protected life. I lived here on this same road, in this same house out in the country, away from town life, away from a real social life. Sheltered, and immature. I was very immature all through school, and I acted it. I can look back and see that now- but then, I did not. In that, I was a target, and I feared each new school day with a deep seated passion.

My talents are limited. I can write and take halfway decent photographs. The writing I had been doing for as long as I could remember, but my fellow students didn't really discover it until it became useful to them. My photography skills have just became apparent in the last couple of years. I can paint, as long as its more abstract and not life-like with all its details, then I tend to get fuzzy in the talented arena. I am not intending here to knock myself, but be realistic and honest. I know I have no singing ability- even though I tried out for chorus one year-never did that again. I took piano lessons for a while and really enjoyed them, but when I tried to play a song for a fellow student to sing to- her comments left me shamed and ashamed- so I never did that again either. I went to a few school dances- always stag- danced once or twice but was never asked twice by the same person so I don't dance.

My being different from the so called normal, fit perfectly in that round hole student was as I mentioned my downfall. That and a comment I dared to make one day to a favored jock. Our argument ended with my being tagged with the name "Ratwoman", and it wasn't in the complementary superhero vein but meant to be a severe insult. I no longer had a name, I was known as Ratwoman. My unease about being around people that I did not know how to act around suddenly became fear, became anguish to the umpth degree.

I would hide in my room and cry- trying to find ways to get out of going to that hated place among the people that so loved to torment me. I would take long walks in my woods, seeking solace, finding my peace there, that would so quickly be destroyed by a few moments inside those walls. And it didn't have to be within the walls. I rode a school bus. The driver (high school students could drive the buses then) took great joy in making my life miserable in the hopes that I would quit riding being I was the only passenger on this road. She would deliberately miss my stop so that I would have to walk back. Other riders would refuse to allow me to sit with them so more than once I was left standing.

I didn't date or have a boy-friend. My immaturity turned the guys off I'm sure, that and the fear of becoming a target as well. I did get asked on a date once only to have the guy spend all his time chasing after someone else. That was fun-no, no it wasn't.

I did get into a couple of fights. I was attacked once in line outside the school going around the building. My fighting skills were about as good as my singing. All I wanted was to be left alone. After the others in line got their laugh I was. Another time was in the girl's bathroom. I actually came out on top of that one. I caught the arm of my attacker and slung her around into the sink..pain causes an amazing rethink in people's minds some times.

I passed all of my grades, I graduated and got out of there. I didn't go on to college. In my head was the fear that all the torments would follow me. So instead I found a job and began a so called life.

Oh I did have friends in school. I knew people who saw my immaturity and differences and ignored them. I knew people who respected me for my writing ability. I had people tell me I had an understanding of people. When you are hurting inside yourself, you understand the pain of others. Even as you may try to hide your own pain and suffering, you can recognize the pain in the eyes and actions of others.

Its been a long time since high school. I am still different, more mature now, more accepting and understanding of what makes me different and to a point reveling in that difference. It is who I am. It is what helps me to see and understand the things around me. Even as I run across those that do not understand and seek to ridicule or question that difference. And yes, even as a middle-aged female I still run into that bully mindset from time to time. Yet, even after all this time some things I still remember vividly. Standing outside what is now the Middle School at break and having another student shout out for all the world to hear 'Hey Ratwoman!!" and then shout that theme from the old Batman TV series..I hear the laughter of those around me and inside my heart weeps again, just a little.

This is small town America, everyone knows everyone and knows everyone's business. It doesn't matter, cruelty happens here just as much as any where else. Kids, trying to look tough. Kids trying to be superior. Kids, trying to stand out in a crowd by making someone else look and feel less. Time passes and they forget. It wasn't important to them, it wasn't painful to them. A moment and then its gone. A word, that is quickly forgotten. But to the bullied, it is a pain that like a cancer waits, lurking within, waiting, waiting, for that one word, one thought, one incident, that will trigger its return. And the wounded, has to begin the healing process all over again.

More tormenting than these memories of my own suffering, my son when he was in school was also a target..but that is another story that I will share later..
        Small town America

                                           Me, just a couple of years out of school, remembering those big glasses 

1 comment:

  1. Oh bless you for writing this. Like many social issues, the more bullying is discussed and words describing first hand feelings of what it's like, the more progress will be made. I've been working my way around your blog and been enjoying every last post. My day is a little brighter now since discovering your beautiful writing and photos. Thanks.