The Bully

tdc168-aLately I’ve been turning to the zany questions on OkCupid for blog fodder from time to time. Today is one of those times.

The question is: Were you picked on a lot in school?

This question is a little different than the others. The common thread in the other questions is that I had to think for a few minutes to figure out the answer that’s right for me.

For this one I know the answer right away, but it struck me as an interesting–and even sensitive–question for a dating site to ask. What does the site think that my answer says about me?

OkCupid gives me two options: yes or no. I chose “no,” as in, “I was picked on, but not a lot.”

I was a quiet kid in school, and I kind of stayed out of the way of others. So I wasn’t the biggest target to be picked on by bullies or older kids.

But I was picked on by one particular guy in middle school. I’ll call him Isaac Potter, because that was his name.

I was a scrawny 6th or 7th grade (I can’t remember exactly when it was), and Isaac was much bigger than me. I was in the gifted program and Isaac wasn’t, but kids in my program mixed with everyone else for gym class.

The bullying started out of nowhere–as far as I could tell, there was absolutely nothing that initiated it. One day things were normal, and the next Isaac was going out of his way to lower his shoulder into me every time he walked by.

I didn’t say anything. I definitely didn’t stand up to Isaac, and I didn’t tell on him either. So things got worse.

I remember the final two incidents in detail. One I remember not so much for what Isaac did (he slammed me into my locker and hurt my shoulder), but rather for the kindness of a guy who kind of followed him around. After Isaac walked away, the guy asked me if I was okay. “I’ll tell him to stop,” he assured me.

The final incident was a few days later. We were walking in from the playground when Isaac approached me. He loomed over me and said, “What did you say?”

I literally hadn’t said anything. Isaac didn’t wait for an answer before shoving me to the ground.

With gravel pockmarked into my palms, I made my way to the vice principal’s office that afternoon to report Isaac. I felt cowardly going to him instead of confronting Isaac myself, but I was scared. That was the best I could do.

A few days later, the vice principal called me into the office with Isaac. I remember Isaac saying that he thought I had said something about his mother, but he said it in a way that made me realize that he as scared to be in that office as I was to be in the same room as him. I fought back tears and said that I just didn’t want to be picked on any more. The vice principal sent me back to class and asked Isaac to remain in the office.

I think the vice principal must have been pretty good at his job, because I noticed something odd in the days and weeks that followed. Not only did Isaac stop picking on me, but he seemed to be looking out for me.

I can’t put a finger on how I know this. I actually think the vice principal used Isaac’s desire for power and control from something bad into something good, like giving a uncooperative German Shepard a backpack to wear. Whatever he did, I’m grateful for it, and I’m even grateful for Isaac.

Did you get picked on at school? Are you happy with the way it was resolved?

3 thoughts on “The Bully”

  1. I had a scary nemisis in the form of a boy named Wayne, who was two years older than me, who would follow me all the way home from school, taunting me from a step or two behind me. I was always completely sure one day he would attack me from behind. To this day I get very panicky if I feel someone walking right in back of me. I was lucky that during school hours, I had a champion, my best friend Teresa, who, on the first day I met her in 5th grade, punched a kid in the nose for calling me fat. No one dared mess with me after that in grade school, except for Wayne the creeper, it was 8th grade before I could shake him loose, and only then because he got arrested and sent to juvie. Junior high wasn’t the best experience, but most bullies left me alone when Teresa was around. High school was much better, and I found my little nerd niche working on the school paper and yearbook and in creative writing class. I only got into one fight my entire time in school and that was my senior year in high school, with a cheerleader named Wendy, who was an vile little human if there ever was one. She called me names for years (which I ignored) and I didn’t do a thing. Then one day she called my younger brother a faggot and the next thing I know I grabbed her by her cheerleader sweater and heaved her into some lockers, then went after her. I only got about two punches in but it earned me my one and only school suspension. I really scared myself when that happened, I had never hit another person in anger in my life (before or since), and I really think I would have seriously hurt her if my brother hadn’t got between us. Crazy thing is, at my last high school reunion Wendy came up to me and apologized for all the horrible things she said to me back in the day. Apparently she found God, or something. Anyway, that’s my bully experience

  2. I seem to have the bad luck of getting picked on by the popular people.

    The last time I met a bully I was married and working on my graduate degree. A fellow student was picking on other students and I asked him to stop. He wanted to know what I’d do about it, I told him I’d call campus security. I picked up the phone, half-intending to call, when he walked out. I started to put it down, when he said “You better hope I don’t see your wife later.” I called security immediately. Turns out he was on probation for manslaughter and an arrest would violate him back to jail for two more years, and forfeit his chances at finishing school. He apologized and agreed he wouldn’t speak to me again. Neither, for that matter, did anyone else from my graduating class. That’s the problem when bullies are popular.

    But it’s the earlier bullies who are the reason why I decline every request from my grade and high schools for reunions and for alumni donations.

    I was bullied frequently from 4th grade through 8th grade, and by an intimidatingly-large number of kids. I was small and mouthed off a lot, too stubborn to be shoved around, so maybe I brought some of it on myself. I didn’t fit in with the kids. I wore clothes from Wal-mart and thrift stores while they shopped at Banana Republic. I walked to high school while they drove. It didn’t help that the administrators saw me as a problem child and would not take my side.

    Examples: One day four kids sprayed me with ink from squirt guns. They said it was disappearing ink – it wasn’t. Another day two kids followed me halfway home, punched me in the stomach and threw me into the bushes. In gym class they would shove me into the locker or steal my lock. At lunch, Oliver, who was the son of a teacher, would wipe his hands on my shirt and in my hair. My parents asked if I wanted to switch schools – I didn’t, it felt like running away. I asked to take karate, and they agreed. I started lessons in sixth grade and earned my black belt my senior year of high school. But it was a rough few years while I learned how to fight, and when not to fight. I walked away from some, but I dreaded every gym class and every lunch period. Even little torments – kids sliding over to not let me sit with them, or making me pay to sit next to them. That one day that a dozen kids invited me over, by name. As soon as I sat down, they got up and left, called me a faggot.

    Then there was Mark. He was small, self-important and popular. He chased me into the locker room and tried to put me into a headlock. After four years of karate, I got out of his lock and kicked him until he didn’t get up. I got suspended for a week for that (his parents, who were important, demanded an apology from the school and from us). And then it was open season on me.

    There was Steve. While I was changing for gym class, Steve sat on my shoulders and farted. I shoved him. By the time the gym teacher pulled him off of me I had a black eye, a purple cheek and my ear was swollen. My mom complained to the school – and was told “Steve has problems and he’s being handled. But your son needs to stop starting fights.”

    There was another Mark who, while I was splashing water on my face, smashing my face into the sink, giving me a bloody nose. I chased him into class and punched him in the kidney. I was suspended for two more days and threatened with expulsion. My stepfather demanded that the school do something about it – they were told “Mark’s parents come from a good family”.

    There was Gary. Gary stood on a table during lunch and shouted my name, saying I was gay. I told him to shut up or I’d make him shut up. This is in front of teachers, monitors. No one did anything while the kids laughed. I got on the table and punched him in the throat. Suspended.

    My parents tried to hire a lawyer and threatened to sue the school for doing nothing. They were told by the principal that I needed to be put in an alternative school. I was an A+ student, mind you. I got along well with my teachers so that they’d let me make up work during suspension – and my mom even promised the gym teachers that she’d record me exercising during suspension so my grades wouldn’t drop. My stepfather, who became a hero to me during these years, had some long, terse talks with the principal and told him he’d hold him personally responsible if anything further happened to me.

    I didn’t get a break during summers. I went to a day camp with a kid named Brian. Brian was new to the camp, like me, and he was nice to me, really nice. He was 12, I was 10. One day, on the way to camp, he put his hand on my crotch and squeezed. I told him to stop. he told me I liked it. We wrestled. I pushed him into the bus aisle and the camp counselors asked what happened. I told them. They laughed, but at least they separated us. When I told my parents, we met with the camp director and Brian’s parents. Turns out, Brian had been asked to leave another camp the previous summer for touching boys’ butts. Brian didn’t go there anymore – I hope he got help.

    The last straw was Andy. Again, in gym class, Andy pushed me. I only told him I didn’t need to respond to him. He put his hands around my throat from behind. At this time I held a blue belt in karate and was pretty skilled. I took him down. I let it all out. I beat the shit out of Andy while the wealthy, privileged assholes i went to grade school with cheered. The gym teacher put me in a half nelson but I slipped out. He cussed at me, told me I was going to be arrested. I told him off, told him we need to see his boss because he’s not doing his job. The principal told me I’d be escorted off campus. I told him I wasn’t going anywhere without my parents.

    My mom picked me up. While I cried in heavy sobs on her shoulder, I heard my stepdad through the closed principal’s door threaten the principal personally. The principal shouted back. This went on for half an hour. Threats to sue the school for lost wages and work time. Threats to go to the houses of the kids’ parents and beat them up. Threats to call the papers. Threats to let me bring mace as protection. Threats to bring the principal and teachers up before the village board.

    The agreement reached was that my parents would agree not to sue, and the school would agree not to take any action against me. I finished 7th grade from home. I spent half of 8th grade at the high school because I was testing out of 8th grade material – I was doing college algebra my last semester of junior high. I met with a guidance counselor twice a week to discuss progress and work on conflict resolution.

    The problem wasn’t just the kids who pushed and touched and kicked and choked. The problem was also the teachers and administrators who didn’t want to get involved. And it was, in my case at least, the twisted people I went to school with, who valued popularity over protection, and who didn’t want to be seen helping out an unpopular kid. I get friend requests from them on facebook and I ask them, “where were you when I was getting beaten up every day? Why do you want to talk to me now?”

  3. Sandra and JT, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your stories here. That took a lot of courage, and I appreciate it.


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