School days, they’re just the best days of your life aren’t they? I mean who doesn’t love getting up at stupid o clock, donning on a uniform that even though it makes you look the same as everyone else in the entire school you still get judged because your tie is too long or too short or you’ve got the fat end showing instead of the thin end because that’s more fashionable and that’s what the cool kids do.
Who doesn’t love walking through those gates knowing you’re facing a day full of lessons you either hate or just don’t understand? Your teachers terrify you, have you done your homework? Is it good enough? Have you got the right books with you? Have you remembered your PE kit? You better hope so because if you haven’t you know you’re gonna be wearing that mismatched kit from the lost and found that 100% guaranteed has not seen a washing machine in its lifetime!
Who doesn’t love walking into your form room where 50% of your classmates hate you and the other 50% just don’t get you?
Who doesn’t love waking up with dread knowing the next 5-6 hours are going to be spent dodging paper objects being thrown at your head? Paper objects that soon turn into pens, protractors and rulers because you’re not providing a good enough reaction?
Who doesn’t love being called…
“Specky four eyes”
…Those are to name just a few of the endearing and heartfelt (I’m sure) comments my ears were privy to hearing on a relentless daily basis.
Who doesn’t love all of that?
Yeah, your school days are the best aren’t they? I mean, I look back on mine all the time and think “I’d love to go back and go through it all again?”
School was awful! From 1993 to 1998 I was all of the things I’ve just listed. I was all of those things because the bullies made me believe that they were true.
I couldn’t help some of it, I mean realistically there’s not much I could have done about the size of my nose, I tried to cover it with my hand so people weren’t exposed to the obvious horror that it caused but it made breathing difficult and in woodwork it wasn’t exactly practical when I was trying to saw through a plank of wood. There wasn’t a great deal I could do about my skin either, I was a teenager, I had acne and no matter what the doctor prescribed I still had acne, so I apologise that it made my face look like a pepperoni pizza!
I’m sorry I was such a slow coach but I was not a sporty kid and PE was most definitely not my bag so if I came last in the 100 metre hurdle race at sports day, take it up with my legs because clearly my legs and my brain were not on the same team.
From age 12 I needed glasses, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise me needing to see the blackboard was so offensive to so many people; I’m sorry they made me look like a geek. I’m sorry for being in the bottom class in Maths and I’m sorry I was in the top set for English but I missed the memo on how this would mould me in to being a thicko and a swot all at the same time!
I’m sorry that because I didn’t want to wear Kappa jackets and Spray Way coats and my trainers were Puma and not Nike this made me a hippy and as for being a minger, well, it is not my fault that no one fancied me; lads of class 93 – 98 that’s on you, I am not taking the fall for that one. You may have called me frigid but maybe it was a blessing in disguise that no one wanted to jump my 11-16 year old bones because when I look back at the photos none of you were exactly Crispian Mills material.
But there is one thing I will not apologise for… I will not apologise for being a “F***ing weirdo” because why should I? I didn’t think I was a weirdo, I thought I was just me.
I know I asked too many questions about how the world started and did people really exist? How did we know if we were really alive and how could we prove it because pinching yourself was just a matter of opinion. I wanted to know how different religions formed and why didn’t everyone just believe in the same thing because at the end of the day we all live in the same world (that’s if the world really existed).
I know I may have had an inability to see the things that were contributing to the allocation of this label, but from the age of 11 my subconscious must have made a decision that no matter how “weird” I appeared to be to the outside world or how difficult my school days were, my determination to be who I was would not waiver.
I had a friend who refused to shave her legs when every other girl in school was shaving their’s, because of this she gained the title of “Gorilla Girl.” She was bullied constantly and every person on the corridor would shout this obscenity at her but she never reacted. I once asked her if it bothered her and she said…
“They’re just jealous”
But once she said…
“It’s getting boring now.”
So I asked her why didn’t she just shave her legs and then it would all stop? My friend turned to me and she said…
“Why don’t you get a Kappa jacket and wear better trainers”
She had a point because I was not prepared to change anything about myself for the benefit of anyone else, so why should she?
When it comes to bullies there’s always one thing that I’ve never been able to understand and that’s…
Why do they do it? What could they possibly gain from making somebody else’s life miserable? Why is it funny to make someone cry? How is it okay to hurt them? Who makes the decision to throw a wooden ruler or a plastic protractor at someone’s face and as for hitting someone over the head with a 300 page science book, how is that sidesplittingly hilarious? I didn’t find it funny when it was done to me and I certainly didn’t think it was okay when I saw it happen to someone else.
When you eventually pluck up the courage to talk to someone about the bullies you get the standard response. They are…
- Unhappy in their own lives
- They’re being bullied by the bullies themselves
- If its boys then they must fancy you
- If its girls then they’re jealous
To me not one of those explanations are ever true. Using these excuses gives reason for completely unacceptable behaviour. If any of the bullies who made my school days a living hell were unhappy that is not my fault and does not excuse the misery they inflicted on me or anyone else.
Making excuses for bullies puts blame on the victim.
“Don’t rise to it.”
“Just ignore them.”
“When you leave school none of this will matter.”
But it does matter because it stays with you. I left school 22 years ago and I have never forgotten the names I was called; I’ve never forgotten the feeling of a wooden ruler being thrown at my head.
When I was 14 I reluctantly went to a school disco because my group of friends convinced me that it was a good opportunity to tell a boy that I liked him. He laughed hysterically and must have been so utterly horrified at the prospect of someone like me thinking he was worth looking at that the next day he threw a stone at my face and grazed my jaw.
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, they’re clever as well as stupid, they’re hard done by and they’re privileged. Bullies can be our best friend, they can be our bosses and they can be our family. There is no cap on the age range of a bully, there’s no valid reason for their behaviour and there’s no excuse for their actions.
As a victim I blamed myself for the treatment I received. People tell me I could have changed and then my teenage years might not have been so hard but changing isn’t as easy as people think it is.
If I changed my appearance for someone else then I would never have been able to accept myself. I would never have been comfortable with who I was because every time I looked at myself I would have wondered who was staring back at me.
Yes I asked far too many questions for anyone to be able to answer and while I wondered if I really existed in the world, I knew when I looked in the mirror that I was just a girl who liked reading books and listening to Indie music and that wasn’t really a bad thing to be.
Twenty-two years later Facebook is a field of social envy. People make friend requests all over the show because they want to show others what they’ve got, their money, their houses, their kids. They want to show others how much they’ve achieved and how they’re probably still the same person they always were back in the old days. Maybe I’m no different. As I write this piece I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder how far it will go, who will see it and think…
“…damn, we gave her a rough ride…”
I have nothing flashy to show in the years that have passed and I make a point of refusing friend requests from the people who made my life miserable. I didn’t want to be friends with them in the 90’s so why would I want to be friends with the now?
The last twenty-two years have given me mountain after mountain to climb, I have loved, I have lost and at times I have been a complete stranger to myself. There were times when I wondered if I would make it, if I even wanted to make it at all but in a way I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. Facebook is a minefield of gossip and rumours and its only through the friend requests that I have accepted that I’ve heard about the people who didn’t make it. Some of the people who made my life miserable are either dead or in prison and I wonder if the ones who are still around are sorry. I’ve always tried to be a better person and I can’t help but think it’s a shame that those individuals couldn’t do the same for themselves.
The saying goes…
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
In all honesty whoever made that up has never been bullied. It’s easy to say but it doesn’t take away the pain of someone’s hatred.
I don’t have the answers to tackling bullies and if anyone asked me how to deal with one I’m not sure I would be able to give them the right kind of advice because I’m not sure I even dealt with mine in the right way.
So to all the bullies out there, past and present, get a grip! Look at who you are and ask yourself if it’s worth it? How will torturing someone enrich your life? Is making the girl/boy with the braces cry something to be proud of? Are you truly happy when you throw something at someone’s face? And if that person doesn’t make it, if you’re responsible for that person feeling unable to carry on because they don’t meet your ridiculous expectations, can you live with yourself?
I am not denying that for the majority of my life I have struggled with the concept of who I am and who I will become. I have always found it difficult to be happy with myself when the rest of the world looks so different to my own. I wonder on a daily basis if I am good enough. Have I done enough for my job? For my friends? Am I good enough for my family? Am I good enough for me?
I was bullied at school and at home I never met the expectations that my Dad laid out like a contract…
“If you look pretty and achieve the highest grades I will love you, but even then it will never be enough.”
In just the last few days I’ve learnt that you will always meet people who don’t like you and in return you might not like them but we’re all human and sometimes we just don’t gel. Even adults say mean things, they might not throw rulers or stones at your face but those sniping comments will still hurt, but always remember…
…Sticks and stones have the potential to break our bones but when it comes to names it’s what you do with them that makes the difference…