I realise I’m a little late to ‘Stand up to Bullying’ day, which was 13th June. But I recently read a blog post on The British Nerd Network which inspired me to talk about my own experiences with bullying.
My parents moved us from the North East of England to the Midlands when I was three years old. My sister was only a baby and I would be starting school the following September. First year of my first primary school (which was around a mile away) was difficult and my mum said I would constantly come home from school saying I hadn’t made any friends because nobody could understand what I was saying (I had a broad Northern accent at the time). I remember sitting on the curb of the playground every dinner time by myself, while all the other kids played together and pointed and laughed at me.
My mum transferred me to a different primary school which was closer to our home and there I found a firm friend, Sam. She and I were inseparable for years, but she was accepted a lot more by the other kids because she was so laid back and quiet, whereas I was more likely to state my mind. She was always invited to play with the other kids but I never was. A particular playtime sticks in my mind, that sounds so stupid but at the time was really a big deal for me (how the problems of a seven year old differ to a thirty-two year old!) – a group of girls were re-enacting the Disney Beauty and the Beast movie (which I was obsessed with) and they asked Sam if she wanted to play. She said yes and asked if I could join in. They told me there weren’t any characters left for me to play. Sam said she wouldn’t play unless I did. So they told me I “could be the wardrobe”. Need I say more. As stupid as that sounds it really crushed me back then. I was also bullied from year 2 all the way to year 6, relentlessly. Jamie I hope you never go through what you put me though.
By the time I reached the age for high school, my mum had firmly decided I wasn’t going to go the local school where Sam was going. I would be going to an all girls’ school right across town that no one I knew was going to. It took me over an hour and three buses to get to school every day. And every day a couple of girls, Tiffany and Louise, made my life a living hell with their constant name calling, ridiculing and general humiliation of me.
I came home from school in tears most days. One day I came home and my mum told me that we would be moving again, this time to a place near Wales in the countryside. I would be transferring to yet another school, a much smaller close-knit one. One where not only did I not know anyone, but I couldn’t even find my way home once I got there because I wasn’t familiar with the area or the mile and a half walk to and from school.
I will remember my first day at that school for the rest of my life. It was like a scene from ‘Mean Girls’. I walked into the classroom and for a change I was the popular “city” kid that everyone wanted to know. I thought everything would change because all the girls were clinging to me asking me tons of questions about the city. I had nothing in common with any of them and although I felt completely out of my comfort zone, I thought for once I might have an easy life.
The girls showed me around school and demanded I sat with them at dinnertime. I happily opened my lunchbox and listening to them chatting away, when a girl came up to the table and was greeted by everyone. There was nowhere for her to sit and every single girl at that table (all ten of them) turned and looked at me and said “you’re in Kate’s (not me, that was the name of the girl who had nowhere to sit) seat, you’ll have to move”. I said “where will I sit?” to which I just received blank stares. I collected my stuff, got up, left the canteen and spent the rest of my lunch in the girls toilets, locked in safe, alone. This became the norm for me. I had no real friends until much later on in high school life, whereupon I befriended a group of nerds who took me under their wing and looked after me for a while. I was ridiculed in P.E (because I sucked at it), ridiculed for playing video games and ridiculed because I had never had a boyfriend (this finally happened when I turned fifteen). I hated the entirety of my school life and couldn’t wait to leave.
By the time I reached college, I thought life would be a little easier as I went to college with my boyfriend at the time. My mum didn’t like how clingy I was with my boyfriend and had placed a call with the college to make sure we were in separate classes at all times. So I was back to square one of not knowing anyone. Luckily, I met a guy there who would later become the surrogate big brother I had always wanted. We have been close since the day we met and he all but lived with my family for a long time. He moved away when I was nineteen and we lost touch for a while but I saw him recently and it was good to catch up.
Getting back to my point, a guy in college who seemed to be the leader of a clique decided I was an easy target. Tom, you also made my life hell.
Mid way through college I had had enough. The bullies had targeted me throughout my entire life because I HAD LET THEM. I was finally pushed to breaking point and exploded in class one day. The shock on the faces of the bullies was just priceless. They attempted to push me only once more but by then I had hardened myself up and I never let another snidey comment go unpunished. The bullies began to be afraid of me calling them out with sarcastic remarks to which they had no reply, looking like fools in front of their friends and the rest of the class. They eventually left me alone completely.
From that day I became an advocate against bullying, sticking up for the kids who still got bullied or were targets, looking after them and knocking the bullies back down for them, time and time again, showing them how to create their own armour, like I did.
My entire personality changed and I became extremely outspoken, brutally honest and a force to be reckoned with. I brought this into my adult life, refusing to be made a pushover of and standing my ground in every situation I got thrown into.
I found out the hard way that the only way to beat the bullies is to “beat” the bullies. I don’t necessarily mean give them a good thump, although by all means, this does also work. I mean beat them at their own game – a sarcastic put down can be battled with a sarcastic put down of your own, a harsh word can be thrown back in their face with raised eyebrow and a single profanity or an extremely loud and bored sounding sigh. Once they realise that they don’t hurt you or bother you, only bore you and mildly amuse you at their weak attempts, the comments and attempts will die down and eventually stop altogether.
Stand up for yourself! Don’t let them get away with it and be like me, regretting my childhood for the plain reason of being too weak to make a stand and fight back. I’m more than making up for it now.