“FISH” and “CHICKEN” were the names they had given the girl. I don’t know why. The chant began everyday as soon as the bus pulled out of the school yard until the girl got off the bus. It went on for weeks. It was not directed at me, but it did make me very uncomfortable. I felt bad for the girl, even though the girl was older and had been very regularly awful to me. She did not make my life easy and even though a small part of me looked at this as well deserved, most of me felt bad for her. I sat there every day not participating in the chant, praying no one would notice that I was not participating, because these girls would turn on a person at the drop of a hat. Eventually they did move on, but we all lived in fear of who would be next. The bus was a torturous place and just about everyday someone was in the line of fire.
If you think the bus was bad, for me the bus stop was even worse – they could see you coming – you could not hide…. yes, lets put the fat girl in pea soup green polyester stirrup pants on gym day (you know, the kind that 60’s housewives wore). I was teased about my weight (“You look like Mama Cass” was always my favorite) and about the ridiculous clothes I had to wear. This was a time when girls still had to wear dresses and/or skirts to school, except on gym day. This was also the time when boys sneakers were all the rage. I remember shoving my feet into my brothers sneakers that were two sizes too small so I wouldn’t be teased about my “skippies” – I could barely walk but if I had to be teased about the green pants, I might at least avoid the double whammy of the pants and sneakers. It wasn’t much easier during the non-gym days. Long after all of the other girls upgraded from ankle socks to knee socks, I was still made to wear the ankle socks because I was…. “too young to wear knee socks”. What kind of rule is that?! Of course I was also too young to shave my legs, so those were really super fun days for me.
Often I would opt not to ride the bus at all. There was a field right next to our house and when I knew no one at home was looking, I would cut through the field, head into the woods, take the trail to a park and continue to school on the road that I knew the bus didn’t take. This was about a 3 mile hike, but it kept me away from the bus stop and off the bus. I chose that route as often as I possibly could.
Finally when I became old enough to pick out some of my own clothes and saved money to buy more of my own clothes (the dress code changed as well. We were no longer required to wear dresses) I slowly got over the whole bus stop/bus ride phobia. I still took abuse and was teased relentlessly, but it was no longer due to my appearance, it was more about the neighborhood kids’ common dislike of someone related to me. Even though this had nothing to do with me what-so-ever, I was the target of that ridicule. I took it, all of it everyday until they did finally move on.
As the years went by, I realized that most of the bullies I remembered, bullied just to make themselves feel superior or to draw attention away from whatever they could be bullied about. The only way they could feel good about themselves was by belittling others. It’s sad, really. Now, even as adults, we find bullies everywhere. We can’t seem to get away from them, but now I view them as pathetic more than anything else. I do now tend to react, and sometimes over react when I think someone is being bullied or taken advantage of. I tend to react (and over react) when I think that something-anything is not fair. It doesn’t have to be about me, but when I think someone is being treated unfairly, I can’t let it go. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it is my thing.
Having a child with Autism, bullying has become even more of a concern for me. Bullying, as bad as it was when I was a kid, is so much worse now. There are so many more terrible ways of bullying these days. We read about it every day. I really feel for the children and teens growing up in this environment. I have been fortunate that my son has not experienced this to any great extent. He does not understand it and fortunately he often misses it completely. But when he did come home and actually TOLD me that his friends were laughing at him at lunch at the High School, I know he did understand and it did bother him. It is very difficult getting information out of him under any circumstances. This particular time he volunteered the information.
He told me.
It upset him.
These were kids that he liked. They were supposed to be his friends. They all have special needs of their own. He really wanted so much to be friends with these 3 kids. I did call his teacher, explained the situation and asked that he not sit with them at lunch anymore. They didn’t have a lot of other contact during the rest of the day. He did have contact with them at other activities outside of school and although he did not notice, I had actually witnessed some of this myself. Seeing him upset, having him realize that “his friends” were making fun of him just broke my heart. I do know he could have experienced much worse and for right now I am thankful that this was the only instance (that I am aware of) of him being bullied or teased or made fun of… to his face at least.
The one thing I am really thankful for is the fact that he did not ever have to ride the regular bus to school.
Back in the day and not very long after I had gotten over my fear of the bus stop and riding the bus, the bullies saw fit to turn their attention to my best friend. So we did what only the two of us could do in that situation, what my son would not have the option of doing.
We set out on foot and took the long way home…..
#1000speak “Building from Bullying” – March 20, 2015 – To participate
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