Social media sites, radio stations, and TV broadcasts have been buzzing lately. No, I’m not talking about the presidential debates. I’m talking about bullying. Most of us have caught wind of Jennifer Livingston’s stand against her bullying viewer, and Twitter is currently on fire taking a stand against this rising epidemic.
All of this chatter about bullying has me looking over my childhood of taunts, tears, and being bullied. It seems that things haven’t changed much over the years. Here we are in 2012, watching a grown woman be chastised for her weight, which happens to be the same experience I faced as a child, teenager, and now adult.
I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb overweight. Most women (and men) in my family tend to be hearty, thick folk. I blame it on all the potatoes my Irish genes consumed over centuries. When you’re a very young child, you don’t have the concept of “I’m different”. You’re loved for who you are and shielded from life’s negative nature by your parents. This joyous life continues until age five, when it’s time to venture off to kindergarten.
My earliest memories of being bullied started around first grade. My family grew up paycheck-to-paycheck, and some weeks were even tighter than that. I didn’t wear designer clothing or have brand-name items in my possession. Cue reason #1 for bullies to attack. I was told I was poor, I was gross, I was fat, and my clothes were ugly.
Through first and second grade, I spent the majority of my time in the nurse’s office. My main mission in life was convincing her to call my mom to have me picked up, because I was “sick”. My poor mom could count on the daily phone call from the school nurse, reporting that I was once again distraught with a headache and stomach ache. Looking back now, I can equate the daily feelings I had with anxiety. I was scared to stay in school because I was bullied.
Middle school brought about a whole new realm of bullying. Not only was I red-lettered as fat and poor, but I was being picked on about my brother as well. My brother was overweight too and bullies demanded answers on my family and upbringing. It was assumed my parents stuffed us with sugary treats and fatty fried foods. In reality, my parents cooked healthy home meals, we spent all day after school running around outside, and we were both in sports and other physical activities, like dancing.
You can’t fight genetics. You can feed someone all the proper foods, inundate them with exercise, and guess what? If your genes say “thick”, you’re thick.
Toward the end of middle school, entering into high school, I had three main bullies: two female, one male. The females were popular girls at school who were thin as twigs. One female took a special interest in tearing down any shred of self-esteem I had, while the other female spread rumors about me like they were wild fire. The male enjoyed taunting me in the hallways, leading his crew of bullies to laugh, point, and yell out insults.
I remember the rumor-spreading bully laughing and whispering about me every time I walked into a classroom. I would attempt to stare her down and show her I wasn’t afraid, but come on, this was middle school! My mother always told me to laugh and walk away, but it never seemed to work. That just made the bullies angry and more likely to strike.
Finally by high school, the bullying seemed to settle slightly. I had a new friendship with a popular girl in the school. She had a habit of losing her shit when she overheard someone bullying me, so that put a cork in matters quickly. Outside of a nasty string of sexually-related false rumors, I made it through high school somewhat scar free.
It’s now almost ten years later and I wish I could say I live a bully-free life. But, as we have seen with Jennifer Livingston, that’s not reality. Adulthood no longer means being safe, independent, and free of judgement. In fact, it seems that you are just as open to being bullied, judged, and put down.
As Jennifer Livingston pointed out: I know I’m fat. What I don’t know is why it would bother someone else. Fear not, I have perfect physical check-up’s at the doctor, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are lower than most thin people’s. I love taking long walks with my dog at the state park, hiking through various areas. I enjoy yoga and playing with my parent’s dogs in their backyard. Despite all this, the assumption is still there: She’s fat because she eats too much and doesn’t exercise.
I overheard an instructor at my job talking about my weight recently. She cruelly whispered as I walked by that I hold all my weight in my stomach and it’s gross. Gee, thank you for pointing that out, ma’am. I don’t have one of those newfangled mirror inventions!
I often wonder if these people would act and think differently if they knew the torment overweight people put themselves through. I can guarantee you that I spend more time getting ready and checking myself daily. I spend more time pulling at the layers of my clothing to assure no roll or fluffy area is exposed. I turn down any public eating opportunities, such as work events and parties. I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt when I do eat something I know is bad for me. And I spend most of my days looking for healthy substitutions just so I know I’m doing everything in my power to lose weight.
I don’t like food shopping, because I worry people are judging the items in my cart. Malls are a gateway to Hell with all the trendy, thin people dashing from store to store. Even going to the gym opens the door to being stared at and whispered about. Shit, aren’t gyms created to lose weight?!
With all of this considered, my question remains: aren’t bullies bored by now? Aren’t they tired of pointing out people’s differences and giggling themselves into oblivion? When I look around at people, I see only one thing: differences. Everyone is different. No one looks the same. Some people may have similarities, but in the end, they still look different. Act different. Think different.
The bullying epidemic has lingered on far too long. I honestly believe it’s only continued due to bad parenting. If you teach your children hate, they will hate. If you teach your children judgement, they will judge. If you teach your children to despise anything that is different, you are creating a monster.
Think before speaking, acting, doing. Look around yourself and wonder how it would feel if someone pointed out your faults, whispered about your body, and glared at your differences. Raise your child to be open-minded, accepting, and loving. In the end, not only will you and your child benefit, but you will be saving thousands of children every year from being bullied, chastised, and pushed to their edge.
Enough is enough, already.