This is the face of a bully.
Sometimes things happen that make you take a hard look back and wonder where, when and why it all got started.
The best I can remember, it started with the little girl in that picture, in the fall of 1965, standing in the yard outside Fairhope Elementary School.
She has a somewhat shy smile, and doesn’t look mean, with that big bottom lip and chipped front tooth, right? Let’s take a closer look at the little girl in that photo. Her mother pin-curled her hair the night before picture day, but it was fine and the curls didn’t hold. The dress is out of style. The little girl is big for her age and on the chubby side. Already, they are starting to use hand-me-downs from her older sister and cousins across the bay.
This little girl has an older sister who is nearly 10 and a brother who will be 4 in February. There is no public kindergarten in Alabama, so her mother has done her best to teach the child her ABCs, to spell her name and count her numbers all the way up to 25. When school starts, she is proud to learn she is not behind her classmates.
The family moved back to Fairhope a few years earlier, and she plays often with another girl who lives four doors down the street. When school starts, she’s looking forward to seeing her friend.
Here’s what happens the first days of school. She learns what it means to be:
- an outsider, who didn’t go to kindergarten with the other children;
- not one of the rich kids with all new clothes or whose fathers are store owners, doctors, car dealers or lawyers;
- funny-looking (the boys tease her about the fat bottom lip and broken tooth);
- taller than the other girls.
She doesn’t fit in with the other girls and her friend down the street has a new group of friends that does not include our little girl. She is hurt and confused. By the second grade, there are only 2 or 3 children who will play with her at recess and she eventually loses all interest in outdoor play. After all, the other children make fun of her attempts to play because she is clumsy, fat, slow and wears funny, ugly corrective shoes that keep her from being able to run. She becomes a loner and a book worm.
What happens when you subject a shy, intelligent, sensitive child to ridicule, ostracization and teasing?
They resort to some form of bullying.
In my case, yes of course it’s me…I became sarcastic at the ripe old age of six. I built a defensive shield and struck back with words. I’ve continued to do so, sharpening my wits all my life. It has not served me well.
My career has suffered. I have few friends. I eat alone every workday. I have no social life. My family, other than my sister, have essentially turned against me. All because I say things that hurt their feelings.
Mind you, I don’t intend to do so. I’m acting defensively and often in jest, but it’s hurtful and once the words are said there is nothing to mend the hurt.
Have I tried to change? Hell yes. I’ve been to DOZENS of seminars, read lots of books, seen counselors, taken drugs (prescription). Once formed, a person’s fundamental personality is–what it is. Now that my parents are dead, I have to accept that there exists only one person who loves me unconditionally, my darling husband.
So it’s too late for me. Parents, please teach your little ones not to tease. Teach them to reach out to the lonely ones. Love the fat kids, the geeky kids, the ones with blemished skin and shabby clothes. Leave no child outside the circle.