Authors Against Bullying: I Have No Fucks Left To Give

So today is Authors Against Bullying day. Which I forgot to sign up for – though Jess Haines was nice enough to send me an email about it – it just got lost in the NYCC craziness. There’s a whole blog hop going on which I’m not a part of – you can check it out here.

That being said, I suppose I’m going to just post my own thing here. Understand that it’s going to be somewhat ranty. I have a lot of anger still.  I’ve debated using real names – in the past, I’ve never mentioned who these people are, but I can’t decide if that’s the way to go or not. I mean, why should I protect anyone at this point? (But hey, I’m in the public eye a bit more, and nothing is worse than a batshit crazy author, so perhaps real first name, last initial will work? We’ll see how it goes.)

This whole topic comes up at an interesting time. Last week was my 20th high school reunion. Which I didn’t attend, because I was on a panel at NYCC – and to be honest, there’s something sorta cathartic about hanging out with 116 thousands geeks.

You know. As opposed to hanging out with the people who made my life a living hell for most of my childhood.

Frankly, reunions are sort of over-rated these days anyway. With social media overflowing with self-indulgent wank about our lives (myself included), it’s hard to get excited about seeing some of these people in person. And at this point, I’ve managed to reconnect with the people who actually matter to me…none of whom went to said reunion, so clearly there’s something to that.

Anyway, yadda yadda. The thing about bullying is that it really does damage a person. You can argue all you want about standing up for yourself and building character, but when I think back  over all the shit that happened? I probably would have preferred having friends.

And not trying to kill myself in 4th grade. And 6th grade. And high school.

The odds were stacked against me. I was fish-bone skinny. I wore glasses. I had zits. I was weird. I had very small ears. I had a small mouth with a ton of crowding teeth that grew every which way.  I was awkward, in general. My parents didn’t understand fashion and often let me wear the same things two days in a row. I was a hypochondriac at some point as well, go figure. (Anything to get out of the classroom, honestly.)

I want to say 1st through 3rd grade were okay? Well, except for the fact that one of my friends was super blond and pretty and popular. And loaded. (If I ever got a new toy, she’d show up the next day with one twice as big. Or three times as many. Without fail.)

And one day her daddy bought her a used bike and cleaned it up. (Which I didn’t know.) And she showed off that bike. And I pointed out there was still a bit of rust on it. Because I was 8. And there *was* still rust on it. And Sandi H. ran home and cried to her momma. Who called up MY mother and screamed at her for so long that my mother ended up vomiting. Bullies run in families  by the way. (And then somehow I was blamed because shouldn’t I have known better? *shrugs*)

In 4th grade, I got my nickname. Thanks to Melanie L, who declared one random day that I looked like a frog. Nothing more than an ugly toad.

And I was forever Frog, from that point on. Ribbit, ribbit, indeed. Scott K. used to post notes on my back and kick me. Keith R. used to make toad noises. Karen W. used to draw awful pictures of my face with my “bulgy eyes.” Jeanna L. used to crank call my house and pretend to be a boy who liked me. Jade P. used to scratch me. (Until I finally lost it and headlocked her in the 5th grade and she lost her voice. Oddly enough I didn’t get in trouble for that.) Theresa M. would come up to me and make fun of my clothes and the way I wore my ribbons in my hair until I was in tears. (Even though I was completely alone, far on the other side of the playground. Apparently that meant she needed to seek me out and put me in my place.)

Wow, this is a very petty list, isn’t it? Even more so when you realize this shit happened back in 1982 – 1985.  The fact that I remember all this so clearly sort of scares me…but if you think about it, those are very formative years during childhood. You become as you are made. (And this is really only the tip of the iceberg – there’s a lot more but frankly I’m getting depressed just thinking about it, so I’m going to spare you all and stop. There was some physical assault and teachers who didn’t care and I was pretty much in a constant state of torment, but…yeah.)

Bonus round? The one teacher who actually seemed to take an interest in me in the 5th grade? Turned out to be a child molester. AWESOME. (Not of me, though. But Jesus Christ, the humanity.)

Bottom line? Children are vicious little fucks.

The end result is I’m still a bit neurotic. I never feel that I’m good enough for anything. I’m bitter and I don’t trust people much at all. Even when I’m friends with them, there’s always that little voice in the back of my head just waiting for them to turn on me. (I’m a bit better these days at not caring so much, but the doubts creep in when I’m not looking.)

So it doesn’t really surprise me that in today’s world of technological goodies there’s probably an increase in suicides. After all, back in my day, at least when you went home for the evening, that was pretty much it until the next day. (Unless someone egged your house or crank called you – both of which happened sometimes.) But today? There isn’t a refuge from it. Someone somewhere can get behind the anonymous screen of the internet and continue to mock you.

Even if you choose to take the high road and don’t engage.

I’m not sure what the solution is, or why people feel the need to be so mean. I mean, I guess you see it in the wild, right? Where the baby birds push the messed up bird out of the nest because it can’t survive anyway?

Bullying feels a bit like that sometimes. Which always seems to fly in the face of people who insist they’re Christian and good and everything should be hunky dory. You know. As long as you’re not DIFFERENT.

But step outside that circle and it’s open season.

So I guess I’d like to assure kids today that it does get better. College was certainly better for me, anyway. I could revel in my geekdom with like minded people and eventually, not a single fuck was given anymore about the people who were outside of OUR circle.

I think this video sums it up best:

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21 Responses to Authors Against Bullying: I Have No Fucks Left To Give

  1. Rhianna says:

    I’m not even sure which parts to comment on Allison. I can relate to so much of what you shared about your bullies that I admit my eyes are wet. My younger brother actually dropped out because of bullies (amongst other things) and the issues he still faces are difficult for us both. It doesn’t always get better but for me the ‘net provided a place after high school where I met people who liked me for who I was in all my geeky glory. That it’s become yet another outlet for bullying really pisses me off.

    I don’t think I’ll ever quite reach honey badger’s level of not giving a shit—you’re not alone in that inner voice of caution thing—but I’m darned sure trying to save the fucks for giving to the right causes. 🙂

    • Jessa Slade says:

      > I’m darned sure trying to save the fucks for giving to the right causes.

      Rhianna, THIS!

      Allison, as a fellow member of the animal kingdom — I was Giraffe — I winced at for Frog. It’s horrifying and sad and wrong how many people on this blog hop have similar stories. I hope the greater awareness of the problem in the last few years is helping SOMEone.

    • allison says:

      Had the net been around when I was in high school, I think it would have been an entirely different story for me. Even though the bullying aspect is just as high or higher, being able to reach out across the world and find someone who you can geek out with over a fandom or whatever is fairly priceless.

  2. Jess Haines says:

    I think the worst thing is knowing exactly how you feel.

    It hurts to know that we haven’t evolved enough as a species to be beyond this sort of shit by now. We’ve reached the stars. We’ve walked on the fucking moon. We’re all connected in ways we’ve never been before–and yet there are those out there who still can’t be civil to someone else just because they’re different.

    Just know you aren’t alone. *hugs* If you need someone to talk to tonight/this weekend, call me if you need to.


    • allison says:

      Yeah – we definitely haven’t evolved much. Even in our own little insulated author world – just look at all the crap that goes down on GoodReads. People are petty and I guess there’s just no way around that.

  3. Renee says:

    *Hugs* I’ve been there, too. It really sickens me that some people have nothing better to do with their lives than to bully those who are different. Children can be unbelievably cruel to other children, but you know they’re picking it up from other adults in their lives who cannot tolerate anyone with differing viewpoints.

    • allison says:

      Bingo. Monkey see, monkey do. I think a lot of us just say stuff without *really* thinking about the implications. So why wouldn’t our children do the same?

  4. :original comment deleted: Ack. Every time I try to comment on a post about bullying I end up turning into a ranting lunatic. The whole thing just pisses me off to the point where eloquence escapes me. Suffice it to say, I was bullied. My older sister was bullied. My oldest brother was bullied. And my daughter picked up where we left off and was bullied to the point of contemplating the worst. (Which is part of the reason why I jerked her out of 6th grade and homeschooled her the rest of the way.)

    Sorry all of that happened to you, Allison. I’m sorry it happened to any of us and that it still happens today. :hugs:

    • allison says:

      Yeah – eventually my parents pulled me out of the school and put me in a different one. That helped a little. Just wish it hadn’t taken so long to happen.

  5. Missy says:

    I was bullied too. I was desperate to at least try being transfered to a different class but my guidance counsellor refused. She just tried to insist they weren’t REALLY talking and laughing at me and when I insisted that they were she just gave me the worst bullying advice that keeps being given “Just ignore them and they’ll leave you alone.” Yeah like that ever works. Besides I was already doing that the best I could. That’s when I started ditching class and playing sick to stay home. Since I still got an A, I think my teacher knew why I was skipping and felt sorry for me.

    What makes me angry is that my bullies probably don’t even remember me or what they put me through. I remember everything with near perfect clarity and I still carry the emotional scars from it. I always feel unworthy and undeserving and I do not trust people.

    Don’t even get me started on people who insist they are such “good Christians” but they’re cruel and hatefilled.

    • allison says:

      Yeah – my teachers were less than useless. Hell, I had one gym teacher who called me out in front of the class and made fun of me. (4th grade? I don’t know – some sort of variation of Duck, Duck, Goose except we had to dribble a ball around the circle. And I lost control of it, and said something like “Stupid ball” in frustration.

      The teacher heard me and after I was done my turn, announced to the class what I’d done and actually said “Allison said ‘stupid ball’ but we all know that it isn’t the *ball* that’s stupid.

      I mean, really? Who the fuck does that?

  6. Thank you for sharing what happened to you. I can relate to the ugliness and the hurtful pictures and nicknames. I too would have picked friends over the supposed “character building” of it all.

    Thank you again for sharing.

  7. Anita says:

    Fortunately, I was never bullied, I was lucky. But I just have to say nothing makes me angrier than seeing vunerable people being picked on while eveyone else just lets it happen. Nothing. I know that people are afraid of being dragged into the bullying but I think if you’re capable of reaching out to someone who needs help then you need to do it or you’re just as bad as the bullies

    I’m so sorry that you (and others) were/are treated this way.

    • allison says:

      Agreed. Standing by the wayside not getting involved is a normal reaction for many people – but just imagine how much hurt in the world could be stopped if people *did* take a stand for the less fortunate.

  8. Shades says:

    I agree with you, these things from our childhood do have a pretty big impact on our lives.

    I was never actually bullied (I blend into the background), but I’ve dealt with trusted friends betraying my trust in various ways and turning on me… Four times in primary school. Once in highschool.

    When I finished primary school I cut all ties with anyone from there because I was sick of that crap and started afresh in high school. Luckily after a year or two I found a new group of friends who were great (with one exception who turned out to be a compulsive liar and tried to spread unpleasant rumours about me until she left. She tried to make contact a few years later acting as though nothing had happened, I ignored her. Had a similar experience in lies with an online friend years later too who is of course no longer a friend ) I felt no attachments to anyone other than the close friends I’d formed so I have no desire to contact anyone from my high school now (and it would be difficult for them to find me as I’ve changed my name).

    Point being, I too still remember all these things, who did what, despite the years. I guess it shows how these things have impacted on your life, but it’s also a reminder to never let these people near you again. I have huge trust issues because of the number of people that have turned on me when I did trust them.

    I was lucky in that I never had much actual bullying because for some reason I seem to inspire a mother hen attitude in some people (still do, my boss is constantly trying to fatten me up), and that coupled with the way I liked to stay neutral on things and not take sides (as well as my background blending) meant I did actually have people who might take my side or back me up if someone tried to pick on me with them near. I didn’t consider them friends, but they were people I could go to if I wanted to.

    But as you said, most people who have been bullied would certainly prefer it if they hadn’t been, to hell with building character.

    And there’s often this view that kids are innocent and can do no wrong, when it seems the opposite is true. Kids are not innocent bundles of goodness, they can be downright cruel and nasty. Ideally it would be great if parents could take a step back and actually see what their darling children may be doing to other children. Perhaps if some of these children had been reprimanded for their behaviour earlier they might not have started or continued bullying. However as someone mentioned they likely get a lot of it from the parents in the first place. And of course there’s the whole group thing which encourages people to look down on those who are not in ‘the group’ and who stand out in any way.

    The only solutions I can think of would be for parents to deliberately and clearly teach children not to participate in this sort of behaviour and to see and change it if they do see it developing in their children (fat chance of that happening), and/or for schools to pull their weight a lot more when it comes to this sort of thing. Take kids seriously when they complain, somehow get through to the bullies that this is not appropriate behaviour at all and if they continue there will be consequences. And if that’s too much for most schools have zero-tolerance schools that will not stand any sort of bullying as a sort of haven. Unfortunately I don’t really see the above happening anytime soon.

    • Shades says:

      Craapp, I apoligize for being so wordy 😛 (and that was the cut down, edited version!)

      • allison says:

        Ha ha – no worries. Discussion is great!

        I think the problem may be a generational thing. Bullying was often seen as a “rite of passage” in the “old days” – and maybe it was? But these days, the bullying can take such an insidious turn with social media that it really shouldn’t be tolerated at all. People *do* need to learn to stand up for themselves, yes, but not to the extreme that they’re thinking of taking their own lives as an alternative.

  9. I can relate to so much of this. And that wariness just lingers on and on, doesn’t it? Even these days, having mostly found my people amongst the geeks and the romance writers, doubts about the intentions of others are always invading. Trying to take people at face value & making friends slowly seems to be the only way to go for me.

    Writing a post for #AuthorsAgainstBullying opened a whole can of emotional worms for me this week. Probably for many of us.


  10. Phaedra says:

    Ditto. *wipes eyes* What’s worse now is hovering over the kids and watching out for some of the same and seeing it start again. My daughter is 10.

    • allison says:

      Yup – I’m right there with you. I can see it starting to happen with my 9 year old son – he’s got a lot of the same social awkwardness I did. It’s a fine line between wanting to jump in as a dragon-mother and letting him also try to figure out his own path.

      (The 6 year old? I gotta watch out for different reasons. She’s got a of bit of a Queen Bee thing going on and I don’t want her to be the other side of the equation at all.)

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