There have been so many times in my life that I have been picked on, poked fun at, put down, or physically hurt by some arrogant bully with nothing better to do. I can’t think of many times when people have stood up for me. Hell, I don’t even stand up for myself most of the time. I avoid confrontation. In some sick, twisted way, I would rather take the abuse than stand up for myself and hurt the bully’s feelings. How wrong is that?!
Enough is enough already. You know, I missed out on my high school graduation because of idiots who got their panties in a bunch over my being smarter and more advanced than the rest of the students my age. I was taking 11th grade courses in 9th grade. By 11th grade I was scraping the bottom of the barrel just to get enough credits to graduate… they ran out of AP courses to put me in! Instead of being proud, instead of giving me a pat on the back for my hard work, they did this:
1. Students passed around a petition to ban me from graduation proceedings.
2. My locker was repeatedly broken into and trashed. No investigations. I had to pay for text books other kids vandalized.
3. My parents paid to have graduation pictures taken. Hundreds of dollars. Instead, the yearbook staff snapped a picture of me in the hallway and used that. I was the only one in the yearbook that year without a professional picture. Even the 11th graders around me in the yearbook all had professional photos.
4. Not only was I not allowed to walk across the stage to receive my diploma, I was told I wasn’t even allowed to the ceremony. If I showed up, I was to be escorted out.
It was thoroughly unfair. My friends didn’t stick up for me. My own parents didn’t even put up a fight. Just a few more life lessons for me to learn. Everyone kept telling me that high school was only a few years of my life. It would pass quickly, and I’d get over it. It’s been 11 years now and I still feel hearbroken about things that happened. I don’t think I’m wrong to feel that way, but I am trying to change who I am to help future me’s through difficult times like that. Instead of standing idly by and gossiping about how disgusting someone’s behavior is, I step up. I do something.
At the movie theatre once, two teenagers behind us in the concession line were openly mocking one of the workers who had shaggy, surfer hair and a few piercings. He was a well-mannered kid, the worker. He was polite and a bit on the shy side. As the line thinned out, the snide comments from behind us got louder. I could see the worker heard them. His shoulders hunched and he stopped making so much eye contact with everyone. I remember my heart beat racing. I wanted to turn around and punch the little jackasses behind me. It got hard for me to breathe. I was so upset.
I knew what it was like. I could feel how hurt the poor kid behind the counter was. It brought back memories of when I was new at my high school and the girl who was supposed to show me to classes left me waiting all lunch hour for her on the front steps while she snuck out the back and laughed with her friends about the ugly new girl. My rage boiled over. I turned around and loudly asked in front of dozens of people, including the little shithead’s own parents, “Does it make you feel better about yourself picking on other people? Do you talk about everyone like that?”
He got a deer-in-headlights look, and suddenly his friends couldn’t stop looking at their feet. I wanted to rail at him some more, really lay into him and make him feel all the pain he was causing the worker, but instead I just turned back around and left the idiots behind me to stew in embarrassed silence.
This past weekend we went to Wisconsin Dells for some water park fun. The first night, we visited my parents at a campground. There was a single man nextdoor who yelled at his kids a lot. The two boys were maybe 10-12 years old. They weren’t doing anything horrible. They weren’t yelling. They weren’t disturbing the other campers. But the dad had some kind of hair up his butt. He kept pouncing on them out of nowhere, yelling, swearing, and screaming threats so loudly that I’m pretty sure a running chainsaw would have been hard pressed to block the noise.
Everyone in our site and several sites around, even the people playing miniature golf nearby, was standing around looking and whispering behind their hands to each other. The man’s kids were distraught. They had been crying on and off all evening, lashing out with horrified screams of their own when the dad backed them into a corner and wouldn’t stop. And here were dozens of people perfectly willing to do nothing but watch as if this were some reality show made just for their entertainment.
I got that same feeling again – heart racing, hard to breathe. We were about to leave to our hotel, had the car doors open and everything, but I couldn’t. Instead, I set my purse in the car and marched over to the man’s pop-up camper where he had both boys cowering inside. I didn’t even look around to see what other people were doing. It’s like I had tunnel vision, and I couldn’t think about anything else until I did something. Anything. I didn’t even think of what I was going to say. I wish I would have. I wish I would have called the man what he was and painted him the big, old asshole he was. Instead I hissed that he was being loud and there were families with young children listening and reminded him that he was in a public campground.
His response? He whirled on his kids and berated them for disturbing everyone else. My eyes widened, and I’m pretty sure I did that fish-out-of-water face. That was when I noticed that my husband had followed me over and was shadowing me in a protective stance. I should have said something else. I should have corrected the man. I should have told the kids that it wasn’t them – it wasn’t their fault. But I deflated and walked back to the car while the rest of the spectators stood around idly.
At least I did something. And it seemed to work, for the night anyway. My parents said after we left he didn’t yell at his boys once. I can only hope I did something to help, even if it wasn’t as much as I could have done.
Why am I posting this? Because I still see people being idiots and bullies to other people every day. I still see gossiping and hate mongering, even among those who claim to be nice people. Sometimes, I even catch myself falling into old patterns and judging people too harshly. My point is that if you value yourself at all as a good person, as a moral person, that you shouldn’t be a spectator in these events. Yeah, it’s scary standing up to someone who is upset, bigger than you, and treating other people like dirt. But it’s a hell of a lot better to say something, even a tiny thing, than to let the moment pass and condone the action.
I’m working on my standing-up skills. Maybe someday I’ll be eloquent enough under pressure that I’ll actually say everything I want to. Maybe someday I won’t be scared of mean people. Maybe someday I’ll even be able to stand up for myself in person, and not just on a silly blog waaay after the fact.