I’ve seen some of my favorite bloggers and friends post recently about personal thoughts on bullying. And it made me want weigh in on the topic myself. Like most girls, middle school was the worst. I remember being told by the cool girls I couldn’t hang out with them anymore because my best friend was a nerd. I was pushed out of the girls’ locker room once after being thwacked across the back by a girl wearing a cast. I was cornered in a sixth grade slumber party and asked in front of other girls if I thought I was pretty and if I was jealous of another girl. And that stupid guy in eighth grade… Charlie, I forget his last name, egged on by Laura, he came up to me and asked me how it felt to be a nerd. I think we all kind of had it rough back then. But I knew I could take it. I had other things going on for me. Mostly, I had academics and the knowledge and comfort given to me by my family that I could go to college anywhere I wanted, as long as I could get accepted. This offered me the self-confidence to get through it all. So I don’t have any comforting words to the me of that time. I don’t have a pep talk ready to go. But I do have some advice.
I would have told myself to not tolerate the bullying I did witness. While I knew I could take the light taunts and social status assertions, I knew damn well that people around me had it worse. Why? Because I saw it. There were kids who, if I had heard they had committed suicide, part of me would have not been surprised. While the media is rightfully exposing the bullying toward the LBGT community, that didn’t really exist when I was in middle school. I don’t remember anyone having “come out” or even “gay” being a word people had in their vocabulary to use as a taunt. And I was just a nerd. That’s pretty harmless. The overweight kids had a shit time of the bullying. I even had a hand in it and threw out a comment once to a girl about her weight that I regret to this day. (7th grade French class, Rhianna Ray, I’m sorry.) But more effective than any teacher or parent telling me how inappropriate that was would have been my friend leaning over to me telling me hey, that’s not cool.
So may advice to the me of back then and to the kids experiencing it now? The teenage years are tough, and people will say hurtful things. But when you see it happening to someone else, speak up! Not everyone is privileged with the esteem and family support you have. You get to go home and have it all be okay. For some people, it’s even worse when they get home. If you see someone who you KNOW is having a rough time at school, say something. To the kid, to the bullies, to your friends. The peer voice is more powerful than the parental voice in some situations. Bullying is one of those situations where having a peer advocate could save a life.