in the past month or so, we've been developing a new concept and some new projects in my little company. part of it has been to look a bit more deeply into bullying. there's a new program on television that is following an actor who is trying to make a difference on the atmosphere in an ordinary public school. his interest in bullying (which is called mobning in danish and seems to me to resonate so much more in danish than it does in english) arose when his own son was attacked twice inside of three weeks by a group of neighborhood boys. since then, he's had countless speaking engagements in schools, bringing attention to the problem of bullying.
of course, looking into this topic got me thinking about my own experiences bullying and being bullied (the whole miss king bitch shit incident). i imagine i did my share of making fun of particular people and of freezing others out of some or other group - i think we probably all did and to an extent, i think it's a natural part of the process of growing up and finding your position in the scheme of things. but i only very clearly remember one incident where i was just truly mean and horrible to someone (tho' i'll admit there were probably others).
there was a girl who was very dorky and unpopular. she had none of the right clothes, right glasses, right haircut. she wasn't smart or pretty or funny. tho' i don't think i realized it or thought about it at the time, i think her family didn't have much money (which probably explained the clothes/glasses/haircut thing). she was the butt of many jokes and probably doesn't look fondly back on her years in school.
i was driving one afternoon with a friend and although for some reason i didn't have my glasses on, i was behind the wheel. i must have been 14-15 and my eyes were pretty bad and i definitely needed glasses or contacts in order to drive. so basically, there i was, driving along a quiet city street in our little town, pretty much totally unable to see. suddenly my friend shouted, horrified, because i ran over a squirrel. she looked at me incredulously, thinking i'd actually tried to hit it, but in truth i hadn't seen it at all, since i wasn't wearing glasses.
we stopped the car and jumped out to check on it. it was dead, but strangely unharmed - it wasn't flat or openly bleeding - possibly the car going over it had scared it death. well, the whole incident occurred in front of this dorky, unpopular girl's house. so we got it in our heads that we'd toss that dead squirrel into her bicycle basket, which was parked out front. it was done in a careless, thoughtless way - not at all premeditated - the idea arose just because we were stupid teenagers and happened to be in front of her house with a dead squirrel at our disposal. if it hadn't happened right there, we wouldn't have gone out of our way to drive by her house and put the dead squirrel in her basket, we actually had nothing against her per se, so there was really no ground for this rather shockingly malicious act.
i never knew how she felt about it, but can you imagine how horrified you'd be if you came out and found a dead squirrel in your bicycle basket? i think i'd be traumatized for life. you wouldn't be able to help wondering who hated you that much and would be so evil.
and yet, as horrible as it sounds, it wasn't really an evil act - more of a highly thoughtless, stupid one, brought on by a particular collusion of circumstances and not so much by ill will. it was just dumb kids, doing a dumb thing. and i wonder how much of bullying starts that way and ends up totally wrong.
i don't have an answer to that question, but i do feel a rather odd urge to look up that girl from back then and tell her i'm sorry about the dead squirrel in her bicycle basket.