Friday, January 04, 2013

of bullying and dead squirrels

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.


Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Julie

Being an overweight person during my high school years was VERY painful for me.I can remember every detail of who said what and where, but now I have let all that go. The only time I think about the hurt is when I hear on the news a young person has hung them- self beacause of bullying.

You know my story and I must say life is so good for Tracy and keeps getting better.

Thank you for sharing this post with your readers.

Tracy :)

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Sorry that should be--because.

Numinosity said...

I wrote about my experience with bullying on my alternate blog. The sentiment by commenters was that contacting a person that may dredge up too much pain for the victim and more likely serve the apologist. I'm not sure about that myself but I could imagine being a bolt out of the blue from afar contacting someone like that could perhaps do more harm than good.
My story is here

I did find "Stehanie" on facebook and was pleasantly surprised to see her with a radiant smile in her profile pic. I didn't contact her.

Numinosity said...

sorry, here's a link that will work

celkalee said...

Hmmm, Quite frankly I think I lived in a bubble. I can only remember one incident that could have been construed as bullying, I was seven. It lasted one recess, I may have not perceived it correctly because now, many, many years later I find out the boy "liked" me. What will tear you apart, break your heart and fuel ire that you never knew you had ia to see your child bullied. I guarantee you will look at the behavior much differently.

Lisa-Marie said...

Bullying is an odd thing. We all do it to an extent as children - I think simply the act of make someone uncomfortable purposefully counts - and to an extent I think it's part of our more animal nature - survival of the fittest.

Having actually been bullied very badly for a couple of years at school, I am the first one to try to stop any form of it if I can now. Also, someone recently apologised to me for being part of the mob (your word is much better), and I was very grateful for it - Maybe look up that girl and say sorry.

Mary said...

I have such a hard time taking "Myginds Mission" seriously. For all of the "mobning" policies, and statements, and posters, and discussions that you find in Denmark, you see just as many insecure kids that are growing up without having borders or hearing the word "no" because no one wants to be the bad guy. Many of my kids' classmates are indulged, insecure children who lash out because they don't know how to manage their own emotions. They've never been made to feel directly bad themselves, so when their parents split, or someone doesn't want to be their friend, or they don't get constant validation, they lash out at others to make themselves feel better. Saying no to kids, teaching coping skills, and teaching (and practicing) empathy would go much further, I think.

julochka said...

hi everybody - thank you for sharing your thoughts on bullying! i think for now i'm going to hold off on trying to contact the dead squirrel girl. it feels a little too 12-step program for me - making amends and maybe it would be too weird for her. and for me, in all honesty.

mary - i'm still working out what i think of the mygind program. for one thing, i think what happened to his son was something else and not really mobning, so his trigger for the whole thing is a strange one. i'm not keen on the ph.d. expert they've seems all she's got is the "ja men..." thing and that's worrying, but we'll have to see. my overwhelming feeling after the first episode is that the teachers are the problem - look at the way they bullied mygind at lunch and then look at the excuses he made for them outside. that's where the problems lie - in teachers not taking responsibility and being no better and in the bullied making excuses for the bully.