My publisher has recently informed me about a program called ‘Writers Against Bullying’ and invited me to write a post about bullying. I’ve been thinking about this since I got the email this morning and what I would say and the points that I would make. It’s still hard to work all of this in a coherent post, but I’m going to try, and for the sake of being able to read this to your children or share among your family, I’m going to tone down my normal level of language. Believe me, this is a tall order because this is one topic that really effing ticks me off. (ßThat’s PG, right? Close?)
If this post gets shared around and you don’t know me from my ranting or novelizing, I’m going to tell you right now, I’m a bit of a joker. There have been very few situations, including some pretty painful things from my past, that I haven’t been able to poke fun of. Jokes and making people laugh have been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Part of that was to cover insecurities. If I made fun of myself before anyone else could make fun of me for the same thing, I was forcing people to laugh with me instead of at me.
I want everyone to know and understand that bullying happens to almost everyone. Very few people I know have escaped it. Sure, some have it worse than others, but the biggest thing I think it boils down to is how different someone is. There are people that immediately recognize the clique they fit in and are lucky enough to do just that, fit in. It’s hard to be mocked when there are others at your back.
But what about when you’re different? I’ve got a lot of hair. Seriously, check out my profile pictures, I make Chewbacca look well-groomed. Where I live a guy with long hair is a man of many names. Loving, kind names like: hippy, stoner, girl, pansy, and faggot. I heard all of them when I was in high school. A friend’s dad used to call me the girlfriend as in, “Look, Randall, brought his girlfriend over.” In school, I had someone threaten to cut my hair off every single day. At least once a week someone would physically grab my pony tail and threat to cut it off.
It’s not just guys. In school, my wife’s hair hung down to her hips. She had the same problems with people. It’s because we both looked different. Where I live ‘real men’ have crew cuts and dip chewing tobacco. What I’m saying is, I stood out. Hell, I still stand out. As an adult, I still have someone ‘offer’ to ‘cut my hair for me’ probably once a month. And as an adult, I’m better suited to deal with that because I’ve found people to be at my back. People I can talk to and they will call that guy an asshole for saying that.
So when kids are in school and they get bullied the ‘tough parent’ or ‘old fashioned teacher’ does what? They say, ‘Hey, bullying happens. It’s not like anyone got hurt’. Right, because no one got a black eye, no one got hurt, is that what you’re saying? So, since these kids aren’t getting physically abused it doesn’t count? That’s some messed up logic. We all, adults included, know how much emotional hurt hurts. These parents and teachers, what do they do? Tell the kid to come back if it gets worse? Teach them a stiff right hook and send them back to the mulch-arena?
That’s one way to do it. What is that going to teach the kid? They’re on their own? No one’s got their back? Sure, that might be a step far, but what all the adults are doing in these scenarios is saying, ‘you’ll do great kid, just show ‘em what you’re made of’. So this kid goes to school, where other kids are going to bully him or her. Then comes home where they can’t escape the bullying anymore because the other kids stalk them on social media. They tell their teachers and parents who then tell the kid they are on their own and there’s nothing that can be done.
Alone at school. Alone at home. Alone on the internet even. Man, it sure sucks to be alone, doesn’t it? You, reading this right now, can you remember ever in your life feeling lonely? Left out? I can. It sucks. It’s miserable and leads to some pretty dark places. Everyone may have someone special who loves them, but how do you know that when you feel like you’re all alone?
What is my solution to all this? Huh, Mr. Smart Guy Nader with all your hair and wisdom? Honest answer? I have no idea. When my daughter got bullied in kindergarten (effing kindergarten for eff’s sake) I had a talk with her teacher that got me nowhere and then I told my daughter to call the kid a poopey-head because I think on a six year old level. I did exactly what I’m talking about. I gave my kid the best armor I could and sent her out to fight among the blood and sand of the playground. The kid that bothered my daughter hasn’t had a class with her since. Ava hasn’t had to deal with that, but what if she had? What if she had to put up with years of this kid? I don’t know. I really don’t.
I have no simple solution for any of this. Even good kids can be mean to others. It’s a social thing, like I said earlier. There are plenty of people that are fine in a one on one setting, but when they have to bully to fit in, they will because they know it will be their turn to get bullied if they don’t. Again I ask, what can we do? We can love not only our kids, but any kids we come in contact with that need it. Am I that long-haired hippie right now? Sure. But if we make people feel like they belong, maybe there won’t be anyone left who feels like they don’t. Everyone belongs somewhere. It just takes some longer than others.