**Below is a post that I had on my blog for a very short while. I never posted it with the intent of it being read by people I know. Even though I know this forum is very public, this was a post that I needed to write, but for myself only. I want to be clear about something: This is NOT how I view myself now. So please, do not turn this post into a pity session and please don't try to "uplift" me. I don't need that. Writing this post a few years ago helped me to overcome my fears and to realize I'm an amazing person. This past does not define who I am now, and I don't let it hinder me. Instead, I use it openly in my classroom as a lesson to my students who are being bullied or who are bullying others.
My reason for posting it now is because I keep seeing parents post things on Facebook or I hear them talking about their kids being bullied, and these parents just want to protect their kids. But, they are doing it wrong. First, when a parent says to a child "If you are being bullied, I give you permission to hit that kid," you are sending an incredibly horrible message to your child. I don't care how hurt I was by these other kids, I never had the right to physically injure them. And if your kid hits another kid at school, you are taking your child's education away from them because they will be suspended. You are hurting them more than any bully can. And what if that bully hits back harder than your kid? You've just physically injured your child, too. No amount of words can hurt and damage as badly as physically injuring someone. And you gave them permission to do it. Your child trusted you to give them the right answer to this problem. There are other ways. You just might need to get more creative.
So, here is the original post:**
This is the most difficult post I think I will ever write, but it is one I feel needs to be shared. It is ironic to me that in my interests and pursuits, words play such an important role. Words are powerful things. They can create joy, fear, sorrow, elation. They can reward, encourage, damage, and deteriorate the human soul. I live my life by words. I study them, use them, read them, feel them. I love what they allow me to do. The irony in the situation is the thing that I love so much has caused me the greatest amount of pain in my life.
Throughout my childhood, I was extensively and exhaustively bullied. No amount of words my mother gave me could ever erase or weaken the deep cuts others gave me from their harsh criticisms and biting tongue. You see, (there's no way to put it gently) I grew up with facial hair, bushy eyebrows, and hairy arms. Enough so that it seemed to bother everyone I came in contact with, making them uncomfortable enough that they had to tear me down, to remind me constantly of the things that made me different. I would lay there at night, my mother running her hand up and down my back telling me how beautiful I was, that they were just jealous of me, but I just couldn't believe her because hers was just one voice among a sea of criticisms. She had to say those things because she was my mother and she had to love me unconditionally. Those other voices were too loud and easily drowned her's out.
It is necessary for me to write this because I must overcome the insecurities that have followed me so many years later. Writing is my therapy. These words are my comfort. So, if I make you squirm while you read this, ask yourselves why.
Below are the scenes that still haunt me to this day.
I switched schools seven times, not because we moved around a lot (we never moved once) but because I continually ran from the hateful voices. I didn't/couldn't find my own voice to stand up to them, so I constantly moved on, hoping that a fresh start would bring acceptance. And the more I moved, the more I realized that it must be me. I was the common denominator and each time I never equated to any level higher than ridicule.
School buses are one of man's most hideous creations. In seventh grade, I was tripped, shoved, forced to stand when there was room, but no one wanted me to touch them because my "hairy disease" might spread. They called me Johnny Jones, a boy's name to match my mustache. A girl pushed and shoved me until I had bruises on my ribs. After that, my parents tried private school because public school wouldn't take the bullying seriously. This was probably a terrible move in hindsight because there were less people in private school for me to try to fit in with.
In eighth grade, my "best friend" broke into my locker, threw cheese slices into every textbook and left it there throughout Christmas break so that it rotted through the pages.
I remember one time in tenth grade, a boy who I had a crush on lured me out onto the football field with the pretense that he was going to kiss me. I remember being nervous and excited, thinking the whole time "Wow! This guy, THIS guy, this popular guy, actually likes me!" Instead, he spit on me and ran away laughing to his friends.
One of the popular girls invited me to her birthday sleepover. My heart soared, thinking "acceptance, finally." Instead they stole my journal and read it aloud while I tried to take it from them. I left and walked home in the middle of the night, shivering from humiliation.
My junior year, I pissed a boy off because he thought I had told on him for cussing in class. I hadn't, but after slamming me and his fist into the locker next to me, he wouldn't listen to me otherwise. To my sheer mortification, I entered my next class to a chorus of fifteen students making buzzing noises like a razor. I couldn't run away. I stood there, frozen in disbelief at their heartless actions. Really? An entire class at one time? My heart broke that day, and as I sit here trying to type this, it still has not mended. That day gave me my self worth for the rest of my life. I sat down slowly in my seat, opened my textbook (which ironically was a Bible), and silently cried my heart out into it. I couldn't even sob, it hurt so much. As the pages of my Bible silently soaked up my tears, my poor teacher didn't realize what was going on and asked me to read. Aloud. Panic began to rise inside me and the girl next to me realized what was going on and tried to save me by volunteering. The teacher insisted that I had it. As I sat there in sheer humiliation, the boys began to snicker. The teacher looked up, realized why I wasn't reading, and dismissed me to the bathroom where I sat on the floor the rest of the bell sobbing and hiccuping.
Even this past Halloween, as a 29 year old woman, I went back to my old neighborhood to take my nephews trick-or-treating. I came walking around my car and ran into one of my old bullies with a group of other adults walking their children. He got halfway down the block and yelled back "Mustachio!" and laughed, telling his friends I used to have a mustache.
People ask me all the time, why didn't you just wax it or bleach it? Wouldn't that have been so simple. You have to understand, I lived in constant fear of what others said and did to me. If I did something about it, what new horrible things would they say to me? It wouldn't change who I was or what they thought of me. And now that I do do something about it, the scars are still there. I cringe every time a man touches my face. Whenever someone jokes about facial hair, all of the years come washing over me at once. I feel as though they can see the real me under that soft skin. I have no confidence in myself and shy away from complements because they are not meant for me. I am angry that no one fought for me or stood up for me, not even myself. I question my worth to others and my greatest desire is to feel the kind of love my parents give me from someone who doesn't have to, because when they are gone, who will I have?
What scares me is I know there are other people enduring a lot more than what I went through and it breaks my heart even more to know this. I see it in the eyes of the students I teach every day. And I want so badly to tell them not to listen. That they are important. But I know it is just as feeble of an attempt as what my mother used to say to me. I am not the person they need to hear it from. The people who should count the most in our lives don't because the masses are the ones winning out every time. I have been trying to ignore these voices so much that I have gotten to the point that even though I don't (but I do) care what they say, I don't know how to fit in. I have had to go my own road so many times that now I keep hearing the words "quirky" or "different" or "weird" or "special" to describe me. Well, you know what, maybe I would just like to be like everyone else for a change. To just fit in. I don't want to be "that's what makes you, you. Unique."
**I was driving down the road the other day when this post popped into my mind again. As I sat here rereading it I thought to myself "Man, I was really hurting when I wrote this." But then I also thought, "Wow, I have come a long way since I wrote this." Parents, I know that you want to shield your kids from this kind of pain. But, I'm sorry. No matter what you do, life is going to hurt. Teach your kids to respond appropriately to it. Don't always stand up for them. Show them how to stand up for themselves; teach them to have a confidence in themselves that no matter what is said to them, they will know their worth already. Hitting someone is not going to give them this confidence. How is hitting someone an answer they can grow up with? This is not how mature adults handle their problems, and you are trying to train your child to be a responsible adult one day. Take it from someone who has been bullied. Turning the other cheek and ignoring them doesn't always work. Running away certainly isn't the answer. But teaching them to stand up for themselves is a powerful weapon. Show them how to wield it properly.**