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Bravely facing the faux bully

On the last day of fourth grade, my youngest daughter was tying her shoes while I stood waiting with her lunchbox. "Do you remember fourth grade, Mom?"she asked, as she struggled to lace up the Chuck Taylors.

My answer surprised both of us. "I hated it. It was the worst year of school I ever had."

My fourth grade tormenter looked like a Gap Kids model. "C" had porcelain skin, perfect white teeth, cornflower eyes, and blond hair that hung thick and straight, regardless of weather conditions. She arrived in Mrs. McKenna's classroom, took one look around, and decided she wanted my best friend Kitty to be her best friend. And she went about driving me away from the herd the way only elementary school mean girls can.

She teased me for being fat, for wearing glasses. For days at a time, she would be kind to me, inviting me to birthday parties and sleepovers. Then, BAM -- I would be back in the doghouse, with no idea what happened. I later found out that she passed notes around to the girls in class written in her perfect handwriting and decorated with flowers: "Don't talk to Nancy until Friday."

I remember eating lunch alone, fleeing the classroom in tears day after day. I begged my parents to let me transfer to a different school. On the last day of fourth grade, relief came at last. The middle schools in my town ran from 5th to 8th grade, and C and I were heading in different directions for the next four years.

When we met again in high school, I'd gained two invaluable weapons: perspective, and confidence. With a close group of new friends at my side, C had no power over me. She remained beautiful and unfriendly, but now completely irrelevant to me. As is so often the case with a bully, I learned later that C's family life had been particularly unsavory during the year she picked on me.

A dozen years out of high school I was working in San Francisco. I left my desk one day and went out for a late-afternoon waddle in the November sunshine, eight months pregnant with my first daughter, and I passed C on the sidewalk. True to form, she was still drop dead gorgeous and, mindful of my spherical form, I put my head down and kept walking.

Then I thought: Why? My life turned out great. And, on some level, I wanted her to know that. I pivoted and called her name, and we stood there on the sidewalk chatting. Anyone walking by might have thought we were two old friends. The truth is, she had as big an impact on my life as any good friend might. Her childhood cruelty stoked my own confidence; because of how she treated me, I discovered a quality in myself I hadn't previously recognized -- resilience. The ordeal helped me become a compassionate adult, one who will not tolerate bullying by my own children.

But I guess C still held one trump card, despite all my bravado. As I only realized the other day in the front hallway, she managed to make me hold my breath from the last day of my fourth grade until the last day of fourth grade had passed safely for both my daughters. (Nancy Davis Kho, “What my grade school bully taught me,” Salon, 30 June 2011)

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Pity the children

Re: She remained beautiful and unfriendly, but now completely irrelevant to me. As is so often the case with a bully, I learned later that C's family life had been particularly unsavory during the year she picked on me.

She had become completely irrelevant to you, but once again and it looks like for the longterm picked up relevancy in your now for some reason having to chastise her further -- in your following noting her absolute inability to "blanche" you, given your acquired superhero signia of popularity and friends, with you situating in her the principle seat of victimization and private misery. Pity you didn't also learn later that bullies pick on people who best represent their -- you're right -- victimized selves, but your putting your head down and scuttling along tells us what we need to know: you're still the bullied person she keyed in on because she sensed your already-bullied status would allow her to perfectly engage the rather more pleasing role of the tormentor rather than the tormented, and are hoping to work out a pretend victory against tormentors closer to home than her -- but that you cannot even now manage to face at all -- by effecting some kind of satisfying turn-about upon her.

You've spun out a drama of defeat-turned-into-self-realization, but some of us doubt if you've even made step one -- it's all, perhaps, a distraction. And you post on Open Salon, where everyone plays to one-another's inclination to avoid, to lie, in an effort to cow truth away by pretending through thorough mutual engagements with a wide-spectrum of assholes and angels to have fully engaged every possible reality. And you have it moved up to Salon -- which you still all sense at some level as a risk into discomfortable, "not-playing-along" adult-realm, but where increasingly ever more hands bait a pretend freedom from long-troubling anxieties to sanity-inclined holdouts, to make indepedent Salonistas effectively and permanently into "lie to me" fully-dependent, infantile and lost OpenSalonistas.

You've turned into a compassionate adult, who won't tolerate her children: Yes, from your not receiving the counsel you deserved, this is to be expected. Pity your children and their likely sufferance to the ongoing cycle you yourself could not absent yourself from.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston

(addressed to Mr M-H, whose comment is above)

you DO recognize that what you are doing (accusing the writer of this article, whom you have never met, of being weak) ... is itself a form of bullying?

You have wrapped your point up in an enormous number of words, but the bottom line is that you are simply attacking her, and you do so under the guise of educating her, which is a particularly revolting way of trying to tell someone that you think they are weak.

Wisely, I think, Ms Kho will likely not give you the rise you are seeking to provoke from her. But I'm quite happy to call bulls%$t when I see it.

Re: the misuse of the forum to project and work out one's own personal issues - have you looked in the mirror lately? (mateomateo)

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ignore Paddy McHalston-Klein

He's a good example of a rare breed - a well-spoken moron. He has a certain way with words, but when you look at the actual content of what he's saying you discover it's pure drivel. (Sour Scribe)

@mateomateo

This isn't simply somoeone telling us how she set herself free; it's someone who's taking advantage of a spreading environment which buttresses and praises those who'll lose themselves to lies, while pretending absolutely different, and which will come, which IS COMING, at the expense of any irritating counter who smells the rat and is keen to point it out too. The mob is trying to blob out sane response -- it aggresses; and the only sane response response is letting it know you're cany to it and won't be backing down. It's about self-defence, your survival, too.

People who are bullied at school inevitably have been bullied FIRST at home. Bullies pick on them, sensing their already-victimhood: in picking on them, they become that much less the kind of person who is foremost a victim themselves. This author is quite willing to dwelve on the family abuse inevitably to found driving bullies, but not at all interested in exploring if something of the same is at work in producing those who'll prove their victims. In a sane world, we would all notice that, and direct her attention to it. In a different environment, one in which sanity is secure or on the ascent, I would reply with much less fight. Believe it or not, I mostly do wish her well, but not at my expense.

@Patrick M-H

You're kind of a prat, aren't you? In your world, everyone is "mentally ill" except for yourself, is that it? What a sad little life that must be for you, being the only healthy person on the planet.

I have to say that the last time I saw my Grade 1-12 nemesis, she had gotten so obese that I had to look twice to see if it was really her. She was always heavy, but she used to have a neck. I think she recognized me, but thought twice about talking to me because I was laughing so hard at her that I had to sit down.

Karma's a bitch. (Aunt Messy)

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Sorry - she still won

You stood there on the sidewalk, charring with er like you "wre too old friends." So you are still playing along with her fantasy. She gets to treat you now like *nothing ever happened.*

Why didn't you say "Why were you such a bitch to me in 4th grade?" Or "What made you decide to turn my life into a living hell?" or "Did you ever get over the perverse satisfaction you got from torturing another human being, or are you still doing that in your place of employment?"

Or even, "I heard that your family life was really unpleasant when we were in 4th grade. Is that why you were so mean to me?"

Then, if she denied it, you could straighten her out with an "Oh, I see. you only remember the nice stories. Listen, babe, you were a real piece of work. But I'm raising my daughters to never be scared of little dictators of the type you used to be."

You were just too pusillanimous to confront her, even after all these years. Your 4th grade self is saddened by your adult betrayal of her. You wouldn't even fight for her! Instead, you just wanted her to "like" you, to realize that you finally were a person worth being let into her club.

Don't be too self-congratulatory. (ourwisemodel)

@ourwisemodel

re: You stood there on the sidewalk, charring with er like you "wre too old friends." So you are still playing along with her fantasy. She gets to treat you now like *nothing ever happened.*

Why didn't you say "Why were you such a bitch to me in 4th grade?" Or "What made you decide to turn my life into a living hell?" or "Did you ever get over the perverse satisfaction you got from torturing another human being, or are you still doing that in your place of employment?"

Or even, "I heard that your family life was really unpleasant when we were in 4th grade. Is that why you were so mean to me?"

So her friend replies to her, "Perverse satisfaction? Still doing that in my place of employment? My decision, yet family life drove me to it? -- Look, hun, if you're looking here to show how you're not afraid of me, how you're way past me, way past being the kind of person I could bully and manage so efficiently, with your so-many-years-past, your new directions, baby rotunditry and busy San Francisco' employ, the only way to have done that would have been to communicate somehow how, though I of course still affect you, you'd come to know how it never really was about me at all. I hurt you bad, but only because I sensed you were someone who was ideal for hurting -- you'd known it substantially, way before I came along: I was only following a pre-established route. With all these years since and all you've managed is wondering what might have been wrong with me, clearly still too afraid to explore what is was that was wrong with you, with your family life, that made you the particular one I keyed in on to so easily and mercilessly pick on ... I'm not sure if you've even convinced me you've taken step one.

Look, I'll help out: dwelve a bit; please just start, just start considering what your mom and dad were doing to you at the time that served you on a platter for an everyday bully like me. I guarantee they had made you someone who was ready to shrivel, perhaps someone who felt bad enough about herself that she actually desired and prompted further shriveling, and I simply took advantage of that -- using you to enable my need to feel an empowered tormenter rather than a cowed victim -- and/or responded to your masochistic desire to show how your bad self had gotten the fair response it surely deserved, that you were going to seek it elsewhere in life, on and on.

At base, I'm not someone you should be looking to get square with, but a possible prompt you should learn to use to get you in line with where you need to get looking. The way to get mostly fully past me, to miniature me, despite all my awful bullying, incredibly just into one of the people you once knew, the way to ensure you'll be a compassionate parent and not just perpetrate the crimes you've suffered from upon your children, is to focus on how your parents -- not me -- debased you. As is, you're likely just another parent who maintains the near life-sustaining illusion that she has the stuff to learn from the past and escape mistakes, without the capacity to appreciate that likely inevitably for her not facing the real issue, she'll be driven by inner haunts to look at her children the same way her parents were driven to look at her: as deserving bullying punishment, simply for being vulnerable and desiring of love.

If you're going to write about this encounter one day, I hope it's not at some place where you so expect people have themselves been sufficiently bullied to need to pretend you as having delightfully moved on so they can pretend themselves the same, that all you've ensured yourself are a lineup of 'you go girl!' replies. Peace."

Wow @Patrick

Based on the skimpy set of facts in her article, I'm trying to figure out how you know so much about the writer that you can accuse her of lying.

Also, what does "dwelve" mean? I plugged it into the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, and "drivel" came up in the list of words I actually might have been searching for. (SoFla Kate)

Link: What my grade school bully taught me (Salon)

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