Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let's Talk About Bullying

I haven't done a more serious thoughtful post in a while, so here goes.

The bullying Beth endures in An Unlikely Pair: The High School Years is based on real life events.

Despite liking my teacher, I dreaded going to English even more now than the second day of school.  Chad Cromlin had been the bane of my existence for two months.

Mom taught me to ignore bullies and they’d stop.  Not this jerk.  Today’s stunt?  Poking me with an extending pen wand.  I was trying to do the in-class reading and he kept tapping my ribs with the stupid thing—always when the teacher’s back was turned, of course.

Didn’t want to be a tattle-tale, what with my already minimal popularity, but how long would this go on?  He had to get bored soon, right?

True story. By the time I was 14, I was used to being "picked on". I was smaller than everyone else, wore glasses since 3rd grade, and got straight A's. In 6th grade classmates called me The Walking Dictionary (with my counterpart, Scott, being The Walking Encyclopedia). Yeah, it annoyed me, but it wasn't a big deal. I had friends. I had a mother and grandparents and uncle that loved me.

Then, 9th grade English. The boy sat in the desk to my right. I did my best to ignore him. Once he started poking at me with the telescoping pointer, I'd turn my back to him. All of the bullying always happened before class got started and the teacher was paying attention. I liked my teacher. She was a good. It was just this jerk.

Semester finals week in late January, I walked into English and found a folded piece of paper on my desk.  It was an obscene drawing with my name on it.  Chad laughed when I looked at it.  I crumpled it into a ball, stuck it in my jacket pocket, and opened my lit book.  Always kept layers on in that class even if I was warm.  It was finally time to talk to my teacher now I had evidence.  Then, he started poking me with the pen wand again, under my right arm in the side of my nearly-non-existent boob.  Ms. Blake was lecturing, so I turned my back on him and tried not to cry.
“Heh, knew you were frigid,” Chad said under his breath.
Yep, the drawing happened, too. It was waiting on my desk when I got to class. I set it aside. The boy thought the whole thing was funny. And he did call my frigid (and poked the side of my right breast, which startled me but didn't make me cry). I had to look that up, and then was indignant, because I knew I wasn't. (There was a fiction book in the library that was a bit risque for a teen romance in one scene. It turned me on. I read that book 2 or 3 times, lol.) Anyway, the drawing was his downfall. Now I had proof, I took it to my teacher after class. The boy got punished, then moved to the other side of the room for the rest of the year.

That was my first experience with sexual harassment. I knew what it was by definition from TV, but you don't really know the nuances, how it comes up and how it makes you feel, until it happens.

I wrote Jacob coming to Beth's defense because it would be a bonding moment for them, but Beth would've been fine on her own, too. Unfortunately, I know a lot of female readers will be able to empathize with what she went through. Please, if you're a mother to a son, do you best to teach your boy how to respect women. This kind of behavior isn't funny. It isn't cute. It isn't "just boys being boys." I dread to think of what's going around on the internet where parents and teachers can't stumble across it.

Please, if you have daughters or nieces or granddaughters, talk to them about bullying and sexual harrassment. They don't have to feel ashamed because of a boy picking on them and they don't have to stay silent about it.


  1. I'm so sorry that happened to you. Bullying in any form always gets my hackles up. Good for you on standing up for yourself and encouraging others to do the same.

    1. Thanks. That boy was such an ass. I enjoyed skewering him in fiction. Never saw him again after freshman year, so he must have moved or changed schools.


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