I have been up early these past couple of weeks to get to where I need to be for work. I have caught up with my favorite morning radio show. The latest topic of morning conversation has been bullies. Ah, bullies. I caught myself reflecting on my first encounter with a true bully.
Her name was Irma. She was in the eighth grade and I was in the seventh. For whatever reason, Irma decide early in the school year that she did not like the look of me. She wore a black beret everyday. It was rumored that she burnt most of her hair off a few weeks before the start of the school year in with a home perm gone bad. She called me a "rich, little white girl." Well, she had the white girl part right but that was about it. I was 12. I didn't work. I had no money. Any money I did have was from my parents and they certainly were not rich. We were not destitute but I remember my mom buying "Sugar Snacks" in a bag as opposed to "Sugar Smacks" in the cereal aisle.
I didn't really fear Irma until I saw her in action. I was walking to my locker one day and heard a commotion behind me. I turned to see my first, and last, girl brawl. Two girls where throwing fists at each other. When one girl proceed to knock the other to the ground and ram her head into the concrete. I saw that the dominate attacker was Irma. I stood frozen, watching as male teachers rushed to pull the two girls apart...or rather, pull Irma off the girl she defeated. My bones felt weak and my blood ran cold. It was at that moment that I feared Irma.
I told my mother about my fears and she said, "Bob and weave. Get a good punch in and then run like crazy." Was she serious? Bob and weave? I decided to consult a higher authority on the topic and went to my brother. He was a bit more helpful telling me to "go for her eyes" and "kick her in the kneecaps". But, he ended with the same advice as my mom, "After you do that, run like the wind!"
Somehow, I made it through the school year without getting pummeled. I still remember my mom dropping me off for school on a day we had to dress up for pictures or something. I was feeling like a nerd in a most unattractive tea-length skirt, nylons, and flats (I surely do not miss fashions of the 80's!). As I hopped out of the car my mom called after me. I peeked back in and she said, "If Irma comes after you, throw those silly shoes off so you can run faster!" Um...OK. I will do that after I bob and weave a bit.
Irma may have been the first bully but she certainly hasn't been the last. I met other bullies in high school and even professionally. I have run into bullies years after the fact and they look surprisingly weak and unhappy. I no longer fear my bullies. I no longer wonder how fast I can run in the opposite direction. My dear hubs once told me that he sees bullies as weak people who try to dominate, intimidate, or put down another person because they are afraid. Often, they are afraid of being picked on themselves. I don't fight my bullies. I don't throw verbal barbs at them. I don't mock them behind their backs in hopes they don't turn and see me. I just ignore them. Actually, I pity them a bit. How sad to be so unhappy that you have to pick on people as you work your way through life.
That said, I am not sure how I will react should one of my children ever be bullied. My years in school were a lot less violent. I will certainly take it seriously and I know that bobbing and weaving isn't likely the answer. I don't think running is the answer either. My Granny (my amazing great-grandmother) always told me, "Pretty is as pretty does." But she also advised to never lie down and take anything. Maybe the answer to defeating bullies is a combination of both. Stand up for yourself without resorting to bullish tactics. Watch your words and your actions (and, OK, sneer just a bit as long as the gesture isn't seen!).