I Have Yet Another Unpopular Opinion

Posted on: April 9, 2012

With all of this talk of the new documentary “Bully,” which hit theaters March 30, and with Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign becoming a YouTube sensation last year, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own days (years?) of being bullied. I didn’t have to look back too far.

As a kid, I was lucky (though it didn’t seem like it at the time); my bullying was mostly verbal. The few times I was threatened with actual violence nothing ever came of it. It was mostly taunts, which followed me from grade school into college. Yeah, you heard me. College. The hilarity at poking fun at me for being fat, apparently, does not elude the scholarly among us. If you’re different from the norm, or if you’re perceived as an easy target like I was, that’s it. Hunker down and count your blessings. Life will not be smooth for you.

The consensus of all of these anti-bullying sentiments seems to be the same thing: an attempt to eradicate bullying while simultaneously reassuring kids that, simply put, shit gets better when they get older. Personally, I hate this strategy. And here’s why. You can’t eradicate bullies. Bullies are like mosquitos; they’re everywhere and they can smell fear. The people watching “Bully” are the victims of bullying, not the bullies themselves. The bullies are too busy stuffing some chess club president into his locker and drinking beer behind the A&P; they don’t have time for life lessons. Ahhh, the circle of life.

Is it fucked up that I’m basically saying that the onus is on the victim? Yes. But this is the world we live in. There will ALWAYS be bullies. There will always be a flagrant douche who draws a picture of what he imagines you look like naked, and takes the time out of his day to carefully sketch your disgusting, fat, nude body – complete with hideous, crotch-blocking undercarriage – in pen, on a piece of cardboard and then show it off to all your friends. There’s always going to be some tall, towering bitch who accuses you of looking at her (or her boyfriend, or her best friend, or her schnauzer) the wrong way. Bullies are like cockaroaches; they will be here long after we all die. They are a part of growing up and, much to the contrary of what victims have been told of late, it doesn’t always get better when you get older. Adults can be bullies too. And adults have money. And a better vocabulary.

So what does this negative-nancy news mean? It means we have to build thicker skins, both for ourselves and for our children. In a perfect world, there would be a movie or a slogan or a voice or a YouTube video that would change the minds and hearts of bullies everywhere. They would realize that they pick on that dweeb in Math class just like their dad picks on them at home. They’d have an epiphany and start helping the homeless. But this kind of thing rarely happens, if ever. The truth is, bullies often get far in life because they bully their way to the top. Just look at Donald Trump, or the tools on Entourage.

I’m not excluding myself from this viewpoint, either. The bullying that I received growing up (and that I still receive any time I walk to the post office and some gaggle of douches in a Jetta moos at me) ruined my life. But I let it. And I let it because I’m generally a weak person; I admit it. There are people out there who are like me, but there are also people out there who aren’t. There are people out there who have the kind of constitution I’d kill for. These people aren’t arrogant, per se, but they are so utterly convinced that they are good, kind, decent people, people of value, that no one’s words can mold them into something else. These are the kinds of people who rarely get bullied. Bullies don’t bother with these kinds of people, because there’s no point.

So yes, ultimately I’m an asshole, I suppose, for daring to suggest that we as people (or as parents) try to create stronger selves and therefore stronger children. Kids learn more from how parents treat themselves than from how their parents treat them. And it applies aptly to my own life. My mother has – and has always had – incredibly low self-esteem. I inherited all of her weakness, and, sadly, very little of my father’s strength. But I cannot blame her, because you can’t instill in your children what you don’t have in yourself.

Is it the victims’ fault that they get bullied? No. I put 100% of the blame on the bullies. But trying to somehow universally “nicefy” assholes everywhere by showing them a video of a kid who killed himself is futile. Trust me, the assholes are laughing. They don’t care. We have to thicken our skins, and live the indelible words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who dared declare that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”


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