Saturday, October 17, 2009

A bully day

There has been quite a bit written lately about bullies. Nearly every third nursing journal has something about bullying, as frequently do the newspapers. Bullies are a hot topic. I had been thinking of bullies as greasy thug-like boys and young men who preyed on their peers in school and later at work - or more likely not at work because they didn’t have a job, being bullies and all. In other words, in my eyes, bullying seemed restricted to the “bachelor herd.” But, thanks to my recent reading, I have realized that bullying is a much more pervasive problem, and the definition of “bullying” is much broader than I had thought. And I also realized that I have been the victim of several myself, and in fact, still am. Does it count as being bullied if the victim isn’t frightened (the aim of the normal bully) but simply thinks, “What an amazing jerk! Where did his (or her) parents go wrong?” The bully thinks that his subject is cowed into submission and is in awe of the tormentor’s power, when all she wants to is to avoid an unpleasant situation - not from fear but from distaste.

Usually the bully will select someone he sees as weak and unlikely to retaliate. He often bases his selection on outward appearances – which can be deceptive. One of my sisters-in-law always seemed terribly fascinated by everything I said. Consequently, I thought she was a brilliant conversationalist. Later I realized that the cut of her eyebrows gave her that perpetually astonished look, and that I wasn’t being fascinating at all. Rebecca is a sweet little thing who looks sensitive (as indeed she is,) and as though she would not hurt a flea (which she would not), and thus has been the occasional victim. Her tormentors “misunderestimate” her (as our former leader might say), and soon find that she does not put up with much, and can turn into a wolverine when wrongly badgered. Dennis, the fellow to whom I was once married, sometimes said that I resembled a very large white mouse, creeping about. Dennis and I both really like mice and rats, and have had them for pets, so this was not as offensive as you might think. Nonetheless, I was a little offended. Later, I saw a family video, in which I was creeping about like a large white mouse, and I realized that it was all too true. Small white mice are the preferred victims for felines, and large white mice are one of the preferred victims for human bullies.

Happily, my grammar school, with the exception of a couple of the nuns, was bully free. I guess those bullies in black kept everyone else in good order. Sadly, not so in my all-girls high school. We sat in alphabetical order, so for four years, I was near a set of twins – one very nice and the other not nice at all. Unlike her delightful sister, the evil twin was mocking, sarcastic and rude, and often made my school life unpleasant. Once, during a very quiet Latin test, to my horror, I let slip a loud rude noise. Thinking quickly, I turned and looked at the evil twin with repugnance and disgust. She blushed furiously, and looked mortified and guilty. Hurrah for me! Everyone nearby looked at her, gasped, and tittered. Oddly, she didn’t later loudly proclaim her innocence. I felt somewhat vindicated. Another time, during a chemistry test, when the teacher stepped out of the room, she harassed me for an answer to one of the questions. To shut her up, I gave her an absolutely absurd answer which she believed and put down. Later, when the tests were graded, Sister Angela Marie, a master bully herself, said that she was mystified about something. About ten people who all sat in the back corner of the room, had given the oddest answer to one of the questions, and she simply could not understand where such a ridiculous answer had come from, but she suspected cheating. Hah! Wimps sometimes conquer, and although that bad twin had often made me wish that my name began with "A," I felt vindicated once again.
I currently have a couple of bullies in my life. Until I read these articles, I hadn’t really thought of them as bullies, but now I realize that that’s exactly what they are. One of them is at my job, and was particularly obnoxious on a recent evening, which is what precipitated this line of thinking today. Happily for me, I am annoyed but otherwise unaffected by them, and am amused at their pathetic attempts to delude themselves about their inadequacies by picking on someone they see as vulnerable. Actually, I am even a little sympathetic about their poor self image which must be bolstered by exerting fictitious power over others.

Pictured above is the little bully who lives at my house. She terrorizes poor Margaret! And here is Rachael, the almost always sweet one, showing you how a bully looks, so that you will recognize one the next time you see one.

1 comment:

FugueStateKnits said...

The whole bullying thing is an interesting phenomenon. You would think that these people have self-esteem issues, when research - at least in high schools - seems to show the opposite. I think bullies flourish in schools because teachers tolerate it. It's really sad and evil, actually. When they aren't stopped, they don't learn shame and so they go on acting shamelessly. The old saw is true: the only way to deal with a bully is simply to fight back. Sigh.