Love the Bullies. Really.

It was one of the first things I worried about when my son started middle school.

Skinny and shy and quiet at the time, and a bit of a computer nerd, I feared he would be bullied.

To my delight (and surprise), he became a different kid in middle school – out-going, happy, and “chatty,” as one teacher put it.  Even what some would call popular.  Popular?  My kid?

He was one of the first sixth graders to have a girlfriend (but young love, being what it is, she broke up with him over the summer).

Maybe I’ve been lucky because I have a boy and from what I’ve seen and heard, bullying seems to be hugely rampant among girls (although we did have the heartbreaking story of Bart Palosz the second day of school).

Two 12-year-olds have been arrested for tormenting a girl who ended her life in Miami recently, and in Stamford, one has been arrested for bullying another girl into talking about committing suicide.

Twelve-year-olds? What is this?

Are kids mimicking what they see at home?  Do their own parents mock and make fun of them? Do they just have an unslakable thirst for power?

But I believe it stems from something more basic.  These kids hate themselves.  How better to like yourself more if you can make someone else feel worse?

I’m not a psychologist and I could be completely wrong (wouldn’t be the first time!).  But I remember the power I felt when I was allowed to sit at the “popular” table in high school, leaving my best friend completely alone at hers. In those days I felt very bad about myself, due to issues at home. But at least I wasn’t Susan!  It’s one of the things I regret most in my life.

True, I didn’t bully her. But I certainly used my power (acceptance by the “in” crowd) over her.  And, I hate to say it, at the time, it did make me feel better.

These days it seems to start out over a boy – one girl being liked more by another’s boyfriend.  And wow, what a way to get back at her.  Grab your friends and race to Facebook.

I can’t imagine anything worse – or would make me feel more awful about myself than being dumped by a boy I really liked for my best friend. (Apparently this was the case in Miami.)

Why, back in the day, did this not happen?  Of course, bullying wasn’t talked about then. It went on, certainly, but quietly.  I remember a gentle friend of mine in our senior year beaten up in the girls’ room.   No reason.  Just because they could.  She was allowed to use the teachers’ lounge from that point on, but the damage was done.

A preteen I’ve known for a long time – strong, pretty, out-going, smart – was bullied last year by classmates and I was stunned it could happen to her.  I saw how diminished she became – her voice got smaller.  She shrank in on herself.  When you saw her, her shoulders were all hunched over.  I wanted to go grab the girls who were guilty and bang their heads together.

In the end, we need to leave it to the kids to figure it out, I guess – with the cops involved, when it’s criminal.  But Greenwich High School, where Bart was tormented, started an anti-bullying club, but rumor has it, six weeks later, it’s dying out.

Maybe some of the answer is to somehow help these kids feel good about themselves, not something to be thrown away, or trashed. Because that’s where it comes from, I’m convinced. I feel so much for the bullied.  But it’s the bullies I’m talking about now.


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