So, I’ve spent this morning thinking a lot about bullying.
I watched the film “Trevor” on Youtube, a delightful film about a young, gay, boy who gets terrorized when his gayness is outed. So terrorized that he decides to kill himself. The attempt fails and Trevor decides to live life again when he receives a pair of Diana Ross tickets. The short film won an Oscar. I enjoyed it immensely and grinned deeply at the idea of a boy who could be urged to live one more day because of disco.
I then read a great New Yorker article about the Tyler Clementi case – the Rutgers student who jumped off the GW bridge after a gay sexual encounter was videotaped by his roommate. This one hits home for me, mainly, because I went to Rutgers.
Rutgers for me was a great place. The campus was completely diverse and I thought – tolerant. You have to understand – I went to university WAY before Tyler Clementi. The late 90’s to be exact. Even then there was a sensitivity at the school towards the gay and lesbian movement. It was a very open minded environment to be in. So, to hear that Tyler’s roommate, Ravi, was announcing Tyler’s gayness on his twitter feed and setting up his webcam to “catch him at it” – saddens me.
There are a lot of things at play here – the frickin’ internet for one. My college experience was a little pre-internet. It was really the calm before the storm. We were all assigned Rutgers email addresses, but no one had a computer. So, it was like giving cookbooks to the desolate…but, sir, we have no food! What shall we do with these recipes when all we have is air?
Today, I’m completely positive, there’s not a kid who attends Rutgers without a laptop. This is a bad thing for first year interactions. You need to actually talk to people. We now live in a world where grown adults will email someone 5 feet away. So, of course, two adolescents who are thrown together with a spin of the lottery wheel are going to do the same thing. I can’t help, but think that this type of computer interaction creates an emotional distance.
The other thing that disturbs me about the Tyler case is that Tyler kept asking Ravi if he could “get the room for a while”. In other words, he wanted their joint dorm room to hookup with his older boyfriend. Whether boyfriend or girlfriend, gay or straight, this one sort of annoys me. Because I can almost see how Ravi feels. Really? The guy needs their mutual room for a hookup? Go somewhere else, for god’s sake. Maybe the older guy’s house or a hotel. Because the room is not yours and yours alone, it’s BOTH of yours. That doesn’t excuse any of Ravi’s behavior – in fact, there’s no doubt the guy is a class A a**hole – but it does explain some of his attempts to vent his frustration. Proving that this whole episode is FAR more complicated than meets the eye.
So, what about my childhood and the bullying that existed around my young world?
Wifesy and I talk about this often, since we’re both gay and bullying has come to the forefront in the media. For goodness sake, Anderson Cooper is talking about it now – so you know it’s real.
The truth is, neither one of us were bullied that badly. I think it is mainly because we are both strong personalities – fighters, if you will. In fact, I can remember a couple of times that bullies tried and failed. There was the class screw-up in fifth grade, Jimmy. All I remember is one particular day where Jimmy provoked and provoked me. All day he was picking and picking at me. At the end of the day, I turned Jimmy’s desk upside down on him. My temper had hit the boiling point.
The action of throwing over Jimmy’s desk stopped the class cold and surprised even me. Thankfully, the teacher came to my defense. Even though I had overturned the desk, he said to Jimmy, “What did you do to her?” He knew that this guy was always a problem and that I seldom was.
I’m grateful to that teacher even to this day because when you’re picked on, you need someone to acknowledge that they’re not crazy.
But, I’m a fairly strong person. I tend to handle things like my own version of Clint Eastwood in Gran Turino. Yet, I feel this overwhelming sense of compassion. I think society is ONLY as strong as its weakest link.
Whenever bullying comes up, a lot of narcissists or just plain blind people tend to yell out, “VICTIMHOOD! That’s what’s wrong with America! Everyone’s a victim!!”
They think everyone should fend for themselves. They believe that survival of the fittest is the true and right way to live.
Let me make one thing clear, I am opposed to creating a world where every child wears a helmet and every concrete surface is padded.
I’m opposed to a world where a child gets a blow-horn that he or she can blare whenever their feelings are hurt. Life is a rough and tumble sort of thing so smoothing out every surface and softening every blow is not exactly the right method. But, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the obvious:
Matthew Shepard. Tyler Clementi’s roommate videotaping his sexual encounter. Patton Oswalt’s character in “Young Adult” who was beaten so severely that it made him handicapped. Ok, that one’s made up. But, you know it happened to someone. And I’m talking about the real people who you KNOW exist around you in your every day life or in the life of your child. God forbid, it may even be your child.
I’m a strong individual and when people say ridiculous and hurtful things, it effects me. I can’t even imagine the damage such an onslaught would have on a less secure person.
I read about a girl who called her mom after being particularly brutalized in school one day. The mom ran to the school to find her daughter huddled under a pay phone with her shirt practically ripped off of her body and her flute in pieces.
When the bully’s mom was asked why the event happened she said, “Well, come on. You have to admit that your child is a bit of an oddball and she plays the flute.”
ARE YOU FECKIN’ KIDDING ME? THIS WOMAN DESERVES A FLUTE DIRECTLY UP HER DOGGIE DOOR. I mean, what an idiot. Because she’s an “oddball who plays the flute”, this kid deserves her shirt almost ripped off and her flute demolished? Jesus.
We need more flute-playing oddballs, for they become poets, and compassionate jokers, and empathetic writers.
I want my kid to be strong in the face of idiocy.
However, I know that it’s impossible to live a life without having crappy stuff said to you. So, I’ve tried to come up with a few comebacks for my gayby. Feel free to use them at will or pass them on to your own child.
- #1) Bullyspeak: “You look poor.”
- Sweet Mother note: Pause for a moment here before speaking, as your mercenary comes over to give the bully a good thwack on the head.
- Bully: “Ow.”
- Comeback: “Really? If I were so poor could I have paid that fellow to come over and thwack you on your dumb head? Sometimes the richest people look poor. It’s how they stay rich. I hear Warren Buffet has been wearing the same socks since 1968.”
- Bully: “Who’s Warren Buffet?”
- Onlooker: “What a dumbass.”
- Sweet Mother note: Now just walk away. You have achieved your goal and to watch the crowd turn on the bully would only be gloating. Step into the cafeteria and treat yourself to a nice glass of apple juice to celebrate.
- #2) Bullyspeak: “You’re gay/ a fag/ a homo.”
- Sweet Mother note: Pause for a moment here while the celebrity vampire you’ve contracted from Twilight/ True Blood/ Ann Rice comes over and slowly drains the blood from the bully.
- Bully: “What the hell. Hold on. I don’t want to die. He’s taking all my blood! I can feel it. I don’t want to be one of the undead!”
- Comeback: “Well, I suppose I could give you a transfusion of my blood, but some states don’t allow gay people to donate since we might be contaminated…”
- Bully: “You’re not gay! You’re not gay! I was just being a jerk! Please, help me.”
- Comeback: “Well, I could be gay. I’m quite young. It takes a while to figure out your sexuality. Maybe we don’t want to take the risk…”
- Bully: “I don’t care if you’re gay. I don’t care. I think you’re great. I’ll totally take your blood.”
- Sweet Mother note: At this point, simply walk away while your paid medical practitioner fills the dope’s veins with tomato juice. Enjoy a chatty moment with your best male or female friend to celebrate.
- #3) Bullyspeak: “You’re fat/ ugly/ no one likes you.”
- Sweet Mother note: Let the insult ring through the air as your friend, Ice Man, enters and turns the school yard into a frozen wonderland. Ice Man gives everyone Northface parkas, except for the bully.
- Bully: “Hey, I’m freezing. Where’s MY coat, man? Someone help me out. Hey, I think I’m getting frostbite.”
- Comeback: “Well, if you think you’re getting frostbite, you should strip down. Get naked. Then get close to someone else and they can warm you with their body heat.”
- Ice Man starts to feed the crowd hot dogs and pizza slices. A naked bully runs up to each parka-wearing child only to be pushed away.
- Bully: “Hey, help me, please. Can I get near you, man? I’m freezing.”
- Comeback: (said with all the drama you can muster) “I tend not to let people close who call me fat…”
- Bully: “You’re not fat. You’re not fat. I didn’t mean that.”
- As an adoring crowd forms around you, Ice Man will help you serve hot chocolate to the masses. The crowd will get so big, the bully will be forced to the outskirts where he will whimper gently. Eventually, you will feel so bad for him that you’ll take the bully into your arms. The crowd will love you for being so compassionate while they brutally point and laugh at the bully’s shriveled genitalia.
He will claim this deficit is due to the cold. We will know otherwise.
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