The Bullying Map
Let me call your attention to special features of this map:
- Three of the orange circles indicate the area of schools I attended. The fourth is the area of my home as a small child.
- The orange Xs indicate places where I was bullied. There are nearly 40 of them, and might be more, except I can’t put them on top of each other.
- At about half of those X-marks-the-spots, I was beat up. In one case (left-hand edge of the second circle, probably seventh grade), I was nearly put in the hospital by three boys.
It’s hard for me to point out specific incidents of bullying in my childhood to write about, because there are so many, they all simply run together into this big old mess. The focus of my story is on the mess.
I have ADHD, which means I alternate between being distractible and being hyperfocused. Either way, it’s complete. Over the years, I’ve learned coping skills, but in those days, children with this condition were something teachers didn’t know what to do with. I was smart, heavens yes, but the behaviors associated with ADHD (then called “Minimal Brain Defunctness” if anyone called it anything at all), such as often being in motion and/or talking loudly, made me a target for teasing – and worse. I was a bullying magnet.
I’ve often referred to myself as a “mark.” One “bully” could pick on me and get a response – usually crying or a complete meltdown – and others would see that as entertainment and arrange to get their share. A mark is ostracized from the school’s “society.”
- Nobody would stick up for me.
- Nobody would testify on my behalf if I went to the Principal or to a teacher. A couple of times, I would receive the same whack with a paddle that those who picked on me got, and then I’d get it from them again later.
- Nowhere in the school was safe. The teachers never seemed to catch those who made my life miserable on that particular day.
- Home was safe – but I had to GET home. I walked to and from school every day until halfway through my senior year of high school. My regular path made me an easy target.
- I grew a sense of humor.
- I learned to keep opinions to myself except for what’s relevant in class. Because if you were a mark, those who bullied you would use your opinions to target you.
- I started to be serious about making friends, and staying as close to them as opportunity would allow.
- And I grew temporarily deaf when within hearing distance of those who wanted to target the mark.
Nowadays, some people my age – including those from my hometown and school district – moan about the attention paid to bullying, and how they faced the same problems and grew up strong. Those people have an incorrect view of our growing-up years. I was for years terribly lonely and desperately afraid to take my next step. My experience tells me that the current rash of “bullycide” has been inevitable for years, and it’s foolish to ignore the way the kids (especially the marks) are treated because it’ll somehow “make them grow up strong.” That’s nonsense – dangerous nonsense.
I’m sorry if I sound bitter. It’s difficult for people who have experienced severe bullying to write or talk about it. It brings up old wounds. Some of those who beat me up are now dead, after all – but even with that, childhood pain never really dies.