Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bully Continuum

SIL loaned me a book last week that I devoured overnight. And it promptly game me indigestion.

It purported to be an 'inspirational' story of one woman's life as a victim. It read as a laundry list of insults visited upon her head with precious little insight as to how she got through it. And her resource list (if you can call two entries a list) was laughable.

And she misses a larger point. Bullying does not end in high school; it continues all through life, but most of us don't see it when it happens to us. Some people bully outright, while others take the 'frenemy' route, which takes on all sorts of guises and appearances.

So what's a kid--or grown up, for that matter--to do?

Nic's MO is simple; he keeps everything out loud and out in the open. His bent for the theatrical serves him well, and it's pretty damned difficult to get anything by faculty and staff as a result. And the fact that the said authority doesn't look the other way helps enormously.

(My standing in the background, arms folded, jaw set, glare steely, probably also helps)

One thing I discovered as I grew up was that people were always fine, even nice, one on one, even if they were brutal when surrounded by their pack. This is also true in adulthood. If you appeal to someone's innate humanity, only the hardest of hearts refuse to yield. And you don't want any part with that, anyhow, so it's safer to move on and leave them to it.

The other thing I learned is that people change; some improve, and some don't. And sometimes the varnish just wears off over time, and you see a person for whom he or she really is. And sometimes, it's just not pretty.

But I think the single most important thing I learned is that no one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission. There is a certain subset of humanity (or H. sapiens at any rate) that possesses a gift for inveigling unsuspecting souls into friendship and then using knowledge gained to all sorts of nefarious ends. A practiced eye sees them coming, but to a loner, such a person is an oasis in the desert until he or she becomes the worst possible nightmare.

And how many of us have been taken in by such a person at one time or another?

But it's like touching the hot stove and all the other instructions we've been given from toddlerhood on up--some lessons you need to learn the hard way, and for some lessons, the hard way is the only way.

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