Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What one learns lying in a ditch

Just like in "A Christmas Story" many times has a bully forced me to decide, fight or flight.  Growing up my family moved around a lot, this can be hard on your social skills.  You would think it would be great forcing you to learn how to meet new people and learn to make new friends.  Turns out this was not true for me.  I needed the security and comfort of a long term relationship to learn how to develop deep, meaningful relationships.  So rather than learning new social skills, moving around merely made me the target or the resident bully.  As a result I regularly got beat up, I would say I have the distinction of getting beat up in at least 5 western states before I was 10.  There was one particular bully when I was in 3rd grade, he was in 6th and every day on the way home from school when we got off the bus he would shove me in the ditch and rub my face in the mud.  As a result I spend more than a few hours lying in the ditch contemplating life but we will get back to that later.

As a parent bullies can be one of the most frustrating issues to deal with, in the early 70s there were even fewer options than there are today.  For my dad, there was only 1 option, pick yourself up and whoop that kids ass.  I think dad was so frustrated with his inability to help me it did not dawn on him that kid weighed 90lbs and I weighed 50.  Either that or he was just disgusted with my pure wimpiness.  His advice was to pick up a rock or a stick and make the bully pay for his actions.  This advice only made me feel more like a failure and made me even more afraid of that bully.

Once when I lived in California with mom, our parents were split up then, dad wanted to give me a really cool present.  Dad was great with his hands and very creative so he decided to build me a bicycle that was a chopper.  It was cool, bright yellow, forks must have been 4 feet long, sissy bar, swooped handlebars, it was cool and one of a kind.  Well this is another thing parents forget, anything that makes your outcast of a child stand out will only make things worse.  I learned to hate that bike.  Everyday I rode it I would get pushed over or they would stomp on it, or scratch it, they were so jealous they made me miserable.  Then one day riding home crossing the railroad tracks the forks broke in half at the weld site, turns out its hard to make chopper forks that are structurally stable.  I cut my knee open and my backpack fell in a mud puddle.  Those bullies they just laughed and threw more mud on me.

In high school this started to change, I started to stand up for myself regardless of the consequences.  one day at lunch the local tough guy was teasing me and my dorky Dungeons and Dragons friends during lunch.  We studiously ignored him.  Bullies do not take kindly to being ignored so he escalated and threw a hard boiled egg at me hitting me right in the eye.  Well I was not going to studiously ignore that and I threw it back but I was a terrible throw so it landed in his chili and splashed that orange gooey stuff all down his face and shirt.  No other target would have been as effective in retaliating against the bully as that and boy did it piss him off.  He got up and promptly came over and beat the crap out of me.  And of course we both got suspended because I did not turn the other cheek.  As big of a failure as this was for the first time I learned I could take same action rather than just sitting there.

A little self empowerment can be a dangerous thing.  Later in high school because the school buses all ran so early we all took the public bus.  One day the new kid was sitting the the bullies seat.  He got on later in the route and so bullied whoever was in his seat so he did not have to stand.  I was in no mood to hear this guys BS that day and when he got on and started getting on the kid I said, "hey, mellow out.  He was here first."  Of course he just ignored me and went back to his bullying to which I said, "Hey, not this much (fingers suggesting something small), this much (hands suggesting something big) quite whining and stand like the rest.  Miraculously he stopped picking on the new guy and just stood next to me and seethed the rest of the ride.  When we got off the bus I knew I was in trouble so I was prepared.  As we got off the bus he says, "hey dork, I am going to pound you."  I turned around, kicked him in the balls and then kneed him in the face.  This was the first time I had ever won a physical altercation.  Truly dangerous.

Even Ralphie got to reap a little vengeance

In the years after high school through out early adulthood I fought more regularly. The more I fought the more I learned it was the crazy guy who prevailed. This is a slippery slope. The more I prevailed physically the more affront I took at the smallest things so I could teach them a lesson. The more lessons I taught the more of a bully I became. It was not until I was in my late 30s that I realized I embodied all of the wrongs that had ever been perpetrated against me. As a result I did not start on my journey of generating happiness until far too late in my life. This delay likely cost me my first marriage and an on told number of friends in my life.  I wish I new in 3rd grade how satisfying a life of generating happiness would be, perhaps I would have spent less time in the ditch.


  1. My first child, a son, was bullied at school because he was literally a genius. Other kids resented his ability to do hard things so easily. I got fed up with his plight and put him in karate school in the summer between 2nd and 3rd grades. He did very well at karate, like at everything else, even to the point of being double-promoted. By the fall, I gave him some self-defense rules. 1. When a situation starts turning bad you must first try to get a teacher involved. 2. Failing that, you must run away, even if you're called a coward. 3. If they won't let you run away, you may then defend yourself.

    One day he came from school saying that other kids put dirt in his eyes by holding him down. I asked about each of his 3 rules. He had a good answer for each of them and had not even then defended himself. I asked him why. He said his teacher had told him to never hit anybody again. "Again?" I said, "Tell me about the first time." He told me that he had been in a group lined up to go for lunch, couldn't leave the line, and couldn't get the teacher's attention, but that another kid behind him kept trying to push him down over his outstretched foot. "So I hit him," he said. It turned out that the other kid was sent to the school nurse, then to home for the rest of the day! I talked to the principal about it. He told me he had not called me, because he knew my son was not a troublemaker. I told him the rules I had given my son. The principal agreed that those were reasonable. I told my son he could again defend himself. I never heard of another incident.

  2. Thanks for sending us your method for addressing bullying. Its amazing how difficult it is to address this subject. I am glad your son has learned might does not make right.

    I hope you are enjoying my blog.