Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bullies, Part II: The Bad Girls

My life as a geek reached its pinnacle in Jr. High School. Many times a day, jocks knocked me over in the hall so that I splatted to the floor--and the stacks of books I always carried (sci-fi, comics, and an occasional class text) went flying in every direction; they also enjoyed pushing me into the girls' bathroom; and it amazes me to this day that they only managed to pull my shorts down once in co-ed gym class.

But worse than the jocks were the jockettes. Sometime in sixth grade, the girls invented a game in which they would "flirt" with me. They would wink at me, say my name in their sexiest voices, try to kiss me, touch me, grab me, etc. Of course, they took me for the stereotypical geek: assuming I would believe that their advances were real and then somehow embarrass myself by making a pass at one of them or asking one of them out on a date. I wasn't that stupid. Still, the constant mock-flirting kept me aware that I was the opposite of the kind of guy they would REALLY want to go out with.

Soon this past-time spread throughout the entire school, and virtually every girl joined in. They started calling my house, and it was especially humiliating for me when my mom would answer the phone. "There's a girl who wants to talk to you," she would say. I would try to explain to her that she should hang up, that the girl was just making fun of me. But my mother didn't believe me. "It's rude to hang up on people," she said. "How do you know she doesn't really like you?" I wanted to say, "MOM! Why would the head cheerleader like a 5'5'' skinny guy with pimples all over his face." But I was her "baby," and to her any girl would be lucky to have me.

The whole thing reached a climax at lunch one day. When the weather was nice, we were allowed to have lunch outside, which I loved, because our school grounds were large enough that I could escape to some secluded area with my few geeky friends, and the girls couldn't bother me. But when it rained, the whole school was supposed to hang out in the gym for the entire lunch hour.

One rainy day, when I was trying as best I could to hide in a corner behind the bleachers, a bunch of the girls found me and started the game. "Hi baby," "Wanna go out with me tonight?" "Come here and let me give you a big kiss…" I was cornered and a crowd started gathering to watch. More and more girls joined in, grabbing at my hair, hugging me, pulling me down into their laps, and the jocks started laughing hysterically.

Suddenly, I made a run for it, pushing through the crowd and bounding away to … where? There was nowhere to go, so I started running round and round the gym, and the girls chased after me. I ran and ran, and more and more girls joined the chase. Soon every kid in the school was involved. All the girls were chasing me. All the boys were watching and laughing.

Then something in me snapped. I stopped running and sat down on one of the bleachers. Immediately, I was surrounded by a huge number of girls. I remember my panic and humiliation draining away. Now that the whole school had witnessed my humiliation, there was no lower point I could sink to. I felt free. Then I felt a surge of power.

Calmly, I reached towards the girl nearest to me. I remember she was pretty, with blonde hair and freckles. She wasn't the worst of the girls. She was just a follower, following a trend. But she was doomed, because she was the closest to me, and she had glasses -- the one trapping of geekiness that I didn't have. She must have wondered what I was going to do. Was I going to stroke her cheek? Touch her lips? Try to kiss her?

Instead, I touched the nose-bridge of her glasses ever so gently. The crowd went into hysterics. Then I snatched the glasses off her face, and with all my might, hurled them across the gym. I remember the crowd going completely silent, and I remember the beautiful sight of her glasses flying through the air and landing yards and yards away. I had always been hopeless in sports, but if hockey was glasses-throwing, I'd have scored a goal.

There were a few murmurs of "Those better not be broken" and "You're going to have to pay for those," but the crowd pretty dispersed. And no one bothered me much after that. I'm not sure why they didn't. As it turned out, the glasses weren't even scratched. But I had never reacted before to the taunts -- other than cowering, fleeing or making lame remarks. The glasses-throwing was such a strange act of sudden violence (even though no one was hurt), and I think it frightened some of the kids. It certainly frightened me. I wasn't sure where it came from. But after that day, I found a new sort of confidence.

I learned how to hurt people. Especially girls. I stopped hurling glasses and started hurling words instead. "Boy, you're fat," I told the chubby girl. "Does it bother you that you're the least attractive of all your friends?" I asked the girl who was only popular because her parents were rich. "Of COURSE they didn't pick you for the cheerleading squad," I told the depressed girl, "You're completely uncoordinated!" Some other favorites included, "I'm sure it's your fault your parents got divorced," "Don't you think it's funny how your boyfriend keeps flirting with other girls?" and "You'd be almost pretty if you didn't have such bad skin." I learned exactly where to stick the knife and I stuck it. I was most happy when I made a girl cry. The power felt so good. I wanted more and more of it. I no longer wanted to be bullied. I wanted to be the bully. I WAS the bully.

Thankfully, I grew out of this horrible phase. I realized that the girls had matured. They no longer wanted to pick on me and make fun of me. So there was no need to continually take revenge. I felt bad about the way I had acted and vowed to be friendly to girls. And when I was friendly, I was surprised to find they were friendly to me. I eventually met a girl that I liked so much that I married her. Like many women (and men), she's needs her confidence boosted at times. So I tell her, "You're not fat," and "You're the prettiest girl I know," and "Your skin looks lovely." It feels like I'm undoing all the bullying from my past.

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