Well, sort of. In the fifth grade at McCulloch Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan, I was accused of targeting another student in my class and being mean to her. Back then, I wasn’t the assertive (read mouthy) b-yatch that I am now. When another student pointed the finger at me and said I was the one who was spreading rumors and excluding another girl and generally being a total “mean girl”, I was pretty clueless. I usually kept to myself; went to school, came home, attended my beloved ballet class which was all I really cared about, and never joined any of the “cliques”, not in any grade, even all the way through high school with the Frats or Greasers. I mean, I was always the one who was made fun of ‘cos I wore glasses and for doing ballet and for my last name that rhymes with Frankenstein (I’ve heard that plenty of times), and because I was quiet and small and easy to push around (then, not now, that’s for sure). What I remember is being sent to the principal’s office and I got a speech about how smart I was and how I should not use my quick wit to pick on other kids who didn’t have the same verbal skills I had. I tried to explain that I didn’t know what she was talking about and I don’t think I had done that for which I was accused, but she mostly wanted to hear herself go on and on and when it was time for me to insert an apology and an “I won’t do it again”, I did.
Not only did I not know how to stick up for myself, the real bullies were the girls who falsely accused me. I still don’t know why the real victim never told the truth about who her tormenters were. I guess it was easier all around to paint me as the villain.
What I did learn from that encounter stayed with me all these years, and if I even ever thought that I was going to be mean to someone (less smart, less agile, less whatever) I thought of what the principal said to me, and not only did I hold my tongue and not be mean, I became an advocate for the less fortunate, those victims of circumstances beyond their control. I stood up for the kids who were being ridiculed. I spoke out. I still do. She was def right about one thing; I do have a very sarcastic, witty side but I try not to use it to hurt, only to be funny.
Another life lesson that stayed with me to this day was to teach my son to have compassion; for the elderly, for the disadvantaged, for anyone mentally or physically challenged. I told him that all his brains and academic accomplishments pale in comparison to being kind to those less advantaged than he is, and of course, to always love animals…and to defend himself vigorously if he was ever accused of something he didn’t do.
Bullying is horrible and should not be tolerated. I’m glad that I didn’t actually do it, ‘cos I’d be terribly ashamed of myself.