Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bullying and My Word for the Nerds

It's been about a month, but not too long ago there passed a week in which several teens killed themselves as a result of bullying.

I've talked about my purple hair and lack of coordination and alluded to the fact that I was made fun of by pretty much the whole town, including adults. Obviously, I didn't kill myself. In fact, my goal in life became to get out ASAP and go back cooler than them. I don't really know that I accomplished that last part but I do know that I was far more motivated in life and as a result better off now than an English major could reasonably expect to be because of said goal. What I'm trying to say is I understood the pain of being ostracized. Purple hair or not, shouldn't I be left alone to thrive in all my freakishness? Isn't that what this "free country" is about? What I didn't understand was why a teen (or anyone--let's face it acceptance still matters to most adults) would take their life over it.

P-52 has a number of young followers still in school, one of which I've become particular attached to because she emails me/messages me quite often. I asked her what she thought about it like why do people let the actions of other people affect their world so much they would take their own life. We went around in circles neither of us coming up with an answer.

This week something happened that made me remember one particularly traumatic incident. Traumatic in part because, at the time the person who said it (we shall call this person X) was the one person in the world I wished hadn't said it. While X said their piece, the kids in the courtyard noticed the confrontation and circled around X, X's three friends, myself and my one friend. When X finished this tirade he/she then went around the circle that now encompassed us and asked every member of it if they hated me. Most people said yes. Others just laughed. At the end of the game, two people said no. One defended me. In fairness, X had just cause to find me rather annoying. I was fourteen too. But I didn't deserve that. Annoying maybe, weird yes, mean very seldom and only with cause.

I cried for a few days, not like gut wrenching sobs, though I did that for a while too. Mostly just tearing eyes, but even at school. I thought of transferring schools but couldn't convince my parents. (I suppose that's probably for the best. There were no good private schools and no magnet schools so it was the town school or the county school. I would have been weird either way). A couple of days later, another girl told X she was angry at X for making her friend cry. When X realized who the friend was, X just shot B a go to hell look and left it at that.

If I'd killed myself you wouldn't have read about X today and either known that you should not do this to anyone  ever because it's inhumane, or that if someone does this to you, you can survive. But I didn't. So why are we talking about X? What's the point in reliving something that happened twelve years ago? Well, looking back on it now--in some ways reliving it now--I remember the pain. I didn't kill myself but I wanted to die. I'm glad I persevered. I have my 58 blog followers, a few unpublished manuscripts, a husband who adores me, and few but GOOD friends.

I need to say I'm not angry with X. I understand X was fourteen and had some things going on. I think X has probably built a decent life that doesn't involve publicly humiliating anyone at this point. I don't think I was X's only target but I was one of the few. X was a fairly nice person where most people were concerned so I think we can assume as an adult X is a decent person. But I am angry that it still crosses my mind so vividly that I'm blogging about it at 5 am because when it reappeared two days ago, it took root and refused to go away. I think the fact that someone like that still has enough power over my life twelve years later to inspire impromptu blog entries in a month I've vowed not to blog to write in some ways resolves the question my young follower and I tried to determine. How could the actions of someone affect you so badly you would take your own life? Because it does. It erodes any self esteem you have and leaves you questioning your own worth. But taking your life in response to a person that needs lessons on how to be human is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The truth is no one cares about the Homecoming Queen after high school. Time changes everything. Life goes on and jocks age like the rest of us, muscles turning to fat. The cool kids struggle like everyone else, but I think in life (which lasts far longer than high school) nerds/dorks/geeks have the advantage. See, we're used to the struggle. We know what it is to see the turned up noses and rolling eyes. We will walk through it. We will persevere.

So here is MY WORD FOR THE NERDS AND ANYONE ELSE WHO GETS BULLIED: ENDURE. That's right. Endure. Let the so-called cool kids make fun of you because of your purple hair, ripped up jeans, the neck jewelry you wear as a head piece, your star wars collection. Whatever it is that has you picked on, embrace it. Be the best you, you can be. Because you are the only you there will ever be and you hold a special place in the cosmic design of the universe. You have a role to play that ONLY you can play. If the cool kids make fun of you, who cares? It's very likely that as a nerd, in ten years you will drive a cooler car than the cool kids. You will one day be the cool kid and when you are you will be kind to the cool kid that used to taunt you, because you know what it is to be "other."

Beth Fred is glad she made it through middle school, junior high, and the bit of high school she was present for. Emil Fred says the joke is on X.


  1. Bullying can't be tolerated in schools, so the more it's outed, the better. Glad you posted this. Sorry you had such a hard time in school and that you endured.

  2. This is a wonderful post. I believe many of us were bullied, but the thought of suicide for me as a child was greatly frowned upon that it wasn't ever an option. However, with my niece 13yrs old who just tried to commit suicide 2 times in the last year, with more kids doing it, other kids think its the only way to stop the pain. Thanks for speaking out about this. Kids who consider hopefully will do a search on the subject to find coping skills.

  3. You know there are so many outlets to be heard now that I didn't have, I wish they would try to find another option. I just hate it that they feel like this is their whole life and there is no way out--that being said I had the same feelings but didn't act on them. I just wish they could know that there is so much more to life and that after high school it's often the picked on kids who go on to do great things.

  4. that is cool. I wish to die because of bullying too. but I knew that wasn't the answer. now life is great.
    good post.

  5. wished to die past tense

  6. THis is such a great post, Beth. So important for others to know they're not alone. My most recent ms was about this same issue ... how bullying affects you even after school--how it whittles away at your self-esteem even tho you don't see the bully anymore.

    I've started a non-profit org called F.L.O.A.T (For Love of All Teens) and you can beome a fan on Facebook and click over the conjoining blog to read the teen mission. Would love help on getting the word out. You can share the page with everyone on your friend list (if you'd be so kind) and help promote teen self-esteem.

    I'm glad you didn't see suicide as an option back then, and I'm sure you're a stronger, more well-rounded person because of what you endured.

  7. Wonderful post. It is never okay to bully. Scars may never heal and will be there for a life time but we all adjust and it develops our character. We can either embrace who you are knowing that the phase that others are going through will pass or let it affect you negatively. I am glad that you became the woman you are today. Beautiful and strong. Thanks for the post.