W O R D S : C L A R E A R M S T R O N G
@ B y C l a r e I CAUSED a lot of headaches for myself as a child.
When I was in primary school I used to get bullied by this boy in the grade above me who travelled on the same bus.
The kid was your usual run-of-the-mill bully. He’d initially targeted me because I had braces (and if there’s one thing bullies are incapable of ignoring, it’s an awkward kid with some hectic orthodontic work in progress), but the real problem was much more my own making.
I was incapable of just sitting there and not try to fight back. Every time I defended myself, and every time it just made things worse.
I will never forget the day I got called to the deputy principal’s office in primary school because he had heard about the bus situation.
More specifically, I will never forget the feeling of horror when I walked into that office and saw the bully in question already sitting there with the deputy principal waiting for me.
There was a brief meeting, the deputy made me accept a forced apology from the bully and then we were dismissed.
I think we got about two metres down the corridor before the bully turned to me and said something along the lines of “snitches are b*tches”. That deputy was definitely an idiot. The intervention changed absolutely nothing and only set me further in my resolve that nothing was ever going to stop a bully, so the least I could do was defend myself for my own personal sanity.
Maybe it’s because I’m the oldest of four children, but my fight or flight instinct is like 99 per cent fight. If I ever got bitten by a radioactive spider I’d be the most annoying self-righteous superhero because I’d never let any tiny injustice go.
It’s a trait that still regularly gets me in trouble as an adult, even in my job. I don’t appreciate others using their power to manipulate, corrupt or try and hurt others and I don’t mind pointing that out.
In the public sphere that makes me the target for a different kind of bully _ keyboard warriors who make assumptions and assertions about the most ridiculous things from the safety of their own lounge.
Only now, instead of a principal pulling me into his office to hash it out with the bully, the only option available is to turn the other cheek/ block everyone on Twitter.
Thankfully, though, unlike that little kid stuck on a bus being teased for having braces, I am privileged enough to have a public voice that I can use to highlight important issues like this.
Bullies will never change. No kid on that bus could have stopped the bully shouting, “say it don’t spray it” at me for an entire 20-minute ride home.
Bullies are the worst and few people are as stupid as me when it comes to the fight or flight mode. But they didn’t have to clap and laugh. Because the standard you walk past is the standard you accept. And if you feel powerful because you’re standing behind a bully then you might want to seriously reconsider a few life choices.