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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Does it really get better?

October7

I don’t really have friends.

That sounds weird and possibly pathetic, doesn’t it? I mean, who gets to be in her early thirties and doesn’t have friends?

I keep most people firmly in the “acquaintance” category, in my head. This includes people I’ve known for over a decade; people who I spend holidays with; people who I’ve helped move and who’ve helped me move; people who invite me to parties and who I invite to parties; people who, I’m sure, lump me firmly in the “friends” category. And if I were “normal,” I’d consider them friends and feel how very lucky and secure I am in having so many close friends to whom I can turn in times of need. But I don’t feel I can turn to them, and that’s entirely not their fault at all.

Rather, it’s the fault of every single person who bullied me throughout grade school and made it very very clear that I wasn’t worth being friends with; that nobody liked me, would ever like me, could ever like me. I meet new people and I just wait for the other shoe to drop, for them to realize how disgusting and socially inept I am, to realize how undeserving of friendship and human contact I am. Even when I meet good, kind, intelligent, awesome people I still feel that way. I don’t get fully involved, I hold back, and I assume that they like everyone better. This happens in social situations, and this happens in work situations. People make friendly overtures to me, and I assume that they are either being polite and don’t really mean it, or they want to get me into a situation where they can dig at me and hurt me.

I am 31 and I’m still afraid of people.

I’m married to a wonderful person and I have a son who I love with a deepness and intensity I didn’t think possible. But even with them, I often feel on the outside, like I don’t really belong. They are human beings. I’ve been told over and over that I’m not really a human being, and this was reinforced by the teachers at my very small, tight-knit grade school.

I remember when I was 7 years old, lying in bed in the crushing grip of insomnia, staring up at the ceiling and wishing I’d never been born; that I didn’t exist. A few years later I stumbled on the concept of time travel and spent hours concocting elaborate fantasies about discovering how to travel through time… and prevent my mom from conceiving and giving birth to me.

This is what bullying does. It destroys people. And the onus is often, so very often, placed on the victim of the bullying. Sticks and stones break bones, and name calling and shunning and shitty behavior stay with people forever. Teachers shrug off the complaints– if the victim is able to pull their shit together enough, brave up enough, to make the complaint in the first place– or, in my case, join in on the abuse.

Schools have zero tolerance policies for things like bringing plastic knives (to spread cream cheese on a bagel) to school, or bringing a plastic squirt gun to school, or playing hands-on games like “tag.” How many schools have zero tolerance policies for bullying? How many schools are actually invested in protecting the most vulnerable– and most likely to be targeted and bullied– students?

There are kids dying right now because of bullying. What leads a person to feel so miserable, so unwanted, so torn up and alone, that death is the best and most viable alternative? Take a guess. A lot of the media and blogging focus right now is on kids who were bullied because they were– or were suspected to be, or who lived in places where this was the worst insult possible– gay. But sexual policing, sexism, is often a component of bullying, as is racism and classism and ablism. I’m so, so glad that people are noticing that kids are dying and noticing that this is a problem. I’m glad there is outreach to young people who are queer. But this is a symptom of a larger problem.

Bullying needs to end. It needs to stop. Schools need to take a hard line against it, and need to teach children from a young age that it is not acceptable. Every single school that does not prevent kids from bullying other kids is responsible, directly responsible, for what happens to the bullied kids. There is blood on the hands of the school administrators of those kids who killed themselves, those kids whose souls were murdered by their classmates and peers. Every teacher, every class and hall monitor, every principal, who did nothing to prevent it is guilty.

I spent a really big chunk of my life wishing I were dead and resenting other people. If my high school experience had been different, if it had been at all like my grade school experience, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I don’t think I could have slogged through another four years of that soul killing crap. It’s important for young people to realize that there is life beyond school, that there is life beyond whatever crap hole small town they might be in. But any damage that’s already done is still going to be there, and life usually doesn’t magically improve just because you finally escape a shitty situation.

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