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Cool kids don’t get bullied.

March 29, 2012

That’s the conclusion I have come up with after taking anti-bullying training, watching videos, reading anti-bullying material, and even my own personal research online.  According to pretty much everything I have seen, read, and heard cool, popular kids don’t get bullied.  So if your son/daughter, student, friend, whatever, has a lot of friends, plays on a sports team, and is what you would consider to be a “cool” kid then you have nothing to fear when it comes to bullying.  But I still urge you to read on…

From what I have learned kids who get bullied usually are:

Passive, submissive, weak, quiet, sensitive, cry easily, and have few or no friends…

The reason most kids get bullied:

Clothing, lifestyle, sexual preference, the way they talk, where they are from, religion, race, looks, economic class, lack of physical abilities…

Now, obviously those are not all the reasons but that’s a pretty good list I think and we could agree that most of the images we have of kids who are being bullied fit the above.

So again, if you’re ‘cool’ you probably do not fit any of that criteria so ::whew:: you’re safe

What about a boy with the following characteristics?  I am going to be pretty specific here and see if you think this child would be someone who would typically be bullied or is one of the chosen few, one of the ‘cool’ kids.

  • White + Christian
  • Respected middle class family
  • Intelligent
  • Has many friends
  • Wears nice clothes
  • Varsity basketball player and captain
  • Senior poll winner, part of the “popular” crowd
  • Described by peers as a leader, friendly, funny, honest
Ok so what is it?  Cool kid or bullied?  Pretty clear cut easy choice right?
But what if I told you it was both?  What if I told you this wasn’t just any kid but this was me?  Kind of throws out the definition of who we typically think gets bullied doesn’t it?
Too be honest, I never really thought of what I experienced as being bullied, I KNEW it wasn’t kids just ‘having fun and joking around’ though, I could just feel the difference and you’ll understand that in a minute. I also knew it wasn’t bullying because everything I had ever learned as a kid about bullying contradicted my situation.  But looking back on it, yeah I was the victim of bullying throughout high school, and we aren’t talking decades and decades ago, I graduated from high school in 2002.  Now, my story of bullying isn’t the worst by any means and I am not looking for sympathy.  In fact the bullying has helped make me who I am today.  Hopefully my story can give you a broader perspective of who gets bullied, which is everyone, why they get bullied, and how as parents, educators, and adults we must be vigilant against bullying. I have probably never actually came out and said all of what I am about to say and not many people really know to what extent I was affected by this and how those affects still remain but I feel I need to at least get this off my chest and if it helps 1 person then good.
Growing up I had a good amount of friends and came from a great family. I loved being with my older brothers and sister (next sibling is 8 years older then me…I’m what you call a…unplanned miracle from god 🙂  ), and can whole heartily say I had a great, great childhood.  I typical day for me during school was walk to school, play football on the playground, play with my friends at lunch, walk home from school, ride my bike to my friends, play games outside, and repeat for 180 days.
Summers were reserved for bike rides to the town pool, wiffleball, summer basketball, and  sleep overs.  Family vactions, trips with friends, riding in my brothers car were also frequent adventures of mine growing up.
I was also very social growing up, I had no problem going up to someone I had never met before and talking to them in a very non-aggressive way.  A unique characteristic of mine was that I really did not feel uncomfortable speaking with adults at all and was very well liked by friend’s parents, teachers, and other adults.  I also found it very easy to talk to *gulp* older kids and they were usually very accepting of me whether it was playing sports with them or just hanging out.  I was even comfortable around, the icky, gross, cootie filled enemy they call GIRLS!  I remember in 5th grade I made headline news by asking a girl I liked to our school’s first 5th grade dance.  **GASP** I was never a kid who wouldn’t talk to or befriend someone if they were a “girl” or labeled as different, this led me to having many different kids of friends from many different social circles and cultures.
Because of sports, I was meeting kids from the neighboring towns and became friends with a lot of them.  I would ride my bike to different towns after school and had friends from each of the 4 towns that I would eventually go to high school with. I played all kinds of sports growing up; soccer, football, baseball, basketball, I wrestled, swam, rode my bike everywhere, played video games, had sleep overs, all the typical “kid growing up in the 90’s stuff”.
Besides having great friends I also had a family that I can say I think most people would love to have.  I was showered with love from my parents and siblings.  My brothers and sister would include their baby brother James even when it wasn’t required by Mom and Dad.  Basically,  I was spoiled rotten.  But everything I learned and everything I am today is because of them.
I wasn’t scared about going to high school, nervous maybe because of the fact that it was a different school, but never was I scared.  I remember the biggest thing I was nervous about was I thought in high school you had to shower after gym class and the thought of standing naked in front of everyone petrified me.  But I had plenty of friends and plenty of older kids that I knew would look out for me.
I can honestly say I was never deliberately mean to anyone; I was the kid you see in those corny PSA’s who leads by example whether it’s helping the lunch lady clean up or befriended the kid who is being picked on, and I really think I was able to influence people people around me through my actions.  This was probably the reason I was given the “Leadership Award”, something I am still extremely proud of and will always include on a resume even if it was when I was a teenager.
Bottom line I was a happy kid.  My Dad would always tell people I was born with a smile on my face.
My freshmen year of high school was typical to start with.  But  I do remember there being a significant change in the way certain people, friends I had growing up, acted around me and couldn’t understand why.  I remember the first time I noticed it too.  It was “Town Day” and people were finding a good spot on the football field to watch the fireworks.  I saw a “friend” of mine that I hadn’t seen all summer and shouted hi to him and even yelled out a joke about something that had happened in grade school that we had laughed about many times.  He responded in a normal way but I remember hearing him and his friends looking and laughing at me as I walked away.   Then I noticed people started being, well to put it simply, mean to me.  I would later find out that a rumor had spread that I was gay, which I wasn’t and that was the reason, or should I say excuse, that people had to treat me the way they would for basically that whole year.
I remember almost every single Saturday night for over a year I would get at least half a dozen prank phone calls from the same people.  A group of girls would call, ask for me, say terrible things and hang up.  The thing is my father and I have the same name so I would sleep with the cordless (remember those) phone next to me, turn off the ringer in my parents room, so I could intercept the call.  One time I forgot to turn off his ringer and when the group of girls called, they asked for me in their normal voice, half asleep (it was 2am) my father said this is James, and they said the most awful things and I was mortified and embarrassed that my father had to hear that from them.  He never said anything to me about it but I remember that night very, very clearly.
I also remember one day in class getting an e-mail from a kid a year older than me, you could call him a bully, it was a very powerful e-mail that I will never forget and it was only one word: Hey (typed in 12pt pink font).  It was 1998 and I was already being cyber bullied.  On the weekends I mostly hung out with a friend of mine that went to a private school and this helped me get by.
Senior year (not an age you usually associate with bullying) was by far one of the worst stretches of time in my life, hands down.  Typically senior year is one of the best years of your life and I couldn’t wait for it just to be over.  Like I have said before I never really remember doing anything that particularly hurt anybody which was why it was so hard for me come to grips with why I was being “picked on”.  I was just being myself and that was their problem with me.  I keep saying they and them because it was not just one person that I could point to and say they bullied me but a group of people guys and girls.  When kids started getting their licenses they would drive by myself pretty frequently especially on the weekend and lay on the horn.  I later learned it was the “Puliatte Pump”.
It might sound dumb that something like that would bother me, but imagine it happening all the time, all hours of the day, that car horn would be as powerful as a punch to the face.  I started driving my car to school and there would regularly be gay slurs, profanity, and other demeaning marks written in the dust of my car.  I remember even putting a camera in my car to try and figure out who it was.  I never stood up for myself because I just thought it would make it worse, which it probably would have.
One thing I did that added fuel to their fire was a sticker I put on my car, that’s right a sticker.  If I knew it would have had the impact it did I never, ever would have done it.  What could this sticker be of that would have such damning lasting on my life?  $.  That’s not a typo, that was the sticker.  A dollar sign. J$ to be exact.  I am not proud that I had a stupid dollar sign on my car but I was 17 and it represented the nick name given to me during basketball.  Also, at that time people were putting all sorts of ridiculous things on their cars; stickers, lights, wings, etc. My friend who is a graphic designer was practicing making sticker art 1 day in the summer so he made me that and also wrote in graffiti style font JMONEY.  The whole thing was no bigger that 5in. x 5in. and I thought it looked cool so I threw it on the back window of my car.
When I walked into school the first day of senior year I remember passing through the halls during lunch to the echoes of “JMONEY” followed by incessant laughter.  There is a distinct difference in the way friends call you something and the way these people were, from that day on I would make it a habbit to walk the long way around the school to get to class just to avoid the area in front of the lunchroom which acted like a hallway of never ending jeering. The dollar sign came off quickly…but that didn’t matter the name calling continued and things just got worse and worse.  Nothing was ever physical but it might of well had been
I couldn’t really complain to anyone, because I honestly did not know what to say.  I remember going to the administrators about my car but there was no ‘evidence’ and that was that.  Then when I honestly thought it couldn’t get worse something happened in class that just opened the flood gates.  I was in math, senior year and I don’t remember what happened that lead to it, I was probably talking when I shouldn’t have and my teacher, to get me quiet, said, “Hey JMONEY why don’t you shut up.”  There was half a second of dead silence followed by what seemed like an eternity of laughter.  He followed with, “What?  You do have a sticker on your car don’t you?”  He thought he was being funny, but had no idea how it made me feel and this made it OK for everyone else.
I could keep going with incidents and other examples of name calling but I won’t.  How did it all end though?  One night a friend was having a watch party for the Mike Tyson Lennox Lewis boxing match and at the end of the party people were all waiting for rides.  One of the kids there, who was one of the main reasons my senior year was a living nightmare was not allowed to use the phone in the house and we were being pushed out by the parents.  The parents and the kid started getting into it a little bit verbally, my ride was secured and I could have easily walked out and not thought twice.  Instead I simply just handed him my cell phone.
I’ll never forget the speechless look on his face, “Here you can use mine” I said.
That one act pretty much ended it all.  Kill with kindness I guess you could say.
However, that year, that terrible terrible year still haunts and effects my life today.  I am not nearly as outgoing as I was growing up.  I am very self conscious now where when I was a kid I really didn’t care what others thought.  That year I had to be treated for depression and severe OCD both which are still present and effect my day to day life.
I guess the point of my story is just for people to understand that yes, even the cool kids get bullied.
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