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Sticks and stones may break bones but words can wound the spirit

Growing up I hated that thing we were supposed to say to bullies, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." No wonder they laughed in my face. They used words because they knew the pain they inflicted. Plus, that saying loses a lot of impact when said in a quivery voice through trembling lips, followed up with a fast getaway.

Like most of us, there was a point in my life when I endured a lot of mean words: childhood.

You know the stereotypes of kids in classes: the paste eater, the clown, the prissy one, and the Special Kid. That last one was me. And I don't mean special in a good way.

Picture a very slight child, thin dark hair cut like a bowl, polyester hanging from her shoulders...and on her feet? Very large, bulky, stiff saddle shoes. More than a decade past when saddle shoes were cool. These were Special Shoes and they aggravated my sense of self-awareness into a case of severe shyness.

In those days, flat feet were diagnosed as a Serious Problem that had to be Medically Corrected. The orthopedist the pediatrician sent my mother to prescribed the absolute worst possible solution: special shoes I had to wear all the time.

Expensive and special-order, these shoes were stiff as a board and horribly uncomfortable. Plus, the shoes---so tight as to be akin to Chinese feet binding---severely limited my foot's mobility and I could barely walk, much less run.

Those shoes did an unspeakable amount of damage to my feet, but more than that, they damaged my self-esteem. No, that's not fair, the shoes made me vulnerable to kids who were cruel about differences. Either way, esteem damage is a lot harder to fix than the physical damage to my feet (and I say that after spending multiple years on crutches, physical therapy, and a couple of surgeries).

I should have just worn a white shirt with a red target on it every day.

I had to stand to the side of every recess and gym class. You could tell the gym teacher thought it was ridiculous. A few times she forced me to participate, doing some of the runs and so forth. I'd stumble around, trying to get traction, tripping over my feet and shoes, eventually sprawling in a heap basically where I started. The kids would laugh and laugh and call me names. The teacher would feel bad, put me back in my corner, and move along. She'd eventually forget or her good intentions would overwhelm her, and she'd force me to be a part of the activity again.

Like dodgeball.

"Come on Julie," she'd say, "You can play dodgeball. Not too much running in that!"

And the kids would laugh and laugh until she hushed them.

I'd slink into the circle, my stomach churning itself into nausea. How I wanted to be a real part of that circle---instead, I knew I was the main target.

I remember the kids shouting, "Pelt Lucy Van Pelt! Pelt Lucy Van Pelt!" as they hurled the ball as hard as they could at me. (The Lucy was a reference to Peanuts, very popular at the time, and the saddle shoes Lucy wore, which looked just like my own Special Shoes). And the originator of the name was revered for his cleverness, loved for how he made everyone feel amused, and most of all, appreciated for how he made each joiner a part of something (even if it was a gang), and thankful for not being the target themselves. Cruelty made him king. What a reinforcer.

Looking back, I see the irony, the ridiculousness of calling the victim by a bully's name.

It wasn't hip to be square during the age of aquarius (The Fifth Dimension version from Hair, that is).

My sole consolation in all of this was my mother's promise, "Kids are just learning. They grow out of this. Someday, you'll all be older and this kind of behavior will be far, far behind you."

What really happened was that practice made perfect. Some cruel kids grew up and got better at cruelty. Some victims grew up and learned how to dish it out themselves.

The professional level of cruelty---verbal bullying---is teasing. With this, people endeavor to pass off verbal injury by saying, "JUST KIDDING, what, you don't have a sense of humor?"

I do have a sense of humor, and a rather overdeveloped sense of the ridiculous. Still, I've never found personal insults funny, which is exactly why I am clearly so torn in the post below (about American Idol) and why, upfront, I beg God not to strike me down in a well-deserved bolt of lightning.

Not everyone shares my squeamishness about "roasting" or "teasing," especially when it comes to people who put themselves out there. "Out there" apparently means you (a) deserve critique and (b) are asking for it. (Which distinctly reminds me of another flawed argument in another situation...)

After a couple of bloggers recently shared their opinion and personal experiences with online comments that they felt crossed a boundary for them, I began thinking about the potential for the Internet to be far worse than any gym or playground for personal attacks and teasing.

It's not a newsflash to anyone that the Internet offers a veil of anonymity that often emboldens people into cruelty they'd never dip to in their corporeal life. Even considering my past experience with mocking, taunting, fun-making (what a misnomer) and so forth, I still think there was a limit. Outside of rare circumstances, as adults we are generally fairly mild---even in disagreement---when looking into the face of another person. On the Internet, though, our personal connection is limited: that flick of the eye, duck of the head, indrawn breath...the signal that tells us we've gone too far and that invokes a wash of guilt, the thing I believe motivates us to moral behavior (per comments in the vanity post). Typing into a computer makes it easier to forget that at the other end of the words is an actual thinking, feeling person.

Writing can often be so very definite. We can't sense the vulnerability behind a stated opinion when it is only in black and white on a page. We don't know how certain, comfortable, confident, invested or vulnerable the words are in the mind, heart and soul of the writer.

Because we intend to be perceived as having made our weaknesses into strengths, how we detail an event might seem to be a shrug of sort, "Eh, I'm over it," instead of the deep burn of hurt that lingers a bit in our depths.

To this day I can't stand saddle-shoes. My kids are always allowed to select their own shoes, and wearing them is completely optional if that's at all feasible.

What's more...I suspect that childhood experience is why, to this day, I hate running, and say very self-mockingly/slightly aggressively, "I only run if someone's chasing me." Ha. Ha. Ha. I think I pretended so hard and so well for so long that not being able to run or do athletics didn't bother me that eventually, it came to be a truth in my mind.

That experience shaped me. It's probably a factor in why I came to think of myself as a smart kid who was motivated in schoolwork. It's probably a huge factor in why I came to be such a voracious reader. I think I would have always liked reading, but to this depth, to this degree? Would it be the major hobby and interest that it is today...had it had more competition from other activities?

These things, they're like pebbles in a pond. I think they shape us more than we give credit.

After all, we're to have a stiff upper lip. These things aren't supposed to get to us, get inside us. We should be stronger than that.

I admit it: these things did get inside me. Like tumors. Some stayed small, some grew, some were benign, others malignant.

They affect how I open up, how I share, what I share...and how available I make myself. Just when I start to think, "Hmm I took word verification off, maybe the registered user thing should go too...???" I see anonymous hard at work at a blog I like, throwing down out of line personal attacks as if...well, as if it is okay to do simply because (s)he didn't like what that blogger wrote.

When I see that happen, I pause and ponder all the advice I've ever received about how to deal with personal attacks and bullies.

Those "wise words of advice" typically suggested ignoring the bully, letting it roll off your back by pushing your tormentor down a level: (s)he's insecure, has a sad life, is a sad little person, is a coward, etc.

This never resonated with the child me. First, it seemed like responding in kind (even if only in my own head). Second, it might just be surface, but many of the cruelest children seemed to be just fine, appeared to have it all including popularity and appeal so great that they had teachers and kids alike eating out of their hands.

It doesn't resonate with the adult me, either. Every person with some form of "dark and twisty" internal landscape doesn't become a bully. Neither does every person with power. There must be another element.

I think sometimes when people are cruel they are simply giddy or giddy with power. Other times I think they get caught up in the game, slip into a form of narcissism where they peer into their own perceived cleverness and fall in love. In any case, when done as a group, each participant is only emboldened by the false courage of gang mentality and the false sense of anonymity. The latter is something the Internet offers in spades, at a level nothing in real life can provide.

And doesn't that open a can of worms. Fits right in with the recent picnic of bloggy navel-gazing about how the blogosphere will develop and evolve.

The blog is possibly my adult version of Special Shoes. At least, though, I'm in good company with plenty of other people who are Special (and I mean that in a good way this time).

I accept that sometimes, people won't like what I have to say (which isn't the same thing as disagreeing) and moreover, won't like that I said it at all. It may cause them to draw conclusions about me as a person.

I'm 100% in favor of having a sense of humor about one's self, not taking things too, too seriously. This is a lesson hard-learned for an introspective person like me.

I'm 100% in favor of discussion. I think dialoguing can be a great way to become more aware, more sensitive, more knowledgeable about different issues and perspectives. It's important to share and review different points of view about an issue.

And I 100% say it needs to stop there...that is the point of self-regulation in the case of debate or disagreement: stick to the topic. There are unique cases when who the person is holds relevance, but I don't think blogging is one. We don't have enough evidence, insight, or perspective, in my opinion to deconstruct a person based solely on the self-censored words we read.

What do you think? What is your theory about childhood bullying? About adulthood bullying? About online bullying...???

What do you tell yourself about bullying, if you encounter it? And what do you (what will you) tell your child, when he or she encounters it?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Mad said…
Maybe I'm just lucky (touch wood) but I have neither witnessed nor experienced much of the bloggy bullying that I hear tell of. I know that I have overstepped my bounds a couple of times as I have tried to learn the ropes in this space. In both cases I have felt deeply sorry and have taken a hard look at what I write, how I write, and what the emerging blogging ethics might dictate.

If anything, I find that most people in the blogosphere bend over backwards so as not to cause offence. In a way, we are isolated in this writing that we do and that does a lot to break down the group mentality that you write about.

Still, my last series left me feeling quite vulnerable--afraid that by speaking my mind I have alienated people in a way I never intended. It's a feeling that I don't like. All it would've taken was one anonymous (or not) bully to leave me crying for days.

As for anonymous, I have seen this bully raise his/her head from time to time. Fortunately, I haven't seen her/him that often. When she/he does make an appearance I know that I go out of my way (as do others) to reassure the victim.

As a complete aside, my daughter owns a pair of hand-me-down saddle shoes that she adores. She calls them her tap-a, tap-a, tap-a shoes. The make her want to dance. I'm sorry that your dancing soul was so trod upon when you wore yours.
S said…
What a sad story. I'm so sorry. We all have our own, but this one seems to have lasted such a long time thanks to the shoes and their consequences for your gross-motor skills.

Children can be so mean it's stunning. And girls are the worst, I think. My theory is that girls are so intuitive that they know just what would hurt someone else the most.

I've not had anyone comment in a mean way on my blog so far, but, then again, I've been around for all of three months! I'm sure something will come my way soon, and I will want to cry. No doubt about it.
Julie Pippert said…
Oooh RATS!

I did not mean to evoke pity for myself.

I really am living okay, despite having to wear saddle shoes and get picked on over 30 years ago. :)

I was trying to tap into the universality of feeling different-exposed-vulnerable at times, and taking a hit from it.

Then address why some kick that way, and what to do when it happens.

Are the outer rings of the target worth 5 points or 0? LOL
Julie Pippert said…
Mad, in many circles, most of the time, yes, I think they do. It's generally my own experience and generally what I see. At least from anyone not named anonymous, LOL.

In the last week-ish, however, I saw quite a few bloggers go out on a limb and some took a (below the belt) hit for it, add to that the story about meankids and unclebobism (thankfully now down) and it kept running through my brain, oy, what are some doing, and why?

I understand that feeling you mean (thanks for sharing) and I'm glad that it is such a respectful group that instead of a bully session, there was really awesome discussion.

I trotted our my childhood...hoping to get feedback on kids, too because well, there's a little playard stuff going on here.

I'm glad your DD loves her shoes. I bet her dancing is precious!
Julie Pippert said…
Slouching, I hope you never get any hate comments or email.

It has been going around the last week it seems!

Both you and Mad hit on a big point I hope I highlighted: we really don't appreciate, sometimes, the effect (good or bad) our words can have, even if typed as a comment on a blog. Writers can feel very vulnerable.

Yes, kids can be cruel. A lot of it is imitation, but a lot is innovative.

Interesting theory about girls. There have been book and articles about girls fighting with words while boys are more likely to with their bodies. I don't know enough to be able to cite any facts or verify (or deny) it. But that it isn't just related to verbal skills, but also to empathy, interesting.

BTW my tormentor was a boy. LOL
thailandchani said…
I can relate to many of the things you say here. I was one of the "picked on" kids, too.. then went home to yet another situation.

For the most part, I'm over it ~ but have noticed some very definite triggers. When those triggers appear, I often have to walk away before commenting, to make sure that I am not coming from my own "stuff" and that I am responding to the blogger's "stuff".

I've been biting on one occasion ~ in seven months of doing this and it was because I got triggered, it was late at night and I blew. It wasn't angry cussing or bombastic insults. It was just a very cutting one-line remark.

No excuses. I own it.

For the most part, bloggers and commenters seem to be kind, intelligent and thoughtful people.

On my blog, I've had a few nastygrams. If they're just nasty for the sake of being nasty, I delete them ~ like the spam they are. If I get a nastygram that appears to be caused by someone getting triggered, I try to look at intent of their message and respond from that position.

I haven't seen the blogs you mention or the playground antics you mention. It might be unfamiliarity with those particular blogs. On the other hand, it could be that I am just dense.



Mad said…
"In the last week-ish, however, I saw quite a few bloggers go out on a limb and some took a (below the belt) hit for it, add to that the story about meankids and unclebobism (thankfully now down) and it kept running through my brain, oy, what are some doing, and why?"

Mmmm. Didn't see any of this and don't even know what "meankids and unclebobism" is. I'll consider myself lucky.
boogiemum said…
I had a few run ins with nasty commenters on a previous blog of mine. It really got to me and I felt so scared to post my thoughts on things for fear of what they would say, I ended up giving up my blog for a year. With my new blog I put up so many commenting obstacles I barely got any comments. Just last week I felt daring and opened them up a little wider. Besides spam, nothing nasty yet.

I try to keep in mind that not everyone will agree with my ideas and thats ok, I just think objective things can be said in nice ways. I have a rule on commenting, if I don't have anything agreeable to say, I don't comment.

I love your blog and your excursions into some deep subjects. I am a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and maybe those hurtful years of saddle shoes made you the wonderful grounded person you are!
Mad said…
OK, I just found out about it. Fuck. Sometimes I hate the world we live in.
Julie Pippert said…
Chani, first, I think that we run in a lovely, wonderful circle populated with amazing and awesome people. I get used to this, complacent, I start thinking it's just this lovely everywhere. Then I venture out checking on this or that thing and run into a blatant reminder that we all have triggers, and some don't rise above them, as you so eloquently described. I appreciate hearing about your experience, and POV on it.


Mad, for all the focus on mommywars...the mommy bloggers are, in my experience, the most agreeable, most supportive, and most constructively disagreeing group.

When I think on a few points that motivated this makes me wonder about a lot of concepts, which might even be more the heart of what I'm trying to get at than a vague discussion of bullying.

It feels like pulling teeth right now, to get these thoughts out. LOL

Let me try.

What if, as predominantly women who are mommybloggers, we are in our threat? Therefore, not a risk to someone who feels threatened under other circumstances? Therefore, not as likely to get the fire?

What if---as you said---we are our own main readers (reading one another) and have thus created a sense of a community, which makes agreeing, supporting, and constructively disagreeing easier because we have a vested interest in not upsetting the apple cart?

What if, as the people we are (both the men and women who surf around this corner of the blogosphere) we are, from whatever position and for whatever reason, more inclined/more able/more motivated to find a common ground or way of understanding...rather than attacking?

What if, by not being the "typical" bloggers of brief multi-daily spurts of info or short thoughts, brief moment minutae, or big bang stunner or provocative or gossip, etc. aimed at a huge and varied audience, we are a really different reader and writer group, and that make more of a difference than we realize?

Maybe my real question is less,"How can stuff like this go on over there," and more, "What makes it so great over here?"

Does that make ANY sense?


Boogiemum, I am REALLY sorry to hear that. But I'm so glad you shared it. Okay...that puts a kink in my thoughts above so I need to re-think. Hmmm.

Can I ask...was it Anonymous? Same person/people? Like a dogpile? If you prefer not to delve into it I totally understand.

I fully expect with many things I say that not everyone will (a) understand the thought, opinion or experience, or (b) agree with my point about it. I actually kind of welcome either, as long as it's---like you said---constructive and done with some form of politenes, respect, manners.

Thanks for the compliment and I do believe that it shaped who I am, and not only in a "I don't like to run and I hate saddle shoes" kind of way, LOL.
Julie Pippert said…
Oh Mad I am SO SORRY. I shouldn't have said names. I told myself not to do it and then it slipped out. I was feeling kind of happy that you were unaware and kind of bad that I put it out there. Ummm silver lining. Okay, we have a good community here. Really. You thought I was a bit out there with this post because you see so much good from so many wonderful people.
thailandchani said…
Julie, I think that is what I choose to focus on. There are wonderful, very kind natured and intelligent people who make the rounds of various blogs, commenting or not, grabbing a subject and creating a roundtable by multiple posts or a comment-based dialogue.

I've watched the catty, mean-spirited, koffee-klatch style of cliquing up in other venues. I watched one time as a group of women on a mailing list attacked another mercilessly. It made me physically ill. It was some Lord Of The Flies feeding frenzy.

And I disagree with those who say it has no relevance or no power because it is "on the computer" and not "real life". Bullroar! What I saw happen with that woman onthe Yahoo list was very, very real!

I don't know the specifics of what's going on here. Some of the communication sounds disconnected, like listening in on a private phone call and only hearing one side.

Still, the principles remain the same. I believe those who practice ganging-up behavior, disruption operations, mean-spirited backchannel communications and so on need to be exposed and shunned.

They offer nothing of substance and in no way contribute to the kind of community I believe most of us intend to build.


atypical said…
Ah, deep thought. This is the first time I have commented here, but I have a feeling it might get a little long.

There is a kind of teasing that is done between friends who know each other well that might sound mean from the outside. This type of teasing, I think, can be okay, but one does have to be very careful not to cross the line.

When those friends are only known in a virtual way, that particular type of teasing is a much more dangerous pursuit. As you stated, the non-verbal cues cannot be seen. Heck, my husband and I have been married for almost 18 years, and there is still the odd occasion where we misread the situation.

That said, I will take the next step into the difference between criticism and personal attack. It seems a prime example of this (since AI is already on the table) would be Simon Cowell. Many times, his criticisms are right on the mark, and if taken on their face value, could actually help a person to change for the better in their performance, but then there are those other times - times in which he makes it personal. That is when I find myself squirming.

Playground and blog-ground bullies seem to cross that line into personal attack. Some do it, perhaps, from a feeling of power. Others are striking out from their own insecurities. Some are reacting to a trigger point that makes them feel like a cornered beast. I do agree that the anonymity of blog-land makes these comments that much easier to make.

There have been a few times that I have visited a site and felt personally attacked by the phrasing of a person's post. In those times, I have struggled. Part of me wants to strike out in disagreement, but I have held back, precisely because the rawness would likely lend to my voice the same kind of animosity I felt from the original post. I didn't want to react with that feeling, but the courage or ability to respond in an intelligent yet level headed manner could never be found.

I do find it cruel that some people choose to respond to others with a bullying mentality. These blogs of ours are our safety zone. When someone comes into "our house" and attacks in that way, it is particularly violating. But on the flip-side of the coin, I am also saddened when, sometimes, someone posts a comment that disagrees with the writer (and comes across as relatively judgemental), and they are attacked by the regulars with a fierceness far beyond any intended by their original comment. I think this is an unfortunate consequence to the defensive walls built to protect against the truly spiteful attacks.

I am having trouble saying what I mean. It was all so clear in my head before the young'ns asked for hot chocolate.

I think you bring up an excellent point. As a teacher and a mom, I am torn between what I know is the right thing to tell my kids to do and what I would, personally, like to do to the NASTY bully picking on my child! :)

I tell my students to tell anyone that is trying to hurt their feelings, "From you, I'll take that as a compliment!" I also stress the importance of taking a stand against bullying. I tell them that standing there quietly watching someone get bullied is almost as bad as doing it.

I know I would want to know if my child was bullying kids, so I make a point of contacting parents of those I have witnessed being a bully. Sometimes that goes well....sometimes it doesn't! Then it becomes all too clear why the child acts the way they do!

My daughter has such a tender heart. She is exactly the same way I was in school. It pains me to see people take advantage of that. A good friend of mine once said, "They knock 'em down and you build them back up!" I suppose that is the best we can do!
Unknown said…
O gosh! I think this is another one that I will have to sit with for a day or two before I can comment with clarity... having been an unpopular child, the recipient of verbal abuse, being appalled at what I saw when I followed your links for this post, etc.

On a side note, I was glad to see atypical commenting here! Go T!
MARY G said…
Got to go away and think hard about this, but not before chipping in.
1.) Our local papers are carrying a story about two young male teens who have been expelled from school for emailing (they thought anonymously) putrid garbage to their teachers.
Point: it's not just girls and I am not sure girls do it better.

2.) Experience in the classroom and mothering leads me to say children go for anything different; if differences are small, small differences are made bigger. I have a red haired daughter who got a lot of flack in the lower grades. Big children get meaner. Both my younger daughter and I, as teens, took flack for nerdiness. My mother comforted me and I comforted my daughter as yours comforted you -
"Kids are just learning. They grow out of this. Someday, you'll all be older and this kind of behavior will be far, far behind you."
I only wish. Have you looked at the House of Commons lately?
Point: there are some people who are always like that.

3.) I have yet to encounter on-line bullying in this section of the blogosphere -- Mad's comments -- but I figure I will. The blogs and comments I have been reading are almost excessively polite and very self-regulating. You know, I don't care any more what anonymous vipers say. The only comments that hurt are from people I respect. And, frankly, I don't respect people who are aggressively argumentative. (Are you listening, Stephen?)
Point: I have armour. I think we all need to have some. And no hesitation in deleting ugly stuff.

Thanks for an excellent and thoughtful post. I'm really impressed. And apologies if I ran on too much.
Girlplustwo said… those links were terrifying. and so sad.

i will never understand the appeal of being cruel. Of how that feeds anyone. i feel so lucky, my experiences have been so far to the other side of the spectrum.

ps. those lucy shoes rock.
Bones said…
I don't think im supposed to give details about what my therapist and I talk about, but suffice it to say that kids with cruel female classmates grow up to have an insatiable desire to seek approval from strangers.

And I dont want to spark the nature vs. nurture debate, but two girls, Joanna and Stacey, ceaselessly ridiculed one of the neighborhood kids (named Buba, cruelly enough) from roughly second grade untill we all went to highschool. Their goal was to see if they could make him cry on every bus ride. I mean, literally, every school day for 6 years. Buba is now 34, gay, suicidal, and lives with his mom. I've always blamed Stacey and Joanna (and myself a bit, because I never did anything to stop them from ridiculing him) but I've always secretly hoped im wrong. If the human condition is so fragile that 2 girls deciding to poke fun at someone for 10 mins a day can alter his life forever, than man, that sucks.
thailandchani said…
Bones, I do think something like that can have an impact, just like any abuse can have long-term impact. It's unlikely that was the only thing that affected Buba's life but it sure didn't help!

At that age, our personalities and concepts of self are still forming. After a while, we come to believe these things that are said to us.

Personal experience here.. and it took plenty of therapy to get over it!

I'd never be willing to minimize the damage done by those experiences.

I'm appalled that no one did anything about it. It sounds like Joanna and Staci needed some .. um... guidance.


Alice said…
Once again, awesome post. Loved your personal story - very powerful. Part of us will always be that little kid we once were. The older I get the less I tolerate mean people who thrive on our instinct to want to be nice at all costs.
Julie Pippert said…
Ahh Bones...that story sucks, for everyone.

In my oh-so-very humble yet strong opinion (projecting my theories onto this situation, so forgive that):

I agree with Chani; I do think that incessant, unceasing, unpunished bullying at that age has a lasting negative impact. If you're lucky, you find the internal wherewithal and external support to grow with grace from it.

Otherwise you can potentially become destructive, either to yourself or others.

The Joanna and Stacey bullying wasn't, of course, the only factor. But it might have been the catalyst.

Speaking more generally, as one who has gone through it, I do find that it creates a bad chain of events.

As a target, you feel isolated, removed. You begin to believe there is no place for you among your peers, especially when no peer defends you (which is a lot to ask of a kid---a LOT) and even more especially when your peers avoid you for fear of becoming a target too. When the adults around you ignore it and advise you to ignore it feel abandoned. It can really create a mentality of feeling inside the bell jar, IYKWIM.

I mean off the bus, were people friendly to Buba? Inclusionary? Validate how he felt? Invite him to parties? Or was he slowly but surely eased from the margin through a crack?

FWIW, I've stood on the other side of the fence, too. My guilts include: Neil Neil Banana Peel and Jessica (although to be fair last I knew they were both doing well).

I don't think we should feel no guilt, those of us who did nothing, but it also shouldn't be a diagnostic of a pathology in us either, KWIM? I just try to remember it's not cool to stand idly by.

Abuse victims ultimately do---at least at some point, to some degree, for some period---slide into wondering what is wrong with them that they get this abuse.

Buba clearly lacked the things inside and outside he needed to make it through the challenges of being different.

So see, it wasn't just the 10 minutes a day every day---it was the pebble in the pond rippling out from that until it was all day every day. Make sense?

I'd be so curious to know whether Joanna and Stacey made a lifetime career out of feeding on the weak.

I'm also interested that it was a twosome.

I don't know if I ever told my parents---if they ever knew at all---about the extent of my torment due to the shoes. I know I said, "I hate the shoes!" and would refuse to wear them, citing "kids teased me" but I'm not sure that registered how much it affected me. The difference is...I found my backbone. I'm pretty sure I'm more alpha than omega personality wise anyway. And (luckily???) my parents divorced later that year and we moved away, so I got a fresh start (sans shoes) and got a bit of popularity.

P.S. I do not think there is a nature vs. nurture debate here. I think it is a nature + nurture (meaning total environment, not simply parenting).
Julie Pippert said…
Chani, I prefer to focus on that too.

I have also witnessed ganging up and dogpiling within a group. I tried to use wisdom and learned lessons about when to stay quiet and when to speak but ultimately, it almost doesn't matter. Sometimes...people can act like dogs with bones.

Yes, there is no place for that type of thing.


atypical, thanks for taking the time to comment!

First, there is no length limit on comments. Say all you want to! I welcome all intelligent and insightful comments such as yours! You don't even need to agree with me. :)

Second, what you said. I think you were very clear.

I agree we need to distinguish between constructive criticism and unconstructive criticism. On AI, Cowell is often very honest, "That was utterly forgettable," for example, but that's still not constructive. "That wasn't a standout because you sang the words only, put your heart into it and let us hear how the song is your story, make it uniquely yours by opening up in the song," is constructive, for example. The personal attacks are horrid and unecessary. I squirm too.

I understand what you mean about the playground and online bullies.

I also know that feeling of "defensive" after reading certain posts. I have posted what I always hope are respectful disgareements.

"But on the flip-side of the coin, I am also saddened when, sometimes, someone posts a comment that disagrees with the writer (and comes across as relatively judgemental), and they are attacked by the regulars with a fierceness far beyond any intended by their original comment. I think this is an unfortunate consequence to the defensive walls built to protect against the truly spiteful attacks." And right there---you hit on one of the important points for me, it's something I've seen frequently enough that I call it by name: White Knighting.


Queen, I'm so glad to hear about a teacher who is active and proactive about bullying. I do think now there's more knowledge and less tolerance for bullying in school.

And truly, I LOVE that POV that we build them up after things tear them down.

That's a great way to think of it.


Mary-Lue, take all the time you want. :)


Mary-G, Thanks for commenting! Like I said above, I welcome gratefully comments like this that add to the discussion! And no limits on length. :)

About the girls bit...I agree it's tough to say with any confidence that either sex is tougher. I think both can be quite cruel. If this stems from my comments to slouching mom, what I believe we were talking about is the manner. Girls can understand people well and can zing a really well-aimed personal insult. Then again, I've known boys to do the same.

You hit the nail on the head with poit 2, I think.

As for point 3, yes, I think we need armor. I think one of the best ways to get armor is through diverse intersts. That way, one thing isn't too important. KWIM?


Jen, if only you had been on my playground and in my gym class. LOL

Yes, it surprises me too.

I didn't hear why Amy Goodman had him on (is it really No Bullying Day?) but she was interviewing the guy who about 35 years ago did that psychological study with college students---some were prisoners, others were guards? It was fascinating to hear him talk about it all these years later.

SIX DAYS. That's all. SIX DAYS. It was meant to be two full weeks but they cut it short becaise of how out of control it got--and he said he includes himself in that!

He said everyone is okay, but every single person in the study carries it through life. He said a number of them are all still in touch.

Isn't that something?

It is inexplicable to me how some feed on pain.


Alice, thanks! I also think inside us are remnants of who we were once and what we experienced.

I also find myself re-assessing tolerances and intolerances, assumptions and conclusions.
Bones said…
"Sometimes...people can act like dogs with bones."

Are you trying to say I hang out with dogs? =)
kim said…
It has taken me awhile to read your posts on this topic, follow the links and digest the info. Much to think about.

I am still confused/horrified as to what could cause such hate. Not that anything could justify it, but WTF?!

"form of narcissism where they peer into their own perceived cleverness and fall in love."

Loved this line. This pretty much describes almost every pundit out there.

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