Bully For Me

Posted on: November 3rd, 2016 by
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Last week was my daughter’s school’s annual anti-bullying rally. Children, their parents/relatives, and school employees all wore blue to show our solidarity with each other against bullying. Our children each carried a blue sign that said, “I take a stand against bullying.” Like many schools, Ari’s elementary school has a “no tolerance for bullying” policy. I’m grateful for schools and individuals who take bullying seriously.

As we formed a large crowd of unity at the back of the school, with the playground in sight, I couldn’t help but think about the bullies I encountered in my young life. I winced as I thought of my monster bully. I was a teenager when the incidents happened.

The bully? An adult. My mom’s best friend. My best friend’s mom. Let’s call her M.

***
M’s daughter, B, and I had so much in common, it was no wonder we quickly became the best of friends growing up just down the block from each other in New York. Even better, our parents were close friends.

Kind of.

For the first few years of B’s and my friendship, everything was fine. Then when I became a teenager, the bullying started.

B’s mom was jealous of me. I was mature and driven academically, unlike B and her brother. I also started volunteering at a local animal hospital at 16 to get veterinary experience to prepare myself for veterinary school someday. B and M didn’t like the possibility that I might become a veterinarian and “out-do” them. (Becoming a veterinarian was my dream at the time.)

M and her daughter were seething with envy that I might accomplish more than they did. Whenever I was at B’s house, her mom would crush my spirit, telling me I wasn’t smart enough to accomplish my vocational dreams. Eventually B followed suit and picked on me, as well. Each time I had a counterpoint for why I could realize my dreams, the dynamic duo continued trashing me.

I would come home crying regularly after being at their home where the emotional abuse took place. My parents would try to comfort me, but mistakenly still encouraged my friendship with B, as they were still friends with B’s parents and were unwilling to relinquish the friendship. With my emotions so raw and teenage insecurities running so high, I continued being friends with B throughout college. After I switched my major to English, B and her mom gloated that their prediction was right: To them, I couldn’t accomplish that dream of becoming a veterinarian. My career aspirations were no longer a threat to them.

In addition, through high school and college, the venomous pair would made fun of my art, claiming I wasn’t a true artist. Every talent I had that B didn’t, her mother went on a toxic rampage against me. Once I graduated college, I got my head together and pressed the Delete button on my friendship with B without telling her or her mom why. Unfortunately, my parents continued to be friends with M and her husband, who actually was the nice one of the bunch.

Then, a fortunate turn of events. B’s parents retired early and moved to Florida. Finally, I wouldn’t have to hear about B and M anymore or worry about M stopping by when I was in town. There are many miles between New York and Florida, I gratefully surmised.

Until my parents retired and moved to the same area in Florida as B’s parents moved to. They are now minutes away from each other.

And like any parasite, M is trying to worm herself into my and my daughter’s life. M has thankfully never met my daughter, but M wants desperately to meet her so, I suspect, she can compare Ari to her own grandchildren and continue her legacy of bullying to the next generation. And M wants to rekindle B’s and my friendship, so we can pick up where we left off.

M is delusional. Ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

I’m all for letting the past remain in the past.

But what happens when the past invades your present?

***
Individual kids giving anti-bullying pledges into the microphone stirred me from my thoughts. And my daughter’s hand clutching mine gave me even more hearty resolve to make good on my promise to the universe that I would do my best to keep her safe.

As a mother, I will do my best to protect Ari’s emotional and physical well-being. And I know how sacred a child’s dreams are. Ari has a right to dream, and nobody has the right to take that from her.

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Have you ever been bullied or know of someone who has?

If I ever meet M, which could happen despite the unlikelihood, what would you recommend I say?


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4 Responses to Bully For Me

  1. Scott Johnson had this to say about that:

    I remember some belittling comments about my weight but it was hardly ever people close to me–we were all a mess in one way or another so picking on one of us got all of us on your case.
    Given the social / political chaos right now in the US it’s a very good time to make kids aware of bullying and all the ways it expresses itself. Like feeling superior to others because they are different (as in racism or nativism). What I find most disturbing is the growing sense that some groups “deserve” respect without themselves showing respect to others. Superiority without any responsibility to carry yourself as someone deserving of respect.
    Think you need to be honest with M. Doesn’t sound like you guys ever had a real relationship? Been thinking about being tolerant of peoples’ disagreeableness and tempering my own anger but there’s so many people who need help that spending time salvaging past train wrecks is a poor use of my time.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Scott, thank you for your comment. Yes, the political climate in the US is one that promotes bullying, I think. I try to stay out of politics in my posts, but one of our candidates is a huge bully.

      It’s interesting how you point out that maybe M and I never had a real relationship. I think you are onto something. If ever I meet M., I will tell her. I’m sure she couldn’t care less, and I think her trying to hurt me years ago was intentional.

  2. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    Oh dear Beth, your story touched me for many reasons. I can relate, although in a slight different way. My biological parents did not raise me as you know; my maternal grandparents did. The culture back then was very backward (still is!). Some people viewed my circumstances as somewhat strange, particularly because my parents were not married. My mother’s best friend’s mother bullied me for some time. My mother and her “best friend” stopped talking after my mom got pregnant of me (for complicated reasons I still do not understand – nothing to do with my father). But this woman, my mother’s best friend’s mom, made it her goal to convince me that my mother was not a good woman by society’s standards. She would say bad things about her in front of my friends! I was shy and very embarrassed. The problem was I could not tell my grandmother, because in the good old days, kids were always at fault. Anything I ever said to her, she always wondered if I had done something wrong to get those reactions from others. But I did NOT do a damn thing to get treated the way I did. Eventually I became aggressive and started calling my mother’s friend’s mother bad names. Eventually, she must have felt bad because she then started making clothes for me? I forgave her though. She made a nice white top for me once. Maybe that was a way for her to say she was sorry. I never told my grandma what she did to me. In a way, I did not want to worry her or make her feel embarrassed of our home situation or to make her feel people were talking about us.

    Catholic school was hard for me. I hated a lot of kids because they always acted entitled. Many came from rich families and the nuns gave them preference. And not being a top student at the time made things even more complicated for me to express myself. It’s really awful what children go through outside of their homes. It’s so important to be involved as a parent – ask the right questions, monitor your kids, pay attention to their behavior, have open conversations about fear and anger, etc. It’s important parents, and those in a high positions at schools, listen to every kids who expresses emotional pain or fear. I am sorry you have been a victim of bullying, Beth. But I am glad you made the decision to break the relationship. I wish your parents would have done the same, but they must have had their reasons. Still, sorry it happened this way.

    The fact that you wrote about this experience, and I can see you still feel some pain from that experience, suggests you must tell M and B about how you feel and what they represented to you. Help them be aware of themselves. Let them know they’ve hurt you. I’ve been able to forgive some kids because I’ve come to realize they were just kids at the time. But when an adult takes part in such a horrible behavior, they must be aware of the damage they’ve caused. I say you tell her the truth about how you feel. And you tell her mother why you wouldn’t want your daughter near them.
    Sorry for the long response. This is a touching topic for me. Thank you for bringing awareness to bullying. And I am glad your daughter’s school makes an effort to stop it.

    You’re a good mom.
    xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I’m way overdue in my reply to you, and I am sorry. It sounds like the woman who bullied you was nasty. It’s difficult when one is bullied by kids, but when an adult bullies a child, there’s no excuse. The adult has the upper hand because he/she knows how to hurt a child. The adult who bullies a child is a coward.

      I’m so sorry about what you experienced in Catholic school. It sounds simply awful.

      I will let M and B know how horrible they’ve been to me. What’s sad is that they don’t even know how they hurt me. They are clueless, but I’m thinking of telling them via letter.

      Thank you for your comment, Rebecca.

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