I was bullied as a child - Answering the Question: Were you bullied as a child?
This is a long hub. I apologize but when considering the bullying I have faced as a kid and in pondering what i have learned from it or how it has effected my life I felt there was no other way to explain it properly without fully illustrating. If I offend you, I am sorry, but I am writing with full visceral emotion and honest reasoning. That is essentially who I am in a nutshell and I can do no less.
This is a subject I know a lot about. As a child I was the chubby kid with overlarge glasses and greasy hair. Because I had been nearly drowned by someone intentionally I had a deep fear of going under water so getting me to wash my hair was a chore for my parents. All of these things made me a target, but the problem did not end there. At home the biggest bully of all time was waiting for me. My father was a big, scary monster of a man although he was loving and funny to spend time with he had a whole different idea of how to make me grow up to be as strong as he. I think it finally ended at home after the day he pulled my left arm out of its socket.
He had always taught me to stand up to the bullies so when I came back at him in an unreasonable rage he somehow didn't understand why I was doing so. He asked, "Son, stop it! What in the hell has gotten into you? He screamed. Sobbing I replied, You...told me...to stand up to bullies! You are the bully! I cried. I could see the realization wash over him as his expression softened. He promised he would stop bullying me and he asked that I promise not to tell anyone what he'd done. I agreed and after I calmed down he pushed it back into the socket and needless to say I have gone through life with a torn shoulder that never healed right.
From that day on his bullying lessened to a much smaller degree. I was ten or eleven at the time. As a kid my dad had been a junior boxer who would have fought for the Golden Glove if he hadn't broken his arm in a softball game. He taught me how to box and how to street fight south Philly style, where his family originated. The problem was that I was still the chubby kid and the bullies were much bigger and stronger. Still, I never backed down from anyone or anything. To say I took some thrashings from schoolmates is an understatement, but I will say that many of them eventually grew tired of my relentlessness and stopped bothering me after a time.
Then there was my much older half brother. He was big and strong and he could just grab my ankle and start punching the bottom of my feet at will. There was little I could do about it for much of my childhood. He was the kind of older brother who would not let you into his room, play with his toys or hang around with him. He was the epitome of a selfish, spoiled brat who was jealous that his mommy had other children. We also had a sister, I will get into her bullying later.
My older brother decided one day he was going to ignore the fact my father had been teaching me how to fight. He decided he might be able to teach me better since he was closer to my size. We were in the backyard and he had grabbed me from behind and told me to flip him over. He had been beating me up, literally punching me in the stomach and leaving me crumpled on the ground and then taunting me until I got up. This time I had enough and my tears turned cold. I took hold of his arm and flipped him right over onto his back and straddled his chest. Screaming bloody murder, tears streaming down my face I began to unload a terrible storm of blows down onto my older brother/most reviled bully of all. I recall my mother opening the kitchen window and screaming at me to get off my brother. She was also kind of smiling. She knew this had been coming. She told me so years later. My brother was bloodied and stunned and the end of the worst of his bullying had come.
As I got more confident in the upper stages of grade school, from the 4th to 6th grade, I got into fights still but I was not bullied as much as before. Sometimes older kids would target me but that was only occasional. The next and most dangerous stage of my experience with bullying occurred once my family had moved from our almost completely white neighborhood to one that was mixed and experiencing racial discord.
Now, as a boy I had never been taught to hate. I had black friends growing up and one of them had three older sisters. I was enamored with every one. Not only were they tall, thin and beautiful they were also very elegant and classy. I would go over his house and they would smile and hug me just to make my face turn red. Then they would get me to do their chores for them, things i would never do at home unless mom asked me to. I didn't mind, anything to get them smiling at me again.
In this new town racism was prevalent but so was isolationism and bullying. I had a whole new playing field to deal with and an entirely different sort of foe. All this after I had finally garnered some respect after dealing out some beatings to those who had once bullied me. It was back to the drawing board.
While most black kids would not even talk to me because I was white many of the white kids would have nothing to do with me because I was new. I was also, still in seventh grade, that chubby short kid with the big glasses. I was a fresh target. That year of seventh grade was pure hell. I got my gym clothes stolen so many times I simply gave up trying to dress for gym class. I had been cornered by large groups of black kids and verbally abused so many times I gave up trying to be friends with them as a whole.
The thing was that while i was in my appropriate age group in seventh grade there was a huge number of black kids who had been held back more than one year in grade school and now they simply towered over the rest of us. Literally they were giants among us. They couldn't read or write but they could throw a punch, take my word for it. There were fun games like, Lets see how hard I can punch this white boy in the chest before he falls down! My favorite, or Lets see if this white boy will start to cry if we all surround him and call him names and threaten his life! That was always a good one. They couldn't know that my dad had prepared me well for this sort of thing. I never cried or flinched. Even when kicked sharply in the groin I would save my tears and pained expression for when they weren't looking.
After that first year I had learned a lot and then found out the lesson had only just begun. My father died that summer of Pneumonia. The most feared man I had ever witnessed had died from what I thought was little more than an extended case of the flu. Everything I knew now came into question. My father had worked every day of his life in order to provide for his family only to die at the age of forty. I was stunned and unable ot truly deal with what happened until I was in my later teen years.
That next year in school was tough. With no fatherly advice and my mother staying in bed most of the time due to depression I was largely on my own. I had made a few friends but these were outcasts and the unwanted. They were the sort of guys who would stand by quivering while you got jumped by a couple bigger kids. If one of the black kids asked them to set me up for a beating I had no idea what was coming since they would jump at the chance to get in their good graces. They had no idea about loyalty, they were heartless cowards, liars and thieves. The worst sort of all they were the bullied who had given up and accepted their lot in life. That would never be me. As the year moved I encountered constant confrontations, abuse, assaults, taunts and in the face of all of it I tried to prove myself. I knew what my father would say, what he would think of me after every situation and I strove to do what I thought would make him proud. I was never allowed to hit anyone, or be the bully, but when I defended myself in convincing fashion my dad always grinned with pride. That became the focus in my mind for the next four years. School and the work that came with it were mostly ignored.
Even when surrounded by a gang of much larger and older black kids I would not back down. I would give it back to them verbally as good as they gave it to me and this gained me some much needed respect. It also made them wonder and thus for the most part they began to learn that I was not to be bullied. I lived right across the street from the high school so many fights ended up after hours on my front lawn. Most of the fights were uninteresting and uneventful, usually someone outside of the battle would get involved and it would fall apart after that. What do I mean by that? I mean that once you establish yourself as someone who can stand up for yourself and even fight for yourself the black kids are too cowardly to face you one on one. This is when I learned the truth about the black kids.
They were afraid and they struck out at anyone who would take the abuse because they felt powerless to do anything else. They failed in school and knew they were going to fail in life so they had nothing other than bullying to make them feel better. I began to give as good as I got. The third year, my second year in eigth grade I had begun to grow, finally. I began to work out a little and I began to run the streets like an animal. All this made me physically strong and the constant confrontations and brawls were making me cold and unafraid. I began to taunt entire groups of kids, white or black, and I began to discover that most people are cowards when confronted.
At times I was so on edge I without thinking reacted violently to the wrong situation. Walking out of the school toward my home with my little girlfriend holding my hand a group of white kids were waiting for me. They respected me, had witnessed me decking other kids in school for very minor affronts and thought for some reason it would be a laugh to pelt me with snowballs and give me a good whitewash. Truth be told my reaction would not have been so severe if I had not had my girlfriend with me.
I launched myself after the kid who whitewashed me. A one time friend now due for punishment. I put up my hands and told him flat out, "Put your hands up, cause I am going to kick your ass!" Smiling he put his hands up, I straightened out with my right and broke his nose in a single blow. Instantly he began crying and he ran off toward home. I still feel badly about this. the kid had to run like ten long blocks to get home with a bleeding, broken nose. I turned toward the other three kids and they simply put their open hands in the air and backed away with all haste. That day they learned the meaning of the adage, let sleeping dogs lie.
After that day I really began to get the respect and fear I was looking for. The sort of fear that made people leave me be. You see, that was all I ever wanted, honestly, just like any other kid. I wanted to be left alone. I had been beaten and battered mentally and physically for so long I was tired. I was weary in my soul from constantly having to look over my shoulder and believe me I had to constantly be on the lookout. One of the worst moments came when a black kid who outweighed me by a hundred pounds easy, half a foot taller than me and with a complete lack of compassion mounted his ten speed and barrelled toward me from behind. I recieved a lackluster, halfhearted warning from the cowardly white kid next to me and didn't turn around in time. I recieved such a blow to the back of my head that my face drilled the concrete and my glasses scattered everywhere. Lights flashed in my vision and there was a frigthful ringing in my ears that hung around for days. I got to my knees only to look around with blinded eyes for the source of this terrible impact. This was the first time I ever used the N word repeatedly and with venom.
Certainly not the first time a black kid hit me when I wasn't looking I decided this was not going to happen again. From that point on I began a campaign against bullying. I was getting bigger and stronger and the bullies were finding easier targets now. I made it my business to intercede whenever possible. Before long I had a bit of a reputation and my list of enemies was growing.
The bullied becomes the anti bully!
For some reason girls liked me. I wish I had known that then but I was too busy looking over my shoulder. While I did have a couple girlfriends I tended to become obsessed with them. After losing my father I had bit of a hang up about people leaving or betraying me. So eager for attention I was prone to believe the first thing I was told and so one of my girlfriends introduced me to a whole new group of people in town who wanted to kill me. These were older guys who the girl had betrayed to be with me. She played every side of the fence and then some, she was very convincing and I enjoyed the constant sex. I wanted to believe her because to do otherwise would have crushed me.
Word got around that I had a bounty on my head. Gangs of white dudes started walking by my house, loudly proclaiming they were going to collect. I laughed at this, after what I had already been through this was just another fun challenge to my thinking. My reputation was bigger than their courage apparently because no one ever tried to collect. Eventually the bounty was forgotten and my enemies skulked on the other side of the hallways and streets in order to avoid me.
My final year in school was all mine. Though I rarely showed up for most classes I was never far away. I was waiting for bullies to rear their heads so I could intercede and make them look bad. It was fun and rewarding and it was better than taking the same tests I had been taking for the past two years. That's right, it was my third year in eight grade. Now, I never had a problem with my grades in school, I was always too distracted and nervous to perform as well as I could and should have but I never failed a grade until this new town and the constant harassment.
I guess the only difference at this point from my later years in grade school was the fact my father was not around to punish me. As a kid I would get into a fight only to get beat up at home for fighting. This from a man who had pointedly made sure I could fight! Oh, the hypocrisy!
During my last year in school my favorite teacher told me I had actually made it to her class thirty one times that year. Talking with my other teachers she'd learned that I showed up to her class more than any other by far. She took it as a compliment. I was approached by the principle and he made me an offer. They knew I was not dumb and that I had been failing because of the constant turmoil they did nothing about. They told me that if I attended every class for the rest of the year they would put me up to tenth where I belonged the next year. I was shocked and I agreed happily, but it was not to be.
My enemies could care less about the deal I had made with the principle. Things had went from bad to worse as kids of all colors began to come to school armed with deadly weapons of all sorts. This was a response to the race riots that had broken out downtown. A white man who had bought some drugs from a black man only to find it was soap had decided he would take matters into his own hands. Later information revealed the man had been much like me, constantly under the threat of being jumped or harassed. Snorting soap up his nose was the last straw, ironically. He took a shotgun and blew a man away.
Later in life I find that it is typical hypocritical behavior for blacks to respond super indignantly when one of their own is killed or beaten by a white. I knew this somewhat already because when I had stood my ground and fought back successfully against them they always went and found one of their much older brothers or cousins to stand behind. Many times I was confronted by an adult African American who wanted to know who the hell I thought I was punching his little brother or cousin in the face. It didn't matter to these cowards that they were bigger than me for most of those years or that they always outnumbered me in every situation. Logic and common sense had no meaning to these idiots.
One day in school, during music class, a black kid started swinging a chain with a wooden block on the end. The block of wood was pierced through with many, many sharp nails. He immediately looked to me and said, "WTF you gonna do now, Barnes?"
I pulled out my old school billy club and said, "Bring it on. You cant beat me with your hands and you cant beat me with a weapon!" He swung and I ducked. The chain was long and he had me on reach by a long shot. I picked up a desk in one arm and used it as a shield. He swung and I raised the desk and the nails embedded into its surface. I yanked the chain and he leaned forward, off balance. I stepped forward and gently lay my billy club against his face and whispered, "I win, stupid, I win." He laughed and dropped the chain. Lucky for him I never enjoyed hurting anyone and I certainly would not have enjoyed caving his empty skull in that day.
All of these moments and situations are just small examples. There are so many other occasions, like when the girl pushed me off my seat on an amusement ride in Dutch wonderland and busted my head open. I had a major concussion and lost my memory for most of a year. I was only seven at the time and my sister explained the girl was a bully and she said she didnt like me, that was why she did it. So, you see I have been bullied from every angle in life including by my older sister. Her ill treatment continued into our teenage years where she would literally try to turn my girlfriends against me and find them other boyfriends! I mean this was real! She did this even to my latest girlfriend who I have been with for twenty years now!
I don't know why I have been a target but I can say that all of what I had to face as a young child and young man certainly made me the person I am today. That however is a double edged sword. While I am mentally strong and physically deadly when provoked this is not what this life is about. All of the things I learned have not helped me in my day to day life. Really, if I could walk into a place of employment and lean over a guy and say, "Hire me or I am going to have to put a hurtin' on ya." Then I can honestly say I would never have a problem finding work but life doesn't work that way and nor should it.
I fought back against the bullies and helped others in need because i disagreed. To use their tactics would be a horrible thing for me to do in light of all i have gone through. My early childhood coupled with the early loss of my father made me bitter, resentful and unmotivated. What good was working your tail off if you die inexplicably at a young age? What point is doing the right thing when there are so many others around who do not, yet still find a way to get by? It was a self defeating mindset, one that convinced me i should and would never have children of my own, I would never marry and there was no way I was going to be a slave for the rest of my life to some company or corp that only cared about themselves.
This is why I have struggled. Though I have learned and grown I still bristle at the thought of being stuck working for the rest of my life for someone else. This is why I took up writing. It was something I knew i could do and after a time i learned to do it well. I figured if I could get published at least i would have accomplished something meaningful to me. At least i had tried to succeed on my own, without the aid of others or the need to work for someone else. It hasn't been an easy road. I have never been financially well off.
That being said I would not take back those decisions. Of course I would like to go back and accept that date with the girl of my dreams rather than clinging loyally to the girl who was never true or loyal to me. I would go back and beat the crap out of the very first bully who spoke to me in hopes that the following bullying would not occur or at least be lessened. I may have even told on my dad when he pulled my arm out of its socket, but I would not change my decisions. I will work for someone else, and will always strive to be the hardest worker and best employee in the building but I will never relinquish my dreams. Without them i am nothing more than a mindless cog in the great machine. A machine that will run long after I have passed, a machine that never even knew my name. Though i hate the machine I will feed it as long as i must but advancement is not in my itinerary. To advance in the eyes of the employer is to fall further in debt to the slave owner who sees me as nothing more than another commodity which can be replaced.
What did I learn?
Sadly many of the things I say I have learned from these years of turmoil are not all positive. I have learned that being a pacifist only makes you a victim. I learned that nothing is more rewarding than standing up for what you believe in. I learned that life is not as simple as big brother would have you believe. Its hard to stay within the lines and find success when someone is constantly threatening to punch you in the back of the head or rape your girlfriend. Its hard to respect big brother when he turned a blind eye to the abuse i was receiving. Because i was just one little white kid I was not worth the effort of helping, I suppose. Or perhaps the blacks in charge thought it was ok for a white kid to get jumped and worse on a regular basis. I learned the hard way that racism exists in every mind and in every level of society. Those who cry racist the loudest are in fact, take my word for it, the biggest racists of all!
The most important thing I have learned though is not to depend on anyone else. Not to ask for help or expect others to do what I would in any given situation. I have what could be dubbed a heroic mindset. Most people have not seen a tiny fraction of the turmoil I have so they could not be prepared for the things I have taken so casually. This mindset and my experiences were what made me so succesful as a medical transport driver in Camden county, NJ. I drove through the worst gang ruled areas fearlessly. Just by doing so and by readily confronting anyone who dared challenge me I built a reputation as someone who should not be crossed. One client, who was a large African American gentleman whom I called friend at the time, laughingly informed me of this.
One day I dropped him off at a shady corner on which a lot of other blacks were standing. I got out of the car because i had to check my slow leaking tire. They got one look at me and decided it was time to go. My client/friend was holding up his pants as he chased after them explaining there was nothing to fear. Now, my first thought was that they thought I was a cop. White skin, bad neighborhood, must be a cop. But I am a long haired, grizzled fella and lets be honest I do not look like a police officer.
Days later I saw this client again and he informed me that my reputation proceeds me. He said, "They swear to god you carry a gun under you seat!" I laughed and shook my head.
"Barnsey, I'm serious! They said you roll right on through their set like you packing hard and they ain't even trying to play with you!" Really? Now that was cool. It was all I ever really wanted. I wanted to be left alone. My attitude and confidence spoke volumes apparently and I never had a single problem or confrontation with a single person, black, white or brown while driving through the "set".
As a final thought while I believe that some amount of bullying can make you a stronger person there is such a thing as going way overboard. My experiences decided my fate in many instances and the results of those instances have steered my life down the road it has taken. Because of bullying I have not been very successful but because of bullying I feel more in control of my destiny than anyone I know. While most of my friends are hugely successful in their fields and are raising families I honestly have no regret. I am a simple man with simple needs and therefore am easily satisfied and overjoyed. I have learned to appreciate the smaller things in life. I have learned that there is a much greater reward in this life awaiting those who can see it. Those who can see past the dollar signs.
As a final note I would like to thank the questioner for asking this question in the first place. It inspired me to spend two hours writing about things that I should have probably talked to someone about a long time ago. I feel good, better in a way, and I think the next person that angers me will get no more than a smile in return.
- Medical Transport Driver; Part 1
Read about the not so glamorous life of a medical transportation driver in Jersey. Taxi cab confessions has nothing on this series of tell alls!
- A Cold and Unforgiving World - Barnsey's Attempts at...
One hubber's most popular poem on the internet! Read it now because you'll want to know what everyone is talking about!