With bullying front and center in the news after Amanda Todd’s tragic suicide I found myself reflecting on my personal experiences on the subject. I certainly wasn’t the victim of persistent bullying, but there are a few incidents that have stuck in my mind:
- In grade 4 an older kid (a grade 5) kicked my lunch box down the street. My dad took me over to his house and had a chat with his father and he apologized. I’m now friends with him on Facebook and he’s since apologized for real.
- In grade 8, I had a disagreement with a girl in my class and she got excessively angry with me and starting slapping me and punching me and what-have-you. Having been raised to never, under any circumstances, ever hit a girl, I just took it. Later that afternoon my teacher made a snide remark about me getting beat up by a girl in front of the whole class. To this day I don’t know if I said it or if it was something I thought I ought to have said, but the phrase “What would you have done if had I hit her back?” keeps popping into my head. The girl and I became friends days later and today we chat occasionally on Facebook.
- In grade 9 the older brother of a girl in my grade (and who was on my paper route) shoved me in a locker. Well, he tried. I pulled the old cat trying to avoid a bath trick and never made it in. That didn’t stop word from spreading that I actually had been shoved in though. Who were people going to believe, a grade 9 geek or a grade 12 punk? Facebook status for her: not friends but would friend. As for her brother, we’re not Facebook friends now and not ever likely to be.
- One of my friends in high school dated a bully for a couple years. He liked to assert his masculinity by pushing me around and threatening me. I suspect it was because he was insecure in his relationship, and as a person in general. I’m still friends with the girl (yes, on Facebook too). I don’t care to ever be Facebook friends with the guy.
And then there was the time I was walking into a hockey rink and was punched by someone for allegedly “smiling at him”. Turns out a local gang was hanging out there and were looking for trouble. Before I knew it a pack of them had shoved me into an empty change room and were laying the boots to me. Boots and fists… and elbows… and knees, though I remember only one knee – the one that, as my head was being pushed down, came up and caught me right in the face. After that, it was all a blur of Doc Martin’s and Air Jordan’s and the taste of blood. They say you can’t actually remember the feeling of pain, but I sure remember what I was feeling.
Despite the arena manager and first responding officer telling me that I shouldn’t pursue action for fear of retribution, I pursued action. They caught 3 of the guys and two plead out and got something like 6 months probation. The “ring leader” got 2 years probation and a whole lot of other conditions like curfew and restraining order limiting his distance from me and so forth. After what I went through, let’s just say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Young Offenders Act.
Today, even as I typed that last paragraph, my teeth clenched and I felt panic in my chest – and this all happened over 20 years ago.
Twenty years is a long time to be carrying around that memory, but it’s impossible to forget. Trust me, I’ve tried, but then something happens and I hear about it in the news and there it is again. Sometimes, and this is one that I’m having a hard time explaining, sometimes the reminder comes in a much less subtle way and hits me like a knee to the face.
Yesterday I found myself in Toronto helping out an old high school acquaintance by doing a bit of work as an unpaid extra in a music video he’s producing. A couple other guys from the old neighborhood were there too:
- The step son of my grade 8 teacher.
- A guy who was there that night I was attacked.
The step son of my grade 8 teacher is a year older than me but we went to the same high school and know a lot of the same people. It was nice talking to him and he and I actually made quite an impression on the crew during the shoot. We’re friends on Facebook now.
Wow. I hadn't read this post before. How amazingly powerful… thanks for sharing your experience with your readers.
Thanks Andrew for sharing your experiences It's very helpful for those who maybe face this kind of situations
Thank you, Gordon. I hadn't realized how profoundly I was affected by that moment in my life. It sounds cliche, but if even one person learns something from me sharing it then sharing it is well worth it.
I really hope it is. Thank you for reading, Carla.
Super powerful, it's a serious issue that should be treated as such. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Victoria.