Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fun Facts!

And by "fun" I mean "ranty," and by "facts" I mean "crap that's on my mind right now."

I've been thinking a lot lately about "adult bullying." To me, that seems like an oxymoron. I would think that if one is an adult, i.e. "fully developed and mature," one would not engage in bullying, correct? Then I remember that physical adulthood has no necessary relationship to mental or emotional maturity. At that point, I usually find it necessary to bang my head against something until the stabby feeling goes away, but I digress....

According to, when we talk about a bully, this is what we mean:



noun, plural -lies, verb, -lied, -ly·ing, adjective, interjection

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
2.Archaic. a man hired to do violence.
3.Obsolete. a pimp; procurer.
4.Obsolete. good friend; good fellow.
5.Obsolete. sweetheart; darling.

–verb (used with object) act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.

–verb (used without object) be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

8.Informal. fine; excellent; very good.
9.dashing; jovial; high-spirited.

10.Informal. good! well done!

This particular definition leaves out the meat-and-cattle related meanings of the word. Clearly, "bully" can mean a lot of things. Let's narrow it down a bit.

1.a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

–verb (used with object) act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.

–verb (used without object) be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

In 1, what I feel to be the key is the use of the word "habitually," as well as the phrase "smaller or weaker people." You can be mean to someone once, and it's not necessarily bullying-just being kind of an asshole that particular day. What makes it bullying is when it becomes "business as usual." The "smaller or weaker" part is what I feel needs some clarification. Some cases of bullying are clearly a stronger person picking on a weaker one. The classic television portrayal of a bully, like Nelson on The Simpsons, fits this category. Sometimes the "strength" is that found in numbers-several people can gang up on one, thereby intimidating the single person. Social status can also be a powerful source for the bully's "strength," as anyone who attended high school can tell you. In any case, bullying is not so much about actual strength or weakness as it is about making the victim believe that they are weak and the bully/ies is/are strong.

I'm pretty sure that most people have been the victim of bullying at least once in their lives. Whether it was twenty years ago on the playground, or yesterday at the office, someone has likely tried to impose their will upon you in a hurtful and terrifying way. That's a hard situation to face, regardless of your age. It's easier for some than for others, but it's a rare person who can face down a bully without even the slightest bit of apprehension.

At this point, the subject matter starts to tie into my recent fascination with the fat acceptance movement. On one site, I found some references to the experience of fat hatred (which is just bullying by a different name, in my opinion) both past and present, and how the discussion participants would love to be able to talk to both their younger selves and their bullies. Many of them posted what they would put in a letter to their younger selves. I think that's a fantastic idea. Whether your bullying experience is current or years in the past, what would have helped you (or is helping you) deal with it? Did you merely survive the bullying, or did you thrive in the face of it? If you were bullied for being "different," did you assimilate to try to make it stop, or did you continue to flaunt your uniqueness? What would you say to your past bullies? To a hypothetical bully now that you're older and (theoretically) wiser? Also, can you make a list of things about yourself that you love or just refuse to change, but for which you have been bullied or criticized? (In a rare display of love for feel-good lingo, I'm calling it an "empowerment list.")

I actually plan to post my responses to a lot of the questions I've asked here. First, my empowerment list. I'm going to write it in big pink letters, because that makes me happy.

I am not "girlie," I am womanly. I value my femininity, but I don't feel the need to behave a certain way to validate said femininity. I don't have a specific standard of beauty to which I believe the whole world must adhere. I don't giggle.

I will not participate in "fat talk" or general cattiness. Women are too cruel to one another, and I will not contribute to that. I would love to have more female friends, but many of my personal rules have thus far interfered with that. Unfortunately, many women just don't seem to "get" the things that I value or believe in.

I identify as bisexual, but am currently in a hetero relationship. That doesn't mean that I want to sleep with anything that moves, or that I make out with girls when I'm drunk to impress boys. It does mean that I love and desire whoever I happen to love and desire, and I don't worry so much about what gender they are.

I may be in a committed relationship now, but I haven't always been. Before this relationship, I sometimes liked to have sex with someone without feeling the need to immediately start calling them my boyfriend/girlfriend. I am a sexual being, and my sexuality does not conform to many people's standards of acceptability. This is not to say that I inappropriately boasted about my sex life at any time. However, information has a way of getting out sometimes. When it did, I didn't bother to lie or rush to "legitimize" my experiences. To some people, that makes me a "slut." To me, it just means that I value honesty and integrity.

I am loud. I do not have a small voice or a small personality. I can modulate my volume when it is situationally appropriate. However, I will not stop laughing heartily or turn my everyday speaking voice into a whisper just because "nice girls should be more quiet."

I care what people think of me. That doesn't mean that I will change myself to please someone else, simply that it hurts when someone has a very negative opinion of me. It is human nature to desire acceptance and affection. I happen to feel that part of human nature very strongly. This is why bullying has always affected me so deeply.

I do my best to not take shit from anyone. This is probably why, when I've been bullied, it typically gets worse before it gets better. Someone pushes me around, I push back (or at the very least stand firm and refuse to let them push me over), they push harder, rinse and repeat. Most of the people who have tried to push me around in my adult life have either given up or found themselves on the receiving end of legal action. I have been the one to back down once or twice, but I usually try to tough it out.

I am highly emotional. Of course, this has its drawbacks at times-my emotions can sometimes interfere with my logic, I've been known to overreact to some situations, et cetera. However, by and large I think my capacity to feel contributes hugely to my fantastic personality.

I think I'm beautiful just the way I am. Sure, I've had some conflicts with my body. I think most women have. But when you get right down to it, I've always been blessed with an unusually high level of body confidence. I am 5' 3" and weigh close to 170 lbs. I'm about five pounds away from being medically classified as "obese." My c-section scar means that, unless I starve myself and/or work out obsessively, I will never have a flat stomach even if I were to lose weight. My breasts sag a little from having breastfed for nearly a year. I have insanely crooked teeth-one of them sits nearly sideways. My hands are calloused from a combination of hard work and playing string instruments most of my life. My fingernails are extremely short, and I usually don't polish them. When I wear makeup at all, it's because I think it's fun, not because I think I need to.

I eat what I'm hungry for, when I'm hungry. I use full-fat dressings because I think they taste better, and 1% milk because I don't like the way fattier milk feels going down my throat. I eat in public. I sometimes go to a restaurant alone and don't bring a book or a project to make myself look busy. I just enjoy my meal.

Above all, I am real. This is, I think, what scares people the most about me. I don't bullshit about anything, really. I don't lie to spare people's feelings, though I may try to be tactful in how I say things. I don't play "fake nicey-nice" with people I don't like, though I will make every effort to be civilized and interact with them in an adult manner when necessary. I may tone down certain aspects of my personality or refrain from talking about certain subjects when "polite society" or "appropriate behavior" requires, but I will never change who and what I am to please anyone but myself. If you don't like me, it might actually make me sad for a while, but in the end it's really not my problem. To pretend to be what I'm not would be to lie to myself, and I don't deserve to be lied to.

There are a thousand more things I could probably put here, but these are the ones that are most significant to me at this very moment. These are the things that have "invited" the most pain into my life recently, the things that have offended the sensibilities of the most people, and I think it's about time I took a real stand and claimed them.

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