Bully Shaming&#0153

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On October 31st, we said goodbye to Bully Prevention Month — 31 days of activities all across the country designed to raise awareness of and put a stop to bullying.

During the same month, a trend was blossoming on the internet.

It started with dog shaming, moved on to baby shaming, mom shaming, self-shaming, husband shaming and even, yep, that’s right folks, elf-shaming.

Today, in honor of the confluence of those two events, I urge you to help me usher in something truly deserving of shame.

Bully Shaming™.

It’s time to liberate yourself from the psychological chains of your past torment by giving that bully a good old-fashioned what-for.

I’m guessing there’s no shortage of people who have a ticket to ride the bully shaming train.

How many of you were bullied as a kid?  A teenager?  Even as an adult?

Most of us at some point, I bet.

I know I was.

I was lucky enough to escape physical bullying.  But I did get beat up about the head and neck with the psychological stuff.

Back then.

Not now.

Now I don’t let anybody intimidate me.  Which is maybe why I occasionally end up in a (verbal) fight with someone in the grocery store check-out line or in a parking lot.

Don’t mess with me. I will not take your shit.

But I digress.

Back when I was a kid, I didn’t really have what it took to defend myself.  I was kinda meek, insecure, vulnerable.  I’m not sure I thought all that much of myself.  So it was pretty easy to beat me down.

I also had a bad habit of keeping my troubles to myself, instead of sharing them with people who could help me. I know they were there.  I had a good set of parents.  Other family members I was close to.  I had some great teachers.

But I didn’t talk about it.  And ended up just feeling even lower and becoming even more vulnerable.

There was the guy who wouldn’t stop verbally abusing me because my long hair somehow touched his hamburger in the cafeteria when we were in 3rd grade.  He was still being mean to me and bringing up that stupid incident our Senior year in high school.

Me in high school at a moment when “hamburger guy” wasn’t around to make me cry.

For all I know, he’s still walking around cursing about hairs in his hamburger now, all these mutter-mutter years later.

Get over it, dude.  You’ve eaten 32,850 meals since 3rd grade.  You’ve swallowed much worse stuff than a hair, I promise you.

Also, just as an FYI, after high school, he asked me out.


Hell no, ya bully.

Wow.  This feels good.

I highly recommend it.

Then there was the big, broad-shouldered girl at my church…  Yes, church.  Who called me on the phone every afternoon for a month or so to tell me she was gonna beat my ass after Sunday School because I was flirting with her boyfriend at school.

Which I decidedly was not.

This bruiser would call me at my parents’ house, tell me I thought I was something, flirting with her boyfriend in class, thinking I was all special and shit with my big boobs, and that she’d be waiting for me when I walked out of church some Sunday soon.

Incidentally, this was the person who caused me to notice that I’d kinda grown some serious knockers almost overnight.

But instead of feeling proud, I was suddenly incredibly self-conscious.  And guess who has always tried to hide her boobs with squash-em-down bras and billowy shirts?

But the incident I’m featuring in my bully shaming photo is the probably one that did the most damage.

I had this “boyfriend” in 5th grade who I dumped for a 6th grader (who then dumped me, of course).

For some reason, the little brat never forgave me for not “like-liking” him anymore.

A couple of years later, when everyone was hanging out at the skating rink on weekends, he thought it’d be great revenge to start making fun of my full face by calling me Jaws.

Bully Shaming

And he didn’t stop there.

He ran around the whole place gathering up other asshole kids to taunt me with it.

And then, because he was a determined little demon, he made sure it bled over into school too.

And you know what?

I feel kinda small right now, just thinking about it.  All these mumble-mumble years later.

I still hate my cheeks.

It doesn’t matter how many people tell me they’re not even full.

I still try to suck in my cheeks when people take pictures.

I permanently altered my smile so as to keep my cheeks from chipmunking up too much when I really grin.

I developed a habit of putting my hand over my lower face when I laugh.

This one incident made me ashamed of something that was perfectly beautiful for the rest of my life.

I know there’s nothing wrong with my cheeks.  But I can’t completely shake it.  It’s like a wound that never fully heals.

Some of my former classmates read this blog.  I never told any of them how they made me feel, and I think that was wrong.

So today, I’m standing up to all the bullies in my past.

Here I am. Full-on chipmunk-cheeking and proud of it.

Hamburger guy, not-flirting-with-you-but-you-told-your-bruiser-of-a-girlfriend-I-was-guy, “Jaws” guy, and the others who haven’t been mentioned. Your words and actions were damaging. They left scars. And it’s time for you to get out of my head and get off of my cloud.

You are heretofore shamed.

Bully shamed.

Now get the hell out.

Ahhh, yes.

I may not have been able to say that then but now I can. It’s never too late.

And guess what? It’s not too late for you either.

Do you have a bully shaming story to share?

I bet you do.

So get up right now and grab a piece of paper and a pen, scribble down your bully shame (no names please), snap a photo and send it to me.  Find the upload button at the bottom of this page or email it to [email protected]

I would love to give you a forum to do what I just did.

You can also tweet it to me (#bullyshaming) or post to Facebook.

Just get it out there and see how liberating it can be.

I’m letting go of those wounds and hopefully showing some past, present or potential bullies how shameful what they do is.

Maybe a few of them will give it a second thought before they bully again.

Get on the bully shame train with me.  I double-dog dare you.


@toulouseNtonic, @bullyshaming, #bullyshaming on twitter

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BULLYING is the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person physically or mentally. Learn more about bully prevention at www.stopbullying.gov.

Click below to upload your bully shaming™ photo.  In the description field, add any links you’d like included if your photo is used.
Please read the T&T photo disclaimer below then type “I agree” in the description field before uploading your photo.
T&T Photo Release

Remember not to use any names in your bully shaming photo.

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  1. As the perpetual victim of Mean Girls throughout Junior High School, I know exactly where you are coming from. The main mean girl told me I had a square head and her mother told me I stomped around like an elephant and I never forgot either. The mean girls used to call me on the phone, secretly conferencing in each other, and then try to get me to talk about the other person on the phone “behind their back”. There was an incident at a Bat Mitzvah that totally devastated me but is too long to describe. And I could go on and on and on… but I’m over it now. I like to think that’s when my sense of humor was born. Because I don’t know anybody who is funny now that wasn’t teased when they were a kid.

    • ashersmom says:

      I think you’re on to something there. I know things got better and better as I figured out I could just laugh at myself louder than anyone else and most of it would go away. But it still leaves scars because when we’re young, we just don’t have the defenses and we’re so vulnerable to our peers. I’m glad it worked out for you, which it clearly did. Thriving is the best revenge!

  2. I am sort of in awe of your Jaws story, because I had such a similar experience at the same age that also had a lasting effect. Except my crappy bully made fun of my face for being too long and gaunt. I hate how those negative words have so much more impact than any positive ones. If only we had known one another back then – I could’ve given you some of my lengthy face, you could’ve given me some of your huge knockers, and we would’ve offset the difference on both. 😉

    • ashersmom says:

      I’m still kind of willing to do the mutual donation thing. I still have way too much boob.
      So sorry this happened to you. I do so know how it feels. It sucks that people can get to you that way when you’re so young and vulnerable. At least we’ve turned into strong women. Not everyone, I fear, is that lucky.

  3. I too was the victim of the Mean Girls thing in Middle School, and it didn’t help that I was the only black girl in our class. They were said anything clearly racially insulting, but it was clear that I was different. During recess the Mean Girls would tell me they were going to various locations to hang out – the bathroom, the field, a free classroom, the gym stairs and as soon as I got there they would all stampede away furiously as though I was a disease. The sad thing is that I believed they’d stay and hang out with me, and I fell for it over and over. Eventually this crew left our K-12 school and I fashioned myself into a snobby African American version of Molly Ringwald. As a good student I had the last laugh when college acceptances came in.

    As for the not taking shit, I hear ya. I too am continually getting into fights with strangers these days. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom, maybe it’s because I’m 40, but I am trying any way I can not to shrink into nothing when people try to belittle me.

    Now the next thing is blogger bullying – cause man I have gotten some shitty comments when I write for bigger sites!

    • ashersmom says:

      The getting in fights as an adult thing is kind of weird and makes my husband laugh whenever I come home with one of my stories. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does, I SEETHE. I tend to be extraordinarily nice until someone tries to intimidate me and then I go off. Maybe it’s tied to being victimized when younger…
      I think being a mom does account for some of it. Once I had a kid to protect, I turned into a momma lion, and NO ONE could mess with me anymore. Thank you for sharing your story. I’d love to see some of those Molly Ringwald outfits, btw.

  4. Well done, lady. I wouldn’t go back and relive that period of my life for anything, but I’m getting to the Won’t Take Any Shit part. I hope.

    • Anonymous says:

      Next time someone does you wrong embrace your inner Madea, of Tyler Perry fame, and go. Just make sure you won’t leave on a stretcher 🙂

  5. Unfortunately, someone you know and his friends were the source of my humiliation from elementary school all the way through high school. They made fun of my facial features in such a cruel way I still cannot look in the mirror and see anything but an awkward little girl.
    I forgave them all years ago, as this is what growing up means. But the pain never completely goes away.

    • ashersmom says:

      I edited your comment because I’m asking whomever takes part in bully shaming to not use names. I think the process is more about letting go of your own torment and showing others how their bullying hurts. Otherwise, I left your comment intact. It sounds like you suffered horribly and I’m so sorry. The most important thing is that it sounds like you forgave them, moved on and have realized your own beauty now. Congratulations and good job!

  6. I’ve been on both sides of the bully coin–and they both suck. People who bully only do it because they are totally broken inside. I know that doesn’t make the experience of being on the receiving end any better, but there it is all the same.

    I love what you are doing to step out from the shadow of the horrible things these bullies said to you. I would love even more to see a photo of you smiling your biggest, most authentic, BEAUTIFUL smile at the end of this post. SHINE ON, SISTER!

    • ashersmom says:

      I read your post last night and thought it was so brave of you to write about. And your dad was a smart smart man in how he handled your bullying. You are totally right about the photo of me smiling full out. I’m gonna add it to the post. Thank you for the support and the fantastic idea!

  7. I loved this post. Loved. Loved. Loved it. Okay, not because you were bullied, but because you’re speaking out about it, and you’re calling attention to it AFTER Bully Prevention Month. I have a story I can share (and will link back to this post), and I will submit a photo. I just need some time. Stay tuned!

  8. What you are doing here is brave and important. I think you are amazing.

    • ashersmom says:

      Maybe I’m not so amazing but I am just fine. And no one has the right to mess with me or anyone else. Sometimes I just think bullies don’t even realize the damage they’re doing. Maybe this can help a little…
      Thank you!

  9. Great post, and I love the idea of Bully Shaming. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s amazing how the things people tell you when you’re a kid can stick with you for life. I was once told that when I had short hair, and put it in a ponytail, I looked like a rat, but when I had long hair, I looked like a witch. I couldn’t win. I usually have long hair, and I usually love my hair, but sometimes I wonder if it’s looking a little witchy. Ah well. All the better to cast spells with, I guess.

    • ashersmom says:

      I’m sure your hair is much more bewitching than witchy. I LOVE that you said you usually love it. Rock that hair, right along with everything else, girl!

  10. I still remember back in elementary school when we were learning about the difference between fact and opinion. The teacher said something along the lines of a fact is something that can be proven to be true, like concrete being hard and that an opinion was something you thought was true but others might disagree with. She then asked if anyone could give an example of a fact. A few kids did – the standard “this pen writes in black”, “this desk has 4 legs” and so on. For the last one, a boy in class said he knew a fact. The teacher told him to go ahead and share. So what did he do? He shot up from his chair, looked at me and, with an evil smirk, declared “She’s UGLY!!!”. The whole class – including the *teacher* – burst out laughing and a lot of loudmouths agreed with him.

    I no longer think I’m ugly, but I don’t usually think I’m more than plain. So it takes me by surprise when I catch a glimpse of my eyes or cheekbones and think “Those are pretty” before realizing it’s my face I’m seeing.

    That happened in second grade. I’m nearly 34 now and can still see his mean little face clearly in my mind. Usually he’s banished to the netherworld, but sometimes it still haunts me.

    I’m going to work on getting a picture to you so that I can permanently banish him. I have a beautiful daughter (who looks just like me!), an amazing long term boyfriend and wonderful friends. Something that happened nearly 26 years ago should be a dead issue. I think a picture for bully shaming might just help with that. 🙂

    • The most disturbing part of this story is that the TEACHER laughed. If we sometimes have to be forgiving to children who are still learning what’s right and what’s wrong, we expect far more of adults and especially and teachers. I can feel how much that must’ve hurt and I hope making a bully shaming sign helps you let it go even more than you already have. It’s wonderful that you can objectively and accidentally see your beauty sometimes in a mirror or a window, and even more wonderful that you can see it in your daughter’s gorgeous face!

  11. Wonderful post. I recently had a mini-reunion brunch with a group of girls I went to elementary school and we spent a bit of time discussing the bully of our youth. It was fascinating to see that it seems much like you never forget that first love, you never forget that first Bully. Perhaps it is something about the first experience of such a raw and vulnerable emotion. Happily, in my experience, love got better with age, as did my ability to deal with a bully. Still, other bullies may have been worse, more cruel, more creative, had more hurtful stuff to work with – but the face of that first Bully is permanently attached to the word and the feeling.

    Our little class of 20-25 kids had a Bully problem with a capital B. So much so, that the school brought in a specialist to work with the class. He used an analogy that has stuck with me all these mumble mumble years later. He said that everyone has a bucket (presumably filled with self esteem but I dont think people used such phrases with 8 year olds in 1991). And some people – the bullies- have holes in their buckets and so they try and dip from everyone elses bucket to fill theirs back up. I can’t say it made it all better, but it helped to see the issue was with the bully, not with the bullied.

    I saw my elementary Bully recently at the funeral of a classmate of ours. Sadly, my stomach still dropped when I walked in and saw her. I wanted to turn tail and hide for a solid 20 seconds before I put on my big girl pants and walked up to say hi with a smile. Turns out, she is still pretty much a bully. You would think that at a funeral, it is hard to be a bully. But it is still totally possible- it just requires different tactics.

    At least now I am old enough to walk away from the conversation still wearing my smile, enjoying image of her lugging around an unwieldy leaky bucket. 🙂


  1. […] wrote this post to join forces with Suzanne of Toulouse and Tonic and her Bully Shaming project. We’re all writing about our experiences with bullying to free ourselves from the […]

  2. […] other day, I was over on Toulouse and Tonic’s blog reading her post on Bully Shaming™. If you haven’t read it, make sure you do. It’s an awesome post, and Toulouse is an […]

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