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.
Today, in honor of the confluence of those two events, I urge you to help me usher in something truly deserving of shame.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now get the hell out.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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Remember not to use any names in your bully shaming photo.