Today is Pink Shirt Day, a.k.a. Anti-Bullying Day, a day to wear a pink shirt and let it be known that you are taking a stand against bullying. I don’t have a pink shirt, so I won’t be wearing one today, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take a stand against bullying.
I don’t have the numbers, but I believe it’s safe to say that every person in this world, in some way or form, has been bullied. And, I bet not a single person can say that they’ve never bullied someone either, even if they don’t realized they’ve done it. Talk about someone behind their back? Yep – that’s bullying. Call someone a moron because they misspelled or mispronounced a word? Again – bullying. Earlier this week I read about a young boy who wore a pink shirt to school to show his support behind the “end bullying” movement and he was made fun of. Wow. Some people’s kids.
When I was growing up, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it many times on this blog, I was bullied. From my last name (“Puppy Chow!” “Chow Mein!” “Dog Chow!”), to the darkish upper lip hair (“You forgot to shave!”), to puberty symptoms (“You stink!” “Your face looks like a pizza!” “Do you have chicken pox?”). Eventually those insults stopped once I got to high school, but then an onslaught of new gems came on once I cut my hair super-short near the end of my Grade 8 year:
I remember standing in the hallway during break and one of the popular (and attractive) Grade 11 guys hurling a sandwich at me and asking me if I was a lesbian. I’m not sure which hurt more – the words or the sandwich. So maybe the haircut wasn’t such a good idea, but did I deserve the insults? Probably not. Needless to say, I grew it out and during spring break got a new, stylish haircut, went to Palm Springs, and came back an entirely new person. That pretty much ended the bullying, and I was able to survive the rest of high school as a mediocre teenager: Popular enough to get by without being made fun of.
Unfortunately, I know that can’t be the same for a lot of kids I knew in high school. So many were never safe from the hurtful words of the “popular” kids, not even those with permanent disabilities like Downs Syndrome, or brain damage from car accidents. There were kids who crumbled to the “popular” kids’ demands, embarrassing themselves just to gain approval of their peers.
I will also sadly admit to being a bully myself. I won’t even say it was to make myself feel better about my own insecurities, although I’m sure a psychologist would say otherwise. I did it because my friends did it, and who doesn’t do what their friends do? It’s too easy to be a sheep. The girl we would make fun of was a little different than us. She dressed differently, she had a lazy eye, walked funny … good enough reasons for us to make fun of her and cast a shadow on her existence. I remember she got mad at one of us and tried to throw a punch. We even laughed at the way she punched.
Now that I look back on it, I feel horrible for being mean to her. I’m not saying we could have been friends, but I shouldn’t have acted the way I did. So, if one day she reads this, I’d just like to apologize for being a horrible bitch to you. Actually – to every person who I may have bullied, I apologize. And to those who bullied me – I forgive you.
We really do need to take a stand against bullying. There have been far too many stories in the news about kids being teased and picked on to the point where they’re hurting themselves, or even worse. I fear for my daughter ; no parent wants to hear about their child being a bully, nor do they want them to be on the receiving end of it. I truly hope that neither becomes true for Isla.
To parents: Talk to your kids about bullying. There’s a saying that my mom would always say to me, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Do it. Teach it. Lead by example. Don’t turn a blind eye if you get word that your child is being a bully because there may be a reason why. And don’t just tell a child who’s being bullied, “Sticks and stones …” because words really do hurt.
I’ll leave you with the TV commercial for Pink Shirt Day. And, if you haven’t already, watch this YouTube video posted by Canadian poet Shane Koyczan, which I originally posted last week.