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Bullying #SOL24

March 9, 2024

music to my years by cristela alonzoI’m currently listening to Cristela Alonzo’s memoir Music to My Years*, and I just got to the part where she talks about being bullied in high school, which of course made me think about being bullied.

(Uh, I guess this is the part where I mention that though Cristela is a comedian, her book is not a comedic one. I mean, maybe it will be later, but right now it most definitely is not.)

So, anyway. Bullying. Yeah, it sucks. I would say the bulk of my bullying happened in middle school, and it was super bizarre to me. For one thing, I had never been picked on bullied before. (As another parenthetical, “bullying” is my therapist’s language. “Picked on” is mine. Apparently they are the same. Who knew? Anyway.) And I had never been picked on for being smart, which is what most of my bullying consisted of. I made the mistake of telling my classmates I had skipped a grade, and they never let me forget it. In fact, I met up with someone I knew from middle/high school in the Before Times, and he brought it up again, saying something like “Yeah, we all know. You skipped a grade” like it was something I had said all the time, and I know that it wasn’t. I said it one time, maybe twice after someone asked how old I was. I also got picked on for the way I looked, which had never happened before then, and the way I dressed. (Did you know that your pants are highwaters if someone can see your socks when you sit down? Even if they meet the tops of your shoes when you’re standing? Well, that’s also something I found out there.)

Anyway, I was thinking about the difference in the way Cristela handled her bully vs. the way I dealt with mine. For her, she used winning and accomplishments to thwart her bully. And by thwart I mean she decided to give him a reason to hate her by beating him at things she knew he cared about. Which, honestly, is a pretty sweet revenge tactic. I haven’t finished the chapter yet, but so far, this has not caused him to let up on taunting her, but it has shut him up at least a little bit.

My approach was a little different. One thing she says in her chapter is that her bully went out of his way to make mean comments about her, loud enough that she could hear and sometimes directly to her. She would get visibly upset and/or complain to the teacher who did nothing. (It was the ’90s.) My approach was a little different. I wouldn’t give my classmates the satisfaction of knowing they had gotten to me, so I tried very hard not to react, but ignoring them didn’t work. I didn’t have siblings or older cousins at home so had no practice in coming up with good comebacks so that was a no go. (Not to mention that whenever I tried, that somehow backfired.) I wasn’t going to attack first because I just wanted to be left alone.  But what I did do one day–after this had gone on for a while and after I realized certain classmates seemed to single me out almost every day with new comments–was to say to them some variation of “Wow, you spend a lot of time thinking about me, don’t you?” meme of Regina George from Mean Girls asking "Why are you so obsessed with me?"

So, yes. I pulled a reverse Regina George. (In Mean Girls, Regina George bullies a former friend by asking why she was so obsessed with her as a way to insinuate she was gay. Mine is in reverse because I used it against the bullies.)

And you know what? That worked. Because the last thing any of those guys wanted was for our classmates to think that they spent a lot of time thinking about a girl they called ugly. So they backed off. I wish I could say that was the end of it in total, but it wasn’t. I was apprehensive about going to school for a long time, and it would ease up and then someone (usually the same one or two people) would start up again. The cold comfort in that was they would have something to say about everyone, so I felt less singled out than before. So even though it was still painful, it was at least more bearable since it wasn’t constant.

So, yay, a fun post about bullying for your Saturday night. Huzzah! Thanks, Cristela.

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  1. Carrie L Horn

    I hate bullies. I don’t really even know what it was that I did about it when it happened to me. I imagine my horror showed all over my face and they got the reaction they wanted. I guess I turned the tables by turning into a bully and bullying other kids. Ugh, I hate that.

    • Akilah

      Yeah, I also did some bullying myself. I’m not proud of it, but I think as kids when we feel powerless, we can unfortunately take it out on other people. As kids, she says, as though she doesn’t know adult bullies.


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