Tag Archives: children

Bullying is Bullying

This post has some content that may be triggering – bullying, abuse.

I had the fortune to read the recent blog on bullying by my favorite geek Wil Wheaton. I haven’t thought about the kid who bullied me in over twenty years.

It’s a very personal post and quite poignant. Many of us were bullied as children. Some suffer far worse bullying than others. However, the fact remains the same – an individual is so significantly and emotionally impacted by bullying that even after twenty years the memories can bring us to tears.

I was bullied. I was taunted for my weight issues and even called Shamu. My father approached my entering school by saying that if anyone ever hit me, if I didn’t beat the hell out of them (even if it was a guy), I would get my ass busted when I got home. Was it appropriate for him to say this to me? Maybe not. But I do remember holding my own when physically confronted – even by boys. Yes, I had a boy threaten to beat me in elementary school. When he got up in my face, I got right back up into his, standing nose-to-nose…all while I was trembling with fear. Thankfully it worked, and he walked away. Because I did things like this, I was fortunate to never be physically attacked. Many are not so lucky.

My torment was verbal and emotional. I remember so-called friends turning on me and saying they hated me for some silly misunderstanding. I remember being teased for the way that I looked, wearing glasses, having braces and being overweight. The person who was my best friend in middle school shunned me. It was during that time that I started having suicidal idealizations and even attempted a couple of times. When she found out about one of the attempts, she laughed at me and said I was just doing it for attention. Did I want attention? Hell, yes, because I was in pain and her response was to laugh.

The closest thing to the physical I got was when a girl on the bus put chewing gum in my hair. Still, flashbacks to those episodes are no less unnerving just because no blood was shed. Many times the worst scars are the ones that we can’t see.

In Wil’s post he describes the father of the bully. When I read his description, my first thought was, “No wonder the boy acted that way.” Although that helps me understand the behavior, it doesn’t excuse it.

Aside from being a writer, I’m also a learning and development professional (my day job). I see the challenge in teaching teenagers that bullying is wrong because the seeds of bullying were implanted LONG before they became teenagers. It’s always much easier to teach something as new then to attempt to change a behavior/beliefs that have been internalized for years.

As adults, but most specifically, as parents, we all have a duty to teach our children – starting early in their lives – that this behavior is wrong. I have regular conversations with my 5-year-old that saying and doing certain things can hurt others. I don’t just tell her they’re bad, although they most certainly are. I emphasize the impact it has on the other person in hopes that she will learn something that many people lack today – empathy.

I couple these talks with talking to her about how she should react if she’s confronted with bullying. We discuss some of the reasons why people bully – how the behavior is learned, many are acting out for various reasons and quite simply, the individual just doesn’t feel good enough about herself/himself to the point s/he has to attack others to have some sense of self-esteem.

Is my approach better than my dad’s? I don’t know. All I know is that I want my daughter to be able to think about these things, stand up for herself with confidence and view others with integrity rather than mocking them for their pain. I feel that this is the least I can do.

US Airways for the FAIL Again

The return trip for this vacation has taken a bad turn. Given the horrible experience with the $1000+ authorizations on my account because of the error on US Airways’ website, the circumstances are beyond ill repute. I’m really beginning to believe that US Airways actually TRAINS their employees to rudely interrupt customers when they’re talking.

I don’t even have the energy to type about the whole thing, so here’s a copy of the e-mail I sent to US Airways customer relations:

And after the HORRIBLE experience of having over $1000 of authorizations on my account that Chase had to fix – and you only said “sorry” to – we get ready for our return trip. Against my better judgment, I pay for premium seats so my daughter will be more comfortable. We get to the airport at HTS to find out that the flight to Charlotte is delayed by 20 minutes, which would only gave us 10 minutes to get to the gate for the plane to Seattle. As I was explaining this to the gate agent – a young man named Dario Jimenez – he said if WE hurried to the gate we should make it on time. I told him US Airways would have to hurry because I requested special assistance because of the degenerative disc disease in my back making it difficult for me to walk. He then explained that we would likely miss the connection, it was the last flight to Seattle and he suggested we stay in Huntington (I guess you all don’t have any sense of urgency for people who need special assistance). As he and I were talking, he ALSO interrupted me. I was in complete shock. After being interrupted in conversation with two of your phone agents and a supervisor, to have it happen again was like a slap in the face.

Then to make it even more inconvenient, he rescheduled us for the SAME flight tomorrow and oh yeah, the premium seats I paid for were no longer available. I can understand that others had paid for them and we did get a refund, but the culmination of all of these experiences has only strengthened my resolve to NEVER fly US Airways again, tell all of my friends and relatives about it, and continue to comment on the situation on my blog and Twitter.

No amount of apologies can even come close to fixing the heaping pile of inconsideration and deficient customer service US Airways has shown us.

Here’s the problem if you’re a teenage girl

FYI (if you’re a teenage girl).

I’m all for parents being involved in their children’s lives and setting expectations for behavior, including how they present themselves to the public. Emphasis on children.

Differential treatment between the sexes is the exact reason girls continue to face problems in society. “It’s okay for boys to be half naked, but not girls.” This is quite reminiscent of “it’s okay for men to work this job and get paid more, but not women.” When you start early in setting a standard that boys and girls are treated differently rather than fairly, you set the expectation for the same type of treatment that allows for the misogynistic mistreatment of women. How about EVERYONE put their clothes on instead of just targeting one group?

Secondly, suggesting that girls shouldn’t post these pictures because you don’t want to “post anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom” is a blatant disregard for a girl’s sexuality. Does this mother really think that young girls do not have those urges? Oh, but we’re not supposed to talk about that because female sexuality is not only to be repressed, but the onus of controlling a boy’s behavior lies squarely on the delicate shoulders of the girl. We have to be honest. I used to be a young girl. As a teenager, I thought I was going to explode with hormones and thought about sexual encounters on a regular basis. But, ssshhh, we’re not supposed to talk about that. And oh yeah, there’s another group that believes women’s dress is responsible for inappropriate male behavior – they’re called the Taliban.

Oh, and give your boys some credit. I’m willing to bet that they have no difficulty imagining girls naked. Actually, you probably don’t want to know what else they’re thinking with little help from the internet.

Lastly, posting this eloquently written address to the girls of the internet to be more modest was made non-credible by the accompanied scantily-clad pictures of the male members of the family. At the very least, the pictorial presentation is bad form; at it’s worst, it’s hypocritical and the epitome of the sexual double standard.

I call b.s. How about teaching your sons not to be lecherous? How about applying the same standards to all children? Novel idea – how about finally treating girls fairly and not shaming them for their bodies and sexuality?

Nice effort, but in no way commendable in its sexism.

Oh, P.S. – don’t forget all the young gay boys who are likely thinking the same things about young men wearing nothing but swim trunks.

You Didn’t Have to Say It, I Felt It

I’ve written a little about bullying before, particularly in questioning what the answer is. This topic is getting a lot of press, as it should, because humans in general – and young people especially – treat each other like sh*t. Pardon the pseudo-vulgarity, but there’s just no other way to describe the morbidly creative ways we tear each other down.

One fact that cannot be denied, bullying is not a new phenomenon. What’s new is the amount of attention it is being given in social media. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new, and it’s something that many of us have experienced at one point in our lives.

I was bullied. I would never suggest that I was bullied to the vicious extent that some are, but it did have a significant impact on me, the person I am today and even the characters I create in my writing.

You see, I did a lot of processing over discussions of the main character in my series, Emma. Many do not like her, even hate her with an ill-conceived notion that she is somehow beyond redemption. Her “whiny monologues” are a glimpse inside the internal thoughts of someone with rather dark thoughts and an extremely poor self-image. It makes me wonder how people would react to others who have extremely negative self-talk that is never verbally expressed. Just because we don’t talk about it, just because you don’t know it…doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it.

In thinking about her characteristics and why she is the way that she is, I realized that much of her personality is a mirror image of the issues I dealt with growing up. I’ve always had issues with my weight. I experienced the cliched criticisms of “You have such a pretty face, if only you would lose some weight” to being called “Shamu” in school, having bubble gum put in my hair and having boys regularly scoff at my awkward advances, not wanting to date the fat girl. Add to this feelings of not being wanted by my own father, and you have the ripe concoction for a young girl who would always be suspicious of a male’s intentions.

My attempts to fit in caused somewhat of a split in how I viewed myself. Part of the reason why I tried to excel in my studies and sports was so that I could get some sort of positive attention. This focus led me to be an honor student and celebrated softball player…all while hating myself for the way that I looked. I was just as sure of my intellect as I was internalizing Shamu as a part of my self-image.

I made it through adolescence, but hearing the fat jokes and being treated as “definitely not girlfriend material” on a regular basis left an undeniable imprint on my psyche. I cannot even fathom the missed possibilities because I just couldn’t grasp the idea that anyone could find me attractive. If a guy showed interest, there must be an ulterior motive – maybe another joke? – because he couldn’t really think I’m attractive. I mean, so many had told me I wasn’t by calling me names, and my dad didn’t even want me…so surely they jest. Right?

I’m glad to say that over the years and through much mental processing, I’m no longer as suspicious as I used to be. And for those who say, “But surely you must realize this isn’t true?” I appreciate the sentiment, but with someone like me – it just isn’t helpful. I can understand something logically, it doesn’t mean that my heart and soul believe it.

Still to this day, I walk in the shadow of Shamu. Unlike Emma, I’m not saying my whiny monologue out loud. That doesn’t mean I’m not waging an internal battle as those similar thoughts bubble to the surface every so often.

Even with the most hateful of personalities – you may never realize the darkness that created it. Sometimes the children who are bullied grow up to become adults who are scarred, struggling to break through the deadened emotional tissue that tried – in vain – to strangle us in our youth.

We would do well to remember that sometimes behind those scars is a legacy of being treated like sh*t. Don’t add to it. Instead do what the playground and high school kids didn’t – be compassionate.

Happy New Year Megan!


Happy New Year to everyone – and a special happy new year to Megan! May 2013 bring healing and good health!

Show your support for Megan’s continued battle against AML leukemia. Check out Megan’s Musketeers on Facebook for updates on fundraisers and events or to even leave a personal message for our special girl!

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The Gift of Books, the Gift of Life

Christmas blessings and great news from Megan’s family!

“We got good news today…engraftment tests show all Meg’s blood cells are “born” from her donor cells, not her own old ones. This is good news! She will have bone marrow test on thursday and if all well to rmh for next sixty to hundred days in isolation. Merry Christmas!”

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Give the gift of books and give the gift of life!