I have this friend; let’s call her Squiggle. She came to my school at the beginning of the school year and immediately became friends with a girl I was in choir with last year. I’ll call her Indigo. Indigo and I took a while to start talking again, as now that she had quit choir we didn’t know how to start a conversation. When we did, I got to know Squiggle, and after a few days we somehow ended up walking home together.
It was freezing cold, but we started walking more and more slowly as the conversation got good. We took the longest and most pointless detour we could to get to my building, and then we stood there chatting for ages more. We found out that we’d gone to the same school, but not at the same time. She had left a few years before I came to the country, because the nastiest boys in her class had decided she would be their chosen victim. These boys had apparently already driven several other students to leave the school. Unlike these other students, though, Squiggle had two loyal friends who stood up for her. So instead of getting beat up, she and her friends would get into fights.
I was shocked. I thought this was a story about merciless teasing and ostracism, not physical persecution. Denmark is such a nice place, with such friendly children. I haven’t been bullied the whole time I’ve been here, which is four years now. Even in the States, where my classmates were less kind, no one has ever even tried to lay a hand on me.
Maybe that’s because if they did, I would scream. I’m a total weakling; if someone hit me, I wouldn’t be able to fight back very well. Viciously, yes, but not well, and it wouldn’t take much to knock me down. But I would immediately (or as soon as I could pick myself up) tattle to the teachers, my parents, the school board, and the entire world.
When I said this, Squiggle laughed as if that were both awesome and unbelievable. I just don’t understand why she didn’t do the same. I didn’t ask, because the only answers I could think of were the kind that would be indelicate to extract from someone I’d only just met. But I was shocked nonetheless. I mean, my parents are awesome: they’d support me through anything. But something like this shouldn’t require exceptionally spectacular parents. Any parents whose child informs them that she is being beat up should at least make an effort to see if the teachers will do something about it. So I wondered, and I wondered that there weren’t any teachers she could have told, or anyone, anyone else who would help.
I admit I don’t really have any personal experience to match. In the US, I was the nerdy girl who (literally) walked around with her nose in a book, and a lot of people tried to tease me for it in middle school. At first I barely noticed, and then I barely cared. Mostly I found it annoying that they interrupted my reading. Sometimes I would answer, but they would rudely interrupt me and I eventually stopped. Then, around when I started seventh grade, my mother finally convinced me of the advantages of short retorts. That was when I started to find it fun. My vocabulary was far superior to theirs, you see, what with all the reading I did, and never did words fail me. I enjoyed insulting them back, and I expect I had more fun being teased than they did teasing me. I don’t think it even counts as bullying, conidering how ineffective it was.
No one ever hit me, though. No one ever threatened me. I don’t know if they were scared of me or if they just wouldn’t do such a thing, but I never had any trouble. Maybe I’m more terrifying than I thought.
Maybe I’m just lucky.