During the Summer of 1991 some girl called Michelle got a chip on her shoulder and decided I was to be the person she took it out on. We were actually friends before. It was all just her spouting shit about me hoping for a reaction and turning my friends against me.
It worked on the whole.
I was summonsed one day under the pretence of her returning something to me. One of her henchpeople, a former friend, called for me and walked up with me. Obviously to make sure I got there. I was greeted down this track on the way to a farm by Michelle and her crew.
Urgh, it was almost a cliche. Like she thought she was some mafia Don when, in reality, she was just some child. She was all up in my face, I was still none the wiser as to why. She was going to ‘knack’ me. I said ‘OK’. She hit me once. I just looked at her…. I wasn’t the victim she wanted. I guess I was meant to either cry or fight back to make her look, I don’t know, big and clever? I did neither, I just looked at her. She looked a bit uncomfortable, none of her cronies were offering any advice. #AWKWARD. I went home and on the way saw my friend Kate. Kate was the ‘hardest’ girl in the school allegedly, for some reason we had gotten on from our first day at senior school. She was the only one in my form class who didn’t take the piss out of my accent.
The next day I saw her she told me Michelle wouldn’t be bothering me anymore. I don’t know if she just ‘had a word’ or hit her. I didn’t ask. I was thankful Kate chose to like me.
That was my only real experience of bullying. I feel like I shouldn’t even call it that. Compared to what some people have to endure it was nothing. Don’t get me wrong. At the time I felt terrible. I felt alienated, alone and outcast. Most of my friends had turned against me (they weren’t actual friends, we had just gone to the Radio 1 roadshow together) I felt ill at the thought of bumping into one of them but with my experience I was lucky. I was lucky that it was over almost as quickly as it began. I can’t imagine having endured such negative feeling over a longer period. I can’t imagine how it might have chipped away at me, wearing me down and making me feel worthless.
Although I can look back at it and see it for what it was, a pathetic little girl seeking validation from anyone by belittling others, at the time it hurt.
I entered the world of parenthood with a LOT of worries. Worries about keeping them alive, feeding them and making them the very best they can be.
When Aoife started nursery was that she wouldn’t make friends, then as my brain leaped gazelle like into the future it became a bigger worry that she would be bullied. The further through school she goes the more I worry about her.
Children are bullied for being clever, for not being clever. For being overweight, for being underweight. For being ‘ugly’, for being ‘pretty’. For being ‘poor’, for being ‘rich’. It can be a no win situation.
I worry that today bullying seems more rife and more vicious than it was ‘in my day’.
The age of the internet gives people both the confidence to say whatever is on their mind (after all, there’s no repercussion right?) It also give them the platform to hide behind.
When I was younger bullying was done face to face. The tormentor could see their victim. They had to say mean things to their victims faces. They could see the reaction and the response. It took a certain kind of someone to be a bully.
Today bullying can be done from afar, it can be done anonymously, it can be done to a victim who the bully doesn’t even know. Today, many bullies don’t even consider themselves bullies. After all, they’re not physically hurting someone. It’s just ‘banter’ (I hate that term, it’s another way of saying “being a massive wanker”). It’s just the internet. It’s not REAL LIFE. The bully takes no accountability for their actions.
I sometimes wonder what I’d do if my children got bullied? What would I do if my child BECAME a bully? In both scenarios my initial reaction would to be to go batshit crazy and take someone down. Obviously that wouldn’t be the wisest decision. Hopefully I won’t ever find out how I’d react.
I just do the best I can in encouraging my children to be decent people. I teach them differences are good. I teach them not to be mean and hurtful to anyone, no matter how mean and hurtful that person is. I try to teach them they can talk to us about any worries they may have. I also teach them to call out anyone who is being mean to someone else. I try to teach them to help someone if they see they are being picked on or upset by another person. To be a friend.
It’s up to all of us to make a difference. Bullying isn’t just for kids. It affects so many people. Bullying will only stop if we all stand up against it. Even if we’re not the target we need to pull someone up if they’re bullying others. Chances are they’ll back down once they realise everyone else has noticed their utter cowardice in picking on someone they consider ‘weak’.
Today is Stand Up To Bullying day. A day for the nation to declare together that they will stand together against bullies.