It happened when I was in fifth grade.
Our class had a substitute teacher one day, and we spent the last hour outside.
Many of us played kickball. But when the game started to get stale, the “cool kids” took the ball and started doing their own thing.
I wanted to play with them, so I tried to get in their game.
However, instead of welcoming me, they started calling me names and throwing the ball at me, hitting me with it multiple times in the head, chest, and back.
I tolerated it for a while, but then decided I’d had enough. Upset and near tears, I went inside without telling anyone. The substitute was so oblivious she didn’t even see me go.
I got to our classroom, picked up my bag and jacket, and before I headed out for the bus, I wrote a very simple note on the blackboard:
“I suck. Signed Marty”
Somehow, I held it together on the bus, and when I finally got home, I made a bee-line up to my bedroom, where I broke down and cried.
For most of my childhood, I’d been on the receiving end of bullying. From incessant name-calling to being pushed around and excluded from activities, I was pretty much your stereotypical suburban bullying victim.
And like most bullying victims, I’d gotten used to it, as if that was my lot in life and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. My parents didn’t know much about how I was being treated (I generally kept it to myself), and the teachers at school were doing very little to stop it. In fact, their coddling of me probably made it worse since I was seen as a teacher’s pet.
So that day in fifth grade was a real breaking point for me.
I told my parents what had happened, and they asked a lot of questions. Why? How? Didn’t anyone do anything? What were you doing? I didn’t really want to answer these questions, so they didn’t exactly make it easier for me, or make me want to tell my parents again.
I don’t recall any specific action being taken after that day, but I have to believe something did happen because I don’t have any memories of things being quite so bad ever again. In fact, by the end of middle school (around the time of my 13th birthday, to be specific), I’d found some confidence and strength, and things got much better for me.
But I never would forget those earlier days of being bullied, and how awful it felt. And even now, that one day in particular still stands out.
So you can probably imagine the visceral reaction I had while watching the new documentary Bully. Continue reading