I understand that what is going on with Katie
is a bad thing. The main reason I understand that is because I have been bullied for pretty much my entire life. Liking Star Wars is something that she has control over. I’m not saying that the boys that are making fun of her are justified in what they’re doing. They are not. Everyone is entitled to their own choices and it’s wrong to make fun of anyone for something they like. There is, however, a reason that all of this is kind of getting to me.
I have been bullied, as I said, for practically my entire life. It started because I was bigger than all of the other kids. In the AISD, if your birthday is after September 1st, you have to wait until the following year to start school. My birthday being in October meant that I had to wait. So while all of my class was five years old on the first day of school, by the end of the first six weeks I was six years old and they were still five. I didn’t fit in and got bullied a lot. It only got worse when it was discovered that I had an amblyopic left eye that had, essentially, shut down and let all of the work fall to my right eye. So, not only did I have to start wearing glasses but I would also have to wear a patch over my right eye on occasion to try to get my left eye working again. There were several occasions when, in the name of bullying, someone would steal my glasses and break them, costing my parents hundreds of dollars. On one occasion I had to go the entire school day being unable to see and therefore failing all of my work sheets because I couldn't read them without my glasses. Even the teachers making me do the work under those circumstances could be considered bullying.
I had absolutely no control over any of this happening to me. I didn’t chose my birth date, I didn’t chose the need to wear glasses. I didn’t chose to just have a bigger build than the rest of the kids. All of it was just a circumstance of birth that was out of my hands and I was bullied for this constantly. Even by my own siblings. At five years old, I had to deal with being bullied on a regular basis by not just boys, but girls as well. And there was the fact that my mother cut my hair short because it was easier to handle. All of this made for a very miserable school experience. But it didn’t stop there.
The bullying continued through Elementary school, Junior High and High School. And it only got worse as I got older. My peers were getting more and more cruel. When I was in High School I was called a lesbian constantly because I had short hair and wore jeans and t-shirts, and because I didn’t have a crush on “the hottest teacher in school” who happened to be a man that I had known since I was two years old. And, of course, by Junior High I was pretty much obsessed with Star Wars. I bought every novel I could get my hands on. I worked around the house to save up money to join the Official Star Wars fan club. I watched the movies so many times that I could tell you any detail at any time. I even learned how to say "May the Force be With You." in Spanish, French, German, Gaelic, Greek, and Chinese. I can still pretty much quote the movies and remember how to say May the Force be With You in Spanish, French, German and Gaelic even though my interest has waned a bit in the last ten years. And I am still getting bullied for it. At 32 years old, I still have people that make fun of me for liking Star Wars and Iron Man and Harry Potter. I get made fun of for the fact that I am over weight and I have people make rude comments about the fact that I don’t have the best teeth.
And all this time, I was just told to deal with it. It wasn't even called being bullied back then, it was just being made fun of. From five years old, when I would tell my mother that kids at school were making fun of me, I would get told “Ignore them and they’ll go away.” But they never did. No amount of ignoring the bullies got them to leave me alone. If I ignored them, they just came at me harder and made it more difficult to ignore. When I would tell the teachers, the bullies would get told to leave me alone and that was it. We were never sat down in a class and told how to handle bullying. Kids that got bullied just got bullied and that was part of life. They would have the occasional after school special or some 80’s/90’s sitcom would wrap things up nicely in 30 minutes and give you the impression that you could just talk it out, then hug and everything would be okay. That never happened. Nothing I did or said got the bullying to stop. Absolutely nothing. Even as an adult, the bullying never really stops.
Now it’s happening to my daughter. She used to have very long hair and she loved it. She was very much the girlie girl and she had a lot of friends at school. A couple of months ago, however, she decided that she was tired of the hair getting in her way and decided to cut it short. It’s an adorable hair cut that’s perfect for her face, but she is getting bullied because of it. She’s getting told that she looks like a boy. The other day on the way home from school there were little boys that were throwing rocks at her and calling her a lesbian and other bad names. And she’s 10. Nearly 11.
While it is unfortunate that this first grader is getting bullied for liking Star Wars, it’s not anything new. It’s been happening for decades. And the fact that her mother seems shocked that her first grader is getting bullied just amazes me to no end. I was actually shocked to find out that the bullying at my daughter's school didn't really start until after she got her hair cut this year. No one should get bullied. And it’s something that needs to be handled. The bullies need to get help for whatever reason it is that they have for bullying other kids. But it all comes down to the fact that there will always be bullies and there will always be kids that get bullied. Anybody that's different will get treated badly by those who don't understand the differences. It’s a sad fact of life. The only thing we can do is teach our kids how to be confident in their choices and how to handle it if they do get bullied. We need to teach them that what everybody else thinks doesn’t matter. The only opinion about them that matters is the one they have of themselves.