The effects of bullying, Part 3

March 2, 2014

This is the fourth entry in an occasional series on how being picked on as a kid influenced the sort of adult I turned out to be.

I have an extremely self-deprecating sense of humor. It comes in handy sometimes. It’s disarming. It can soothe fear, soften a blow, defuse anger, or help me relate to people when they need reassurance. But it can also be a liability, especially when I’m dealing with people who do not know me well and misinterpret my humor as flippancy — or worse, self-loathing.

In Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a man makes fun of the title character’s nose. Cyrano deflates his detractor by enumerating all the colorful insults the man could have dished out if he’d been smarter or more creative.

As a kid, I quickly figured out that if I pulled a Cyrano on a would-be bully, I could control the severity of the blow while taking the fun out of the game. If I beat a bully to the punch and said something funnier (and meaner) than whatever she was planning to say …

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(H/T to the hilarious Luvvie of awesomelyluvvie.com for the .gif.)

 

I was too small and weak to discourage bullies with my fists. But a battle of wits? Oh, bitch. You tried it.

I’m glad I found a means of protecting myself. And I’m glad I can laugh at myself, because frankly, I’ve done a lot of dumb crap over the years and probably would have gone off the deep end a long time ago if I couldn’t laugh it off. But looking back, it makes me sad to think about how I developed that ability.

It makes me sad to realize I have this sense of humor because a little girl spent most of her childhood inspecting herself for flaws and thinking up terrible things to say about them just so somebody else wouldn’t.

When you think about it, that’s a really effed-up thing for a little kid to have to do. And maybe it was OK for me, but it’s not OK for my niece, my nephews, my goddaughter, or anybody else. Children deserve better than that — and as adults, we’ve got to figure out how to make sure they have better.

Emily


‘Shopping

February 10, 2014

While I was sorting my hard drive a while back, I ran across a pair of images of my younger siblings that Mom had asked me to Photoshop together for her several years ago, as Oliver had his back to the camera in one picture, and Grace was rolling her eyes back in her head in the other. Thanks to the busy background (wallpaper, stepstool, mini-vac, etc.) and the ever-so-subtle difference in angles and depths of field between the two images, I decided that was another task for another time, saved the images into whatever folder was handy, and promptly forgot about them.

I had some time on my hands this evening, so I spent an hour ‘Shopping:

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Don’t look too closely. The background didn’t quiet down any, and the angles and depths of field didn’t get any closer to aligning while I was ignoring them, but at least nobody is making a weird face or turning around backwards.

And yes, Mom, I saved a high-res version. I’m still tinkering with it, but I’ll send it to you after I make a few more minor adjustments.

Emily


Munchkin Land and Marshmallow World

January 19, 2014

Here is how I spent Saturday:

bears

We made bears. Hazel wants pink or purple everything (notice her glasses), and the boys want superhero everything (if you look closely, you’ll see Jamie is wearing Spider-Man glasses). At some point, I’ll find time to write them a book about a princess who rescues Batman.

batmanbears

The guys were VERY proud of their bears. Jamie’s dad helped him decorate his. I think Geoff was actually having more fun than the kids.

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Hazel liked making her bear, but when I started taking pictures, Ollie made a funny face, which Hazel missed, so she thought we were laughing at her.

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She tried really hard to put on a brave face for the camera, but she couldn’t quite manage a smile. Poor Hazel.

marshmallowpops

All was well, however, by the time we started making marshmallow pops. When you’re 5, chocolate and sprinkles will mend a broken heart pretty efficiently.

Hope you had a chocolate-covered-marshmallows-and-sprinkles sort of weekend, wherever you are.

Emily


Artwork by Ollie

November 16, 2013

Ollie made me a picture tonight at Mom and Dad’s:

handturkeyweb

Yes, I framed it. Of course I framed it. It’s a hand turkey. Made by a 3-year-old. The teal-colored wattles on the turkey actually started out as a teardrop, which made it look as if it had killed someone in prison, but I think Jamie convinced Ollie to modify it.

If you wouldn’t proudly display a toddler’s rendering of a turkey with a prison tattoo in your home, I’m not sure we can be friends.

munchkinsweb

Hazel had a birthday party today. She’s 5. Mom asked me to take a picture of all three kids together. I think she was hoping for something suitable for use on Christmas cards. This was the only one that didn’t have someone making a face or squirming or wandering off or giving bunny ears or some combination of the above. The boys have cake and Kool-Aid all over their faces, and Hazel is completely distracted, so obviously the party was a success.

Emily


Bullying: Prologue

November 4, 2013

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the effect of bullying on kids. I don’t know whether it’s gotten any worse since I was a kid. I do know its consequences have become more apparent, forcing adults to pay more attention to it and make a better effort to intervene when they see it happening. The issue has come up again on my Facebook timeline because a 15-year-old boy in my dad’s hometown committed suicide last month, citing bullying as the reason.

Beginning when I was 7, and continuing for the better end of a decade, I endured near-constant ridicule by my peers.

I don’t think it occurred to me at the time that I was being bullied. In the ’80s and early ’90s, a bully was someone who shoved you down or beat you up. People who called you names weren’t bullies; they were just a pain in the ass. (As a society, we took a while to figure out that sometimes a pain in the ass is a serious injury.)

Admittedly, my ugly-duckling phase was spectacular by any metric, and asking a bunch of immature brats to overlook it would have been a wholly unrealistic request — but regardless of the relative accuracy of their comments, my peers’ tactless behavior left scars, some of which I’m just discovering 20 or 30 years later.

For instance:

I am desperately uncomfortable in social settings that involve large groups.

I rarely trust people when they compliment my appearance — and if I do believe them, my first instinct is to deflect the praise.

I have an extremely self-deprecating sense of humor.

I don’t dance.

I cuss like a sonofabitch.

I would rather chew off my own leg than let anybody see my tears.

That last bit is why I am not particularly looking forward to the project I’m about to do.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a closer look at each of these battle scars — partly to satisfy my own curiosity about the shapes they took, but mostly because I’m sick of hearing about kids closing the book before they get to the good parts, and if the story of how I survived a decade of verbal attacks and grew up to have the world by the tail can keep even one kid from killing himself over somebody else’s bullsh*t, then I need to suck it up and tell that story, even if it means giving up some secrets I’d rather keep.

Stay tuned. We’re finna kill some dragons.

Emily


Why I moved

July 6, 2013

Yeah, I know. I haven’t blogged in weeks. Cut me some slack; there are some logistics involved in moving 450 miles. Totally worth it, though.

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I had two main reasons for moving. The first was that I desperately needed to get back into journalism and simply wasn’t likely to be happy doing anything else.

The second was that I missed my niece and nephews. Living nine hours from my family was fine for a while, but every time I came home to visit the kids, it got a little harder to leave, knowing they were growing and changing so fast that they would be completely different little people the next time I saw them.

I see a lot more of them now. Last weekend, I went to visit Mom and Dad, and all three of the kids came to play. We spent a happy evening chasing fireflies through Mom’s yard.

This morning, my sister and brother-in-law brought Jamie and Ollie to see us. We went to Discovery Playhouse, which is in downtown Cape and well worth the visit, and then we had lunch at Watami, which has the big hibachi tables where the chef comes and entertains you while he cooks your food right in front of you. Jamie didn’t like his chicken, so we brought the dogs some leftovers, and then we went geocaching, took a walk along the floodwall, and had ice cream at Port Cape.

The slideshow above contains your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin Cute.

Emily


Remember when?

May 24, 2013

This post is an open letter to the Daniel Webster High School Class of 2013:

Dear Seniors,

I love you with all my heart and wish I could be there to celebrate with you, but life — as you are learning — is a vibrant, glorious parade of unexpected adventures that help us grow into our potential, and like you, I am still growing and learning and moving forward. My adventures have taken me to my mom’s hometown to work for the newspaper there.

I didn’t expect to leave Tulsa quite so soon, and I certainly didn’t expect to find my way back home, but life has a way of sending us where we need to go at that moment, whether we’re expecting it or not. Some of you will end up exactly where you thought you’d be in 10 years. Most of you probably won’t. All of you will change the world, just as you’ve been doing since the day you put those protest slogans on notecards and stapled them to the bulletin board in sophomore English.

As your time at Webster draws to a close and you head out on your own adventures, I’d like to look back with my own set of “remember whens.”

Remember when Alex made that Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Chewbacca and Sasquatch?

Remember when Gabbie talked me into participating in Day of Silence? I didn’t know it was possible to disrupt class without making a single sound, but Keyonna managed to do it.

Remember when we came back from Christmas break to find a mysterious stench in my classroom, and Chasity decided the ghost must have spent the whole break eating Mexican food?

Remember Carmen’s crush on Coach Williams?

Remember when Dionne, Kalynn, and Keyonna translated Hamlet into modern English?

Remember breakfast in the classroom?

Hey, Jasmine — remember Jerome in advisory?

Remember Meeyotch the class fish?

Remember Chris and Ricky’s “that’s what SHE said” jokes? (Why would she say THAT?)

Hey, Anthony — remember when Daryl was “fit’nna rag”?

Remember Fernando’s ironic hat?

Remember the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Remember That Guy?

There are not many things I am sure of in this crazy world, but here is a thing I know: No member of the Daniel Webster High School Class of 2013 will grow up to be That Guy. You are some of the smartest, sweetest, funniest, and most passionate people I have ever known. I love you all, and I am ridiculously proud of you.

Love,
Ms. Priddy


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