The Tender Mercies Of The Bully


I’m a weird guy.  I’m a weird adult who grew out of a weird kid.

I had weird hair growing up, and played weird games.  My most favorite thing to do as a kid was to play D&D.  I remember getting that very first blue Dungeons and Dragons rulebook.  Remember?  Back when an Elf was a class and the levels went ALL the way up to 3?

Crazy times.

I played that game until I was 4 years out of college.  And even now am anxiously awaiting the day when my son understands how to play the PokieMon cards I’ve bought him.

I wasn’t very good at games with a ball; I can catch anything thrown within 10 yards of me and can hit the eye of a bird flying, but I SUCKED at those games.  But, for a small farm town kid in farm country I could run forever.  In track I won more races than I didn’t.

I went to church, Sunday school and sang in the choir until the day I graduated.  I delivered Easter morning sermons at 5:00 AM.  I marched in the band [though I did quit after two summers of marching in Minnesota heat in those hot as hell wool uniforms and those ugly black buffalo hats].  I loved debating in school, was in theater and ran the computer lab during study hall.

It was great.  All of it.  And I wouldn’t trade it for all the world.

But I paid a price; a massive price.

Beginning in the 5th grade I started getting picked on.  While fast, I was small; until I was 33 I weighed 137 pounds.  Marching in the school band with your head in the Monster Manuel while the cool guys played on the varsity basketball team didn’t make a lot of friends [though it made the BEST of friends].  Not until years later did the torture really stop, and even then it didn’t really stop.  It just slowed down.  I still remember opening my locker and reacting with horror that the entire contents had been doused with water; my Honor Cords [you know what honor cords are?] were in there.  Thankfully the perpetrator had displayed some form of human sympathy and took ’em out before the dousing.

I was hit, kicked, pushed and taunted.  Heck, I even had my hair set on fire once coming back from a class trip.  The things you see in the movies…..they’re real.

I still remember walking down the empty second floor hall in the middle school when I realized one kid in front of me.  One in back.  I fought as hard as I could, but I couldn’t stop ’em from pinning me to the locker and feeding me dog food.

Good times.

Oh, and to ensure that I would continue to participate in this mandatory fun, my dad was the 8th grade math teacher.  The deck was stacked against me.  In science class it got bad one day.  2-3 guys [it was never just one now that I think of it.  cowards] were kinda taking turns, like crows on road kill.  It went too far that morning and I actually retaliated; I hit the kid in front of me.  That kinda calmed things down.  After class, the teacher pulled me aside and mentioned that he saw what had happened.  I was relieved, ’cause it didn’t FEEL like the bastard saw it while it was going on.  He then looked at me dead in the eye and expressed his disappointment that I had hit that kid; he expected better.  I bit my tongue–that made TWO of us.  Ass.

But at least I didn’t have to worry about a girlfriend 😉

I knew back  then that this wasn’t “fair”.  That I really didn’t do anything that deserved this.  Heck, I didn’t DO anything.  I read The Trilogy, all four of ’em*, during class and just stayed out of the way.  I went to class, went to Greyhawk, went to church, went to track and went to bed.

I suspected then, I continue to believe even now, that those kids didn’t know what they were doing.  I bet if you were to ask those boys, now men, they wouldn’t remember the stories.  In fact, if I were to see ’em in town, we’d have beers and talk about the GOOD times.  As if.

And so it is, as I read stories of kids in school today being bullied, that I wonder how I’m gonna teach my own kids.  What I’m gonna say, what I’m gonna do.  What lessons will I make them endure.  My own father let me experience every one of ’em.  He didn’t intervene even once that I knew of.  In fact, only one time did I see an exchange that let me know he knew what was going on.

Down the street were some brothers.  And one day they were picking on my sister.  We told dad and he went over and tried to talk those boy’s dad.  The man refused to believe that his kids could’ve done that, “Not my boys” was what he told my dad.

The next night my brother and I took it out on those brothers at the ice rink.  Looking back I suppose it was us that was the brute then.  Anyway,  it wasn’t long before that man came knocking on OUR door and asked my dad to explain why his sons would have done what we did to his boys.  I still remember dad saying, “That wasn’t my boys.  My kids wouldn’t do that.”  He closed the door and simply went back to his paper.  Not even one word, for or against, was said.

I think that I’ll try, somehow, to explain to my kids that growing up is a lot like life.  It isn’t not getting knocked down that’s the goal, THAT is gonna happen.  It’s all about the getting back up.

My heart breaks for those kids getting picked on today.  I just read a story of another girl who has been bullied and the hell her parents are going through. For those kids that don’t know where to turn and who to talk too, [God knows they most likely don’t even KNOW about Styx] I just wish they could see their 26 year old self.  Still weird, still geeky.  But okay with the world and their place in it.  But if I could talk to ’em, I know what I’d say; “Get up!  Get back on your feet!  You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it.”

Anyway.  I don’t remember what the point was except maybe that life teaches how to prepare for life.  Yesterday’s wimpy kid is going to be tomorrows Libertarian champion maybe?  The geek makes good maybe? The ugly duckling gets the hot wife perhaps?  I dunno know.

Maybe it’s just to remind us that mean people suck.

* Rings, Lord of the; Unbeliever, Thomas Covenant the;  Lance, Dragon and Foundation, Just

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7 comments
  1. Dude, Dad knows. That’s it. Love ya Bro. G’Night.

  2. Great story! I hate seeing people being bullied too. So when I was in High School, I turned out to be the bully of bullies.. and make friends with lots of geek friends.. (I learned to love Green Day, Wheatus and Weezer from them).. Good times..

  3. Hey! 🙂 My husband (smokebear ^) showed me this. I like how you wrote it, and I like your strength and wit to always get back up because you know better. But I also did like that time when you punched one of them! haha! I was also bullied, but more of a social outcasting in High School for awhile. 🙂 But, got over that, and got a hot husband as well.. lol! I hope that good things in life will come your way ^_^

    • pino said:

      I turned out to be the bully of bullies.. and make friends with lots of geek friends..

      Good for you. The world needs more Paladins.

      I like how you wrote it, and I like your strength and wit to always get back up because you know better.

      I’m older now; in my 40’s, so my ability to talk about it comes from a different life experience totally right now. However, even back then I intuited that this was more of a “testing” than a permanent condition. Further, my parents were able to create an environment where I was confident in myself. In short, I knew that “this too shall pass.”

      But I also did like that time when you punched one of them! haha!

      Years later we became very good friends. We went to college together and continued gaming for years!

      I was also bullied, but more of a social outcasting in High School for awhile.

      The way most of society is, I think being an outcast is a badge of honor.

      But, got over that, and got a hot husband as well.. lol!

      Good for you. Continue to live your life, love your self and family.

      I hope that good things in life will come your way ^_^

      I’m happier than I have a right to expect; truly blessed.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Best album ever. And the message is true: confidence in oneself and ones’ choices is key, and that confidence is likely only real when undergirded by a solid set of values.

    From 7th to 9th grade I had similar experiences. I was fat. Not by today’s standards — today I’d be average. But that was before fast food was common fare and people just weren’t as fat then. So I got picked on, learned to avoid people and at times felt “why me?” For awhile I went into my own world, created an island with it’s own history, and isolated myself. I’d get pushed around or hit at school, and zip home (I plotted my escape from school so I could avoid anyone who would try to beat me up) as quick as possible.

    Then in 9th grade I decided I could take control. I lost 35 pounds (on a wonderful diet that meant somedays I only had a candy bar or a Suzy Q — I lost on the unhealthiest diet imaginable: I figured if I had to cut calories, I’d eat only what I really liked, which usually involved sugar). I exercised. I ran. I got in shape. By 10th grade when I started high school it was a different world.

    Part of me will always be impacted by those years of being picked on and bullied. But I guess the key thing I hope to convey to my kids is precisely that we can take control of our lives and change things.

    • pino said:

      Best album ever.

      Quite possibly yes. At their prime, Styx had a bigger audience than the Beetles.

      I plotted my escape from school so I could avoid anyone who would try to beat me up

      I had a friend who went to the office and obtained his bullies class schedule. They then mapped out his most likely path period to period and adjusted. While not quite as geeky as I was, he was the DM in our group and read the same nerdy books.

      As a sophomore at MIT [MINNESOTA institute of technology – all my buddies and I went there] he was approached by McDonald Douglas and the United States Navy. Each offered him a job on the spot and would pay for his education. He was/is a pacifist and declined. Later he went on to design energy efficient cars for the auto industry. Today he builds robots that allow doctors in the US to perform heart surgery on patient in India.

      For farm hicks, we were pretty smart.

      Part of me will always be impacted by those years of being picked on and bullied.

      They are my medal of honor. I forgot about the acne; that REALLY helped. I have some scarring today that I love to see as my character marks.

      But I guess the key thing I hope to convey to my kids is precisely that we can take control of our lives and change things.

      THAT is the “God” particle. What is it that resides in some of us that allows us to escape and thrive while others succumb? If we could bottle that essence…….

      • I think you hit on it in your post — parenting. Parents can install the value of working to achieve your goals, and the confidence to “get up, get back on your feet, you’re the one they can’t beat and you know it.” I think some parents deride or ridicule their kids when they discipline them (one can punish without ridicule and derision!) and that undercuts the self-confidence that is key to success.

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