Bullying - in a roundabout way

I promised this bit last week, but then I got tired and I couldn't be bothered to type anymore. So here it is, a bit late, but nevertheless written. EGO. 

The running theme of my CBT sessions (That's Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, for those of you who may never have had the displeasure) for the last 6 weeks has been 'status'. My expectations of myself, versus my perception of what others expect of me. Neither are logical, rational, or even remotely true, it transpires. I desire to be in charge, whilst simultaneously doubting my ability to make even the smallest decision. There's a certain amount of flabby guilt that jogs alongside the streamlined figure of what we know as ambition. Perhaps one regulates the other; perhaps one exists purely to stop the other leading us astray, like for instance, into the territory of committing heinous crimes - in fact yes, I'd bet that's the case. 

As a child of the eighties, having talked very early and with solid ground work from two intelligent parents (one a primary teacher) I was led to believe that I would get into Oxford. I had to be clever, there was never another option. This was all well and good up until external factors began dismantling this idealistic view, piece by piece. 

Let us begin with bullying. Primary school was a blast - even though I had to endure a year in my mother's class, trying not to call her 'mum' (which looking back, is pretty confusing). I had no problems getting along with other children, I started playing the violin and I don't remember ever not wanting to be at school. Which was lucky, because I sat in my mum's classroom until 6pm most evenings, programming the BBC Acorn computer to flash pink and green, and composing horror film soundtracks on the piano. There was always a bottle of dandelion and burdock in the cupboard, along with a tarantula skin in a Philadelphia box. Mum was in staff meetings, and I had an imaginary friend called Harriet, who was Victorian and who stopped me from becoming lonely.

Secondary school was an altogether different and unchartered territory. There were kids from other schools. I turned up on my first day wearing a rucksack that I'd picked with pride; I remember it exactly, it was green and square with purple pockets, and almost as big as me. Those were my favourite colours. I had a brand new pencil case and I was gagging to get my new school diary so I could draw in my timetable with all my new pens. What I hadn't anticipated was that the majority of the other kids thought school was a necessary evil. They didn't feel a sense of pride in knotting their ties in the morning. They didn't feel jealous of my extensive protractor collection, housed as it was in a beautiful red velvet lined presentation box. In fact, they really really wanted to make sure I knew that 'being clever' was akin to contracting leprosy.  

I had friends - and some of the most amazing friends ever. Some I'd had since babyhood (and still have to this day), and others I'd met during primary school. Some were kindred spirits I'd just bonded with because we had an unspoken understanding of each other's predicament. I'm proud and honoured to say that many are still friends, and most have never let me down. But there were also many enemies. Some of those people may read this, and some have expressed remorse for their words and actions. Others I don't know anymore. This isn't meant to make you feel guilty, if you're one of those people - as an adult, I know that we all change with age; we are able to develop empathy, through having our own children and seeing them deal with difficult situations in school, and through the experiences of life, in all its cruelty. I suppose my objective is to share with you a level of empathy you may only be able to get from someone you once made suffer, in hopes that you will teach your children to be accepting of others, no matter how different they may seem.

Before I continue, let me just point out that I am a white, middle class female (I know, dull right?). There was one child from an ethnic minority at my school, and he was accepted, just as should be. His surname was Legg but nobody ever came up with a joke involving limbs. Bearing that in mind, here are some of the things people said to me: 'mustafa/moushtaka', (I had darker hair on my upper lip) 'paki', 'Go back to Mecca' (extra points at least for decent RE lessons), 'man girl', 'lesbian'. That last one started when my best friend and I shared a piece of chewing gum, which is pretty disgusting but is of course nothing to do with sexuality. I am bisexual, but that's another post. I can only assume that my sallow complexion was somehow offensive. When I buy makeup, I have to buy the lightest shades. I had hairy arms, yes, because I'm a brunette. I never understood why I seemed to get the brunt of the abuse, considering there were so many others who had stupid names, or who allegedly saw the Beast of Bodmin whilst driving across the moors. Quite apart from having ink flicked on every single clean white shirt I had, things peaked on a field trip to Portland. I was a huge Nirvana fan - I had an entire wall covered in pictures of Kurt Cobain. I wore Doc Martin boots, like every other grunge fan on the planet. Mine had the Nirvana smiley drawn on the soles in Tippex. I do shudder slightly remembering this now, but at the time it was my shelter. During this particular trip, these badly daubed symbols had become the targets for another round of ridicule. My reaction was the result of a culmination of months of being worn down: 'Fuck off you whore', I think my exact words were. 

To be continued...


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