You’re going to find this on the gross side but yesterday, my brother-in-law was dropping off my niece who was spending the day with us, and the subject of the bullying case of poor Phoebe Prince. This is what I said. If a group of ignorant dullards bullied my kid I would “shave their heads and shit on their face.” And I’m sorry to admit that I actually said this. I know how it sounds. But I’m here to tell you all that it simply would not happen on my watch. I’m not blaming Phoebe’s mom or anyone – I am blaming the fuckheads who tormented her.
I have been bullied. I know what it feels like. I also know girls. I just spend an entire week sharing a cabin with 8 11 year-old girls as a nature chaperone. My own daughter had shunned me (can you blame her? I mean, really…you hear how I talk) and so I was put into a cabin of the really good kids in the science class. These were the A students. The straight A’s. We’re talking over-achievers here. They were brilliant. They were driven. They were cute as hell. They are the future. I have faith in their abilities to lead this country one day.
But I also got the message loud and clear: girls are complex. Boys are not. The simplicity of boys is a beautiful thing. Sure, they are the most violent element in our society, but for the most part, they are easier to understand than girls. Girls have so many layers heaped upon layers. One thing they say can mean three different things.
I didn’t find out until the very last day that there had been a major rivalry going on and the girls had taken sides. Somehow I had played right into this paradigm without knowing it. I was sticking up for the girl who was widely known to be “mean”. And yet, she seemed like the victimized one, the left out one. The girls refused to cooperate on a group activity we had to do – and despite their willingness to do everything that was required of them when it came time to work together they couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it; they wouldn’t do it.
“Mom, you just don’t understand.” That’s what my daughter said when I tried to ask about it. And she was right. I didn’t get it. There is a wall between young people and adults. There just is. Our parents had no clue; and I had no clue, even though I thought I did. I was certain I could read these kids and would know who was whom. But I didn’t. And I ended up protecting the one kid I should have recognized as the bully. Interesting, isn’t it?
Having worked in elementary schools for a few years I have observed the behaviors of those who get picked on and those who are dominant. I observed it mostly with girls, not so much with boys. And it starts early – it starts in kindergarten. I worked with kindergartners and then worked with 3rd graders. I noticed that the older they got, the harder they were to read. The behaviors were the same — they just got better at masking it; they figured out how to fool the adults.
And in the end, I also had to realize that my own inclination was to side with the “winners,” not the losers. It’s like the scene in Carrie where Betty Buckley expresses frustration at Carrie for not knowing about her own period.
There is a quirk in our nature that makes us, as Bob Dylan would say, want to be on the side that’s winning. There are a few of us out there who always side with the “loser” kid. I myself told my daughter to always befriend the friendless in school and then she would never be without friends. She gravitates towards all types of kids — and for that I am grateful. I don’t know what I would do if I discovered that my daughter was a mean girl. Would I even see it?
As to those cowards who bullied Phoebe Prince, I hope this experience has ruined their lives. Not only should they go to jail, but they should have to spend the rest of their lives helping kids who are bullied — I hope the judge sentences them as harshly as the law allows. The truly evil offense is that it wasn’t even a standard case of bullying: it was jealousy. These idiot girls were threatened because Prince had been dating a popular football player. So the story goes.
What I suspect, though, is that society will always side with the bully. It is our nature. Until that part changes, bullying will endure.