I’ve never thought of myself as bullied. I didn’t really get picked on that often, that I remember. It’s just that there are two times I remember that ended up being really important, and I feel like I need to share them.
The first time was in first grade. Suzy was kind of the leader of the girls. I was sitting on the playground alone, and she brought a group of girls over and they started talking about how fat I was. I pretended to ignore them, but I was thinking about how I was twice her size, and that I was really enormous.
The other time was in junior high. At lunch a guy asked me to go steady with him as a joke, and one of his friends picked up on it and kept it up for the rest of the lunch period, and then after school they came up to me again and a third guy from that group undid my shirt before I kicked him.
It’s not that no one else ever picked on me, but I remember those two because they ended up being basically how I defined myself. If a boy like me it was a joke, and that was because I was fat.
When I was 21, I was looking through some old pictures, and I realized that I hadn’t been fat in first grade. I was bigger than Suzy. I got my growth spurt in early, and she got hers in late, so I was bigger than her, but I was fine. And yet, because I had defined myself as fat back then, I just tried to avoid looking at myself, and I did gain weight, and I was overweight then, but it had been happening and all along I thought I was just staying fat.
It took a long time to wrap my head around that, but that wasn’t the worst part. Later, it started to occur to me that maybe I had been wrong about the other thing to. Maybe boys could have liked me, and maybe some of the people that I held at a distance were hurt by it. I may have hurt someone I really loved.
Those things aren’t easy to fix. I do still struggle with my weight, and even if I would be capable of accepting romantic love now, there’s not much of a dating pool at my age (41). And it could be a lot worse. I have a reasonably happy life, and I have grown a lot and there are perks to being single. I know a lot of people have it worse.
Ultimately the worse part for me is that I let other people tell me who I was, and I didn’t even pick good people. I did not like any of them, I didn’t admire them, and I wasn’t attracted to them, but I accepted their message and I didn’t even check to to see if they were right, because it hurt so much to know that I was unlovable and physically repellant that I couldn’t bear to think about it and I just kept shoving it down. And it meant nothing to them. I wasn’t their special target or enemy. I was convenient once.
Bullying is awful anyway, because there are enough hard things in life without adding to anyone’s pain. It’s worse though when you are young, because you are still figuring out what the world is like and how you fit into it. The wrong idea can take deep root and affect all of your growth.
I wish I had questioned what they said then. I just try and put out good messages now.