Hissy Fit - March 2018
Bullying: It’s Not Just for Children
I was bullied. Yes, as a child, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to last week. I was bullied just last week! It took me off guard and hurt my feelings right when I thought I had the sticks-and-stones-may-break-my-bones-but-names-will never-hurt-me theory under control.
So why am I writing about it? Definitely not to dwell, stew, or perpetuate drama. I hold no grudges, other than applying Maya Angelou’s philosophy: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” I am writing about it because I was surprised by its sting, which made me empathetic to other adults, and flashed me back to childhood for a momentary connection to the cruelty so many children face on a daily basis. In essence, it reminded me of how crushing bullying is.
Here’s What Happened: I was in a crowded local bar/restaurant talking to an acquaintance. A man near us was listening to our conversation. When the acquaintance walked away, the man stopped him and said, “Hey, you should have told her the 80s called and they want their hair back.”
I realize it’s just a verbal insult. Normally, I would just laugh something like this off and chalk it up to, “what a jerk,” because I do have unruly, curly hair, but this was so completely unnecessary. I didn’t even know the guy; he wasn’t a part of the conversation. It was a random act of meanness.
Here’s what I did: I asked him if he was talking about my hair. Funny thing is, he had curly hair, too. So, I said something like, “You have curly hair, and you’re making fun of someone else who has curly hair? Of all people, you should understand. You don’t even know me. Wow. You are mean.”
Here’s what he did: Stared through me and didn’t say a word. Of course, me being me, I didn’t just drop it, and I made a sarcastic remark about my hair so he could hear.Later, he told me he liked my hair. I told him don’t bother; my feelings were already hurt.
Here’s what I did right:
1) I addressed the situation. I believe people need to know when they hurt others’ feelings. Otherwise, they will just keep doing it.
2) I didn’t raise my voice, or verbally attack him in anger.
3) I didn’t use profanity, or call him a name.
Here’s what I did wrong:
1) I let his remark get to me. I don’t think I was hurt by his opinion of my hair, the sting came from another man telling me I am not enough just being me.
2) I let my emotions get the best of me. I was having a lot of fun. The band was excellent. Earlier, another gentleman (stranger) had walked by me and said, pointing from head to toe, “Everything you’re doing is great. Your look is awesome!” But, as soon as the insult was pitched, I was wounded and ready to go home. I gave the bully power he didn’t deserve; I allowed his words to temporarily control my feelings, emotions and actions.
3) I believed the bad stuff, even though this guy had zero credibility. I don’t even know his name. I mentioned the compliment earlier to make this point: We believe the bad stuff way more than the good stuff. When the gentleman complimented me, I said thank you and forgot about it. When the guy dissed me, I stewed, brewed and spewed. Like Vivian (Julia Roberts) said in the movie Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?”
4) I forgot to offer grace. In this case, grace is being kind to someone even though they don’t deserve it. I wish I had handled it with kindness, and this is my biggest regret.
Somewhere towards the end of last year, I decided to stand firm in who and how I am,
regardless of others’ behavior. Simply put, I don’t want to fight fire with fire. Fire doesn’t extinguish fire; fire is angry, destructive, devastating and brutal. I am not. I want my actions to be reflective of who I am, not who I may be provoked to be. In hindsight, I’m grateful for the bad hair incident “pop quiz.”
It was a lesson I needed a refresher on. It all boils down to the golden rule with one important addition: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…no matter what they do unto you.