This hurts my heart. I hope I never see Will go through this.
I'm encountering a civil war of sorts in the adult skating community, where it appears one is bullying the other. It is shocking, as an adult, to witness this behavior in a sport that is supposed to be fun as well as supportive.
But I guess I'm in my life-is-beautiful-prom-queen bubble half the time and don't always see things as they are.
I had a few bullies in my day. In grade school, there was Angela, who basically picked on and started fights with everyone. Her favorite thing to say in the morning was "let's all ignore [insert girl's name here] today," and watch as the psychological damage slowly unfolded until that girl would go home by the end of the day in tears, wondering what the hell happened. Could have been the wrong color barrettes. Could have been she hadn't been isolated in a while. Could have been getting a better grade on a paper.
I rarely participated in this nonsense, so the isolated girl and I usually formed a two-person front against her. In those times when it was my turn, I usually stood alone.
Her underlying motivations varied. She was an unhappy person, who valued physical beauty above all else, ironic considering the burns on her body due to an accident. I remember her showing us modeling head shots that were taken and sent out in hopes of getting some work. She never did.
For obvious reasons, we grew apart once she changed high schools. We shared a distinct bond based on growing up in the same neighborhood together, but we didn't value each other as friends.
Ah, but teenage years are ripe with Life Lessons and Angela was replaced with not one but TWO, Kelly and Susan. Want to know why I was so offensive to them? I was polite to teachers, and in their opinion, I was a suck up, an unforgivable sin. They made fun of my clothes in assembly, which in hindsight is highly illogical since we were all in classic Catholic school uniform and dressed more or less the same. They would follow me in the halls, singing the Styx song "Lady," a bland love song they turned into a taunt.
Their mockery was apparently infectious, since it spread to Dave in English, who would pull my bra straps, whisper hateful things, throw little balls of paper in my hair, make fun of me loudly when I got less than an A. This one hurt, because he was the grandson of Mrs. O, our next door neighbor, and one of my playmates when we were younger. He would come over on Friday nights to visit, and a neighborhood game of tag, statues or hide and seek would break out. He could have made the transition from a small grade school to a big high school easy on me, but he betrayed our friendship. I think his actions, unexplained to this day, probably hurt most of all.
Funny thing was, no matter how much he hurt me in school, I never tattled to his mother or his grandmother, sticking to some sort of unspoken kid code. Why? Probably because if I had, things would have only gotten worse. No one likes a tattle tale, esp. a 15 year old one. That too explains it, I was growing up and wanted to fight my own battles.
So how did I get out from under their grip? Kelly had drug problems, and went to rehab, never to return. Without her partner, Susan lost interest in me and ended up quite friendly at a class reunion, striking up conversation as we pitched in to clean up after. Dave too had some substance abuse issues, which I think may have humbled him, as we went from hostile to mellow.
The prom my junior year was liberating, as I was on the prom committee and showed up to do some post-party clean up. A group of mean girls (nothing else describes them more accurately) were half-heartedly helping, and sticking paper flowers on each other. Smiling, I joined in. The exaggerated horror on their faces that I dare ingratiate myself in their group was striking, as they ripped the flowers off themselves and went to another part of the auditorium to clean up. Instead of that heated, embarrassed shame for being caught trying to be in with the in crowd, I got pissed and suddenly, I realized I didn't like them anyway. I was caught off-guard by that sudden realization, and laughed out loud as the burden of popularity was lifted from my shoulders. This caused that group to turn, stare and declare me "so weird!" That made me laugh even more.
Oh, I fear for Will, bullies are everywhere, and in all shapes and sizes, from employers to telemarketers to salesmen to little boys at the kid zone that want the toy you have. Almost all I have encountered are battling some demon that is kicking their ass, so they are looking to return the favor. I want to protect him, but I want him to learn to make his own way, however he see fit. He's such a happy kid, I don't want his light dimmed, but I want him to be strong and be his own person.
It's hard to stand alone. But sometimes, you must.