Bullying has been around a long time but only recently has there been a serious commitment to deal with it. When I was young, there were definitely bullies at our school and in our neighbourhood but no one ever talked about it and discipline was rare. Nowadays, we see big name celebrities bringing this issue to the forefront and teachers going to seminars and conferences so that they can learn how to deal with the issue here and now. In many schools, there is zero tolerance for bullying and statistics are showing that progress is being made in helping people understand how devastating bullying can be for anyone. This is good news.
I remember painful days when I too was bullied. Different generation; different kind of bullying…but bullying none the less.
When I was in Grade 6, my mother remarried and my parents decided to legally change my last name. My mom believed that my brothers and I would fit in more appropriately if we weren’t dealing with two different last names. The result? One day, I went to school as Diane Irwin and then the next day, I went to school as Diane Chown. It seemed simple enough.
You have to appreciate the context of this experience. My mother divorced my father at a time when that just didn’t happen – I don’t remember anyone with divorced parents when I was young. I remember feeling such embarrassment and shame that I didn’t have a real dad. I never invited people over to my house and I consciously steered away from conversations about my family. Unfortunately, someone got wind of my situation and decided to make some trouble.
It happened at recess. (Just as a side note, a LOT happens at recess that teachers never see!) Anyways, I saw a group of guys heading my direction and I felt scared. Mark Schmidt pointed at me and started making fun of my last name. “Chown, Chown..Diane is a clown” and he just wouldn’t let up. Everyone else in the group started to poke at me and make fun of my mother and the fact that I didn’t have a dad. My heart sank. It was one of the most degrading, agonizing moments of my life. It seemed to last forever. No one helped me. Perhaps no one saw what was happening. I just know that by the time it was all over, I was crumpled up in a ball on the ground, sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
The problem is that for bullies, it’s not a big deal. “Suck it up” they say – but anyone who has ever been bullied can identify with the fear, the helplessness and the rejection.
I wasn’t bullied often. Once was too much…and the memories have lingered for a long time. …42 years to be exact.