Bullies Come in All Shapes and Sizes
I feel like The Harried Mom is speaking directly to me this week. First, her post about showing Star Wars to her son got me thinking about my own connections to that movie. Yesterday, she wrote about playing softball as a child and being bullied by a parent from the opposing team. And that got me thinking about some of my own experiences with bullies. Here’s one.
In the sixth grade–I went to a K-6 elementary school–the new P.E. teacher decided to set up co-ed softball teams for each class. My two best friends and I were on the team, and we were very quickly marginalized. The boys would refuse to let us play. Or if we did get to play, we were only allowed to play the invented positions of “backup outfielder.” You know, that’s the person who stands about 20 yards behind the right fielder. Oh, you don’t know that position? Neither did we. Finally, we stormed home to my mother (the other mothers both had jobs out of the house, and weren’t home yet) and told her about how the boys were refusing to let us play, and the teacher wasn’t doing anything about it. So my mother immediately got on the phone and told the teacher that either he could set up separate boys’ and girls’ teams, or he could set up co-ed teams and make sure that everyone got to play, but he couldn’t do what he had done–set up co-ed teams and then say, “Oh, the boys play so rough, I don’t want the girls to get hurt.”
Flash forward to the last game of the “season.” Not one of us got to play. Not even my friend who was a better pitcher than any of the boys. Not for one moment of that game. And in childish frustration, I threw my glove on the ground.
The next thing I knew, the teacher was looming over me. And he was yelling. At me.
“You don’t get to throw your glove on the ground! If there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s a poor sport! You are nothing but a poor sport!”
I was mortified. I was a model student. I never caused the slightest problem in school. But because of that, I was also furious. After all, he should have known exactly why I was upset, because he had explicitly been told what the problem was. So I pointed my finger at him and said, “I may be a poor sport, but you’re nothing but a male chauvinist PIG!”
He blanched. I bent down, picked up the glove, and said, “Excuse me. I have to go back to class.”
And then I started to get scared. People were going to be angry with me. I was not supposed to talk to adults like that. So when I got to my classroom, I went straight to my teacher–the refined woman who taught us etiquette as well as math, creative writing as well as grammar, personal hygiene as well as biology. I idolized her, and couldn’t bear the thought that she’d think less of me. But I also knew that she needed to hear about this from me directly. So I sat down in front of her desk, practically in tears, and said, “I yelled at the P.E. teacher, and I’m afraid I’m going to get in trouble.”
She must have wanted to laugh right then. But she didn’t. She said, very calmly and gently, “Tell me what happened.” And when I had, she said, “Well. I wouldn’t worry about it. You aren’t going to get in any trouble.”
I didn’t. There were no repercussions, either at school or at home. And that P.E. teacher avoided me for the rest of the year.
I still have that glove. I’m still in touch with my sixth grade teacher. And I still have nothing but contempt for that P.E. teacher for trying to intimidate an 11-year-old child.