Have y’all heard this question: if you had the option of having the power of invisibility or flight, which would you choose?
I chose invisibility. My sister chose flight.
Why mention my sister all of a sudden? Well, she chose flight.
It turns out if you pick flight, you’re more optimistic, ethical and happier. Conversely, if you chose invisibility, you’re more unethical, cynical and unhappy.
I was bullied from age 7-18. It sucked but I was a cowardly weakling so there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. In school as in every other human realm, there is a hierarchy. I just happened to be at the bottom at school and that’s ok. Shit happened. It formed my world view. It formed my opinion of humanity. But I’m not pissed about it anymore. That’s a waste of time. And I just don’t have the energy. I’m really lazy.
Since I couldn’t physically defend myself (I tried twice; I just enraged the bullies and they beat my ass worse), I decided my best bet to avoid bully induced stress was hiding. I wouldn’t go out to play during recess. I would stay in the school library and read. I think the library nun knew I was supposed to be out at recess but she was kind enough to let me stay.
But there were times when I couldn’t physically hide from the bullies. I would be in a class with them (generally safe since the teachers at Our Lady of Good Counsel brooked very little tomfoolery – But I’d get whispered descriptions of how my ass was going to be beat later on or they’d cheat off my test or do spit balls or kick my chair or stab me in the neck or back with a pencil ; all standard shit to distract me that the teacher warden wouldn’t notice) or in the hallways or waiting for my grandmother to pick my sister and I up after school. In those occasions, the quarters were so close that I had to brace myself for a verbal or physical assault.
I had two options. Physically fight back which I did try a few times but I’ve already detailed above how well that succeeded. Or I could go with the nuclear option and tell on them.
Now I can’t remember when I learned that telling on someone was verboten. I feel like in my entire school life I was aware of that prohibition and, despite all logic, I stuck to it. I maintained honor. But looking back now, I see it was a ludicrous choice.
I was already at the bottom of the social hierarchy. I was already getting throttled physically and verbally whenever there bullies could get an opportunity. Exactly how much worse was it going to get if I told on them? I mean I guess the physical and verbal assaults could increase in intensity and I certainly didn’t want that but I was in the process of developing my invisibility and avoidance protocol so I was actually beginning to develop a process that minimized my beat downs. Why was I protecting my bullies? I guess the real reason is I didn’t want to disappoint my Dad further. I mean he already thought I was a slacker academically, which I was. But if he learned that I hadn’t stuck up for myself and tattle tailed like a little pussy, I was sure he would think even less of me. I can’t fairly say that’s how he would have reacted. I can’t. But that’s how my mom reacted when she saw me being bullied. She called me a coward and a wimp and demanded my father take note. That’s her idea of support. That’s a whole other post.
So my only option was to grin and bear it and hide as much as possible.
I arranged it so that I would only encounter bullies when teachers were observing. That didn’t give me peace but it restricted the bully assault options to verbal. That’s not much fun either but I preferred it to getting beat up. Eventually the verbal assaults lost their effect. I would just keep my face frozen and wish death on the speakers.
My invisibility wasn’t being actually transparent like the Invisible Man of movie fame, not Ralph Ellison’s novel. It was reaction concealment. If something good happened, I had a slight frown on my face. If something bad happened, I had a slight frown on my face. If ANYTHING happened, I had a slight frown on my face.
There was no reaction.
I might have been (and often was) experiencing anger internally but it was not physically manifested in any way.
My rationale was that if I displayed zero reaction, that would make the taunting less rewarding for the bullies. They would double down and make fun of me for being a quiet weirdo but even they eventually got bored with that same pattern.
It was as if I developed a counter measure to my predators during the course of my lifetime instead of passing it down to future generations in the standard evolutionary process. I had to speed up Chuck Darwin’s game.
Eventually though, my slight frown defense face became my everyday face. At home. Out at the mall. At the doctor’s office. At family functions.
I’ve been asked my much younger relatives why I never smile on multiple occasions. Simply put, holding my frozen slight frown for 10 straight years, my face literally froze that way. That old saying turned out to be true!
I do laugh and smile when I’m around people I like and when I’m reading or watching a movie or tv show or listening to some music I dig. But in general, you won’t get a nod, a wink, a smile, an anything, from me if I pass you by on the sidewalk. It probably makes me come off as an unfriendly prick. And that’s great; that lessens the possibility of having to talk to random people.
For kids being bullied today, and I’ve read some accounts that make my bullying experience seem downright quaint, I would just advise you to ask your parents to home school you. I’m not remotely kidding. Just study your ass off and get into a college. The bullies don’t bother you anymore in college. It’s not that they want to be your friend or anything. But they self segregate into their own groups and they just seem to be more interested in hanging out with their own pack than harassing the sheep. Getting drunk and fucking college ladies is a bigger priority. I can’t really fault them; mocking me sure doesn’t beat getting laid.
In addition, young bullied friends, in many cases, your bullies won’t get into a college that’s as good as the college that WILL accept you. And hopefully (and I’ll hope this for you so you don’t have to be held responsible by any mystical or karmic forces) their lives will be sad and empty and you’ll never see them again.
We can dream, right?