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Finding the boundaries of the pond [Mar. 9th, 2005|09:09 am]
[Current Mood |melancholymelancholy]

Yesterday, Ferrett asked women for their tales of junior high torture. The outpouring of hurt was phenomenal. I frankly cannot read the responses, not with everything that is going on in my life - it's too stressful.

But it got me wondering: we all seem to have stories of being tortured and made miserable in school. A few lucky souls admit that they were only teased a bit or for the most part left alone. That leaves a big group unaccounted for. Who are the torturers, and where are they now? Even assuming it was some sort of a food chain with middling torturers being tortured by the big fish, somewhere there have to be big fish. And some of them have to be around.

Were you a big fish? Or a middle fish? What was the mental process that made it okay to torture those lower on the food chain? How do you cope with the memories of it now?

I have wondered about this for years, so if you were one of the inflictors of physical or mental pain, please speak up - anonymously is fine. Where was your head and where is it now?

And, barring that, if any of you victims ever confronted your tormentors (at, say a reunion, or in a dark alley years later), did you ever get an answer to the persistent question of why?

Because I never have. And I suspect there is a good chance I'll get no responses to this.

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[User Picture]From: adjust_56
2005-03-09 02:30 pm (UTC)
I don't believe you will get and adquete reponse to why, with rampat emotional imaturity people do things to others to feel better or to follow and not cause waves.... what to one is considered bad humor to the other it's torture. I have an acquantance who sometimes says things that could be taken to be very cruel. She has NO sensitivity, she's been a trail lawyer for so long that other lawyers rather settle out of court than meet her in that arena, professionally she is very good. Personally only those with the hardest skin can actually be around her for any lenght of time. What can make others laugh at her hard humor can inflict an incredible amount of pain to those she focuses on. When confronted by it she looks totally perplexed and says why do you give my words such power? It was only a joke... Needless to say she is becoming a hermit or better said there are few that want to go out and play with her. And she really has NO idea that she is the way she is.
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[User Picture]From: pheret1
2005-03-09 02:35 pm (UTC)
I've got a feeling that the percentage of tormenters on LiveJournal is very small - it's just a feeling.

I was always on the outside - I'm really short (5'), and always looked two or three years younger than my class. Also, I came from a family that didn't watch television, so I never understood some of the pop culture things that everyone was talking about.

I got teased, but the tormentors usually forgot about me within a few days or weeks, so I didn't bear the brunt of it, as many of my friends did.

About 7 or 8 years after high school, I was on an adult softball league and one of my very good friend's main tormentors was on the other team. He came over and introduced himself and said, "I'm sorry for anything I did in high school. I was a real jerk. Please forgive me."

I still didn't feel like being his friend, as he made 4 years of hell for someone I was close to, but it did give me something to think about.
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[User Picture]From: quillismightier
2005-03-09 02:35 pm (UTC)
Whenever I attempted to confront an attacker either during school days or after them, I was given the following as reasons:

Because I can.
Because it's funny.
Because you're a loser.
Because you're different from us.

That was all I was ever given. I did seem to notice that the bulk of the girls who attacked others have difficulty moving around the real world and are permanently stuck in 'middle school' mode.
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From: appleblossomtru
2005-03-09 04:17 pm (UTC)
Heh. I've noticed the same thing. They're stuck in dead-end jobs, miserable marriages, etc. So sad, too bad. They reap what they sow.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-03-09 02:36 pm (UTC)
I was a bit part member of some bullying groups
The strength of character just wasn't there. I dont think I was one of the meaner ones but... I was aware enough of my oddity to hide it behind agreeing with others rather than standing on my own two feet. I did some unkind things just to try and be liked.

Not proud and have been eaten up with guilt when ever I've thought about it. Have often squirmed in silence, when certain events have been brought up by others, remembering my behaviour.
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From: startingblocks
2005-03-09 02:49 pm (UTC)
First, I applaud you for speaking out that you did indeed take part. Second... have you ever thought of tracking down someone you hurt to try to make amends? It's not always possible, but I'm just curious.
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From: ladytabitha
2005-03-09 02:47 pm (UTC)
Hell, I'll speak up.

I remember, fuzzily, bullying this one guy at school in the fourth grade.  We all used to make fun of him because he was such a dork, and claimed he'd been hit by a Mack truck.  I just laughed along, didn't really join in.  (Explanation.)

For directly, I remember getting physical with him, although I honestly don't recall if I threatened to hit him or actually hit him.  If I did hit him, it was in the arms or such.  He was frightfully easy to frighten.

My reasoning was largely because I could, if I had any.  I didn't care about him one way or the other.  It was just something I could do, so I did it.  Plus, again, he frightened easily, so it's not like it mattered any.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-03-09 03:00 pm (UTC)
But did you get anything out of it? Did you ever consider how it made him feel? I'm not trying to beat you up, just to understand.
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[User Picture]From: kyburg
2005-03-09 02:48 pm (UTC)
I was invisible. As in - go ahead, I won't care. Or pay attention, or give you *any* satisfaction.

I grew up entirely alone, with few friends who knew me - but I never gave a bully the least satisfaction.

I'm more vocal these days, but when someone wants a piece of me, that's all they get. A very cold stare, and not much more. Certainly, they never see me sweat.
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From: taiste
2005-03-09 02:48 pm (UTC)
I don't have a great answer for you, either, but I tend to think it's similar to the mentality of any tyrant. Needing to keep others down so you can stay on top. And it's not often genuine evil as much as it is fear of losing your place. Some of the worst acts are perpetuated not by evil or anger, but by fear.

I had my share of tormentors - not to the depths some of those others have described, but plenty of emotional abuse. But there were times I saw them cry or look horrified at what they had done. I don't think they were inherently bad. Just afraid, and they let that, along with a desire for acceptance, form a sort of mob mentality that pushed them to do far worse than they would've done alone.

There was one middle school year when the worst of my torturers wrote in my yearbook about how strong I was, how nothing affected me, and how much she admired me for that. It shocked the hell out of me, because she'd never given any indication that she had any feelings at all, prior. But I think maybe it was true, and part of the reason she did what she did was because she didn't have that kind of strength. Maybe that was her way of saying she was sorry. I don't know. But I never forgot it.
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[User Picture]From: salix_03
2005-03-09 02:49 pm (UTC)
I moved an entire continent away from my hometown to avoid being around the people who made my school life such a misery. From what I've heard, the 'big fish' are doing exactly the same thing now as they were then: living at home, working a crappy minimum wage job and acting like children. Does it make me feel better? *shrugs* I've learnt to stop basing my selfworth on others opinions of me.

As for me inflicting anything on anyone else, I've been part of the crowd that laughed politely for fear of the torture turning on them, and I've ignored what's been done to others. Makes me just as bad, no?

I deal with the memories as they come. I can't change the past, but I can change my attitude to it. And I can make damn sure that I don't participate in, or ignore anyone dishing out abuse now days.

If I run into anyone, which is unlikely, I won't need to ask them why. Because to me, it no longer matters.
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[User Picture]From: nyxalinth
2005-03-09 03:16 pm (UTC)

The Rule of Three at Work for you...

'From what I've heard, the 'big fish' are doing exactly the same thing now as they were then: living at home, working a crappy minimum wage job and acting like children.'

My title is because some people claim that Karma, the rule of Three, the Golden Rule, etc. don't really work.

This bit you wrote is a reminder that yeah, it does. Just not in ways we'd like to see in the dark little corners of our minds some days :)
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[User Picture]From: valarltd
2005-03-09 02:50 pm (UTC)
When I mentioned it to some of my tormentors years later,
they were all "I don't remember being like that." I dragged up specific instances and was told to get over them because they happened so long ago, and "don't you know it's not healthy to hold grudges?"

One guy didn't even remember being horrid to me at first. He just remembered we'd gotten to be good friends in 8th grade, that I was a stable point he could talk to about his wicked stepmother and that we dated (which we did, before he came out). I remembered him teasing, because it was what all the kids did, but once he got to talking to me, he found I was a person and couldn't tease anymore. He did apologize and we are good friends.
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[User Picture]From: pkthunder
2005-03-09 02:57 pm (UTC)
I was the second smallest fish in the pond. I remember picking on the only girl who was more of a loser than me, and part of the reason was because if I didn't join in on the fun, it was going to be me that was tortured. I think that happened with a lot of the middle fish. If they could be okay with being that cruel, they were going to do it because it kept them from being tortured.
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From: drooling_ferret
2005-03-09 03:09 pm (UTC)
I did that for a while, in 5th grade. Then I decided not to anymore.

Sometime in middle school, I saw the littlest fish getting picked on by the second littlest, and in trying to defend the littlest, wound up picking on the second. Fucking complicated shit, that can be.

By high school, I mostly stuck to myself, projected strongly the image of someone who wants nothing more than to be left alone and is probably a bit too crazy for you to want to chance fucking with (by the time the whole Columbine thing happened, I was a soon-to-be graduating senior, but I remember thinking it should have happened when I was a freshman so more people'd've left me alone as a result).
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From: drooling_ferret
2005-03-09 03:02 pm (UTC)
There's can be a fine line between good-natured and mean-spirited teasing. It's fun, sometimes, to tease. To push buttons, to mess with people. For some people, it may not matter or they may not realize or it may not register for them that there IS a difference.

In any case: there is almost never a good AND simple answer to this sort of question. Why'd they do it? Oversimplified drastically: they did it because it made them feel good / less bad, or they expected it to on some level.
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[User Picture]From: jmfunnyface
2005-03-09 03:10 pm (UTC)
I was one of the lucky ones, I was never picked on in middle school or high school. For some reason, that I really don't know, I always fell in with a really good group of people. My high school was huge I graduated with almost 500 kids in my grade alone, and I think that the sheer amount of people prevented the amount of torture that goes on in smaller schools. I'll never say that I was popular, I was really quiet and shy in high school but I was well liked. I loved my senior year of high school, and don't have nightmares about it the way a lot of people do.

I never picked on anyone. I never felt the need to make others suffer to make myself feel better. I don't even remember my friends or the groups of people I hung out with picking on other people. The teachers always said that our year was their favorite just because we were so different than any class before us. I don't know if that means the stuff that people have been posting about didn't go on, or if it just went on quietly.
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[User Picture]From: nyxalinth
2005-03-09 03:21 pm (UTC)
I'm using my Harold icon to make a point here, Harold being a mutant, and all.

Regardless of all the answers here, and the ones you will never see, it all boils down to a simple fear of what is different. Fear of the mutant, Stephen King calls it in Danse Macabre.

I have a theory that there is some genetic predisposition to fear what is different in each other. Someone different might possibly not make a good potential mate, and is to be eschewed, or even cast out.

The thing is, all this works just fine back in caveman days, but we're all supposedly civilised human beings. the problem is that our brains evolved faster than our instincts. So you get the all too human but utterly stupid behaviours like various 'isms' (racism, sizeism, etc.) and nowhere is 'fear of the mutant' stronger than in middle school and high school.

And does it strike you as ironic how teenagers whine that they want to be unique (when confronted by parents about why they need 12 piercins, or purple hair) and yet they ALL have to dress the same way?
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[User Picture]From: dawntreader90
2005-03-09 03:24 pm (UTC)
i was mostly left alone and stayed out of it all, but i did serve my time as both tormentor and tormented. i reaped what i sowed, basically, and in one instance got exactly what i deserved and learned my lesson.

that being said, as a tormentor, i deeply regret what my friend and i did to torment one particular girl in fourth and fifth grade. she was so afraid of us at one point that she refused to come to school. even at the time i felt guilty about what we were doing to her, but my friend and i were "best friends" and even though it's no excuse, i followed along. she tormented me to a certain extent, so in my mind, it was better to ally myself with her than be tormented myself.

also, everything we did was purely psychological. in no way did we physically attack or harm her, but the stories we told to her and about her probably more than doubled her pain. :(
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[User Picture]From: magicpointeshoe
2005-03-09 03:26 pm (UTC)
I was a lower-middle fish in junior high. I got picked on quite a bit, but there were a couple girls that irritated the heck out of me and it got to the point that I kept it pretty open how I felt. Part of it was because I was stuck in all the same classes as that girl (or lived down the street which has the same in your face quality) and the used alphabetical seating charts. Having her right behind me with her piss poor attitude trying to be my friend and yet so freaking fake drove me nuts. Fake eye color, fake hair, fake nails, when I asked what was the usual color or length, she would lie and say oh this is. So, I'd snark about her to my best friend who would get all annoyed with her too, but they really didn't get along and it escalated to the point of the end of the year fight.

I also ended up slapping the girl down the street for not handling my pet rabbit correctly. She wouldn't put him down and it became a pissing match for who was right, she shoved me so I slapped her and told her to get the hell out of my house... (it was a trailor park at the time, lol)

I wasn't limited to girls though. There was a boy in seventh grade that was a total geek and outcast in most of my classes. I think he had a crush on me, but his behavior was rather psycho. (He joked about being a fan of Hitler, but I'm betting he was just trying to change the tide of how he was being treated by everyone) During PE, he told me he was going to kill me, and then when we were switching sides in softball, he ran towards me to clothesline me with his arm. I ducked just in time, but the combination of the two had me in tears at lunch time. A teacher saw me crying and sent me to the vice-principal's office where the boy got suspended, plus he got institutionalized. That whole incident rocked me to my core. There was nothing secretive about that day, my whole class knew what had happened by the time I went back to class and he got escorted out. I had visions of this boy getting all sideshow bob about me because of what happened.

Basically, in each situation I was stuck with those people swirling around me all day long. There was no escape into other classes like what high school was going to become. Internally I knew that the situation should have never escalated to that point but I couldn't ask for help from any adults because that was so not cool. So I delt with each day individually trying to protect my own self-worth and not let someone who was driving me nuts bully me into self destruction or pity parties. I just wanted them to step off a bit... and that's exactly what had happened in each case after the drama hit full force.

I don't like the choices I made back then... but they are who I was that day developmentally. I didn't have the knowledge nor the experience to tell me that I didn't have to react or invest in people that annoy me. I'd apologise to any one of them if I ever stumbled across them for letting the situation get to that point and for inflicting such devistating days in their lives.
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