Why should I be nice to my bullies?

One of the most astonishing things about being a survivor of bullying, is that society expect me to be all nice and smiley to my bullies when I meet them today.

To this I have to ask: Why?

Why should I be nice to someone who turned my life into one long struggle of distrust, misanthropy and a general hate against said society?

The answer, of course, is that people who weren’t bullied don’t understand the long term effects. Their thought process runs something like this: «Yes, bullying someone isn’t very nice, but they were just children. It was a long time ago! Why should the victim be bitter? They haven’t seen their bullies in years!»

Trauma doesn’t work that way.

It stays with you always. It festers.

But most importantly, the reason I will never be nice – or even civil – to my bullies, is because I know they are horrible people. Why should I be nice to someone who has proven over a period of several years, that they enjoy humiliating and belittle another human being?

But apparently I’m the difficult one. I am the one who is in the wrong, somehow.

It’s as if bullying is actually okay.

I’m part of a writing group, and some time ago one of the people in this group submitted a draft for a story, concerning a woman who was a big bully, a classical mean girl, in high school. Then something really traumatic happened to her, and ten years on she is trying to reintegrate into society. She moves back in with her parents in her old neighbourhood, and meets several of the people she tormented in their school days.

The thing was, her previous victims were completely over her. The bully acted the same way she had done when she was 17, being a bitch to her old classmates, destroying their possessions and making fun of them, and they did absolutely nothing to retaliate.

They were basically balanced adults who just felt sorry for the bully and the difficulties she was now facing.

I of course, called out this strange behaviour, and asked the submitter exactly how bad the bullying had been. Did this girl just act like she was better than everybody else, or was she a cruel sadist to everyone she deemed «below» her?

Because, if she was a proper bully, there was no way in hell her previous victims would be so kind and understanding. They would get back at her. They would humiliate her and make her pay. There was absolutely no way they would pasiently sit and watch her continue where she left off.

And to drive the point home, I told them a story I heard in my student days. One of the people I was going to university with, told me how he got back on his school bully.

He had a part time job as a debt collector. One day, who’s name didn’t turn up on his caller’s list, than his bully’s. My student buddy – let’s call him Will – called the bully up, introduced himself the standard way, explained why he was calling, and told the bully the debt needed to be settled immediately.

The debt was for several calls to a sex phone line, just to add insult to injury.

The bully couldn’t pay. So Will added all the extra fees he legally could add – he wasn’t stupid enough to do anything illegal, obviously – and the end result was that instead of settle a debt of maybe €60, the bully ended up paying over €200.

The person who had submitted the story was very quiet while I was talking, and really had nothing to say to any of my questions. It was like my persepctive had never entered their mind at all while writing it.

None of the others in the group seemed to have concidered it either, because once I finished relaying my story about Will, one of them exclaimed «What a facinating story!»

I had to stiffle a chuckle. This is why we hardly ever get realistic depictions of bullying. Because the people writing the stories never were on the receiving end, and the editors haven’t either. That’s why us bullying victims just roll our eyes every time we see a depiction of a bully who suffered some trauma, and then we should believe they are the «real» victims.

Honestly, the only realistic depiction of bullying and its psychological effects I have seen in any fiction, is in the novel Let the Right One In. But that is because author John Ajvide Lindqvist was bullied in school, and the book draws heavily on his own experiences growing up. And it shows. Even though the book is about vampires, it carries a realism most «realistic» fiction can only dream about.

And I have to admit, for me the most satisfying part of Let the Right One In, was when the bullies had their heads ripper off.

The day it all began

Let me tell you a little story. The story of how it all began for me. Like all bullying victims I didn’t see it coming, and did not know what to do.

Before

My childhood is strictly divided into a Before and After. Before I was a happy-go-lucky girl without a care in the world. I was the one who led the play and came up with scenarios we acted out – usually involving princesses and pirates.

Before I had never, not once, experienced being rejected by my peers. I was well liked and the other children liked spending time with me. To have everyone turn against me and being completely abandoned, was not something I had ever contemplated.

My first year of school was great. I can’t say I remember much about it, but I had my best friend and neighbour attending with me, and I got on well with my classmates.

But after our first year my best friend moved away. Now this shouldn’t be a problem. By then I knew the rest of the children very well and we got along fine. I would not be lonely.

After

I can’t say I remember what day or date it was, but I know it was pretty early in the second school year. It can’t have been any later than September, for I was wearing a light pink jacket only suited for early autumn.

The sky was grey and overcast. The whole class was out in the school yard, waiting for our teacher to come and fetch us. In our first year we had been put in pairs, and we had to make a line with our “line mate”, if that makes sense, when the bell rang.

The girl I had been paired with, lets call her Regina George, lived only a block away from me, and we often walked home from school together. I had nothing unspoken with her and thought we were friends.

It was there, while waiting for the teacher, Regina suddenly turned to me and out of the blue said: «You think you are so pretty.»

I was stunned. I had no idea what she was talking about. I was 8 years old, and couldn’t care less what I looked like. I was a bit of a tomboy as a child, which meant I preferred pants to skirts, and loved to play in the forested area behind our school when the teachers weren’t looking. Unnessesary to say I had no fashion sense, and had never even raided my mom’s makeup bag for fun.

So what made Regina say that?

Looking back with adult eyes have made me realise she was testing me. She wanted to see how far she could go. The fact that she would bully me for my clothes and shoes later on also shows she was not consistent and it was only a flimsy excuse.

And she found out she could go as far as she wanted. I was, first of all, unable to understand the situation. Even though I had done well socially up until that point, I have always struggled with understanding social situations and social cues. Therefore I didn’t know how to approach the situation or how to fire back at Regina. I was helpless.

I was stunned into silence. I didn’t understand where it was coming from, or what I should say back.

The difference from before was that all of my peers had been accepting of me. If I had any quirks, it had not been a problem. This Regina was determind to change.

She talked constantly behind my back. Repeated to the rest of the class, but especially the girls, that I thought I was so pretty and that I was stupid and weak. Now, I know the automatic response to this will be: «Why didn’t you defend yourself?»

How, exactly? When one of your classmates, someone you up until that point thought was your friend, suddenly turns against you and repeat the slander from Regina, while Regina herself stands behind her with a smug grin plastered across her face, what do you do? Hit the stupid bitch and the slanderer?

Who will be punished? I knew, and so did Regina and the rest of the class, that if I hit them I would be in trouble. I would be hauled off to the Principal’s office and told you shall never hit anyone and violence is never the answer.

This is a crucial part of the mechanism of bullying: The cooperation from the adults. The adults don’t see it this way, of course. What they see is a difficult child who pushed and hit another student, and the adults will pat themselves on the back for interupting and correcting the difficult child.

What they have actually done is to empower the bullies, by showing them it is completely safe to torment their peers, that the adult will protect them and punish the abused, they will even assist in the humiliation, by forcing the bullying victim to apologies to their abusers.

Unneccessary to say, I am not fond of teachers. They are nothing a part of the problem.

And a few years later, I came to discover they were more than just collaborators, they were bullies themselves.