Back to school bullies conjure up all sorts of images. I still remember my first beating, girl-style. I still cringe when near a school cafeteria–that loud clatter of trays, sharp voices stinging my ears, and the mean girls.
The Art of Punching with Words
You remember don’t you? She walks up to you in the lunchroom, her pretty teeth flashing from beneath a sweet smile, a bow in her hair. You think, “Wow, I’m so lucky. She’s trying to make friends with me.” You smile back.
But, there’s nothing nice about her smile. She’s only practicing her punch. She plans to use you to make herself more powerful.
Girls punch each other with words.
“Hi,” she pauses, ”Look, I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything, but your food smells. Please stay away. Why don’t you move to the other table. Thanks.”
Her question is a command.
She says it all in an even tone with a slight whine on the “Thanks.”
She’s clearly mastered the art of punching with words. Her victim usually bows her head and moves away, sitting alone at another table for the remainder of the school year.
Girl power packs a deeper punch.
With all the girl power in the forefront of the news and media, no one seems to get to the core of a very real divide among women and girls. Mean girls still rule the roost.
My daughter learned this first-hand last year.
My daughter had grown taller than the rest of the fourth graders. She preferred boy shorts instead of skirts and tiaras. Oh yeah, and she liked to eat.
All this of course made her an easy target for mean girls.
They started surreptitiously.
In the mornings, they pointed out a flaw, which wasn’t really a flaw. “I like your ponytail.” Then POW, “Oh my god, look. You have a bump in your hair. Let me fix it for you.”
Then they fumbled with her hair until she marched off to the bathroom and ripped her ponytail out of her hair. She then let her hair hang walking with her head down becoming the monster they wanted her to be.
Bullies love lunchrooms.
Her worst nightmare lived in the lunchroom. When she unpacked her lunch, a chicken sandwich, they held their noses and slid away from her. “Your lunch smells. I can’t stand it. Go to the other table,” they whined.
Those few sharp words effectively damaged her self-esteem and isolated her at the same time. She didn’t want to be around them, and she definitely didn’t want to eat.
I felt so frustrated when we’d get home and she’d be starving, gorging down any morsel in sight.
But, later, in that quiet space right before bed, she told me why she did that. She said she was afraid they’d make fun of her again.
I then became her shoulder to cry on with bits of advice along the way.
So, this year, she plans to fight back with her anti-bullying campaign. She created a poster depicting a bully-busting superhero resembling wonder woman.
Most likely, she’ll become an even bigger target because she’s fighting back in a loud and clear way.
They will talk. And, they will do it with those same spiteful yet artful words.
You know what I’m talking about. Look around you, the gossip of mean girls still streams over the Internet, the television, the news. Everybody listens and often enough everybody follows. Why do you think so many girls and women attempt the daunting task of wearing skinny jeans?
But, this time, my daughter will be better prepared to deal with the backlash of a bully backed into a corner. She’ll know what it feels like to take a punch and she’ll be practicing how to bounce back.
And, me, I’ll be there to catch her when she falls or at least pick her up, brush her off, and give her a shoulder to cry on.