Life Isn’t Easy

I was actually bullied by certain “friends” of mine in high school. Not constantly but now and then. I felt engaged by school studies from time to time (I liked history and English) but mostly I was bored to tears, and I hated the repressive “no” atmosphere in my home, which was partly due to my rebellious nature but was largely a product of my alcoholic dad’s personality. So I acted out in order to break out. I was impish, snarky, theatrical, intimidated, angry. I wanted attention.

And so a few obstinate assholes took it upon themselves to let me know that my attitude and manner were socially out of line. I don’t want to talk about it. It was a venal culture. I wasn’t the only one to go through the gauntlet. Every now and then a new victim would be chosen and guys would get “de-pants-ed,” to use an expression of the day. Different guys would be punished by the mob for being a little bit (or a lot) different. I myself was a mobster from time to time. You don’t want to know.

My early high-school days weren’t all hell, but it was basically a time of imprisonment. The truth is that it was partly them and partly me. I clung to adolescence for a long time. I was a late bloomer. I didn’t discover what I wanted to do and be until my early 20s, and my maverick nature presented problems in journalism until the online thing took off in the late ’90s, and then I was finally in a good place. And then HE took off ad-revenue-wise about ’06 or so, and stability came from that.

  • Captain EO

    Right there with you – I felt that HS graduation was like being released from prison, and I haven’t been to a reunion yet (do ex-cons have reunions? I highly doubt it).

    Going thru all that made me more self-reliant, but also less secure as a person. I joined the Marines and earned a black belt in karate so I wouldn’t feel vulnerable again. Also a late bloomer in that I didn’t really get a career going until my late 20s.

    Heck, I even started P90X two weeks ago after a former bully was quoted in the local paper raving about a new fad workout routine…Crazy how early experiences can haunt some of us.

  • Floyd Thursby

    “I don’t want to talk about it.”–Helena Kallianiotes in Five Easy Pieces

  • Albert Starling

    It’s none of my business really, but I often wondered why you don’t continue ads down the left and right hand sides of the main page where the older stories are. I check in every day or so but usually have to back down about 8 or 9 stories to start reading. They could be less expensive or whatever as the reader goes further down.

  • Hallick

    I’m regularly haunted by the memory of the climax of the big brother’s story in “Leolo”. It wasn’t the world’s best depiction of bullying, but that last “rematch” scene is a heartbreaker.

  • Krillian

    Junior high was my hell. Short, shy and poor. Bad triple-combo in junior high. I had many fantasies about walking to school fully armed and letting some people have it. This was a few years before kids in America actually started living out those fantasies.

    High-school was much cooler. I joined the wrestling team, the newspaper staff, and the juniors and seniors treated me like a kid brother while the jerks from junior high who thought they were hot stuff had some rude awakenings.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    One of my greatest satisfactions is knowing that the smug, arrogant dicks who made my life hell from time to time in high school are possibly not living a life that is as interesting, exciting and fulfilling as mine is right now. I would suppose that the spiritual aspects of my present-day life are much richer and more robust than…well, what do I know? Not much, I guess. I do know that things are going well for me now, and that I’m not in a rut, and that every day brings new stimulations and challenges, and that tedium and regulated dullness almost never enter in.

    I know what Harris and Klebold were feeling. That they acted they way they did is pathetic and tragic, but I know what they were feeling. If you’re going to experience the butt end of cruelty from your peers, you’re going to get it in junior and senior high school. Kids and teenagers are cruel to each other beyond belief.

  • Mr. F.

    Shorter Wells:

    “It gets better. Except for the Right Wing, jocks, flip-flops, HPEs, fatties, the average American consumer, film grain, fast food, Best Picture winners — no, the Academy itself — reclining airline seats, talking during movies, Fox News, and not getting invited to advance screenings by the studios. Okay… it gets a little better except for all that horrible bullshit.”

  • Very nice article! Very informative and well written.

  • Jesse Crall

    Yeah, for whatever professional walls Wells runs into, he’s one of few who can hit the Cannes film festival and bring up things that Sterling Hayden said to him. Very cool.

    I was never “bullied” in high school, but I was definitely ostracized for being a little different in a very rah-rah Catholic high school. Not a bad school by any means, but wrong for someone like me. The upside to being raised by a single mother and no siblings was that I got used to doing things for myself and I could relate to adults well. But I didn’t relate to people my own age and got pegged as a weirdo “fag” because of it. Saw a lot of movies, though 🙂

    @Captain EO: I’m thinking of getting into martial arts for the same reason.

  • MooType

    I’m sure that a lot of the people I went to high school with aren’t living a life as interesting and exciting as mine–but they don’t really care, because they’re adults, and their lives don’t revolve around pop culture, and a lot of them have started businesses and improved the lives of others by creating jobs, which I have, too, but not as many jobs, so good for them.

  • Super Soul

    John Bender wrote this post.

  • mizerock

    Teenagers often make such terrible choices, and can behave cruely, for seemingly no reason. And hey, science finally has a clue why this might be.

    To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain, the frontal lobes, are not fully connected. Really.

  • Terry McCarty

    The butt end of cruelty continues into adulthood in some sectors–particularly if you’re involved in small subcultures like poetry in LA/Orange County.

    I can remember one poet (who, among other things had a teleplay credit on the TV-movie A CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SNOW) who once told me on a Yahoogroups site (where other people could read it) that my death couldn’t happen soon enough.

  • Kakihara

    My favorite part of high school was having to go to a physics class where a wigger was more popular than me, even though he bragged about beating up homosexuals.

  • Mr. F.

    “I can remember one poet (who, among other things had a teleplay credit on the TV-movie A CHRISTMAS WITHOUT SNOW) who once told me on a Yahoogroups site (where other people could read it) that my death couldn’t happen soon enough.”

    Sure, but you’re talking about POETS here. Those melodramatic little buggers wish death on anyone and anything when things don’t go their way.

    Poet: “Your death can’t happen soon enough!”

    Translation: “I’m sorry we’ve come to this impasse, but I still respect your opinion. For now, let’s agree to disagree until our tempers have cooled.”

  • Mr. F.

    “My favorite part of high school was having to go to a physics class where a wigger was more popular than me, even though he bragged about beating up homosexuals.”

    Wait a minute here — I don’t believe that.

    You went to *high school*?!

  • Captain EO

    @Jesse Crall: Good on you – but look for a reputable dojo without cult-of-personality teachers and an over abundance of extreme personalities (a la the Kobra Kai school in “The Karate Kid”).

    However, be advised that I still encountered bully personalities in both the Corps and martial arts. Sad, but true.

  • Jack Razor

    Everybody knows someone that lived through that(I was victim of this too) but it almost seems worse these days. With the social network, people can take bullying to a whole new level. You start a rumour on someone and suddenly that person may have thousand of people on his/her case making that person seems like evil personified. Just with words. It’s just brutal. You hear teens commiting suicide left and right.

  • taikwan

    High school can be hell but the experiences (at least in the US) seem so universal we relate to each telling. My daughter, after asking people not to vote for her – she just wanted to be on the court – was homecoming queen and was socially severely punished. Chairs were thrown, too, by some of the other girls on court. One of my sons was wrongly accused of damaging a computer in class – was thrown/slammed into a locker by the teacher who now has a black mark on his permanent record. My high school experience was not pleasant – hung around with the wrong kids, got sent home for what I wore, lectured by principal – with “what are you doing looking like this and hanging around “those kids”? Honor students don’t behave that way.” Wrong kids were the Mexicans – I grew up in LA

  • taikwan

    Jeff – “maverick”? I believe that more from you than McCain or Palin