I don’t recall any bullying before I started Primary School but almost immediately was aware of the potential from the High School right next to ours. Ours was Catholic and the other was not. This was leading up to the height of the IRA conflict in the ’70s. From age 5 to 12, I was occasionally bullied by children of another faith on my way home. It would have been more sensible to have walked with a friend but sometimes I wanted to walk on my own and had to face the consequences. They threatened violence but didn’t follow through with me.
I looked very different to the children at my primary school and that made me feel alienated. There was some mean girl behavior but most of that is normal for our species. When I look at our cats, I see bullying and Alpha behavior all the time. When I was about 10, a new girl who went to the other school, moved into the house two doors away from me. I had to pass her garden to come home and she started bullying me. She was a big girl and would threaten to beat me up if I passed her house. She terrorized me and I sobbed to my mother at home. Rightly or wrongly, my mum said that it was time I stood up for myself and didn’t speak to the girl’s mother. I just went home by a different, longer route to avoid this girl.
When I was 11 and just about to leave primary school I was sexually molested by a slightly older boy at school. That was frightening in a whole other way. I have no happy memories of primary school whatsoever and had many days when I sobbed, asking to stay at home. Finally it was time to go to high school. We were annexed into girls and boys. Our classes were streamed for both IQ and test results. For once I was with like minds in Class A1 although there were still bullies… How do they know how to find the weak? I guess it is the same in every herd. One girl liked to stab safety pins into your behind or wherever she could reach. Another was verbally abusive. Other like-minded girls and the drama group was my savior. We clung to each other for safety and most of us are still friends. Later, a suitor commented that I looked unapproachable but I was just intensely shy and concerned about people looking at me. I had no idea I was prettier than average and was very aware of my faded poor clothing.
In five years I didn’t use a bathroom at school because I was scared of the mean girls who patrolled them – I had to run home to go to the bathroom after classes finished. I had a light bulb moment when I knew I was applauded for a speech that I read and my confidence was boosted exponentially. This is the link to the post. The day I knew I could write Our school decided we would all be safer if both boys and girls had self-defense classes because of the regular bomb threats and the ongoing hostilities between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and parts of Scotland. That was what provoked me to make my comment on Kate’s blog aroused That led to this series on bullying. It dramatically improved my fear of the world and the techniques are still with me to this day. This confidence regarding violence allows me to travel to unusual places without any consequence, so far… I use common sense as well.
Even then, there was one final bullying episode before I left school. My speech which criticized the Catholic Church had so incensed one of the senior principals that she refused to give me a reference for college and used a small infraction as her excuse. This time I refused to give in to her threats and got a reference from the bank manager. That wouldn’t have been sufficient for some colleges but it was fine for me.
Next post is bullying in sexual relationships
Surely little Kerry couldn’t be naughty?
It’s time to lighten the mood, eh? The baby doll that my charismatic father sent me was called Bebe by me because I couldn’t pronounce Baby. Don’t laugh but I had some trouble with language as a child. It took me a while to speak – I would point at things that I wanted and just say, ‘mmmm’ very adamantly. My Nana and mum were very worried about this and tried everything to get me to speak properly. I was also unable to say my own name and I was Keggy for a while. Then…apparently I came out with a sentence and never stopped.
Bebe was the bane of my mum’s life. It was incredibly lifelike and quite heavy. I would insist that I would be able to carry Bebe for the whole trip and then start sobbing about how heavy she was. My mum would exasperatedly take Bebe and on one funny occasion shoved her under arm like a sack of potatoes. A lady on the bus started tutting and telling my mum that was no way to hold a baby – I got the death stare…
Despite the angst of the arrival of the doll both my Nana and Mum adored her. They knitted and crocheted delicate layettes of clothes for her – perhaps it was a way of recreating how my birth and arrival could have been? I cared for Bebe too but was obsessed with stripping all my dolls naked and shoving them in the closet. This incensed my loving care-givers for some reason – it’s just a doll!!!
I had another slightly more worrying habit that meant that I was only allowed plastic scissors until I was at high school. SCISSORS – I love them! My first felony was to steal the dressmaking shears and create a doll’s outfit out of my mother’s last glamorous negligee from the States. The criminal activity continued and I particularly loved cutting my doll’s hair. They tried to address this by getting me a Tressie doll (it had extending hair) and a Clairol doll sent from New York. None of it worked.
One day I was sitting on the stairs with Bebe and a pair of scissors in my hand. I just couldn’t control the urge – Kerry Scissor Hands. I snipped her beautiful blonde hair into a punk mess and it felt so cathartic until it didn’t… ‘What had I done’, I thought ‘and what do I do with the evidence?’ In my panic I thought the sensible action was to run up the stairs, open the bedroom window and throw the hair out. My Nana, unfortunately, was hanging out the sheets when she was showered with Bebe hair…
Well, I will leave it to your imagination what happened next. Let’s just say that I was treated like one of the torturers at Abu Graib – castigated from society, all scissors taken out of my reach and was convinced I would go to toy hell. Heck, this has given me such a laugh. RIP Bebe.