The only Cracked article where I wanted to punch the author

Yesterday, while enjoying the archives of the dick-joke-stuffed world that is Cracked.com, I ran into the only article that made me want to punch the author. What article, you ask, out of the thousands of articles on that site, prompted this sudden urge to whirl my fisticuffs?

5 Life Lessons From A Former Mean Girl (Or, as another poster put it, "An Apolobrag On The Subject Of Bullying).

**WARNING: Very, very long post below the cut. Open at the risk of your own bandwidth.*

Kristi Harrison, an author who had previously captured my heart with her hilarious articles covering Pintrest's whimsical insanity, wrote an article about bullying. Specifically, an article about the short-lived period in which she was a bully. The audience was meant to be parents who were worried their child might be a bully. Kristi wanted to write an article reassuring parents that a bratty period in their child's life will not doom them to a life of thuggish behavior and drive-by shootings.

And that would've been a wonderful article, if that had been the article she had actually written. What we got was a trite regurgitation of pop-psych bully cliches, sprinkled with an alarming amount of self-aggrandizing romanticism towards being cruel to other children just because you can.

To be fair here, the majority of the ire thrown at the author was not necessarily towards the actions she perpetrated. Capricious as those actions were, many of the commentators understood that she, herself, had been a child. What blew up the comment section to over 2,000 comments was the tone-deaf recounting of her memories as an adult.



It can be difficult to talk about my bullied years because in the end, it's embarrassing. Just flat-out embarrassing. Who wants to remember a time in your life when other people beat you down, both emotionally and physically, into a stub of a human being? Who wants to remember a time in which you were utterly helpless, vulnerable, and without recourse?

You'll get sympathy from others sharing about that time, but you'll also get a boatload of pity, which is not something an adult strives to inspire in others.

But for nearly a decade straight, from first grade to 8th grade, I was that pitiable thing. I knew the sting of getting basketballs and dodgeballs kicked into my face. I knew the shame of having to respond to the word "Dog" instead of my name because that's all anyone called me. I knew what it felt like to be judged a pariah, untouchable and unclean by even those who had never spoken to me. I knew what it felt like to eat alone, and praying to be left alone while I ate, so that I might actually enjoy the experience of finishing my lunch before it got stolen.

I knew all of that, and so much more, for years.

What I didn't know but secretly suspected was that for my bullies, the things that gave me anxiety attacks so bad that I'd throw up before leaving for school were, for them, just blips on the radar. Things that they threw out there not because they felt small in a world of big people and big things, but things that were as casual as kicking a tin can across the street. (Me being the tin can, of course.)

In her first paragraph, Kristi Harrison confirms that. Remembering the things she did to fellow classmates was a "once-forgotten memory", something that popped out nearly out of nowhere for her. What is likely burned in the memory of her victims only came out as a brief, rushed epiphany for her.

This is terrifying. One of the most horrifying thoughts about my bullied experiences is the idea that many of my tormentors may not consider what they did to be worthy of even remembering, let alone as the life-shaping events they were for me. Lots of bully victims HAVE found this to be true, as many of them have confronted their own bullies only to met with a blank stare. What was indelible and searing for many of us was nothing at all remarkable in the eyes of our tormentors.

Kristi jumps into one of the biggest bullying theories right away when she states that bullying stems from "bigger and badder problems." We've all heard the trope that bullies are bullied themselves. We're given pictures of our tiny, school-yard boxing matches being driven by an alcoholic father at home who uses his fists and unwittingly teaches his son that violence is the only answer to conflict.

This is sometimes true. In Kristi's case, it absolutely wasn't true. Her home "problems" read like First World Problems, Gradeschool Edition. A teacher flustered her by telling her she couldn't tie her jacket around her waist and corrected her about the pronunciation of the word "aunt". This, along with getting in trouble for writing a swear word on the bathroom wall, was enough to drive this sensitive young child into calling a little boy fat. By way of apology, she took ten minutes to hug him and dead-armed the whole interaction.

Not that it was her fault, mind you. "But shame on Mrs. Dummy for giving a showoff bad girl a great setup for physical comedy...it took about 10 freaking minutes to happen. Every inch forward got a laugh." When she finally reached the boy, "I made a crying face and wrapped my arms around him like he was a beach ball, not actually touching him whatsoever."

Kids are mean. We know that. Does this kid remember the time that a room full of 20 of his peers laughed at him every few seconds for TEN MINUTES straight? We don't know. What we do know is that Kristi, as an adult in her mid-20's, still feels that what she did was a matter of "showing off", to be blamed on her teacher, rather than the cruel set-up that she chose to enact.

And let's go back to the idea that some bullies are, indeed, bullied themselves. I found in out in high school that several of my bullies came from less than ideal homes. Many, many commentators had also found this out about their bullies.

What this idea fails to address is that there are many more children out there who are from troubled homes themselves and DO NOT resort to humiliating and hurting others. If it were categorically true that bullies are bullied, every broken home would produce its own minor little sociopath. This is not the case.

I grew up in a home filled with horrific abuse. So have my friends. So have millions upon millions of people. Most of us took from these situations the lesson of empathy. We did not find ourselves lashing out at those we knew were just as powerless as ourselves. We had the choice of acting out what was going on at home- and many of us chose not to. Many children do manage to learn, at a very young age, the difference between right and wrong.

There is enormous pressure from society to empathize with the (often imagined) broken lives of the bullies themselves. What there is not NEAR enough pressure to empathize with is the children who not only have broken lives at home, but now must face a second broken life at school.

What about those children? What about those who are dodging blows at home and must now also dodge blows at school? Where is the sympathy for the kids getting it on all sides? Instead we tell children who are victims that we must feel sympathy for our abusers while receiving no help - and often no recognition - for the abuse they are going through.

It's unfair. It's wildly, horribly unfair. We are ordered to sympathize with the bullies problems while being told to simply bury ours. ("Don't react. Ignore them. Just walk away.")" In the end, it is nothing short of an act of erasure.

Kristi's next point is just excusatory drivel. "Bullying is an Evolutionary Strategy." Like so many people, she likes to believe that all people are born bullies. It's as natural as sucking on your mother's teats (no, seriously, she says this.) Of course, if it is so natural, then how can one be blamed for acting on it so naturally?

Well, no, Kristi, it's not natural. Remember those millions of children who do not bully, even if they come from bullied homes themselves? Or how about the millions of other children who are corrected on their word pronunciations that do not gleefully set out to make another child's life hell?

Bullying is a choice. It may not be the most well-thought out choice. Children who bully might not even recognize what they are doing as bullying. But for every child who decides that someone else would make a good stepping stone on the path of their development, there are ten other children who don't step on anyone. They recognize, if only in the dimmest sense, that differences in other children do not equal an "Open Season" sign.

Kristi missed this by a mile when she got a whole classroom of children to called a kid name Jeremy "Germany. Because he had germs." This hit hard and close to home, as for eight years straight, my name was NOT Teressa. It was Dog. I don't remember who started it, only that it was literally the only moniker every child would call me. Maybe I said something funny about dogs once. Maybe some kid just thought it was a silly nickname. Maybe someone hated dogs and thought that it'd be a great way to show their hatred of me.

Who knows? What I do know is that there is a very special kind of damage that is done when you, at your very basic, at your namesake, is denied. At a time when a child's identity can be counted on as "I like hot dogs and the color red and my stuffed unicorn doll named Steve", being denied something as fundamental as your name can shatter you. You are no longer a person, you are merely a thing. And in mine and Jeremy's cases, we were a thing associated with dirt and animals.

Kristi's name-calling was particularly cruel in that Jeremy was special-needs. The tittering and heady recollection of her wit is temporarily quelled in her shame of picking on a special needs kid. At least, until she calls the mother of the child "special needs", too, as the mother in a moment of frustration threw her shoe at eight year old Kristi.

Adults should not throw shoes at children, no matter how irritating that child may be. But Kristi's guilt at picking on a special needs kid is completely moot by the end of the next sentence when she uses the phrase "special needs" as an insult towards the mother.

Kristi, I'd throw all my shoes at you. I'd walk over to my shoe shelf, lovingly pull down each of my 14 pairs of shoes, and chuck them at you.

She damn near tanked the entire article with her following point. "Chris Brown Is Unwell." This is a rambling set of paragraphs in which she postulates that making fun of Chris Brown is bullying because Chris Brown is "crazy." Mentally ill. Someone that we should not make fun of because it's low hanging fruit.

We do not make fun of Chris Brown because he is crazy. As one poster put it, "being an asshole is not a mental illness." He is a domestic abuser and entirely deserving of all the hate that he gets. It seems her inclusion of Chris Brown in this article was so she could compare herself as being better than Chris Brown and thus, not a bad person at all.

You don't get medals for not beating up 100 pound women, Kristi. This doesn't make you a good person. It makes you someone whose cleared the lowest hurdle of basic human interaction.

Her final point - and the point she wanted to make originally - was that people change. She outgrew her bullying days before the tender of age 10 and her coworkers have wonderful things to say about her. Not only did she not turn into a knife-wielding maniac, she was still popular even as a child, being "a regular on the slumber party circuit and picked to be the top of people pyramids."

So don't worry, parents of children who bully! Bullying kids totally doesn't have any lasting negative social effects! You needn't worry that your child's casually sadistic bent will get them shunned from the coolest of the cool reindeer games! Maybe even someday they'll be able to write an article on the internet about it and get paid for their experiences as a bully!

Now I want to not only throw my shoes at Kristi, but the entire damn bookshelf my shoes are sitting on as well.

Yes, people can and do change. I'm sure several of my bullies have come to see the light and reformed their ways. I've even had one or two reach out to me to apologize over the decades. There were people in the article comments were themselves apologizing, as they had been bullies. What put the article commentators ahead of Kristi's rambling, *hee-hee-wasn't-I-so-adorably-bad-ass** manifesto was that the bullies in the comments recognized the harm they had done.

Many of them could not remember their victims names (which is again, a terrifying idea to me), but they remembered exactly what they did, and they DID NOT blame it on their upbringing, the teachers, or the shame of being given a stern talking to over scribbling the word "fuck" somewhere. This is where they did in a few short paragraphs what Kristi could not do in 1,500 words.

Kristi herself was only a child when she did these things, and children do not know themselves or the world around them. There's a reason why children are not legally responsible for themselves until they are 18, and Kristi was about 8 during this time. It is a thing that society loves to remind bullied victims of. Their bullies were children, too.

Another commentator put the response to that so perfectly that I'll just quote it in whole. "What that also means is that her victims were elementary school students. And, somehow, age didn't grant them mercy. It didn't stop her from making fun of a mildly chubby kid. It didn't stop her from recruiting the class in mocking a child with special needs.

I don't want to persecute every 9 year old bully. I do, however, want teachers to step in to stop them and I want society to start practicing mercy upon the victims *first*.
"

Yes, my bullies were children who did not understand the full depth and breadth of their actions.

So was I. And somehow, that part always gets glossed over.

I am 36 years old now. I am decades past that decade where I learned the world and the people in it were inherently dangerous and untrustworthy. I am well acquainted with my own name now and never worry about having to rush my lunch. I no longer fear being tripped in the hallway and my dislike of sports has more to do with how out of shape I am rather than a fear of being beaned in the face with the ball.

Far greater tragedies have unfolded in my life than my bullying experiences. They are, in fact, rather low on the list of things that trigger me today. But I remember. I remember, and always remember, and will always remember. My bullied days will not come to me as a "once forgotten memory." They were something that shaped me during the most formative years of a child's life.

I'm exceedingly lucky in that I've had decades of therapy to help me move past the obstacles that were kicked into my path (and often literally in my face). In fact, the only real hang-up that exists is a brief, few second panic to the words "Okay, choose your own partner!"

(In school, that always meant struggling to find a partner, as I was never picked, or always picked last, and always had to hear my classmates sounds of disgust at being put on their team/group.)

I have no problem finding partners for work or college groups these days. The internal scramble is fairly minor now, but the fact is that there will ALWAYS remain a tiny part of me that quickly wonders how I will make it look like I'm not hurt when no one wants to sit next to me. I'm 36 years old and while I'm exceedingly grateful that's all that's left of my bullied days, it is enough to make me remember those days in shame and horror.

For Kristi, there really is no shame or horror. It's just a funny chapter in a funny little time for her. Sure, she feels bad, but man, wasn't that funny?

All the shoes, Kristi, straight at your head.

Just....all the shoes.

This entry was originally posted at https://quirkytizzy.dreamwidth.org/1111180.html
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that was her experience. Not everybody wants to endlessly pore over ancient history.
That's possible. But I feel that when it comes to things we've done that hurt people, we should give some serious thought to the consequences our actions might have had, to the PEOPLE who were affected by those actions. Maybe Kristi has already done so in years past, but if she was writing an article about hurting others, she completely missed the part where your supposed to talk about how you hurt others.

The whole article is a mish-mash of girlish giggles and a derisive laugh towards what she did.
Obviously there you got somebody who never heard of the word "Columbine" to put a little more thought into her ramblings. (Although, to me, I could never understand how people link the bullying topic so overwhelmingly much to the two perpetrators of this event as they've done and held some other weird crap as beliefs that clearly have nothing to do with getting bullied.)
This is me, paying attention, presently only with unformed glops of feels to add to the discussion.

The first discrete thought that comes to mind is that "people will go to a lot of trouble to help people they recognize feel better." White nationalists do it all the time.

...And here are the rest of us saying "you STILL don't recognize me, you motherfucker."
A part of me wonders if she pathologically reduced her actions to frivolity to protect herseld from her own shame. To readily acknowledge that you treated people badly for no reason can be crushing to the ego. Nobody really wants to admit they were the monster.

I, personally, feel shame for any instances of actual bullying I did when I was a kid, even if my only excuse was not knowing better. I tracked down at least one person from my childhood and apologized, even though she claimed to not really remember it. (I guess when you're the target of a group of bullies; which one said or did what kinda becomes unimportant.) I still feel shame, but I feel a little better knowing I at least made an attempt to right it. Maybe deep down she felt a little better knowing at least one person acknowledged it was wrong?
Unfortunately, a lot of bullies try to "justify" what they did by rationalizing it. They see their victims as less than human for one reason or another, or because they're simply assholes who enjoy it. If anyone is wondering, you know how every school has that one kid that everyone picks on? Yep, I was that kid. I took shit from everyone--students and occasionally teachers alike--either because of my appearance, or coming from a fucked up family (abusive bastard father who couldn't hold down a job, obvious near poverty, etc.)

Little wonder that my time outside of school was usually spent in my workshop, away from other people. While the worst of it is largely in the past, the affects are still here. I've learned not to trust people, and usually keep to myself.

As for Kristi, well...fuck her. To her, it's nothing more than a joke. She'll move on from what she's done. Victims of bullying, don't necessarily enjoy that sort of luxury.