I was bullied a lot as a kid. I can look back and say I really did share the blame for much of it, because I never seemed to know when to shut my mouth, or when to walk away. My modus operandi was keep talking until you win, and other kids apparently settle things differently, like with their fists. Huh.
By high school, I had finally learned from my mistakes, had become more self-aware, and I knew which kids to avoid. I learned how to be a wallflower, quite a feat for a mouthy kid like me. The mean girls left me alone, mosty, because I stayed off their radar. And the brainless jock boys who loved the mean girls followed their lead.
But I couldn't stand watching them pick on other people. I wanted to help these poor kids, deflect some of the abuse, but I had been that kid, once upon a younger day, and I didn't want that focus on me. Once you become the focus, bullies never relent. Once they see you, they never let you go. I had worked so hard to shut up and get away from it. But oh, how it stung to watch them pick on the kids at the bottom of the foodchain.
I remember one time specifically, sitting in a class waiting for the teacher to show up, I don't even remember what class but it was mixed grade level because the bully was younger than me. And he was sitting behind this poor girl, who was, truly, ugly to the bone, and clumsy, and wore weird mismatched clothes and probably neglected and possibly abused at home. And he was mercilessly taunting her from behind, daring her to turn around and look at him and tell him to shut up. He wanted her to feed the troll, but she kept ignoring him. People around him were laughing, some uncomfortably, but nobody was saying anything. From my point of view I could see her face, and I knew she was near her breaking point.
I finally turned around and said quietly, "leave her alone." He turned on me like an angry bear. "Really, four eyes? You want to be on my bad side?"
"No. I do not want to be on your bad side. But you're giving me a headache. And this class sucks enough without a headache to go with it."
"I don't give a shit about your headeache. I'm having fun."
"Dude. She's not worth your while. Maybe it would be more fun to fuck with somebody who has the brain power to respond."
He stared at me for a couple of seconds, trying to intimidate me with his eyes, I stared back, not flinching. Finally he smiled. "Whatever, four eyes." He turned around to his friends and went back to talking about something, I don't know what, probably selling drugs, his main point of knowledge.
It wasn't enough. I should have stepped up sooner, and defended her. One of my ways of getting myself out of the bullseye had always been self-deprecation, that I had put her down in order to get her out of his reach was hard to swallow, because I don't know if she understood it. I knew it was the only way. But I didn't want that concentration on me. I didn't have the guts to take take it, and I knew that the rest of the year he would have made it his goal to kill me slowly.
I was thinking about this episode last night, while watching Twitter go to hell in a handbasket between Dooce and some freakshow blogger who decided to take her on, for really no good reason. I read the article in question, and still don't understand why some thinks it's an issue to have a sponsored post, even if she did have her expenses paid (which she says she didn't.) Who the hell cares? It's a cause, and causes need people to spread information, and she chose this one to focus on right now. Good for her. The Guardian article about it is stupid, but journalism is dead anyway, because old school news outlets don't understand the Information Age and it's become all about ad sales, and guess what? Ad sales is about feeding the trolls. That's how they make their money these days I guess, it's how they stay alive. Look at Gawker, HELLO.
What I like about Heather after all these years following her blog is that she doesn't ever stand down, she doesn't take it, and she doesn't care. I want to be like that, but I just can't. And while I believe that most of the time she uses her internet power for good, I also know that sometimes, you have to fight a little dirty.
I wanted to throw my two cents in last night. But I'm nobody, just hanging out in my little corner of the internet, with my head down, throwing out my thoughts for you to enjoy. Most of the time I don't care what people think of me. But I don't want the trolls focused on me. So I kept my mouth shut. And now several bloggers have spoken out, after the melee itself is over, to say, I stand with Heather.
So do I. Heather doesn't need me to defend her, she doesn't even know who I am. But I'm on her side anyway. Fight the bullies, do what's right, and everybody else can go blow.