Tag Archives: Bullying

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

The Tubes are as 80s to me as the fake-animal-print clad David Lee Roth, and provide Hallmark wisdom in a way only the era could deliver. I did tip my hand too much in the previous post about the strip club experience. It’s not easy talking about such personal memories, being that the Internet is so vast, but if I were on my deathbed would I appreciate not saying anything? This post isn’t going to candy-coat anything. If you are the type to either be easily offended or insulted, I strongly advise you to visit another day. I’m not the type of person to tolerate bullshit either, and this won’t be up for debate. This is simply a story of how my life played out on one Saturday afternoon in April of 1997.

I was 18, and it was a few days after my best friend’s 18th birthday. His rambunctious mind could only think of one thing, and one thing alone: strippers. He was always after ideas sexual in nature: Playboys (for the articles, my ass), video pornography, John Valby aka Dr. Dirty et al. They revolved around him in an electron fashion, only drawing closer to the nucleus with each passing moment. There seemed a sort of Christmas excitement that ran across his boyish face when he talked about it, and he spoke of it for weeks. I knew that day was coming, even though I already had deep reservations about it. Most people don’t give me enough credit for my intuitiveness, but it’s definitely there. Maybe it’s for personal use only? Regardless, I was being muscled into his quasi-wingman as we ventured to a larger city for the venue.

There was a feeling in the pit of my stomach the whole way there. It was not something that sounded great in the first place, but like usual, I felt coerced by societal norms (e.g. “this is what you’re supposed to be like: dumb and horny,” or “why not? Are you in the closet?”). We ended up in a strip mall in Toledo, where I handed over a matinée price of $7.00 to a short man with greasy ginger hair kept in a long pony tail. The insides were painted black, lit with black lights. UV light accented all the fluorescent materials present with a thin veil of smoke drifting from the seats to the stage. It wasn’t too long ago that people could smoke indoors.

The first stripper was a petite blond with cropped hair to match. Her gaunt figure danced upon the pole to a three-set of Beatles songs. “Sexy Sadie” was her stage name, and the bits of metal from her piercings held tightly to her b-cup breasts, glinting every now and then when she’d spin. After “Helter Skelter” was over, she bounded right up to us. Being that my friend was the cause of all this, I let him buy her the brink which turned out to be apple juice. Even though we weren’t of legal drinking age, there wasn’t any alcohol on the premises. I suppose I could see why. Drunk men and naked women could present a problem. My friend and I were also required to have a drink in front of us at all times, and we chose fountain beverages for the free refills. I still remember vividly how bright and pink my plastic daiquiri glass was. It was cheap, exactly like how I felt.

After a few minutes of light discussion, we were hit up for some additional dancing at the booths across the stage. Fortunately, my friend could not turn the offer down and went promptly over there with her. I was left to watch the other two women perform their sets. I began to fidget, trying to keep a calm exterior about myself and pretend I was enjoying it. There were a few other men around, smiling at me. They were having a good time. I wasn’t, not in the slightest. I felt like I was being used, not only by the dancers but by my friend. He didn’t want to go alone, but I didn’t have that many friends. I didn’t want to cause a rift because I would feel awful in a strip club.

The air felt thicker and denser as time inched along. I felt snake-like coils move around my face and head, whispering offers of faux-affection for $40 a turn. I was even startled when an African-American dancer slid her green-tipped fingers down my shoulders. She approached me from behind. So, I never knew she was there until I was jumping an inch out of my chair. I know they meant no real harm, though. They were just trying to earn a paycheck.

So often had I pined for female ardor, it made for many a lonely night. This sadness brought to me by my peers was heightened with whispers of high school girls not quite out of earshot, providing quite the venue of criticism from weight to attractiveness to creepiness. Everyone did it though. There were several males who would make themselves feel better at my expense, but it always stung worse to hear it from the girls. I could be jumped or clotheslined or socked right in the face, but it was their words that would ring in my ears for years. Admittedly, that day in April was the first time being in the presence of naked women. It wasn’t real though. None of it was real. All of it was a delicately-wrapped lie for a price, a group of women trying to sweet talk me only for what I had in my wallet. I didn’t have a whole lot of it to start. It hurt; it hurt like the Devil. I felt ashamed, and tried to overcome a burning face at the notion of having to buy my affection. What the Hell did I ever do to require buying love?

Were they whores? Were they sluts? Only if you include the audience and me. Whether it was for money, lust, or my desperate need for belonging, we all sold ourselves at some price. My area of interest just happened to be the size of a planet, instead of a Marlboro-tainted skin shop. Those buyers and suppliers were not on my list, as I had other business to attend to. After my friend got his inaugural lap dances, we folded tent and left. Rarely have I ever felt relieved as I did that day, with the slight wind at my face and a drive through the fields of Ohio.

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On Dealing With Others

This is cliché, but I’m not a “people person.” That primarily has to deal with the misadventures of growing up the wrong way in a public school system. I’m sure of it. Regardless, being “outgoing” or “affable” aren’t my primary traits. Without you all being surprised, I had quite the tongue by the time I graduated high school. I was often hard to handle.

My family says I’ve mellowed out some since then, not much but some. It has taken several years to not instantly berate or rip apart anything that lightly smelled of an insult or slander. I still have my moments where I read things the completely wrong way and think “thanks, <expletive>, you can stick it up your <expletive> and do some jumping jacks.” I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to people more than before. It does help, because it has occurred to me that my wording is a lot more keen than many Americans. When I write or say something, chances are good it’s very deliberate and very sincere. That’s a deadly combination. Others seem to communicate as if they lost their brakes during rush hour.

My hair stylist explained to me this past Tuesday of my “no sass mode,” which apparently means there are times I just don’t take anything from anyone. I thought that was everyday, but apparently I get in a mode. She says she watches my statements and the harder they get the more she knows I’m having a bad day. She and I are friends on Facebook. So, she gets the pleasure of see my blistering comments on everything from politics to the hockey puck that couldn’t understand what “right of way” meant.

This may sound all tough and whatnot at first, but I’d change it if I could go back and do it all over. Far too many times have the lessons of the past scarred my actions of the future. That’s not to say there are events I want completely undone, rather just training to not automatically think the worst of someone and act upon it. History can repeat itself, but it’s better to work on making it not.

It affects my life in all sorts of ways, but my work needs me to approach the public in a different way. This isn’t just the general public; these are people who can’t help themselves. Often less educated and less trained than myself, many have no concept of manners or cooperation or civility. They take what they think is theirs, and feel free to mouth off in any way to get more. Sometimes it gets injurious, and that’s a big tripwire for me. I had one rather wonderful woman tell me “you’re afraid of me. ” What took the strength of a thousand men to keep in was “no, I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of losing my cool.”

There was an episode of Law & Order on a few nights ago I just happened to catch at the tail end. It dealt with bullying, and the criminal mastermind was seeking revenge upon his enemy. The police had him in the interrogation room wheedling a confession out of him by saying “the effects of long-term bullying last well into adulthood for the victims.” It’s the God’s honest truth. That stuff doesn’t go away for targets, even when the instigator has long since forgotten all about it. It can’t be wished or willed away, and all of the programming associated with it doesn’t simply dissolve. It take years, maybe even decades, to revise the mind to adjust well with the world around them.

I would like to stay positive about this, even in the face of permanent harm. It appears I have been given a better intellect than many of my contemporaries. Although I could have clocked a much higher IQ in school had I not been held hostage by a vicious community, what’s left is better than average. No matter how painful, I’m better a diplomat than a degenerate.

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The New Chapter

“And so, my fellow students…” the valedictorian had droned for what seemed like ages in a hot June sun. My thoughts were elsewhere, often on freedom. It was more freedom than I had been given thus far in my existence at least. The compulsory part of my life was done. A new chapter unfolded before me with the dusky scent of printed paper and a fancy dropped capital at the beginning. This would be the last time I’d see the vast majority of them. These cornflower-blue-garbed savages were all quiet with dread and uncertainty… or so I could only hope.

“…pursue your dreams…” Oh, God, he’s not giving that tired old line is he? How typical. The son of a doctor. The right family pedigree. The president of the school’s National Honors Society. The popular caste. What the Hell does he know but spouting platitudes from the silver spoon of society? Had he been terrorized for the last decade plus of his life? Did he know what it felt like to be clothes-lined at recess or jumped from behind while unsupervised? No. He could focus on his life. His goals. Wherever his father’s wealth would take him. Good on him, but he has a lot of nerve glad-handing me or any one of us. By “us,” I mean the scraps. The part of school he couldn’t be bothered with.

After his holiness made his decent, we were all in for three more speeches. I don’t know where I got the energy to hold on as long as I did without hurling my mortar board and tassel like a throwing star at the podium. It came and went, though, and I believe the oddly synthetic gown I was draped in provided more entertainment than it should have. I looked up. They were gathering for the conferment. At long last! I was minutes from unlocking the final door.

There I stood with the mock diploma in hand, feeling as relieved as a convict exonerated of his crime. I was a free man. It couldn’t have been better if Martin Luther King, Jr. was pointing straight at me exclaiming, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, free at last!” With a rush of victory I threw the hastily-prepared cap in the air. A symbol, not of academic achievement but of discarded injustice, soared into the baby blue sky.

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The World Guardian (Hooterville’s newspaper) triggered that memory yesterday. In its search for muckraking, they’ve finally gotten wise to the Hooterville City School’s “growing bullying problem.” What they, and a boatload of other Hooterville residents, fail to realize is that it has been rampant for decades. When I mean rampant, I mean mentally damaging at best and criminal (literally) at its worst.

I’ve been the awkward, overweight kid for my entire life. With some pride, I’d like to think I’ve smoothed out many of those wrinkles over the years. It’s still not perfect, but it’s progress. After reading such wide-eyed pant wetting, I threw the paper down with half a mind to spit on it. I didn’t though, because that’s unnecessary.

For those of us who were targets, the Hooterville public school system was little more than a 12-year correctional facility, rife with physically, verbally, and mentally injurious inmates just waiting to take their problems out on you. If we graduated, we survived Jigsaw’s puzzle. We might be a little damaged, but we’re still alive. I come to find out today’s students have resorted to suicide threats. They aren’t winning. They’re not beating Jigsaw.

For as little as a stranger’s sympathy is worth, I can only express my condolences. I know those feelings, and they burn. Children handle these in different ways, but I find three main avenues that come up repeatedly. The first is self-debasement and resignation to the pit. There shouldn’t have to be any clarification on what “the pit” is, but it doesn’t involve anything good. The second is violence. Depending on the child, it could range from fists, to all out Columbine-style death dealing. I can remember reading those headlines about that school. When I saw the reason, it made me very quiet. It was far too familiar for me to bear. The third is a creative or constructive life. This doesn’t mean everything’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re right in the head. It simply means you’ve decided to be productive, creative, or otherwise constructive with your life.

Between that brand new chapter above and today, I’d like to think I grabbed some of the third part. There have been times where I’ve marched through the pit, especially after Charlotte, but I kept going. I’ve pulled myself through some tough times, and while it shows, I could neither accept nor justify violence or wholesale murder as a solution. While pop-psych can get a little nauseating, living well is the best revenge.

Why did I keep going? Because I didn’t want to get busy dying. I’d like to have a beer with Andy Dufresne someday, but if he’s not available, Tim Robbins will have to do.

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A Private Midnight, the documentary

Susan Sassi is looking for help. The entertainment industry is unpredictable, from my small taste of it in New York City. There are shortfalls. There are bumps in the road. There are obstacles where there shouldn’t be any. It’s the climate faced when trying to create. Currently, her documentary A Private Midnight is in need of additional funds to be completed and submitted to a film festival.

After reading the description, I think it a very worthwhile subject. Even if you have been a recent viewer of my blog, you know how much against bullying I am. It leads to all sorts of hard feelings and emotional problems. If only more people like Scott Fried were around when I was growing up, I definitely would have been a more productive member of society (and I do a lot now, people). I’m sure I could have had the strength to write a few books by now.

If you’re unable to donate, that’s not a problem. Please help spread the word by sharing her blog post at (mymisfits.wordpress.com) or visit her gofundme site at for further information:

http://www.gofundme.com/Privatemidnightdocumentar

~ Corvidae in the Fields

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Little Did I Know

I spent most of the day putting out office fires and rifling through all of my childhood memories like a Rolodex. Who uses one of those anymore? The embarrassing ones always seem more vivid. Shame was used to keep children in line. Remember “Another Brick in the Wall”?

When we grew up and went to school

There were certain teachers

Who would hurt the children anyway they could

Instead of the teachers, in my case, it was the students.

Masses. Everywhere. Animals. Inmates. Terror.

The best thing for a kid like me to do was to blend in and not get noticed by the unchecked, vicious little bastards teachers would do little to stop.

Public servants. 30 and out. Make no waves and live to be paid another day.

In classic, tragically-humorous fashion my younger years were wrought with fear and anxiety. I think it made me question life far sooner than my contemporaries, as it simply seemed surreal. One of the more laughable things I began to panic about was the thought I was the only person on the face of the planet with flatulence. Yes, I thought I was the only human being that could fart. How I arrived at this supposition was an evening of balancing myself, end up of course, against my parent’s rust-colored couch. After finally being able to put my feet on the ground over my head without rolling over, I quickly celebrated with a trumpet fanfare from the posterior section of my body.

What was that noise? Oh, God, why does it smell?! My child brain raced to remember if this had happened elsewhere. No. There were no other recorded cases of this phenomena before. Please don’t tell me I’ve been “gifted” with this ability. I want a refund!  Surely, I had never heard anyone else break wind before. I was the first case in my experience. This was not good. This was mortifying.

So, months went by and I kept that little paranoid gem to myself. Sneakily, I was trying to pull information out of other people to see if it was something common to humans will little success. My speech skills aren’t stellar, and interrogation was never my strong suit but I couldn’t let any of this top secret information out. I would never have a moment’s rest from the little savages that sit next to me for 8 hours a day. After several awkward conversations, I became discouraged. How was I going to cope with this gigantic, red F carved in my chest?!

For a long while, I was able to keep things under wraps, until the mythological tricksters of the school decided to change all that in Mrs. Shadel’s Social Studies class. I remember the subject because the books were so ridiculously thick. How were we ever to get through all of that? Anyway, I was called on to read a passage from the book. This wasn’t possible, since it was stored neatly under my seat on the suspended wire rack. Little did I know I was about to demonstrate to the world my musical “talents.”

I leaned over and put a hand on that brown-paper-bag-covered textbook only to let off a noise that would make a foghorn jealous. Frozen. I couldn’t move. A tear formed in the corner of my eye, as if I watched the ending of He-Man & She-Ra the Movie: Secret of the Sword (shut-UP, I loved that movie ಠ_ಠ). A commotion started with jeers, laughter, chiding, and all sorts of hate directed at me: the easy target. The stooge. The not-good-enough. The reject. The scapegoat. All the noises began swirling in my head and I shut my eyes to black out their faces, until I heard a voice silencing them all.

What was this? A reprieve? Was it over? Can I go back to thinking about social studies now? Not quite.

“All right,” said Mrs. Shadel, “I’m going to count to three and you’re all going to get it out of your system.”

Fuck… it’s a firing squad.

At least the noise was uniform, albeit painful. After about five seconds the teacher cut them off and went back to the lesson. I can’t remember what it was. I was too preoccupied to function. The day was ruined, and I just wanted to go home. There were a few stray insults after that, but the simple minds finally got distracted with something else. I was free to disappear… and forget… until now.

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Dork Rage

dork

Definition of DORK

slang: nerd; also: jerk

*********

I said late last month I would explain my distaste for the “nerd love” atmosphere in American pop culture today. This comes from someone firmly planted in their dorkdom since the early 80s, and has Pac-Man sweater pics to prove it.

That sweater was magic.

I don’t care what you say. That sweater was magic.

Let it be known people will want to make distinctions between nerds, dorks, and geeks but the overall idea is the same. We know who we are. I won’t argue over details, because it’s pointless. Glorifying such targets of social abuse is detrimental in the end, because a sucker is born every minute. In more recent cliché, the cake is a lie.

Maybe it’s because I’m too proud for my own good? Maybe it’s because I’m Admiral Ackbar, and smell a trap? Maybe it’s because this is a paltry concession to what was the deliberate souring of an innocuous existence? There was no reason for it, other than vying for fictitious dominion. All of it, a gigantic exercise in ugly. What’s even sicker is letting the rugged individualist take a turn at you with their self determination. That’s like me walking into your house, trashing it, and then saying clean it up to avoid “me winning.”

It’s no secret that nerds will drop bank on any collectible item he/she desires. The Comicons and auctions are proof of that. $350,000 for a TIE Fighter Miniature? Ka-blaow! Done. In this sea of expendable income, has it ever occurred to anyone that we’re simply being buttered up for the money? It’s not that we’re smart, or quirky, or often decent people. We simply have money and are being solicited by the consumerist prostitute into a quick ego boost.

Maybe others are fine with that, but it never settled well with me. Why does it have to be about money? Sure, we may have wars with hygiene, be less than attractive, have weight issues (ahem), or fall under the label of “weirdo” but I’ve met more of us that were responsible, thoughtful, creative, productive, and even more likable than society’s recreation of the cattle of Helios. We’re good people.

I suppose I am just a proud dork; I have relived one too many food chain reactions. I’m jaded, and cynical, but this whole wave of fandom still doesn’t feel right. You’re trying to use me now, like you did 25 years ago. Homie don’t play that.

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