Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mean Ol' Bully

Growing up, I was the smallest kid in class. Not cute, perky small. Just awkward -- definitely not one to fit in.

My mom used to take me and my brother to Elmer's Barber Shop so we could get haircuts at the same time. Striped barber pole out front and a guy with a waxed mustache. People always assumed I was a boy until the onset of puberty provided distinctions to the contrary. And at which time my hair went into a freakish Rosanne Rosannadanna phase that is truly best forgotten.

All of that ensured I got picked on a fair amount, but it wasn't life shattering. You're small, homely, and painfully shy. You get used to it. You also get used to fighting back or standing up to it. You do the cornered squirrel thing and show your teeth.

After the pediatrician announced that I wouldn't break five feet, three days of angry crying sparked some sort of growth spurt. My uncle helped find someone to cut my hair in a way that actually looked good. And my confidence on the soccer field helped kick my self-esteem into gear. Consequently, things mellowed.

I haven't been bullied in a long time. I ran into hyper-aggressive women on soccer fields in my twenties and have encountered random examples in my professional life.

I'd been asked to do something for an event and had prepared all week, checked in with other people, asked for advice, etc. Five minutes before we're set to go, a woman comes over to me, gets right up in my face to physically intimidate me, and quite aggressively tells me I am NOT going to do what I'd been asked to do. Zero attempt to waste time on kindness -- heck, even to introduce herself. Mind you, this was definitely not the an environment where you'd expect any such thing. But hey, challenges appear where they do!

I blinked as she stalked away -- it was a proclamation, not a conversation -- and had a nice little internal dialogue.

Huh? WTF?

I think I just got hit by a truck.
Did she just do that?
Is anyone watching? Did anyone just see that? 
I worked my butt off to get ready for this.

What is her problem?
That vest is really horrid. Maybe that's her problem.

I went to check with the person who had contacted me last week. Vest lady had already blazed through -- she looked way more beat up than I felt. I wasn't going to add to her stress. I let it go, shifted gears, and went on with my other responsibilities.

Five years ago I would have gotten right up in the bully's face and told her to kiss my lily white... big toe. (The one without the titanium.) Instead, I stopped and breathed. I let it go. I found the good in it -- the person who replaced me did a good job, I'll be even better prepared next time, I got kind words from "witnesses," and the rest of the event was uneventful.

I have no clue to her motivation, but I know it had nothing to do with me. She doesn't even know me. It's her deal, her issue. I don't have to know what it is. And I don't have to set her straight. It's not my job. She'll figure it out or she won't. For her sake, I hope she finds a more peaceful way to be.

I know I'm finding mine.


F.S. said...

Beautiful post, Kim. Thanks. In addition to plain ol' maturity, I think the hard things we go through -- we've both had our shares -- help us to better see what's important and what's not. When to fight back, and when to smile and nod silently. (Maybe with a touch of "You're pathetic!" in the smile, just for the hell of it.) How to find, as you say, "a more peaceful way to be."

Wordjanitor said...

Thanks Fred!