Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Talk of Bullying Makes Me A Little Janis Ian-y, But Not Too Much

I just read this post on Jezebel about whether or not bullying victims have poor social skills. My question is- does it really matter? Being an asshole to a person with bad social skills doesn't make you any less of an asshole than being a jerk to a person with good social skills. You're still an asshole. What?

I've written before about my time served as a social pariah- not because it's necessarily something I'm still terribly upset by or still coming to terms with- but because it has a way of occasionally being relative to my life now and the perspective I have on things (which, oddly, is mostly positive). It took me a long time to stop just joking about having been "Carrie without the telekenetic powers" and to actually say that yeah, it was a fucking godawful thing that happened to me for ten years. For so long, I had this thing in my head telling me that there was something terribly wrong about me that I didn't and couldn't understand, the thing that had made me a target. For so long, I didn't realize that it wasn't me, it was them, and they were assholes.

I was unlucky enough to have grown up in a time before bullying was something that was taken at all seriously. Every time I ended up in the Principal's office with whomever was torturing me at the time (once a week, at least), the focus was not on what they had done but what I had done to provoke it and "make myself a target". The things I did consisted primarily of dressing strangely, having opinions, and defending other students from bullying. I cannot tell you how many special conferences my parents had with the school staff over this time in which they were told the exact same thing.

I was different, sure, but I don't think I had social issues going into it. Not bad ones anyway. I was always kind to people, but I didn't ever quite pick up on what I was even supposed to do to blend in. I don't think I ever have, and that's not something I regret. I also don't regret the fact that I really did wake up every day and think things were going to be different and maybe even awesome. I don't even regret having been bullied, because I think that for the most part it's made me a better person. If I spy now, on the Facebook pages of those who bullied me, I certainly came out on top. Sadly, because I have to go and be me, I don't even get any of that schadenfreude that I'd so looked forward too whilst planning my appearances on "Geek to Chic" episodes of 90's talk shows.

I didn't get, and still do not get, how certain social things work. When people comment on the fact that I don't so much seem to care what others think of me, I smile and nod, but I truly have no idea what they're even talking about. Like, in the way that I don't know how I would act differently if I did, or how I am supposed to predict what they might think of me. Even thinking about attempting this makes me feel crazy.
I will cop to the fact that I do not pick up on like, nuance. I do not pick up on social manipulation. My mother doesn't either, so basically a lot of our conversations end up sounding like we're some brand of noble savages exploring this new and crazy world. This leads, inevitably, to this ridiculous Abbot and Costello routine that I tend to have, eventually, with every dude I ever date. They say or do something to try to make me jealous, and I feel like crap and don't want to see them anymore. Then they get all "But it was because I really like you and I just wanted to make you jealous" and I get all "Wait, no. If you like me, why would you want me to feel bad? I want people I like to feel good" and then "I wasn't trying to make you feel bad, I was trying to make you jealous" and it makes perfect sense to them, and no sense at all to me because in no way do I like feeling bad OR confused, and so I get the fuck out of there.

My main regrets, if you must know, are the social issues I had coming out of it.

Some of them aren't so bad, and are in fact just kind of funny. I need to make sure everyone feels included in a very, very complusive way. If I am at a party, and someone is sitting/standing by themselves, I will go make friends with them immediately. I so hate that feeling of not knowing where to sit, or stand, or whom to talk to that I cannot bear thinking that anyone else is feeling that way. I also feel weirdly important about other people feeling good about themselves.

The bad part, however, is that for a long time I was *so* thrilled whenever anyone was willing to be my friend that, shit, I bought them lunch, I drove them everywhere, I'd do anything just because I was so grateful that they would even deign to speak to me. I made a lot of bad friends that way. I have since corrected this.

The really bad part is the effect that "Psych!" had on my life. Oh my god, I can't even tell you how freakin' paranoid that can make a person- especially someone like me who tends to take things very seriously. In case you are unfamiliar, the "psych!" game goes like this- someone comes up to you and "pretends" to be nice to you- either a girl as a friend, or a boy pretending to like you, and then the second you believe them, they say "psych!" or, alternatively, just make fun of you for actually believing they would like you for a second. When I first moved to Rochester I thought that the people who were being friendly to me were actually making fun of me. I swear, I constantly think that this is a thing that might still happen, and the thought of it happening makes me want to throw up. It's why I also fear that thing people do in Chicago where they really don't like you but are nice to you because even though they don't like you they need you, and others, to think that they are nice. Quelle horreur! Thinking about it makes me panic and itch all over. I would seriously rather have someone punch me dead in the face than to go on assuming that we are friends and have that not be true.

So, yeah, social issues, I've got them. But so does everyone. It would be weirder if you didn't. At the end of the day, being a jerk is a way worse social issue than any I've ever had. If you ask me, the best way to cure bullying would be to show kids in highschool pictures of adults who were bullied as kids, and, to contrast, adults who were bullies. Let me tell you, we turn out significantly better (and like, WAY better looking). Swear to god- you'd have kids arguing about who got to be the social pariah, were that to be part of the curriculum. It ain't purty.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey, same here! Or similar. Mostly the still-to-this-day weirded out by very friendly people because I'm sure it's all a set up for a let down. In retrospect, I feel really bad for those people that did that. I mean, what is wrong with your soul that you need to do that to ANYone? And also, yes: *having* been bullied makes for a more well-rounded, perspectived person. A+