October is Anti-Bullying Month, a campaign I did not know existed until I was asked to blog about it. These days bullying has so many more outlets (thinking here of the many, many ways to cyberbully) that it appears to have reached epidemic proportions.
When I was growing up, each school year brought a new teacher and a new set of classroom scourges, the Bully Boy and his female counterpart, Mean Girl. Although they were equal opportunity bad guys, picking on whoever struck their fancy, their favorite target was always the Class Goat (usually male.) As a ten-year-old I wondered how those things were decided. Was there a committee who decided who was going to be the bully and who the bullied?
If you have read my book Yankee Girl, you know my history of being the Class Goat, although at the time I didn't think of myself that way. As an adult I can see that Mean Girls are bullies the same as the boy in my second grade class who had a nasty habit of throwing bricks at recess. However, I wasn't the only Class Goat in fifth and sixth grades. There was Todd (not his real name).
On the days when people weren't putting chewed gum on my bus seat, calling me names (none of which can I mention here) or "accidentally" dropping their lunch trays on me, there was Todd to abuse. What happened to me was subtle enough to be done in front of a teacher and passed off as an "oopsy" if caught. Todd was just plain tortured. We waited for the teacher to leave the room to work over Todd.
I say "we" because while I didn't actively participate, I did nothing to stop it either. Part of me knew that standing up for Todd wouldn't do any good. If anyone had less status than Todd, it was me. The other part of me was secretly releived that I had the day off as The Goat.
Even though Todd lived in my neighborhood, I never saw him outside. He was too terrified to show himself except for his morning sprint to the bus stop, where the name calling and book throwing began the minute he got on. At the time there was a weird little pull toy that was advertised incessantly on TV, called Odd Ogg. The jungle went "Odd Ogg, Odd Ogg, half turtle and half frog." It wasn't too hard to turn that into "Odd Todd, Odd Todd, Half turtle and half frog."
Todd was one of the smaller boys in the class. When the teacher stepped out of the room for a "minute," leaving one of us in charge, (big mistake) that was the signal for our favorite game, "Hide the Todd." Our classrooms had an abundance of cabinets and closets and cubbyholes, just the right size to stash an undersized ten year old. Todd was curled, crumpled and crushed into the supply closet, the teacher's coat closet or under the sink in the back of the room. In a classroom of forty students, Todd was rarely missed when the teacher came back. On the rare occasions that she noticed that his desk (last one, last row) was empty, she would call "Todd, stop wasting our time with your silly hiding games." Sometimes Todd didn't reappear until it was time for him to get on the bus ...for more abuse.
Some time during the summer between sixth and seventh grades, Todd disappeared. I never discovered what happened to him. I don't remember a "For Sale" sign in his yard. Maybe he changed to private school. Maybe he just stopped going to s tool. (Mississippi did not have a mandatory school attendance law at the time, so legally, no one could make you go to school.) I am sorry to say that no one missed Todd or wondered where he went, except for me. I wasn't a junior high humanitarian. My concern was real, but selfish. With Todd gone, I was the new Fulltime Class Goat for seventh and eighth grades. All I can say about that was I was too big to shove in a locker and junior high storage space was all under lock-and-key. Still, junior high bullies, particularly Mean Girls, are quite skilled at psychological warfare.
I got rid of most of my Mean Girl demons by writing Yankee Girl. However, enough fear remained that I did not go ito any of my class reunions until this past year, for fear of running into the real life counterpart of my fictional character, Saranne. She had continued to make me her favorite target until the day we graduated from high school. I was relieved when I didn't see her at the reunion. I later found out that she did come, pulled a few of her old Mean Girl tricks and within an hour learned that the MG act doesn't fly when you are old enough to be a grandmother. I think I really am, at long last, rid of her ghost.
I wonder if Todd ever rid himself of us?
And now for the details of our current book giveaway to win Alexis O'Neill's new book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, check April's Friday post for details on entering through Rafflecopter.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman