Lately I’ve had my fill of YA books dealing with high school bullies. And although I’ve enjoyed every one of these books, the whole “bully” thing is becoming a little played for me. Don’t get me wrong, my MG novel that I just finished features heroism, death, gang life, and what else? A bully, of course! We Americans loves us some bullies.
But, and here’s the big “BUT”… I honestly don’t remember any bullies in my high school. Is it just me? Am I delusional? I mean, we had our partiers, our stoners, our rah-rah’s, our band geeks, our drama-ramas, our sports stars, our Dungeons and Dragons nerds, our wannabe rock stars and rap stars and models, and a few real gang bangers. And I pretty much had a few friends in each group, so I sort of floated around. (Okay, mostly I was Reese Witherspoon in Election…Type A, peppy rah-rah, student government nerd, took everything too seriously, studied waaayyy too much, never partied, etc, etc. But, I digress.)
My point is, by the time high school rolled around, we were kind of over the whole “too cool” phase of adolescence. Nobody was shoving kids into lockers or trash-canning dorks or giving swirlies in the boys’ bathroom. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t angels…we just got all that stuff out of our systems in Junior High. Our HS was 10th-12th grade, so maybe not having Freshmen around to bully was part of it. But, I remember people in my HS being pretty tolerant of each other. Even back in the day, pre-Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, pre-coming out coolness of Lance Bass, Ellen, and Portia deRossi, kids came out of the closet at my HS and nobody blinked. Even the conservative kids just kind of shrugged and went on about their business.
The only true bullying I endured as a kid was in 4th through 7th grades. One day in the 4th grade, I was punched in the stomach and kicked into the street by a group of kids. The leader, who shall remain nameless, (because you know who you are, Woodrow) kicked my ass because he heard some kids made fun of his name, and he thought I was among them, when actually it was another girl (you know who you are, Kecia) who had blond hair and he got us mixed up. And in 7th grade Jackie B. tried to beat me up after school for sticking up for my friend, Kirsten, who J had called a “slut.” She chickened out when she remembered who my sister was…not a bully, but she was tough, and you wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley after you messed with her little sister! But, beyond about age 14, kids in my neighborhood seemed to focus on sports or academics or drugs or whatever their interests were. And bullying wasn’t really cool anymore. It was just sort of juvenile.
Is anyone else with me? Do kids outgrow the bullying phase by high school? Or is the bullying just more covert, more psychological and cunning rather than physical, so we don’t notice it as much? Or maybe I was just clueless!