Bullying is epidemic says the newspaper today. Violence is the norm and the law seems to reinforce it. Last week, bullied teenager Tommy Kimpton, who beat his best friend Ben Williams to death with a pool cue, was found not guilty of his murder. The jury cleared Kimpton after 21-year-old Williams had teased him about his weight, thick glasses and big ears.
But my theory, which reflects my own experience in this case, was confirmed by a second story in the news today. Danielle Price was battered by a gang of girl bullies hours after two school prizes for her outstanding work in German and Humanities. Nose bleeding, eyelid split and eyes swollen up, cuts and bruises all over, she looked pretty bad. Jealousy drives people mad.
I remember my dullest experience of being bullied as if it was today but back then I could not connect the fact that I enjoyed learning with the violence I was exposed to. Left my childhood home when I was 10, moving to our new apartment in central Sao Paulo, 2 minutes walk from Avenida Paulista, one of the most beautiful avenues I have ever seen, wide, busy colourful and very cosmopolitan. My neighbours were richer, evil, and full of themselves.
Back to school: there I was, 11 years old, listening attentively to my math teacher. He was fabulous. Umberto was his name. He drew a square on the board, scribbled some crazy details on it and said it was the number machine. It was designed to make numbers and we were supposed to guess what comes out of it.
So, if A is any number, how can we make even numbers? He asked. Nobody said anything. Well, you add A+A, there you go, you get an even number. So, how can we make odd numbers?
I answered without thinking: A+A+1. Truly without thinking. Fucking simple question that was. We were 11 years old, bloody hell, and I was already thinking of shagging Jordan Knight from the New Kids on the Block. There’s nothing special about a simple illustration in the very beginning of a lesson. He was just preparing our little silly minds to the much more complicated equations ahead. The fact is that nobody was present. They were there, physically present in that uncomfortably formal classroom, but they were numb and bored.
Umberto looked at me surprised, and said that no one ever answered that question in the 28 years he had been teaching math at Assuncao. I got some extra point or something like that. Some kind of reward. Bollocks.
Roberta Schurman was her name. Fucked up teeth, long straight blond hair and a very irritating voice, that’s as far as I can recall. Her family is internationally known as sailors, world travelers. They have been everywhere, from the North Pole to India on board of their fucking boat, or ship, whatever. For some reason, jealousy maybe, she hated me. Later on in our volleyball lesson, after math, she made some stupid joke about me being the last generation of the Daunt family. At that time I wasn’t really aware of the value of my family tree so I ignored her, a bit puzzled. Daunt family, so what?
Break time, she told our fellow classmates she would be smashing my head on the floor, inviting everyone to join her. In a couple of minutes there was 200 kids shouting “beat her, beat her” all walking towards me, in some kind of medieval revival.
I tried to walk away, slowly, but they eventually reached me and she kicked me twice in the leg and pathetically grabbed my hair, just the way most girls do. I kicked her back, once maybe and for some reason the “fight” stopped. Hahaha. Brazilian style. 6 seconds anger. The coordinator took us both to her office to clarify the situation and I cried compulsively, making them feel sorry for me. She got some kind of punishment and I got the sympathy from teachers and colleagues.
No, I didn’t leave any deep emotional scar. I’m just comparing bulling styles. Fights in English schools are more violent and people tend to fight back more often than us. Brilliant. Pride is an illness that I manage to keep distance.
These kind of jealous reactions still happen to people around me and now I feel great when it happens. I interpret it as a compliment. Hassle me, please. Make it clear you are fucking jealous. I love bullies. There are few things that make me feel better than a whole group against me. I think to myself “Well done, Debbie. You don’t have this ridiculous hive mentality and these poor people are just confirming you are an individual, a whole separate entity, and paradoxically, much more part of the whole.”
I really wish you have the power to believe in yourself, making of those worst experiences the confirmation of your individuation. That’s evolution.
As Nelson Mandela said:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I
to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
who are we not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about
shrinking so that other people won’t
feel insecure around you.
You were born to make manifest
the glory of God.
That is within us.
It’s not just some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine,
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.