Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Gets Better Takes a Long Time

So I was going through old manuscripts yesterday and there was this one, The Autobiographical First Novel of Annie Smoot, and I was reading, and laughing, and making note of ways it needed to be updated (since it dates from the mid-90s and tech has gotten so intrusive in the intervening years), and when I got to the end of what I had (Chapter III) I really wanted to read the rest, which generally means I start typing and finish the book. But.

Bookworm Annie Smoot is being bullied, and the bully's mother has forced the bully to invite her to a birthday party, and Annie's mother has forced her to accept (because grownups never understand how serious anything is) and this is clearly a funny book about getting out from under the bullying and I don't know how she can.

Because I never did.

Oh, I'm out from under it now. Mostly. I've finally gotten a handle on bullying.

Two solutions exist for the persistent victim. One is to reach the place where "they" have no power over you - where you don't care what they think and they can't reach any of your vulnerable points, so you don't even have to interact with them except as you might interact with an uneven bit of sidewalk, which would trip you and break your leg if it could. And the other is to be valued (but not envied or resented) in the environment in which you encounter them to the extent that you don't look vulnerable. In that situation, if someone is dumb enough to attack you anyway, you won't have to defend yourself because other people will.

This is what that "just ignore them" advice adults always give kids is about. The people who give it don't recognize that, if it were possible to ignore them, you wouldn't be targeted anyway.

But of course, when you're six, or eleven, or even 30 and stuck in an office job with a jackass, you don't have those options. In those situations, pretty much anybody can hurt you who wants to, and your control over your own value is limited. In fact, a great deal of a bully's activity focuses on sabotaging you and keeping your value from being recognized.

I'm 52, and I'm only out from under this crap because I quit the workforce and routinely absent myself from places and situations in which I am not valued. Treat me badly once in your store, just once, and I'll never darken your door again. Treat me badly in a game, I don't have to finish it. Stalk me on the net and I can block your ISP. Flame me in a newsgroup and I can put you on ignore, if the newsgroup is otherwise worth staying on. (And I'm not sure how it happened, but I even have places where I'm valued - one person who used to be in our gaming group isn't anymore, because he behaved badly to Damon and me; and not long ago someone was rude to me in an internet setting, and before I even knew it had happened the offender was told "You know sassytalking Peni is like punching yourself in the face, right?") And this is all very nice but - I'm 52.

I can't write a book telling bullied eleven-year-olds to outlive it. Yuck! And I won't write a dishonest one telling them that if they're nice enough, clever enough, empathetic enough, whatever enough they can make friends with or triumph over their bullies, because in my experience, you can't. Nor would I be allowed to write one giving them a head's up that the problem can and will persist into their workplaces, because that is too depressing and adults in general refuse to admit it, anyway, so I'd never get it past an editor.

Which leaves poor Annie Smoot out on a limb.

I don't know what to do about that, either.

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