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Some Bullies Never Grow Out Of It

, , , , , | Working | February 4, 2022

It is a fundamental law that even the best offices must have one insufferable bully. Mine is a fifty-eight-year-old woman who dislikes most other women, especially those younger than her. She is fine with me as she thinks of me being this meek, little thing who will roll over. And at first, she is right! But as I get healthier and wiser, I stop putting up with her game. She, therefore, trades her methods of gaslighting and manipulation for some very old-school methods of bullying and harassing: intimidation and blackmail.

Currently, I am refusing to be alone with her and have made it abundantly clear that it has to do with the fact she threatened to fire me over something that was not my fault to try and blackmail me into (again) doing her job for her. It backfired as I already had a resolution, so I immediately sent both the issue and the solution to the owner with a comprehensive, “How did this happen in the first place?”

Basically, I have made it known to her (and to the company’s owner) that we will never be alone with the door closed again nor will I pick up her calls. If she needs something from me that is work-related, she can send an email or mention it in the morning meetings with everyone else present.

Today, though, she sees that I am alone in my office and decides to try once more to offer me “friendship” and “comradery” — aka gaslighting and love-bombing. She starts it by making her presence known by loudly locking and unlocking the main door several times and banging on it in between.

Bully: “Yooooo-hoooo. Anyone here?”

Me: *Sigh* “Hello.”

Bully: “Why are you sitting in the dark?”

I shrug and continue working. The easiest way to get her to leave is to ignore her and not engage. Any form of engagement will result in her thinking she has a free pass to continue.

Bully: “I have been meaning to talk to you about something. It is work-related.”

Me: “Okay. Let’s bring it up in the morning meeting in an hour. I am busy right now.”

Bully: “I—” 

She pauses and looks over my shoulder at something. The parking lot is in that direction, so I know why she turns white as a sheet.

Bully: “Is— Is [Owner] here?”

I look around the dimly lit office, knowing she knows what his car looks like.

Me: “Well, obviously, no.”

Bully: “I got to go.”

She TORE it out the door to go upstairs where her office was located. Turns out, she’d thought [Owner] was already here and in his office, and therefore, she thought she could corner me while he wasn’t paying attention. She’d seen [Owner] pulling into the parking lot through my window and panicked.

She never did bring up what her “work-related” issue was in the morning meeting. It was probably another grand speech about how “us gals” got to stick together against “those boys” (and other women). Barf.

We Graduate But We Never Forget

, , , , , , | Learning | December 15, 2021

Like many others, I had a terrible school experience growing up. Middle school was especially hellish thanks to relentless teasing, both from students and teachers. It was the 1990s. What can I say? 

One teacher, in particular, was a bully, plain and simple. He’d tease me along with other students. He forced me to cut up my brother’s toy dinosaur for a Viking ship project. He made fun of the way my cat scratched at my arms. And so on and so forth. 

After high school, I thought I’d never see him again, but when you have a retail job in the city near where you grew up, it is inevitable. I came across him three times.

I wasn’t working the first time; I was with my sister at a popular gas station/food place. We were on our way out when the teacher came in. He lit up, as teachers do I guess when seeing old students.

Teacher: “Girls! [Dumb Nickname we had in school]! How’re you?”

I briskly walked past without acknowledging him. He looked at my sister questioningly.

Sis: “What’d you expect?”

She walked away, too.

The second time, I was working at a fast food place, taking drive-thru orders when he pulled up. My friendly demeanor immediately turned icy. It took him a moment but I saw the recognition in his eyes.

Me: “That’ll be [total].”

Teacher: *Handing me money* “You probably don’t recognize me, do you?”

Me: *Giving back change* “I know who you are.”

I closed the window and had a coworker give him his order.

The third time, it had been about ten years since school. I was a shift leader at a bookstore, I was married, and I figured I’d moved on from the trauma of school… but when I saw this teacher approach the cash register, I felt anxious as though I were in middle school again.

Me: “Will this be all today?”

I was trying to be cordial and ring through the transaction quickly. I gave him his total. He squinted at me, almost accusingly.

Teacher: “You know who I am.”

Me: “Yes.”

Teacher: “Then why—”

Me: “Your receipt is in the bag. Have a good day.”

He struggled for a moment, his face red. I have no clue what was going on in his head, or why he would think I of all people would be happy to see him. Maybe he was confused that this was the third time his former student was “mean” to him.

It definitely made him angry. He was with two little girls, and I think that’s the main reason why he just grabbed his bag and walked away.

Double Standards Don’t Help Anyone Succeed

, , , , , | Learning | August 22, 2021

I was in fourth or fifth grade when this happened. I’m a girl, and at this time, I was also dealing with what would later be diagnosed as high-functioning autism. As a result, I had a really hard time interacting with my classmates. I did my best to learn what kind of behaviour was appropriate in different situations, but I found it to be very difficult, because the rules kept changing around depending on the individuals who were involved. 

One bright winter day, my classmates and I were playing King of the Hill on a big snowdrift in the schoolyard. The class bully kept winning, and I found it unfair, because he was so much bigger and stronger than the rest of us, and I thought he should give someone else a go instead of just kicking off anyone who tried to make an attempt to get to the top. This inevitably escalated into a fight between me and the bully, because I thought that the same rules applied to all children and had not yet grasped that girls were not supposed to fight. 

We ended up in an empty classroom with our teacher. It’s important to note that we were both chubby children, but [Class Bully] was tall and broad while I was short and squat. I’d been bullied for being fat for years, while no one had ever dared to say anything to [Class Bully].

Teacher: “Can you please tell me what happened?

Class Bully: “[My Name] said I was fat and to get off the hill!”

Me: “That’s not what happened! I told him he should let someone else have a chance to be King! I just said he’s as big as two people and it wasn’t fair!”

[Class Bully] started crying, which was usually what he did when he was being called out for his behaviour and there was an adult present.

Teacher: “[My Name], I’m very disappointed in you. You know bullying isn’t acceptable at this school!”

In fact, bullying was very much acceptable at this school; it just depended on who was doing the bullying.

Me: “But I wasn’t bullying him.”

Teacher: “You can’t go around calling other children fat. That sort of thing hurts. I’m going to have to call your parents about this.”

Me: “I didn’t say he was fat; I said he was big!”

Teacher: “It means the same thing, and it’s very hurtful. You need to be more considerate of others, [My Name]. See how sad you’ve made [Class Bully]?”

Me: “But the other children call me fat all the time; how is that any different? Why am I not allowed to say it?”

Teacher: “Well, we can’t always say everything we think. Now, apologize to [Class Bully] and then go home and think about what you’ve done.”

In my mind, I hadn’t done anything different than what the other kids were already doing to me without consequences, but in my little mental flowchart of human interaction, I carefully noted down, “Other children may be mean to me, but I may not be mean to them.”

This, and a hundred other little incidents like it, led to me, a few years later, being scolded by my teachers for not speaking up in class and not standing up for myself. 

It was very, very confusing until I reached my twenties and finally got a therapist who explained to me that I was not the stupid one.

You Can Lose All The Weight You Want, But You’ll Still Be A Jerk

, , , , , , , | Friendly | August 2, 2021

I’m finally catching up with a friend, now we are allowed to meet up outside. We walk around a local park chatting, and it seems that there are lots of people with the same idea.

I suggest grabbing a drink from the stall.

Friend: “Can I get a lemonade?”

Me: “I’ll have a diet cola.”

Cashier: “Oh, sorry, we don’t have any. Oh, wait! The last one.”

Me: “Lucky me.”

I pay for us and we turn to leave, but a woman next in line steps in front of us, her hands on her hips.

Woman: “Err, excuse me. I don’t think what you did was very respectful of others.”

Me: “What?”

Woman: “You! You took the last diet soda! Some of us are trying to lose weight, you know!”

She turns to what looks like her mother.

Me: “I’m sorry, but I like the flavour. I don’t like the regular one.”

Woman: *Dramatic sighing* “Oh, he doesn’t like the flavour. Well, what am I supposed to drink?”

I’m not very good with confrontation. I’m half-thinking about just going home when my friend speaks up.

Friend: “[Woman]?”

Woman: “What?”

Friend: “Your name is [Woman], isn’t it?”

Woman: “So what?”

Friend: “I recognise you; you used to bully us all back in school. Looks like not much has changed there. Still a nasty piece of work, huh?”

Woman: “I don’t know you.”

Friend: “Good, keep it that way. You’re not worth the breath.”

Woman: “Give me the soda!”

Friend: “Oh, I’ve wanted to say this for a long time. F*** you, [Woman]. You can’t bully anyone anymore.” *To me* “Come on. We still have lots to catch up on.”

We had a great time after that. It turns out that [Woman] really was a nasty piece of work and made a lot of people’s lives h***. She kept on bullying people until she couldn’t keep a job or even a social media account.

Transitioning To A More Accepting Viewpoint

, , , , , , , | Learning | June 20, 2021

I’m a science teacher at a small high school. For a few years, I’ve also been handing out Vetinari points, or vet points, for students that answer difficult questions, ask truly insightful questions, or otherwise do something to impress me. The students can then trade the points in for a few potential benefits, most noticeably a small increase in a future test score.

A little while ago, the parent who gave birth to one of our students came out as trans and started his transition. It seems this detail has only recently filtered down to some of the less enlightened students in our school, though. I’ve recently warned one bully in particular about his transphobic comments and harassment.

On this particular day, I’m alone in my room during a break period grading papers while the student in question is at his locker right outside of my room. I’m not listening to his conversation at first, until I overhear a non-school-appropriate synonym for penis that I won’t be repeating here, coming from the hallway. Since I came in partway into the conversation, I am only able to deduce part of the conversation between the bully and the student, though it is clear from tone and attitude alone that the bully is intentionally harassing my student.

Bully: “…mom has a [penis] now.”

Student: “You clearly don’t understand anything about being trans.”

Bully: “What’s there to know?!”

I have already gotten up and am headed out to handle the situation, but by the time I get out there, the student has already started responding with such confidence that I choose to let him finish before intervening. He is literally counting off points on his finger as he speaks.

Student: “First, I don’t have a mom. Second, of my two fathers, only one has, or will ever have, a [penis]. Three, I think you’re just jealous I can kill Macbeth and you can’t.”

Bully: “Huh?”

They are covering “Macbeth” in English around this time. In the play, it’s prophesied that “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth.”

Me: “[Student], you just earned yourself one vet point for coming up with a much better subversion of that prophecy than the actual play managed, though you should both use less vulgar terminology next time you wish to discuss a penis.”

Student: “Oh, umm… yes, sir. Thank you.”

Me: “[Bully], I’ve already warned you twice about transphobic comments. Now you will be spending your lunch discussing it with the principal, instead.”

All of us teachers were a little worried for this student originally when his father transitioned, but he proved us all wrong. He handled every question about his father with just as much confidence and conviction, without once losing his cool or lashing out in anger, as he did this time. More than once, I saw him inform ignorant students about what it meant to be trans with such confidence that he managed to convince even some of those who were originally skeptical of the concept to support his father’s transition. It was quite refreshing seeing not only how strongly he stood by his father’s transition but how well (most) of the student body ended up taking and supporting the transition after he explained things to them.

This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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Read the Best Of June 2021 roundup!