1. I was a Bully

    When I was in first grade, I bullied a classmate. I was bullied all through preschool, and then later a bit through elementary school. In kindergarten and first grade, I was bullied really badly by a boy I will refer to as B. He was my best friend in preschool, and then he kind of turned on me and started teasing me, hitting me, etc. Anyway, there was a boy on the swing sets and B asked him his name. The boy replied, and his name was also another word for a kind of animal, which B found hilarious. And he started making fun of him, telling him he didn’t belong in school, that he should go to a zoo. 

    "I’m going to take you to a zoo after school!" B said. And I joined in, thinking that maybe B would like me again and leave me alone. Of course, that didn’t work and so whenever I saw the boy I’d taunt him, because I thought maybe B would eventually stop antagonizing me and we’d go back to being friends. I don’t know, I was confused. And this keeps me up at night and I hate myself because of it. I’m still hurt by things people said/did to me in school, and I just feel so bad; I think that if he’s depressed now, it’s all my fault. My friends and family (the ones I’ve told this to, anyway; I don’t like to talk about it) say it’s not my fault, I was a victim, I was a kid, etc., etc., but it doesn’t help. I regret the things I said every day. I’m so sorry. 

     

  2. in junior high

    I bullied a boy named Richard Castle.  Oh the agony of remembering.  I chased him and stuck pins in him and, this is the worst, I called him “a fairy.”  He may have been effeminate, who knows about 12-year-olds, but that was the label I stuck on him.  It’s true he was more well-dressed than the rest of the kids.  He was a nice, smart kid.  And I made his life a living hell.  I have no idea why.  I am so sorry.  I am 80 years old now, and still regret my foul actions. Since college I have been supportive of gay people and have worked and contributed money to promote marriage equality.  My daughter is gay, happy, radiant, successful.  I don’t know why I bullied Richard, but I am profoundly sorry and would like to apologize profusely, if he is still around.

     

  3. We made them stand bottomless, facing each other

    When I was about 9 or 10, i went to a day centre for kids after school. I know don’t know how to say this but i participated in bullying two young children - the girl was one or two years younger, and the boy, Jackie, was about 5 or 6. She was quiet; he was noisy but did not know the same words that kids his age knew. 

    I, together with a friend (or two, i can’t remember the details), shut the classroom door one day and told them to take off their bottoms. I cannot remember if they resisted - i vaguely remember pulling down some shorts, and the laughter of the little boy. They didn’t look frightened. We made them stand bottomless, facing each other. That was all.

    I knew what i was doing was wrong; it’s something i wouldn’t and haven’t told anyone. The girl lived in an apartment below mine, and my mother knew hers. I thought of them today, 14 years after the incident, and i really felt so sorry. What i had done was a terrible, terrible thing. I cannot fathom how i could have been such a bully. No, i was not a bully. I felt like i was a sexual predator. A little sexual predator girl.

    I am sorry. I wish it had never happened. 

     

  4. Saying sorry to a man I never knew

    As someone in long-term recovery, I am compelled to reflect often on “crap I’ve done to others.”

    This day, “crap I’ve done” brings me to Robert Rutley.

    I went to Lord Byng Secondary School with Rob, Class of ’74. Rob was something of an outsider. Easy prey for the pack. He presented as a suitable victim, though God knows he likely never saw himself that way.

    Rob had his friends, of course. Derek Milton, his best friend. Doug House, an admitted “nerd.” There were others.

    As for myself, well, I chummed around with a modestly popular collection of sometime-do-wells. Derek told me the other day he thought I was cool in high school. I wasn’t cool at all. I only wanted to survive whatever the day was going to throw at me.

    Like, the 2.2.

    In Grade 12, at Byng, calculus was tough. The 2.2 was tougher.

    The 2.2 was a gruelling run of 2.2 miles from Crown to Blanca and back along the 16th Avenue boulevard. I don’t know what high school is like today, but my guess is students train harder than we did in my day. They certainly could not train any less.

    Often the 2.2 would unfold during the first class of the day, which happened to be gym. Along the run, more than a few of us would be coughing up toxins from the night before: booze, tobacco, pot.

    World records were never threatened. In fact, in retrospect, it seems only the impenetrable resilience of youth kept most of us from dying somewhere between Trimble and Sasamat.

    None of this was a concern for Rob Rutley.

    Rob didn’t smoke, drink or do drugs, and he could run like Sebastian Coe. On a good day, he would be 500 yards ahead of the pack by the time the pack got out of the schoolyard. Rob could easily run the 2.2 in between 11 and 12 minutes, while the rest of us would require cheating to make it in 20.

    Sadly, Rob never ran the distance in 12 minutes. At least not during gym class. We wouldn’t let him.

    Having been the first to make the turn at Blanca, Rob would have to run the gauntlet through a pack of assholes, myself included, who would grab him, tackle him, punch him, pick him up and carry him back to Blanca. Sometimes we would loosely tie the sleeves of his shirt to a post in order to attempt the seemingly impossible: make him come in last.

    He would get angry. He would swear. He would fight.

    I felt terrible. Can’t say I enjoyed one minute of it. I bullied Rob because the pack was bullying Rob. I was a coward. If there are 10 things I’ve done in my life I profoundly regret, treating Rob as I did in gym class is one of them.

    I asked Derek Milton why he thought Rob was bullied. “I have no idea why people treated Rob that way. He was a super athlete, good looking and the funniest guy I knew.”

    Doug House, who has no reservations describing his caste in Byng as “nerd,” grew close to Rob because Rob had the strength of character to see something in Doug others did not.

    I left my conversation with Derek and Doug no closer to answering the question, “why was Rob bullied?”

    It then became clear I wasn’t asking the right question. Certainly I was not asking the more important question. “Why was he bullied?” suggests Rob did something wrong. Clearly he did not. The real question remains, “why did we bully him?”

    Envy, undoubtedly played its part. I know for me it was fear. Fear of not getting involved and, as a consequence, becoming the next victim.

    For 30 years I promised myself that I would apologize to Rob when the chance presented itself.

    Rob died last month of an aneurysm. For someone I barely knew, his passing has had a significant effect on me.

    “I wish you got to know Rob,” said Derek.

    God, brother, so do I.

    Derek, Doug and I spoke for an hour on the steps of Byng last Friday. We arrived in the cold with a thick stew of rain and cloud overhead. Five minutes in, the sky cleared and the sun shone down upon us.

    At long last, Rob is getting some well-deserved respect. My higher power is good with the man who could run and run and run.

    On Sunday at noon, I will be on the front steps of Byng. I will walk the 2.2 in honour of this fellow I never knew. I welcome any and all company.

     

  5. Thirty minutes of fun I could have done without

    I’ll call you Brian, since I never did in high school. Back then we called you “Legs.”

    You were the tallest kid in Grade 8 and I’d never seen so much height in such a skinny package. Your pants stopped way short of your ankles, even though I’m sure they were the longest your parents could find. Your brother had them, too. He was older, quite skinny and geeky-looking himself, but not in the same league as you. You had other things going against you: hair that was always greasy, with little flakes it in that were probably related to eczema or whatever it was that made your skin go all scaly in parts. So you had the skin, the hair, the clothes — but mostly the legs. 

    You were shy. I’d say painfully shy but that’s both a cliche and an understatement. You were uncomfortable just being looked at, let alone spoken to, and it made me uncomfortable to watch you being either looked at or spoken to. You just wandered the halls in your own world, sometimes half talking to yourself and hmmm-ing at the ceiling. 

    When you saw us coming the other way, you’d snap out of it. Sometimes you’d pull a U-turn, maybe thinking we wouldn’t notice, but your head was hard to miss sticking out above the others. And sometimes you wouldn’t notice us until you were past that invisible point-of-no-return in the hallway, so you’d just put your head down and drift over to the side near the lockers, picking up your pace as though you couldn’t get to the end of the hallway fast enough. You’d pass three lockers with every step. 

    And that’s when we’d get interested. 

    I’m probably not the one you remember most. That would be Greg, my best friend at the time. He was the mean one. Sure, I’d call you names and tease you and laugh at the things Greg did, but in those days I didn’t consider myself mean. Actually, I didn’t consider Greg mean, either. He was only mean to you. 

    Anyway, when you took the wide route Greg would angle toward you, and then you’d pinch in as close to those lockers as you could get, really moving those legs now so they’d be covering four, five lockers per stride. Greg would speed up, too, and then just before contact, as you were ducking your head and bracing for the worst, he’d veer off and continue down the hall. Sometimes he’d yell “Legs!” right in your ear first.

    He rarely touched you. There was that one time, on the path that led from the bus stop to the school. We spotted you up ahead and we picked up our pace. You must have seen us, or heard the footsteps, because those legs shifted gears again, swallowing huge gulps of pathway every time they turned over. But Greg kept up. He never broke into a run, but he hustled just like you until he was right on your heels, so close that he could take one of them out with a swift kick and that’s exactly what he did. I think you went down. It must have happened slowly. You had a long way to fall.

    I felt a little bad about that one, but didn’t show it. I’m sure I laughed like I always did when Greg got carried away. 

    You’ve probably wondered what you did to deserve it all, and I have an answer for you that will either make you feel better, or worse. The answer is: nothing at all. You didn’t wrong us. You didn’t offend us. You certainly didn’t threaten us. To be honest, we didn’t really give a shit about you. But if we saw you coming down the hall and we had nothing else going on, well, the chance to make you skim those lockers was irresistible. To know that we could make those giraffe legs eat up ground the way they did, just by walking a bit faster ourselves — too much fun.

    I’ve read a lot about bullying at We Were Bullied the past few days and learned what fun for guys like me meant for guys like you. I bet if you added up all the fun we had at your expense in our three years at that school, it would come out to about half an hour — 30 minutes of fun, which I never thought much about after moving to another school. And if you’re like the other people I’ve been reading about, you’ve been living the effects of our 30 minutes of fun for the past 30 years. You probably still are.

    Brian, I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t done it. You were a harmless kid and we should have let you be that. I should have, and could have, gotten Greg interested in something else. That’s all it would have taken. 

    But then again, if you’re like the others I’ve been reading about, the last person you want to hear from right now is me. And I get that. I just had to tell you it wasn’t personal.

    Well, not for me.

     

  6. So embarrassed

    I’m pretty sure I was a bully in high school. I used to bug or pick on a few guys and I don’t think I really knew at the time that I was being a complete jerk. It was fun/funny. Knocking books out of their hands, making fun of things, etc.  

    Now I’m a married father of two children and I have dreams/nightmares of these people and how I must have tormented them.  

    You may think that I must have known the impact it may have had, but I honestly didn’t at the time. Just a punk kid.

    It hit home one day when I was older, about 10 years out of high school and I was in a washroom at a night club. Some guy standing next to me asks “Are you _____ _____ ?” I said, “Yes, I am.”  

    Then he said “I FU*&*& HATED YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL!!!” And he was really angry. I had to calm him down.  

    That was the moment it hit home. I barely remembered this guy’s name and here he is standing next to me over 10 years later, he remembers my name and how much he hated me. I was stunned.

    I’m really ashamed of what I did now.  If someone did that to my kids, I would be really angry.

    What do I think would help avoid this in the future? I think some sort of lesson on bullying when you enter high school: what it is, how it affects people, how to report it, etc. Maybe video re-enactments of what bullying is. Give kids a safe way to report bullying so that the issue and bully is dealt with. I probably should have been kicked out of school for what I did, but I was never ever talked to.  

    I read somewhere, “Bad people are good people with no guidance.” I’m not feeling sorry for myself. It was my fault. I should have had to answer for my actions, though.   

     

  7. I was a bully, and I didn’t even know it

    So… yes. I was a bully back in elementary school. My friends and I (three of us) would pick on this short chubby kid, who used to piss us off A LOT. Maybe it was because he pissed us off, or something, but it got worse and no one really knew how. It started with back-to-back name calling, just expressing both sides’ anger towards each other. Then there was the pushing, it wasn’t that bad, just a “LEAVE US ALONE” kind. Then it just kept on going and going, and he would mess with us during recess and lunch.

    Then the next day, it was after lunch. I don’t even know what happened. I never thought I’d be the bully. We actually hurt the person so much that he started crying, and just BLEW OFF in class, well, right before class. He started it, yet we ended it. It wasn’t really violent, we just kept on going, “Where you going? Stop running away faggot,” etc. That was when he just cried out “STOP IT!” and threw a bunch of hardcover books at us, I deflected most of them, but it resulted in a damaged book.

    This really shocked me. At first, I thought we were just having simple “horseplay”. Next, we started making fun of him, mentally and physically. Then pushed. We didn’t really “bully” him, I guess. We didn’t intend to. But all that mattered was, my friends and I hurt him so bad, that he cried. I didn’t even know that it was hurting him that much.

    This was my “I was a bully” experience. Though we made up and became chill after a few weeks of that, bullying can became intentional, and unintentional. You can be hurting someone so much, and they wouldn’t show it to anyone. You can bully someone without even noticing it. And for me, being a bully made me kind of “conscious” about the reality of it. It CAN really hurt someone into killing themselves. Lucky for us and him, we didn’t try to bully him, it kind of just happened. And lucky for everyone, no one was permanently hurt.