Who’s afraid of the big bad bully?

Heavy: Who’s afraid of the big bad bully?

It was bad enough when kids in school chose me last for all of the teams in gym class, but they seldom could do it without some sort of nasty commentary. Anyone who has experienced this knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Bullies are all around us, and they don’t go away once we’re out of school. Being overweight for nearly my entire life, I’ve had more experiences with them than I can count.

One particular instance that stands out vividly in my mind happened when I moved to a new school when I was about 14-years-old. It was one of my first days and a group of girls with big hair and acid washed designer jeans gathered in a corner a few feet from me. I had learned years prior – sadly at a very young age – that the best way to ward off a bully was to ignore them and to never, never let them see that their words and actions affected you in any way. I always waited until I was home and safe in my bedroom before I cried.

But as I ignored these mean girls, they started talking louder and louder until nearly the entire schoolyard could hear them.

“I wonder if we gave her some money maybe she could do her hair and face and look a little better,” said one.

“Nah, that won’t help. She’ll still be fat,” another girl replied and then the whole group burst into a fit of hideous giggles.

Whoever said words do not hurt, has obviously never been on the receiving end of these kind of remarks.

I’ve heard people say that girls are worse than boys when it comes to bullying. I can’t say for sure if this is true, but I can say that I’ve had my share of experiences with both. Girls bully on a mental level. They use their words and their peers to spread the hurt. Boys tend to be more physical. Interestingly enough, my personal experience was that boys were more physical with other boys, but with girls, their words and peers could rival any of the worst female bullies.

It was a hot summer day and people crowded the local ice-cream parlor seeking relief. The lot was so full with cars that I had to park across the street near the movie theater where a group of about half a dozen teenage boys sat. As I started to cross the road, one of the boys started yelling, his peers cheering him on.

“Oh my God! Look at that fat chick going to get some ice-cream!” yelled the boy. “I’ll bet she orders two banana splits all for herself.”

Several people waiting in line at the window turned to seek out the object of his taunts. It didn’t take long for their eyes to fix on the only fat person crossing the road.

“Boom! Boom! Boom!” the boys started chanting with each step I took.

“Wow! Do you feel the ground shake?” said another.

As I reached the other side, I veered and walked around the corner of the building instead of stepping into line. As soon as I was out of sight of the boys, I practically broke into a run to put as much distance between them and me as possible before I broke down. I was humiliated – and I was 35-years-old when this happened.

Recently, there was a video circulating of a group of boys taunting bus monitor Karen Klein in upstate New York. I watched about 30 seconds of the 10-minute clip before I couldn’t anymore. It was all too familiar. For Klein, the world rallied and showed their support with cash. I wonder if that somehow made the humiliation feel less?

I wish there was an easy answer as to why bullies do what they do. What kind of power do they feel hurting others gives them? What can we do to end bullying? Is it even possible?

Over the years, I’ve developed certain coping mechanisms for when I’m bullied. Most of them involve chocolate, which, of course, is counterproductive.