By Alan Eisenberg
This is a very tough story to write for me. I actually debated on sharing this one with you, because I have spent three years writing about my victimization from bullies. But the world isn’t black and white, no matter how much we want it to be. The world is full of grays and questions that are debated endlessly, with answers that feel like they change with the blowing of the wind. So this story’s theme offers me as the bully in a situation I often ponder. I think about it, because I question whether the bullying abuse I took made me act as a bully in a certain situation or was it a feeling I wanted to share as well.
So with that in mind, I want to share with you my story of when I was 12 and realized that, in certain situations, I could be the bully. While at my public school, I spent most of the day in fear, waiting for the bullies to get me. But twice a week, I went to another school where I didn’t worry about that. Where I was one of the popular kids and well liked. Twice a week, on Sundays and Monday evenings, I went to religious school and there, I was the one that didn’t have to worry.
In looking back, I’m not sure what was different. Most all of the kids at my religious school did not go to my elementary school, so they didn’t know what was happening to me there. In many ways I felt like I had two personalities, the dark boy who hid from others for fear of being bullied, and the outgoing religious school boy who joked and cut-up with his friends. When I was 12, there was so much going on in my life. My best friend had turned on me to become my worst bully. I found a group of kids to hang with, but they were not the best choices. To boot, I was starting to become a teen, with all the emotional baggage change that goes with that.
So, enter my chance to be the popular kid, at least for a few hours at religion school. I recall how we would play indoor Dodgeball for about 1/2 hour prior to class starting. Then it was off to class, where I would spend time with my friends mainly drawing pictures in class. We were the class clowns, constantly being reprimanded for giggling and not paying attention. It was so vastly different from what I was experiencing at regular school. I really enjoyed the feeling that came with being with the more popular kids. These were my friends away from the ones who knew me as the one being bullied at regular school. So, being young and insecure, I found myself wanting to be popular. As someone recently pointed out to me though, they could see through me that I was a wannabe, but not really comfortable playing this role.
Of course, there had to be a kid who was the one picked on here and his name was David. I can’t really say why he was the one. Maybe he was a little bigger than us. Maybe he was the one who always raised his hand to answer the question or he was smarter than us. To be honest, it wasn’t like he was bullied every time we did religion school. For the most part we all got along and we had spent many years growing up together in religious school. But I know that he was the butt of many jokes and looking back, I can see how unfair it was. I can’t really recall how it came about anymore, but one day we chose to put a bunch of tacks on David’s chair. It wasn’t just a few, it was probably about 10. I recall totally believing he would see them long before he chose to sit down.
But for some reason he was distracted talking to someone and didn’t see them. I can still see David sitting his full weight onto the tacks. I remember him sitting there, his face turning red, but he made sure not to cry in front of us. He didn’t want to. This I recall clearly. To this day, I still get chills thinking about how he didn’t jump up, he didn’t react. It was like he was defeated. The teacher noticed him turning red and tears welling up. He stood up and walked out of the room, all the tacks sticking in him.
There were snickers of laughter in the room as he left. At least it didn’t happen to me was all I thought. Then the teacher spoke up. He said he didn’t want to know who did it, but they should go help David.
Me and a few other boys who were involved went out to help him. At this point, I realized what I had done and was not at all thinking it was funny. We went into the bathroom and there was David, tears running down his face.
“Why did you do this?” was all he kept repeating to us while trying not to cry. Me and the other boys said nothing as I recall. I think we all felt the same. We pulled the tacks out as best we could, knowing we were hurting him again. No one spoke. It was not funny, it was not nice. I was the bully this time.
Once all the tacks were out, we went back to the room. David never came back in that day. That was the last time we picked on him like that I recall. I hope in my recollection, it’s the last time I could think that I was the bully. I think about David and how he must have felt. I often think that he had it worse, because he was probably bullied both at school and then at religion school. He got no break. It hurts me now as I write this to think that might have been the case. I have no idea now, 31 years later, what happened to David. I certainly hope that he has had a good life.
I thought it would be hard to write the stories of when I was bullied, but it’s actually much harder to write this one. This is not in defense of bullies, but when you are picked on relentlessly in school, when you are 12 years old, for a moment it made me feel good to be the popular kid somewhere. To be the one that didn’t have to look behind my shoulder for where the bully was. Maybe, in the end, that’s the scariest part of this story and why it hurts so much to share it.
I don’t feel brave sharing this story. I don’t feel redeemed sharing this story. I just feel guilty. Of course I can’t go back and these incidents help teach me and hopefully others lessons. That’s the biggest reason I wanted to share this with you.
Editor's Note: This story was first published in August 2010. Nearly two years later, David found it and wrote his version of events. See next post.