Invisible Bully like the Gooch
It was lunch time and all the kids had filed out to the playground. Some to the slides, others to the monkey bars, a few avoiding the physical activity altogether and laid under a tree making animals out of the cloud formations in the sky.
I was trying to avoid my own version of physical activity. See Scott (I can’t remember his last name) who was slightly bigger than me back then, I had yet to grow into my current 6’2, 230lbs frame, had decided he wanted to fight me. And just like his last name I can’t remember why. I’m sure it was an adolescent sized conflict. Something as world ending as, I lost his favorite marble, or I had beat him badly in a foot race. Whatever it was, Scott had centred his world war 3 sights on me. I don’t even remember why I didn’t want to fight. My guess is I had the same attitude then, I do now, and I’m not trying to get punched over foolishness. Plus I’d never been in a real fight before that, the ones with my sister over the remote control for the TV don’t count! And had no desire to test my Daniel Son crane kick that day. Scott however was very ready, too ready in my opinion, and maybe that made me even more wary of the fisticuffs. His aggression and my passivity resulted in a slow speed chase around the playground. Him goading me with “C’mon!! Let’s go!! C’mon!!” and me avoiding with the “I don’t want to fight, leave me alone!” as I speed walked away from him. He gave chase and when he caught up to me, made the move that placed the straw on the camel’s back, he knocked my hat off and it landed in a muddy puddle. And it was on!!
Needless to say I lost that fight that day, it was a quick one, with a trip and a punch to the eye. But Scott never bothered me again, I think because I eventually stood up to him. In hindsight if I had continued on that slow chase around the playground, into the soccer field and thru the marble games, and avoided him until the bell rang for us to go inside, it may never have stopped. He probably would have waited for me at 3pm to finish what HE had started.
After school I didn’t run home and tell my parents another kid at school bothered me. Not because I was strong and secure as a child that I didn’t need them to console me or give me advice, but simply because it was a normal. In my mind this is what happened at my age, this is how little boys sorted out their problems. All my friends had been in fights. The older guys, a couple of grades higher did the same. We fought it out in some lame tussle which didn’t have much punches or pain involved, and was quickly parted by mutual friends. And when it was done, you both shook hands and moved on or you didn’t speak to your opponent for a solid week, which back then seemed like a year!
Even TV shows of the era displayed this same mentality. Popular Diff’rent Strokes character Arnold Jackson had a long time, very covert, adversary in The Gooch. A character we never seen on the show, but his scary presence in Arnold’s life was established. I don’t remember Arnold ever telling Mr. Drummond about the Gooch, or that he needed counselling as result of the trauma the Gooch caused him. There were no scenes of little Arnold looking into a mirror one morning and deciding that suicide was a definitely better than going to school that morning. The most he did was told his older brother, or come up with schemes to outsmart his nemesis. Now I can’t speak for Arnold, but I know that my situation made me stronger. That was the last time I had a bully. I learned quickly to use my words in combat, and whether through making you laugh or feel too ashamed, I’d find a way to make you leave me alone!! It didn’t hurt that my Grandfather’s genes kicked in at age 16 and I sprouted to 5’11.
Nowadays instead of Arnold and the Gooch, kids are watching, shows like 13 Reasons Why. A show that some are saying, is glorifying suicide and making it an appealing method of revenge to teens. While others think that it’s a good conversation starter. I can see both sides have valid arguments. However the former, rings with a little more truth than the latter. Especially in this day and age, pun intended. It seems that our youth have gotten increasingly more sensitive over the last couple generations. And I’m not sure why this is. Have we coddled them a bit too much? Did we give them a false sense of self, to the point of weakness, when the intent was to build strength? Did we not warn them of the pitfalls of life and teach them how to cope? What happened? I think we taught them that weakness is ok, and it is, but we forgot to tell them that they would have to overcome weakness, or succeed in spite of it.
The irony is that in an age of social media, where our kids and teenagers keep selling their peers a bag of goods, when it comes to their image. All insecurities and shortcomings seemed to be emojied, memed and filtered out. In an era that says as long as you can take a pic of your new Jordans and post statuses of how many Zero Fucks You got left to give, you must be strong and got it all together. But the reality is suicides are on the rise. “In 1980 50 females between the age of 10-19 committed suicide, in 2008 the number rose to 77”. And that was 10 years ago, so we can imagine what its like now. Perception however is key in this. While we’ve seen a rise over the last 10 or more years, the 1950s and 60s were a lot worse in this regard. This was back when there was no PSA commercials about mental health, no campaigns by charity to start the “war on Bullying”, none of that existed. Now we seem to have a microscope on teen angst. To the point where the suicide rate is becoming a chicken or egg theory in itself. Are we creating awareness for a major problem? Or creating more of a problem out of the awareness? This is what people have taken issue over in shows like The 13 Reasons Why. We may be pouring more gasoline on the fire by showing these young adults and younger adults the imagery of a glamorized irrational state of mind set too cool music and hip lingo laden script. We may be teaching yet another generation that it’s ok to be mentally or emotionally weak (which is not the problem), and kill yourself as a result (which is a MAJOR problem)! By no means am I downplaying depression and its effects, I’ve been on the edge myself in my adult years, so by no means can I judge someone who is contemplating ending their situation by ending their life.
However, there is a difference between creating awareness and promoting, and the line may be very thin in 2018. I once saw a video that spoke about depression and it pretty much sums up my view, the brother, whose name I can’t remember started with “you are not depressed, you are suffering from depression.” What he meant was that we often make our circumstances define us rather than the other way around. You are not depressed, that is only a state of mind. I saw a lot of criticism for this theory. People saying he is making a mockery of mental health, or softening what it can cause people to do. To which my question is simple. Do you believe your mind is strong enough to get you into depression but not out?!? If that answer is yes, then you might also be in full agreement with this anti-bullying campaign. I recognize not everyone is the same and some of us need more help than others, but sometimes we are a part of the problem more than we are helping it.
But hey Diff’rent Strokes for different folks, and I just rather more Arnold Jacksons than Hannah Bakers in our High schools and Universities.
– SLANG HUGH
Slang Hugh can be found on instagram @slanghugh