Before speaking with Mickey, a video had popped up a few times on Facebook. I decided to click and found it was a clip of Anderson Cooper speaking about Jamey Rodemeyer, his suicide as a result of bullying and what has become of him after his death. Cooper spoke with his amazing older sister, who lives coping with her brother being bullied after his death, taunted now when he will never be able to defend himself. The story is very, very sad and I admit that by the time the video hit the Lady Gaga moment, I had a tear or two streaming down my face. I usually try not to be affected by stories like this but, I don’t know, this one was just so sad.
For whatever reason, I had to send it to Mickey. I don’t know why, but I wanted to see if she saw related incidents occur in front of her or to her. I had some experiences related to Jamey. Granted, they were not as severe, but I wanted to see if this was geographical, age related or simply unique to him, his school and his bullies. I e-mailed Mickey the video. An hour or so later, after what I assume was her trek from school to home by bus, I get a message from her.
“It gets better,” she sends. I’m not sure if her message is a note of hope in regards to bullied kids or simply placing the story in a cultural taxonomy.
“You watched the video?” I ask.
“Yep,” she says, “I think it’s really sad. I have never seen bullying like that, personally. No one at my school is really bullied at all really.”
“Really? Not at all? Not any? I’m speaking beyond gay bullying.”
“I mean, sometimes there is a little bit but I’ve never seen someone getting bullied to the point of tears.” She then adds, “I mean, I used to be bullied. I didn’t cry, so I guess it’s hard for me to tell.”
“You were bullied?” I ask.
“I was bullied in sixth grade,” she confesses, very confidently.
“I didn’t dress very lady-like and I always wore my hair up, so I always was called a lesbian and people would make fun of me for that.”
“Man,” I say, “Kids are dumb. How did you cope? And, do they say anything now that you’ve budded into a young beauty?”
She laughs, telling me, “This didn’t really help my cause, but being on the basketball team helped. It distracted me. When I see girls who are like I was, I always think about how much they’re going to regret not doing more to look better because now I’ll always regret not dressing better in middle and elementary school.”
She jumps in, after sending her thought: “I don’t mean to sound materialistic in what I just said. You know what I mean?”
I laugh, “No, it doesn’t come off that way. You mean that you wish you were proud of how you looked in your earlier school years.”
“That’s exactly it!” she says, “Luckily, I had basketball, which kept me distracted and gave me upper classmen friends who didn’t care about how I dressed or how I looked. They liked me for my humor and maturity.”
I pause, thinking of a question that escaped me. Mickey cuts me off: “Were you ever bullied?”
“I was, yes, I was. But, not in high school, surprisingly.” I say.
“Wow,” she says, undoubtedly recalling how much of a sprinkle I was then, “That’s where I was expecting you to have been bullied.”
“No,” I laugh, “It happened a lot in middle school. Even though I was in an international school on a military post, where people are constantly in and out of different cultures, my experience was basically the same as that kid in the video: I only had girlfriends, acted like a girl, was made fun of for screaming like a girl… I never really received threats and I have no idea if being bullied contributed to my eventually being gay.”
I take a moment and step up on my lifelong soap box. “I found safety in abiding in what I heard Chris Farley preach as a kid: he made fun of himself so people could not make fun of him.”
I can feel her nodding over the GChat box, where she messages, “It’s always cool to be like the people you admire.”
“Agreed. Well, I don’t admire a lot of Chris Farley’s choices (ahem, *drugs*), but his comedic sense is one of my biggest inspirations. Hence, where I am (trying to be) today.”
I ask her what she thinks is the cause of middle schoolers bullying, telling her I think that “bullies are truly mean people and will always be mean people: bullying is just a manifestation of being despicable. People blaming it on a young person’s insecurity is bull, an excuse for those who are inherently mean.”
Mickey pipes in: “I think it’s both because middle school is such an awkward growing phase. The leaders of the bullying are probably genuinely mean people, but their followers might just be doing it because they’re insecure and are just trying to not be the ones getting bullied.”
I take a minute to soak in such an astute statement, “I can agree with that, yes.”
“I guess it just depends,” she says.
Mickey laughs: “I swear the longer we do this article, the more alike I find we are.”