Suburban Snapshots

And Names Have
Sometimes Hurt Me

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

This post is written as part of a bully-shaming project started by Toulouse and Tonic. Visit her site to see more, or her Facebook page to submit.

I remember during recess in 4th grade when a kid whose long, Italian name I still know by heart walked over to me, called me fat and spit on my shoe. I remember the way that insult landed squarely on the tip of my sneaker and glinted in the sun.

I was teased on the bus, in the cafeteria, walking through the halls. I hated walking up stairs with anyone behind me. I was tall and meaty, my rear-end always the object of jokes and taunts. I had just a few friends, I was a good student, I made an easy target.

In September Anna will start kindergarten. She's got her dad's thin build, but she's a goofball with an overbite and a penchant for dressing like a hobo. I love her for all of these things and hate worrying that any one of them might single her out. I'm torn between wanting her to be her unique self and hoping she fits in -- that she finds a seat easily in the cafeteria, that trays and bodies don't close the spaces where she lingers.

School was still okay for me. I survived years of being called "Linebacker Butt" and "Thunder Thighs" by keeping a tight circle of friends and avoiding eye contact between classes. The rest of my world had been filled with so much love, encouragement and affection that I knew those mean kids were wrong. I knew I wasn't the one with the problem. I work hard to give Anna that same sense of security, so though she may not always feel beautiful she will always know she is ferociously, unconditionally loved.

I can't make mean kids and bullies stop being cruel, I can't hug and reassure every kid who dreads taking the bus and tell them that they matter more, but I can try to instill enough confidence in my own so that she understands that she's not the one who's flawed, and how to have empathy for the ones who truly are.

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