Tuesday, April 05, 2011

If you get bullied, you deserve it

True story: when I was a baby (yeah, that's me on the left over there), my mother taped back my ears.  She did this to try to train them to lay flat against my head and not stick out so much.  It didn't work: my ears overcame the tape and popped out, pulling the tape off.

I was telling Bobbie that story this afternoon while changing Marie's diaper.  Like I said in passing in my last post, all the Geisslers look exactly alike, right down to the ears that stick out.  Marie's stick out.  Bobbie's do too, but only a tiny bit.  Marie's stick out a bit more, but nothing that growing hair won't mitigate.

I tell that story because of this story: When is Cosmetic Surgery the Answer to Bullying?

The obvious answer, one would think, is "never."  Apparently, if one thought this, one would be wrong:

Just seven years old, Samantha Shaw of Sturgis, S.D. is about to experience something very grown-up: she's going to have cosmetic surgery.

It's not because she has a serious facial deformity or a life-threatening medical condition. Samantha is having cosmetic surgery because she gets teased about her protruding ears.

"The kids at school always ask her about her ears, and sometimes adults can be worse," said Cami Roselles, Samantha's mother. "One lady walked up to her and said, 'Oh my God, what happened to your ears?'"
I seriously question the message this sends to kids.  "I know it's horrible that the other kids are mean to you.  The only answer is to change yourself to suit them."

Another true story:  Back in high school, my best friend was walking from the portables to the main building when some guys threw rocks at him and called him names.  Understandably, he reported this to admin.  Their response.  "Try not to act so gay."

So, yeah, I know that this "blend in, don't make waves" thing isn't anything new, but that doesn't make it a good thing.  And beyond the fact that I find the very idea of teaching kids they should change themselves to suit others, there is the very real fact that the surgery won't really correct the problem.  It will correct the physical issue, and it might even stop the teasing/bullying (although I question that unless there's a concurrent change of schools).  But it's not going to magically heal the psychological wounds.  I could even argue that it brings with it the risk of making things worse: pinning back your ears because other kids tease you about your ears is your parents affirming that, yes, there is something wrong with you.  By addressing the physical issue but not the psychological one, you are--at best--only sewing the wound half shut.  Far better, I would think, to work with your child to teach her coping skills.  Not as easy as it sounds, I know, but a vital life lesson.  (Telling your own child that the other kids are little assholes because they know they're dumb and ugly in comparison is surprisingly effective, but probably violates all sorts of parenting rules.)

Then again, I must confess to wondering whether our President would have turned out differently had his rich grandparents ponied up for the otoplasty.


Mattexian said...

I've said that children can be EVIL little bastids when it comes to teasing others over differences. Any difference, no matter how trivial, will be latched upon and used as a basis for teasing; money, clothing, physical looks, mental abilities, parents (and lack thereof; remember "Yo Mama" jokes?). And the little darlings usually learn it from their parents, who are insecure themselves and look down on others to feel better.

I'd say your micro-type advise to kids might work better than you think, it's certainly more honest than anything they learn at school about personal interactions. (Or worse, in my case, a lesson learned back in elementary that's stuck with me all these years, is canceled out by society's actions. Two black kids were squabbling during PE, one calls the other "that N word", and the coach, a WW2 vet, gets in the boy's face and shaking a finger pointedly tells the boy, "That's an ugly word, an ignorant word, and you're not using it around me!" Fast-forward 30 years, and movies and music let me know that it's ok to use that word, as long as someone is the right skin color, which I'm not.)

waterbob said...

Hi - I've been away a while and it seems that your background has gone a very dark green. On my computer thin black writing on dark green makes these old eyes fight my brain. Hope it works out for you.

Jay G said...

I dunno; TheBoy has run into a bully on the bus (who, unfortunately enough, is also in his Cub Scout Den).

I told him, straight out, that the kid is a little butterball who uses his lardass to bully others around - and TheBoy has my permission to use the knowledge from karate to defend himself in any way he deems necessary.

And yes, I fully expect that using the term "butterball" will bite me on the ass one of these days...

Sabra said...

Y'all are definitely making me feel better about doing it! I tried all the ways you're "supposed" to do it first, then took the truth and ran with it. So much for trying to be positive.

suz said...

I agree with what I've read here. If the bully is acting like and asshole, call it what it is. Kids will be somewhat less vulnerable to bullying if you explain the dynamics of it. @ Jay G: all it takes is a dinky little yellow-belt throw in front of a few witnesses. "Zero tolerance" may get The Boy suspended, but he'll probably think it's worth it. It worked like a charm for PFC back in middle school, and there we no teachers around, so there was no "punishment."

Sabra, I'd like to play the devil's advocate on one point. No, you absolutely should not change who you are to please others. BUT, (you knew that was coming...) there's something to be said for modifying your outward appearance and behavior as a means of adapting to your environment. And it's a lesson worth learning. School is a repressive, conformist hell, and for anyone who has an imagination, the best thing to do is just get through it. I managed to make myself all but invisible in school, so as not to attract the attention of bullies, but outside of school, I was a totally different person. "Don't act so gay," is a horrible thing to say to a kid, because it justifies the bullying. On the other hand, being openly "different" in any way, is seen by the conformists as defiance. It's not true, and it's not right, but it's a fact of crowd mentality. I decided it was a lot easier to keep my personality to myself, than it would have been to defend myself. I didn't want to waste time or emotion proving my worth to people WHO WEREN'T IMPORTANT to me. I didn't fit in with group, or subgroup. Hell, not even the nerds! To a degree, I'm the same way now. Most of the people who think they know me, don't have a clue what I really think. And with very few exceptions, I see no reason to enlighten them.

And I'm cool with cosmetic surgery for something so noticeable that even adults comment on it, as long as the child understands that it's not a cure-all. If SHE likes herself better with flat ears, it may boost her self confidence. If they can afford it, I don't see the harm. Heck, I knew a gal from high school who got her nose job covered by medical insurance, because her shrink said it was necessary! (She's still shallow and fairly hollow, but she's prettier!)

Skippy said...

Kids will bully over * anything*. Proof: Tom Felton, one of the principle actors of the Harry Potter franchise got bullied in school for being a famous actor.

Granted the giant pile of money he sleeps on should probably take most of the sting away.