Bully Incident#24: Me As The Bully (1979)


NOTE: As you prepare to read this story an interesting thing has occurred. The other person in this story discovered it and discovered themselves within the story. When I created this site and wrote my stories I never thought they would reach out that far. I thought it was only for me to be able to tell them here for an anonymous audience. It always surprises me how the web and social network we live in now has made it so that we are no longer separated by 6 degrees of separation, but now only 2 or 3. David, the other person in this story discovered it and we talked about it. He understood what I was doing here and we even discussed and wrote his take on this time that you can read here. So a part II for this from him is now available. ~Alan Eisenberg (Dec. 1, 2011)

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 (actually I do, because after I wrote this I talked to David recently. More on that later). I certainly hope that he has had a good life (actually now I know he has had a good and interesting life. More on that later).

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.

(Read David’s Response to this story here)

15 thoughts on “Bully Incident#24: Me As The Bully (1979)

  1. Pingback: Bullying Stories | Bullying Program

  2. Your blog is awesome! It is the little things. About a month ago, I was reminded of the little girl that I used to be and it hurt me so bad to think that there are little girls and boys with huge, sensitive hearts like mine, out here being mistreated to the degree that I was. I forgive, but I can’t forget how it felt. And it saddens me to tears. It’s even hard for me to write this.

    Your blog inspired my latest FB status, “hmmm, i keep reading story after story about children committing suicide as a final defense against bullying and i realized that we may have been hardened to the concept, because it’s common. i wonder the affect these stories would have on ppl if we call it what it is–ABUSE. PEER INDUCED ABUSE.”

    I subscribed to your blog. Trevor’s House is another resource.

  3. With quiet confidence, I can tell you that I am sure David has long ago forgiven you. My confidence comes because I happen to know him. Whether because of, or in spite of, the traumas of of his childhood, he is a man who is both kind and silly, highly intelligent and yet sometimes clueless, deeply devoted to his wife and kids, friends and his faith, and honestly one of the best men I know. Obviously, you learned some hard lessons in your childhood, as did we all. Don’t beat yourself up over tacks in (last name withheld) butt…I may try it at the office tomorrow! (I really won’t, but it is tempting!)

    • Thank you for your comments, Carol. Due in part to you, I talked to David and it was a very productive and positive conversation. Now that I understand how the story was discovered by him, many things have changed. More to come.

  4. I agree with everything Carol wrote above because I, too, know David. My question to you is: Why do you have the need, after all this time, to name names in your blog? As a bullying expert, it seems you have a need to make amends with your past. Perhaps a large ANONYMOUS cash donation to an anti-bullying cause would be a more meaningful way for you to achieve closure.

    • Thank you for your comment and insightful thoughts, MJ. The names in all my stories but this one are not the real names of the people, but ones I used to replace them. From a writing standpoint, it makes it easier to have a name. This story, though, I did keep David’s name, because he has now indicated that he wants that. I have removed last names though and he plans to add to this story with his voice. When he does, if he chooses to put his last name, then he can. As for the donation, it wouldn’t be anonymous if I told you I have, but certainly through both time and money that I don’t discuss, it has helped me achieve a better closure.

  5. Very glad to read this story…again. It will mean a lot to some people who are very close to me. As someone I love used to tell me…”you done did good,” Alan Eisenberg. You done did good!

  6. Alan, interesting story. I don’t know you but I do know David. I’ve known him since Clarke Jr High School. I honestly had no idea he had ever been bullied at all because he never brought it up to me. David helped me through a lot of bullying issues at Clarke. I was bullied relentlessly. I was forced to fight a friend of mine at one point before a crowd of onlookers. I was so ashamed I ate many lunches in the guidance counselor’s office. And I NEVER told my parents or any friends how much I was hurting from all of the bullying because I was so embarrassed by it. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me. I know for a fact that David was not affected by this incident or other bullying issues because he had a good support system and was very self assured. He has grown up to have a very successful career and family life. I was much more affected by the bullying. By high school, the bullying stopped, but I withdrew from everything. I didn’t participate in any school activities because I just wanted to go home every day and get away from everyone. I didn’t really try to get to know or talk to anyone. Band was really my only salvation and I used it as a boundary against the outside world. It really took years for me to overcome what happened at Clarke. I really felt like I had to leave the Boston area for good so I could have a fresh start, which is what I did. The best thing I ever did. Even when I occasionally go back to Boston to visit friends/family, the negative memories of what happened start to dredge up and I get all depressed. Moving away has helped to give me a better perspective on what happened and allowed me to move on with my life. I just wish that when the bullying had happened that I had reached out more for help.

    • Mike – I hear you loud and clear. We are kindred spirits in what happened to us in Lexington, MA. I’m not sure I could walk by what was once Franklin Elementary or Clarke Jr High without wanting to high tail it the other way. I hope you read my story “The Long and Winding Road”, which talks about the lengths that I went to in avoiding the bullies. I hope in some way knowing you weren’t alone in going through what you did in Lexington through this story and site might help you in some small way. I told David that I’m not sure what would have become of me if I hadn’t moved away when I was 13. In my mind, I’m not sure I’d be here today to write this.

      But like David told me the other day, what doesn’t destroy you, you CAN use to make you stronger. Through this site, I try. It’s funny how you talk of Boston. I constantly tell my kids I need to show them where I grew up and that we’d go back, but somehow every year we don’t. I wonder now if it’s me. I have been saying it for 14 years, yet, we never go. As much as I’d like to, I think I too am still avoiding the bullies in Lexington, MA. One day though…one day.

  7. Pingback: Six Degrees of Separation No More « Bullying Stories

  8. Pingback: The Victim of the Bullied Strikes Back (A Personal Story) « Bullying Stories

  9. Alan, it took a lot of courage to write a post as both a bully and author of an anti-bullying website. Thanks for your honesty.

    The bully-cycle is complex, like us humans. The bullied often become the bullies, in the human and animal kingdoms.

    I saw this cycle happen in my chicken flock where Mooey found herself at the bottom of the .
    pecking order
    . When I got new chickens, she became a brutal bully, and bullied younger chickens much worse than she was ever pecked on.

    When kids hear this story as part of my k-12 anti-bullying school program, it breaks their heart because they empathized with Mooey as the victim. When I ask them why Mooey became a bully, they have the answers. Sadly, it’s human nature to seek revenge and to climb to the top of the pecking order.

    Mooey opens doors for kids to discuss, understand & prevent bullying.

    Mooey opened the door for me to speak and write about my experience as a victim because I looked different from everyone else from grades 7-11. I didn’t know it was called bullying then. It was reality, a reality that many kids still experience.

  10. Alan, it took a lot of courage to write a post as both a bully and author of an anti-bullying website. Thanks for your honesty.

    The bully-cycle is complex, like us humans. The bullied often become the bullies, in the human and animal kingdoms.

    I saw this cycle happen in my chicken flock where Mooey found herself at the bottom of the
    pecking order
    . When I got new chickens, she became a brutal bully, and bullied younger chickens much worse than she was ever pecked on.

    When kids hear this story as part of my k-12 anti-bullying school program, it breaks their heart because they empathized with Mooey as the victim. When I ask them why Mooey became a bully, they have the answers. Sadly, it’s human nature to seek revenge and to climb to the top of the pecking order.

    Mooey opens doors for kids to discuss, understand & prevent bullying.

    Mooey opened the door for me to speak and write about my experience as a victim because I looked different from everyone else from grades 7-11. I didn’t know it was called bullying then. It was reality, a reality that many kids still experience.

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