It's customary of me to wait a few weeks between blog entries. I'm breaking with custom now so as to follow on to my last entry, in which I explained how I got the inspiration for my novel Joshua.
The blogger who emailed me about the story also told me, and her readers, that she believed the bullying I portrayed in my story was a little too brutal, a little over the top. I found this puzzling at first, as I did not believe that bullying was a central theme in the story. After giving the matter more thought, I realized she was on to something. Joshua is a bullied child, and he thinks like one even when no one is actively picking on him. That's the real damage inflicted by bullying. It gets into your head and sticks there long after the bully has had his fun.
Joshua finds the courage to confront his tormentors, and the story wraps up with a nice, happy ending. I've explained that Joshua is a lot like me as a child, but unlike my young hero, I didn't have so happy an ending. I just grew up. In time, I found my center, just as Joshua does, but it was as a grown man who'd spent too many years as a lost child, a bullied child. Long after I grew into a man, I remembered the shame and intimidation inflicted on me, not just by other kids, but by adults who thought it was the only way to knock some sense into me.
I'm an old man now, and I no longer cut such an imposing figure as I did in my prime. I walk with a cane and park in the handicapped spaces in the parking lots. You would think that by now I would have put all of that childhood torment behind me, but through my writing I discovered that it was still there, looking for a way to come out. The blogger I was corresponding with thought that maybe some of it was gratuitous. If she were to realize that I went through things I still can't talk about, she would see that I merely wrote those passages when the feelings were closest to the surface.
It's difficult for me to admit that I was bullied. It's easy to say that it wasn't my fault, but when you do admit to such a thing, you're taking a risk no matter how old you are. The bullies are still out there, looking for any vulnerability, any opportunity to ridicule. And they're not just looking, they're looking hard. Well, here I am, scars and all. I am, however, not so easy to intimidate these days. I've known for some time now that these situations can almost always be dealt with by remaining cool under fire, letting the other guy make a fool of himself until he realizes he's not going to get what he wants from me.
This is, however, a luxury afforded to an adult. It's not so easy for a child, or even for an adult who is so damaged and vulnerable as to know to avoid taking the bait. Just seeing it now makes my blood boil, so I suppose that if you want to get to me, all you have to do is pick on someone else.
Also posted on Medium