Some of you, who also know me from elsewhere, might remember a time earlier this year when I muttered, “I will not eviscerate a 6 year old girl….I will not eviscerate a 6 year old girl….I will not eviscerate…” to myself. As it turns out, I will once again not be eviscerating her.
…which, of course, doesn’t mean that I am not baring my teeth and growling deep in my throat while I say so. Or that I am exaggerating just now. Or that I have not, in the past, made 6′-something, 300lb men FLY backwards in their hurry to get away from me, by growling at them.
And that was before I had a kid.
First, let me back up (slowly) from my own snarling Mamma Bear instincts, and offer a little bit of context.
Lions. Every two years or so, lion society gets a shake-up when mature males cross territory lines to challenge for dominance of a different pride. (This can be otherwise thought of as, “Hey….instinct tells me that it’s bad for evolution if I inbreed too much with my own daughters and neices and granddaughters, so howzabout I come over and try clawing your entrails out and biting through your mane, and then get me some action with the gene pool on your side of the water hole?” That is, however, besides my current point.) Dominant males of any given pride put off this challenge to their rights to steal the lioness’ kills and father a bunch of cubs with them, by more or less loudly proclaiming, in lion-y ways, “I AM HERE.” If you forget to mark the hours with a cry of, “If you can tell who is roaring at you, you’re too close to my territory,” or if the borders of said territory don’t reek freshly enough of your urine and feces, you’re just ASKING for some tail-swishing upstart to come and ruin your nap. If you do, though, the upstarts are going to decide that maybe challenging you can wait until after a few more days of fun annoying the local hyena gang….and they are going to decide this before they ever get a look at how big and tough you seem to be, compared to them.
What the hell am I talking about?!
I’m talking about bullying, believe it or not. Here’s the thing — whatever other excuses are found to target someone for bullying, a decent amount of the time, those excuses are never looked for if the potential target exudes enough confidence. The potential target simply doesn’t register as such. Again, this is not a “rule”….but it is certainly a trend. My mind goes back to a particular kid I was in high school with who was scrawny, awkward-looking and stand-out smart, and who was also enough of an arrogant asshole to be one of the cool kids, despite that. I can also think of a girl who was a gorgeous,rich, talented, hilarious misfit, but who radiated enough of her own conviction that she was a dork, that I would get asked why I wanted to be friends with her — and I was certainly not one of the cool kids, though I was asked this by the stray members of each social clique, that I inevitably was always at least casually friendly if not friends with, despite that. As for myself, I had a long history of being the on-again-off-again target of various forms of bullying, which was attempted, just as inevitably, by other members of just about every social clique. Had anyone asked me why this kept happening, I probably would’ve told them one of the things that easily came to mind, like my not being one of the pretty girls, or summering at the rich kid clubs, or being allowed to do X, Y or Z. What retrospect figures it really boiled down to, though, was that it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t have going for me. I exuded the expectation of being treated poorly. Ask anyone who struggles to escape a pattern of getting into abusive relationships….insecurity is a like a potent pheromone for people who get a hard-on over making someone else feel bad about themselves, and it attracts their attention.
If there WAS a rule….if self-confidence really did give a person a sort of magic forcefield that bounces off all the haters….I wouldn’t be writing this post. Not quite this post, anyway. The thing is, Ash is and has always been, a remarkably secure, self-confident child. Everyone remarks on this — strangers, friends, family, teachers, therapists, evaluators. He’s not arrogant. He’s not self-centered. He just believes in everyone’s potential to be awesome, knows that others see it in him, and has learned to see it in himself (while always still pushing himself to get a closer look). It’s not that we’ve overly sheltered him from exposure to a world in which not everyone has been preemptively set up to adore everyone else. It’s not that we’ve never confronted him with knowledge of negative reactions he has, or might, evoke from people. He can’t stand the thought of giving anyone a reason to feel bad about themselves, or about him, but he’s always been able to work through it, and come out the other side none the worse for wear, and just that little bit more aware. The astoundingly few experiences he’s had with people he didn’t win over simply by being himself, have always confused him and shaken him slightly. Try as he might to understand, he just can’t relate to people who DON’T find everyone interesting, and DON’T think everyone deserves care and concern, and another chance. He doesn’t hold it against them, though. He seems to think it’s an issue of momentary confusion, a rogue blip in the common sense of the universe as he sees it, and he never expects that anyone will — let alone more than once, and briefly — actually be OPPOSED to the idea of someone charming the pants off of them.
And that just makes it worse….that despite the fact that he exudes confidence, despite the fact that he’s a handsome little devil, and smart, and funny, and nice, and not yet showing signs of our financial situation, and not yet old enough that his being small especially stands out, and not beyond acting impish in the face of authority, and generally always being surrounded by friends….he’s still being targeted by bullies. He’s being targeted by bullies, and it’s only just the beginning, and despite the after school specials and well-meaning books, there is only so much he can do about it, and only so much anyone else can do to prevent it. And….he doesn’t understand that. He is DIFFERENT. He is ALWAYS going to be different. And, no matter how good he might or might not ever get at hiding it, and no matter his perspective on wanting to, there are always going to be people who pick up on it, and pick on him for it. No matter who he is, that’s who THEY are, and if they change, well, there will always be others. That’s the way our advanced society works.
Even if his shit stinks strongly enough, someone is going to come along and decide it doesn’t stink RIGHT.
See? I went back to the lion thing. Sort of. There is method to my madness. Or at least, frayed mommy nerves. Oh, just toss me some chocolate and keep reading.
I’m going to get to what actually happened, next, I swear. I guess it’s just that the incident itself feels secondary to me, relative to what it means.