A co-worker presented me with the book Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco. The novel is about the author’s personal bullying experience. It instantly piqued my interest.
As I started reading, though, I wasn’t sure if it was a novel I wanted to continue reading. It wasn’t because I struggled to get into the book or I thought it was poorly written. Neither were true. However, in many ways, I struggled to relate to Jodee, who seemed too perfect, and I didn’t how I could sympathize with someone so perfect. I opted to continue, though, and as I continued reading, I began drawing parallels as well as recognizing the differences with my own childhood.
The main difference was striking.
Jodee is bullied for being smart. In fact, there’s a point where she lets her grades drop just to “fit in.” What I experienced growing up was the complete opposite. You were not “cool” unless you were in advanced classes. I was teased for reading “slow” out loud when I was in elementary school. This drove me to be a better student. Anybody who was anyone was in the advanced reading and math classes. I had a rough beginning and struggled with reading, but by fourth grade I was in both advanced math and reading groups.
Jodee is bullied for other reasons too. She was bullied for being nice to special needs kids. There’s a little girl who is deaf that Jodee befriends. I found myself relating to the little girl, Marianne, much more than Jodee. Marianne also wore thick glasses like I did as a little girl. Jodee was friends with her, and then her close friends threatened to not be her friend anymore if she continued hanging out with Marianne, because Marianne was “weird.” Marianne could not hear the other kids’ taunts and teasing, but I could.
Growing up, I had a few “friends” who came and went. My friendships were all short-lived, and there were a few who were my friends on and off throughout the years. I, like Jodee, moved schools a few times. Like Jodee, I began my education at a Catholic school. I had a best friend in pre-school, but by first grade she had other friends and no longer was interested in me. Like Marianne, I was mostly teased by older kids, but the kids in my class were not nice to me either.
I do not remember most of what happened to me when I was growing up. I remember spending a lot of days feeling crappy, and kids teasing me for stupid reasons. In sixth grade, they teased me because they didn’t like my shoes. Kids seemed to find anything and everything to pick fun of, and they chose me because they saw me as weaker than them. Kids can be so cruel. I’ve blocked it out from my memory. One day, maybe it will come back. I was never physically bullied at school like Jodee, not that I remember anyway. Now that I’m older, I realize it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought it was at the time. Kids over-dramatize everything, and I took a lot of what was said to and about me personally. I know now that other kids picked on me so they could feel better about themselves–that’s the only reason bullies bully in the first place.
There were several instances I struggled to sympathize with the author and main character, Jodee. As I said above, she seemed too “perfect.” I don’t condone what happened to her. Nobody deserves to be teased, belittled, or abused. Nobody deserves to be bullied. I’ll be honest: there were times I felt jealous of Jodee. She’s now this amazing, successful woman, and she’s always had an array of talents to showcase, at least according to her book.
We’re not all so fortunate.
I was Marianne. I was the “weird” girl with the thick glasses, who struggled to verbalize my thoughts because I was afraid I would say something stupid, which usually resulted in me saying something stupid. That still haunts me today. I lacked social skills, I lacked the ability to express myself, and that made me “weird.” I was the girl who got giddy when someone wanted to be friends with me or when a new student transferred in and didn’t know I was the outcast.
I’ll probably always be awkward, and I feel like my awkwardness has hindered me tremendously. One day, maybe, I’ll find acceptance. One day, I’ll find my place. I think working where I work has helped me understand myself. There’s a reason for everything, even if we can’t see those reasons right away. Right now, I just wonder what happened to Marianne. I think I would have rather read a story from her point of view.