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Crossing The Line

The columnist resumes the discussion on bullying.

I have many regrets, and I'm sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret... if you have any sense, and if you don't regret them, maybe you're stupid. ~ Katharine Hepburn

In my , I asked, “What's so new about bullying? Is it different now than it was when you were a kid?” and I chronicled many of the differences between life when I was in school back in the fifties and sixties and life for kids today.

One reader said…

There’s teasing and there’s BULLYING...HUGE difference!!! If there had been computers when I was being bullied, I don’t know if I’d be here today. I was so depressed. Cyber-bullying has made it so much worse for the kids today. My heart goes out to anyone who has to endure that torture.

Another contributor stated…

No one comes through child hood unscathed.Bullying, mocking, making fun of, embarrassing yeah these are things that are going to happen, it will not change until teachers/school personnel/parents and other adults quit participating in the behavior, quit laughing at the behavior, or ignoring it.

These are interesting observations that seem to raise even further questions. Is teasing really different than bullying? How so? And if it is, where do we draw the line? And who draws it?

And while I believe it’s true that none of us make it through childhood unscathed, is it also true that adults are exacerbating the problem?

Thanks to both these ladies for their input. You may want to go back to the original column and read their comments in full. And if you feel so led, please chime in on the comments section at the end of this piece.

I started last week’s offering with the following…

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

I promised I’d fill you in on what this was all about in my June 20 column. Well, this is my June 20 column, so here’s the deal on Georgie Porgie.

When I was at back in the early to mid-60s, there was a guy in our class who was, let’s say – very different. His name was George, but we called him Georgie Porgie.

George had been in our class since first grade, but it probably wasn’t until about the fourth or fifth grade that his very different personality emerged. There’s really no other way to put it, so I’ll just come right out with it; George was a goofball!

Everyone liked him, but George was teased and laughed at on a regular basis. The strange thing was, he seemed to enjoy it! He’d do things to attract attention to himself – crazy things – knowing that he’d be laughed at and teased mercilessly for his actions.

Now that I look back on it, I know that sadly, George just needed attention - any kind of attention. I guess in poor George’s mind, even negative attention was preferable to no attention at all.

There’s one incident with George that I recall vividly. It was our senior year in high school, just a few short weeks before graduation. As was the school custom, we had an assembly at which awards were to be given out for athletics. We were going to get our letterman’s jackets, which was a very big deal back then.

We filed into the auditorium, and as fate would have it, George sat between my friend, Mike, and me.

George had been the manager, aka gopher [go for this – go for that] for the football team for all four years of high school and, as a result, had earned a jacket, which I’m sure was the greatest thing that had ever happened to him in his entire life.

The assembly began, and after a string of boring speeches, it finally got to the part we had all been waiting for; the presentation of the letters and jackets.  

‘Punchy’ Parsons, the football coach, and school principal  took the stage and proceeded to call us up one by one in alphabetical order. My friend, Mike, whose last name started with a J, went up shortly after I did and would soon be followed by George, whose last name began with a P [No! It wasn’t Porgie].

But Mike and I had different plans for ole’ Georgie!

The coach said, “George, come on up and get your jacket.” As soon as he heard his name, George jumped up from his seat, or at least he tried to. Mike grabbed him by one shoulder and I grabbed him by the other and we pinned him to his chair. 

Again, Coach Parsons announced, “George, please come up and get your jacket.” But George wasn’t going anywhere as long as Mike and I had anything to say about it. As much as he twisted and turned and struggled, George couldn’t break away from our grasp.

After a short pause, Coach Parsons said, “Well, I guess George isn’t here today,” and reached down for the next recipient’s jacket.

Figuring we’d had enough fun with him, Mike and I let go of George’s shoulder’s, upon which he jumped from his seat and screamed, “Here I am! I’m here! Here I am!”

As if we hadn’t humiliated him enough, we picked George up in the air, passed him down the row like a sack of potatoes and deposited him on his rear end in the middle of the aisle.

George immediately leaped to his feet and scampered up the stairs, tripping on the top step and falling to his knees onto the stage. The entire assembly burst into laughter, including George himself.

Poor George took a lot of crap from us. The funny thing is, we really liked him, but I’m not sure he ever knew that. We treated him more like an object for our amusement than a friend.

I was reading the Sun Chronicle a few years back and I turned to the obituary section. I’m not sure why I did that, because it wasn’t something I normally did. Let’s just say it was a God-incidence.

George’s obituary was at the top of the page. I later found out that he’d spent many years in a rest home after a lifetime of struggling with mental health issues.

Kids can be cruel. And though it may not be intentional, teasing can become bullying.

I’m sorry, George. I really am.

Make it a great week!

Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a consummate trouble-maker. His column, The Way I See It, runs every other Wednesday at Norton Patch. Check out his author’s page on Facebook.

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