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What do you want, an armed guard to follow your kid around?
July 17, 2009 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Why I won't be at my high school reunion. A math geek reminisces about the joys of high school. As another who has much-less-than-pleasant memories of those years, this struck a nerve.
posted by bitmage (242 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
He makes clear that he wants to post this to his own site where he can control the responses. I think we should respect his wishes and take it off a high traffic front page where the responses are far from his control.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:33 AM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” - Lewis B. Smedes
posted by miss lynnster at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2009 [30 favorites]


Forgiveness is difficult, especially for old wounds.

People can do awful things without being awful people, and people can change.

At the same time, I doubt he'd get much closer from going. People won't realize the trauma they caused when they were stupid kids, and when 20 years of anger comes boiling out, they'll be shocked.
posted by zabuni at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Err, that should be closure.
posted by zabuni at 11:36 AM on July 17, 2009


Oh christ, I feel for this guy, and have never even considered attending a high school reunion myself. I can't imagine a bigger waste of my time.

That said, it seems a little bit like he's letting his adult anger channel into his son, to have his son act as his proxy to resolve his own feelings.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:37 AM on July 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


(BTW, my mother was the secretary at my own elementary school. Try that one on for size. Nobody liked her so even the teachers bullied me.)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:37 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would never, ever attend my high-school reunion unless I could do it Don Simpson-style; IIRC, he flew up to Anchorage in his private jet, rented a helicopter and flew it to the event, landed in the middle of the football field, got out with two Penthouse Pets, did one lap around the gym, and left.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:38 AM on July 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


Mr. F just sort of casually slipped a slide of himself posing with one of his old office's Best VFX Oscars (it was legit, he'd worked on the show, although he wasn't named in the nomination) into the reunion slide show when he went back. That tends to stop the judgment of ancient history.

The last time my class had one, it was a casino night at a Best Western a couple towns over from my hometown (3200 miles from Los Angeles). Not so much.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2009


What do you want, an armed guard to follow your kid around?

BTW, no, he doesn't -- he wants his child not to suffer.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


As someone who went through hell clear into college for being a nerd/geek/spazz, this didn't strike a nerve. It sounds downright caustic and bitter. Like the author is letting anger at the past still dictate his present.

What I learned over the last few years was that my anger at my years of hell was holding me back, and I was going to have to let it go and make peace with it before I could move on and fix the damage of those years -- damage that left me angry, paranoid, and incredibly distrusting of anyone's intentions.

Over time, I have let it go. I'm not forgetting what happened, but I'm not going to let the anger drive me anymore. And, admittedly, the site of my former tormentors on Facebook has helped -- seeing them middle class, middle age, and struggling to raise their kids and keep their marriages together.
posted by dw at 11:45 AM on July 17, 2009 [18 favorites]


As far as comments go, he put it on the internets, he knows there may well be discussion. he works for Google, he understands hyperlinking and search engines. My guess is he just doesn't want that kind of thing polluting his blog.

I clicked on the link expecting some sort of "poor me" kind of thing. This was nothing like that. It was a bit angry, but it sounds like he has good reason to be. I was the same kid but went to a ritzy high school where violence was not tolerated. Had I gone to one like he describes, I am sure my experience would have been a lot like his.

The kindest gentlest man I have ever known had a Sensei for a father and grew up in a Karate dojo. I don't think this man is doing his children any harm by teaching them to harness their energy for self defense.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:48 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I certainly don't harbor the grudges this guy does, but I do sympathize. Facebook "friends" truly stretch the definition of "friend," but I definitely draw the line at "this person actually disliked me." I may never understand what compels folks from high school to friend me aside from a monkey-like "I know that guy" sense of recognition.
posted by explosion at 11:49 AM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can totally relate. I was basically the same as him and I really questioned going to my 20th. I can understand the bitterness and I carried it with me for a long, long, time after high school.

I ended up going, and one of the things I figured out is that those people in high school weren't even alive for 20 years. They had done more changing since high school than they were able to up until high school. I wasn't the same nerd that I was when I was 17, why would they be the same dickheads they were when they were 17?

Turns out most of them weren't. Some of them were, sure, but they were easily avoided, just as the folks who were still socially awkward. Most people were just normal adults with varied lives, just like me. And pretty much every one of them considered their high school years to be traumatic. Probably not as traumatic as mine were, I'm sure most of them never got a swirlie, an atomic wedgie, or fractured ribs from a bully. But most of them looked back at high school and had nothing but bad memories, no matter how "cool" they were. Because we were all a bunch of awkward, stupid 17 years olds who were incapable of thinking like mature human beings and who were in an environment where conformity and popularity were considered important for some reason. And most of us lashed out in different ways, some as nerds, others as bullies.

My advice to anyone this angry after 20 or 25 years is to get over it. Drop the anger. Get some therapy. If you're still angry after 25 years then you've let the bullies and the prom queens win. Accept that high school sucks for pretty much everyone, be glad you never have to do it again, and go on and live your life and know that you probably aren't the same person you were back then, and neither is anyone else.

It's ok to not want to go to your reunion. Mine was kind of boring, to be honest. But don't skip it just because you think those same 17 year old kids are going to be there. 90% of them have been replaced with a more advanced model, just as you were.

I won't even get into the whole "my kid will kick their ass" thing. That's a whole 'nother issue.
posted by bondcliff at 11:50 AM on July 17, 2009 [33 favorites]


25 years is a long time to still be pissed off at teenagers. I'm about this guy's age and grew up in suburban NJ and was an anti-social math geek and some of my classmates were dicks to me but that was a really long time ago. Give it up already.
posted by octothorpe at 11:51 AM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Facebook Live. I can't imagine anything worse.
posted by gman at 11:52 AM on July 17, 2009


Dropped out of highschool, wasn't invited to the reunion, moved to the big city and became a smashing success, looked up some of the folks on facebook, turns out most of them are still stuck in Missouri, HA HA SUCK. IT. HATERZ.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:52 AM on July 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


I thought this comment from the site was interesting:

Wow - I'm so surprised that this happens in real life. I guess it's just something that I have seen on TV. I'm from Malaysia, and have never been bullied. In fact, I was one of the popular ones in school.

Scoring 100% in a Math test makes you a mini-celebrity and getting high grades and scores makes you more popular, not less. I don't understand why people would be ostrasized for being intelligent?


Sure, the author admits some of his behaviors may have made him an easy target, but why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic acheivement?
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:53 AM on July 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have a good friend who was friended on Facebook by his long-time elementary school bully. The not-so-shocking outcome? The bully realizes he was a total asshole, has done a lot of soul searching and had a daughter he's trying to raise better than he was raised. Then, out of shame I think, the bully deleted his facebook account.

Anyway, while I respect the guy's feeling and totally empathize, it's also somewhat trite. Tormented geek who makes good and works for nerdiest company in the world doesn't want to attend high school reunion? Shocking.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2009


Appropriate cartoon
posted by lalochezia at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ya know, this smacked of one of those long posts people do right before they leave a fandom.

I completely understand the WTF about people you don't like, never liked and actively wish would fall off of the earth, contacting one on a social networking site like Facebook. Ignore and move on.

Obviously this dude has some serious unresolved issues from high school.

Let's get real, no one gets out of high school unscathed. Your teen years are rife with cringe-making awkwardness.

I myself am looking forward to my 30th High School reunion. Not the location so much (Phoenix in August) but it will be nice to reconnect with everyone.

Of course, not everyone was as fortunate as I was to attend Riverdale High, with Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:56 AM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic achievement?

Because we don't value intelligence in the US. Really.
posted by Houstonian at 11:56 AM on July 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


aside from a monkey-like "I know that guy" sense of recognition
Yeah, pretty much. I like to think it means acquaintance rather than making some kind of judgment. It's nice to see what people are up to, even if things weren't perfect. My parents were amazed at how we can instantly find out what became of almost anyone we knew back then. It obviates a reunion.

Also, I try not to hold onto how things were then. I did plenty of things I'm not proud of when I was in middle and high school. Particularly in early relationships, you're still learning how that whole treat-people-right and don't-be-crazy thing works.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2009


Let's get real, no one gets out of high school unscathed. Your teen years are rife with cringe-making awkwardness.

This guy got held down and had his fingers broken in front of a laughing crowd. Cringe-making? Sure. Awkwardness? I'd say it goes a bit farther than awkwardness, personally.
posted by bitmage at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2009 [32 favorites]


Facebook has really helped me get over any bitterness towards childhood peers I had left as well. I've had a lot of people from my elementary school (where I was the most miserable - and trust me when I say miserable) befriend me. And at first I hesitated but in the end it's been a real growth experience to say yes. With a few of them I soon realized "Hey... I had a reason for not liking you. You were a jerk then, you're a jerk now" and I de-friended them -- which was great closure. VERY fun to push the button to de-friend those people.

But with others, it's been educational to see who they are now. As I see their families and read what they write I realize... they're just human beings. They were just as imperfect when they were growing up as I was. It hit me... I'm not who I was at 8 years old, why would I expect them to be? ALL kids are stupid, jerky creatures sometimes. That's why being a kid is so hard, you've got no clue what you're doing half the time. I realize that those people don't remember any bad stuff, and they're genuinely decent to me now. So I'm decent to them in return and it makes me a happier person inside to be on friendly terms with my past. Bitterness and grudges are an ugly look.

I also graduated in 1984 and lately a huge FB group of people from my high school have been having happy hours. I decided to go a few months ago, for the hell of it. I hated my reunions, they were stuffy and obnoxious... but when a bunch of random people who barely remember each other from high school decide to get together solely for the purpose of doing celebratory tequila shots together? There's no pressure. There were people I knew there, people I didn't know, people I didn't want to know. But by the end of the evening, I ended up becoming friends with people I never thought I had a damn thing in common with.

If we all just lightened up and read more Eckhart Tolle instead of embracing our victimhood, all of this "I was miserable in school" trauma would be a lot easier to let go of.

Seriously, it doesn't hurt the people you're bitter at, it only hurts you. And, judging by this article, your children. Like others have said... it's not about forgetting. But letting go so you can grow.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


As someone who went through hell clear into college for being a nerd/geek/spazz, this didn't strike a nerve. It sounds downright caustic and bitter. Like the author is letting anger at the past still dictate his present.

I think he has a right to be caustic and bitter, both towards the bullies that broke his fingers and made a burning swastika in his front yard, and to the administration that turned a blind eye.

It's not like he's hunting these people down. He's moved on. He just doesn't ever want to see them again. I have no personal problem with that.

I was both a bully and a bullied kid in school. In both situations, short and definitive action from both the parents and the administration was enough to keep the violence and taunting from escalating. It is ridiculous that children are sometimes raised in an environment where they are not valued as individuals.
posted by muddgirl at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Somewhat related.
posted by Houstonian at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009


Yes, 25 years is a long time and yes, people change. But I'm disinclined to believe this gentleman should feel obligated to assuage anyone else's guilt pangs.

There's a lot of talk these days about the 'power of forgiveness.' For some of us, forgiveness is irrelevant. We just want to get on with our lives. Forgiveness, to us, is a form of abuse.
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I found my high school years to be pretty hellish too. No one bullied me, but I had virtually nothing in common with all but a handful of the people in my class. Still, I went to my reunion, just out of curiosity, and I was pleasantly surprised. Just about everyone became much cooler and more laid back than they were in high school. I actually had some very interesting conversations with people who must have not said more than about 10 words to me during all four years of high school. Above all, it was an interesting experience from an anthropological point of view -- to see how people change as they grow older. Maybe this guy would have experienced something similar if he'd gone, and perhaps he might have even been able to let go of the anger that he still harbors 25 years after his graduation.
posted by epimorph at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure, the author admits some of his behaviors may have made him an easy target, but why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic acheivement?

Is there? There wasn't when I was a kid in school, and when I was a teacher just a couple of years ago, in a VERY rough school.

What ticks off the others is when you rub their faces in your success.

When our football team won the state championship, they were applauded. When the robotics kids (there was a magnet program) won a meet, they were applauded.

I'm always amazed that people view these issues as one-sided. Yes, there are jerks in the world who have nothing better to do than bully. But they are few and far between. More likely, someone is being obnoxious and someone is reacting.

My daddy always said, "If one man calls you an ass, hit him. If two men call you an ass, buy a saddle."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I go back to my high school often enough in my dreams, and at least then I have the consolation of being naked.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [16 favorites]


That piece being my only exposure to him, I don't feel bad for him because he's just a wad of bile.

Wanda: I'm sorry about my brother, Ken. I know he's insensitive. He's had a hard life. Dad used to beat him up.

Ken: Good.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:04 PM on July 17, 2009


octothorpe > "25 years is a long time to still be pissed off at teenagers. I'm about this guy's age and grew up in suburban NJ and was an anti-social math geek and some of my classmates were dicks to me but that was a really long time ago. Give it up already."

There's a mile and more between someone "being a dick" and someone breaking your fingers for their own amusement.
posted by saturnine at 12:05 PM on July 17, 2009


... and it really, really isn't about embracing victimhood. It's about being free to move on.

If Tolle works for you, great. Go nuts. Just don't expect it to work for everyone. Some of us are not wired to require that type of closure. We just want to know we're safe and would prefer not to be reminded of our humiliation.
posted by lodurr at 12:05 PM on July 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


I can identify with some of his feelings, having graduated from a pretty rough high school myself the same year he did, and having been tormented as a geek during much of my passage through childhood and adolescence. But high school wasn't all bad for me, and not just because I didn't get a swastika burned in front of my house. I would never go back to a high school reunion, mostly because I hate the social awkwardness involved in all such endeavors unless you were Mr. Popularity or Jock Superstud or whatever. But I wouldn't wish my high school cohorts ill, even the ones who threatened to pulverize me. I just don't see any personal benefit in carrying those sorts of resentments around and nursing them for 25 years or more, which is kind of what this guy seems to have done. I already have enough to worry about.

I have friended a couple of old high school classmates on Facebook. I don't interact with these "friends" much, if at all, but it's still good to know they've thought of me.
posted by blucevalo at 12:07 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I didn't have it quite this bad in high school; I definitely was a geek, and was the target of a lot of bullying from a girl gang early on in high school. On the other hand, I did have the saving grace of having a number of fellow geeks - the music department was pretty big and clannish in my day, and even though we weren't popular, we had our crew.

On the other, though, I still was kind of an outsider amongst that crew. The jocks may have talked trash about me -- but even my "friends" didn't really dig what I did so much, because they just simply weren't noticing.

I freely admit that the biggest reason I want to go to my reunion is because of all the people in our crowd who were crowing that they were going to make it big in show business, I am the only one who is currently even working in the theater industry at all, and I want to indulge in a little schadefreude.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on July 17, 2009


This thread punched the 'former nerd' button in a lot of people's foreheads.

Hate it when people hit that button.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2009


If any of you get the chance to read Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People, there's a short story in there entitled "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold", where the protagonist creates a monster to bring to his high school reunion. I won't spoil the ending for you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2009


Is there? There wasn't when I was a kid in school, and when I was a teacher just a couple of years ago, in a VERY rough school.

There was when I was in primary and secondary school. There was when I was in college the first time. The second time I was older and didn't mix much with the other undergrads, so I have no idea.

As a professional geek I've been lucky enough to occupy a niche where I get complimented for intellectual abilities. But in general, that only extends to the stuff I'm supposed to be smart about. Web tech? Fantastic. Literature? Social theory? Philosophy? Not so much.

What you call 'rubbing their faces in your success' is something I've rarely seen -- and when I've seen it, people usually get rewarded for it.

So I'd say that you and I have radically different experiences of the world, and I'll leave it at that.
posted by lodurr at 12:12 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Or the "current nerd" button.

I don't think there are actually former nerds. It's turtles all the way down.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:13 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not like he's hunting these people down. He's moved on. He just doesn't ever want to see them again. I have no personal problem with that.

Oh, this guy has SO not moved on. Not that I blame him, but if he HAD moved on, his blog post would be like three sentences, something like: "My 25th HS reunion is coming up. I don't think I'm going. I didn't have a single friend in my actual graduating class, so there's no one to really catch up with."
posted by 23skidoo at 12:14 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I graduated in 1984, too. This actually encourages me to attend my 25th reunion. I'd been afraid I'd get jumped by all the guys I beat up in high school.

Just kidding. I didn't beat anyone up in high school. If I had, they wouldn't have sold me weed.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


He's moved on

If he'd moved on there would be no blog post to discuss. He hasn't moved on at all.
posted by fire&wings at 12:17 PM on July 17, 2009


This struck a nerve with me. I went to a private grade school and was totally that girl; incredibly awkward and clueless and into books and such. Think Dawn Weiner in Welcome to the Dollhouse.

I never suffered any physical violence but I often wonder if the psychological damage girls are particularly adept at inflicting on each other is worse.

I ended up transferring to public school after 8th grade, and the summer before I started I essentially made myself over physically...I ended up with tons of friends and invitations and guys who were actually interested in me for real and not as a prank. It was awesome that it was so easy but also kind of depressing, when you think about it.

I rarely think about it now but yeah no, I will not be going to my grade school reunion.
posted by lalex at 12:18 PM on July 17, 2009


Anger is like cigarettes. Hard to give up, even though you know it's bad for you.

I feel sorry for him. He was cruelly mistreated, and he still is letting them do it. Those people don't even exist anymore.
posted by Xoebe at 12:18 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


That JERK just made his son a target. Any geeky kid who knows or claims to know karate needs to be taught a lesson in humility. Give me any 3 football players from any high school in the country and they will easily take him down, black belt or not.
posted by banished at 12:19 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's moved on

Yes, that's why he's transferred all his innate frustrations and aggressions onto his poor kid to carry into the next generation.
posted by blucevalo at 12:22 PM on July 17, 2009


Forgiveness, to us, is a form of abuse.

Top: I'm turning the other cheek!
Bottom: Ohh, no! Ugh! Uh!
Top: I'm looking past your actions to the hurting person within....
Bottom: AH! Stop! Myztlplk! MYTZLPLK!
posted by everichon at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Any geeky kid who knows or claims to know karate needs to be taught a lesson in humility.

Hilarious.

How 'bout this: Any jackass who claims anyone needs to be taught a lesson in humility needs to be tied to an anthill.

That works for me. How 'bout you?
posted by lodurr at 12:27 PM on July 17, 2009 [14 favorites]


Oh, and to those of you who feel like he should "let go" and be "understanding" about the fact that some of his former bullies may have been messed up themselves?

I think you should be understanding of his anger. I mean, he had a hard life too -- assholes beat him up and broke his fingers for no reason when he was only a kid, and no one came to his defense.

In all seriousness -- it's easy to tell someone that they should "get over it," but that is a process, and not everyone does it at the same pace. And usually, the first step in getting over it is first having someone acknowledge that yes, you are right in the assessment that the shit that happened to you should not have happened. It can feel very, very lonely to have that kind of crap happening to you, and have no one come forward and even just once say, "you know, I'm not sure Sid deserves this."

Ruthless Bunny quoted his father above: "If one guy calls you an ass, hit him; if two call you an ass, buy a saddle." Ordinarly there's some truth to that, but in high school, everyone calling you an ass could simply mean that the other kids got together and thought it'd be totally funny if they could get you to believe that you were an ass. That doesn't necessarily mean they're right. but with everyone telling you day in and day out that you're an ass, you do start believing it, even though your guts are screaming at you that "but they're WRONG, dammit," and yet every day your guts are drowned out by the voice in your head asking "but if they really are wrong, then why do I seem to be the only one that thinks that? Maybe I'm the one who's wrong..."

And that kind of stuff takes years to sort out. And frankly, I can understand why someone who's been through that crap would be angry, and why that kind of anger would take a while to work through.

Yeah, people who were bullies in high school may have had a lot of tough shit to deal with. But the people they bullied also had a lot of tough shit to deal with, and in a lot of cases, all they're looking for is an acknowledgement that "okay, you know the way you were treated back then? That was totally not fair to you, and was wrong, and should never have happened." Telling them that they should let go and have empathy for their attackers isn't helping.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on July 17, 2009 [25 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny quoted his father above

Actually, I'm a SHE.

Now I'm going to hate you for the rest of my life!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:31 PM on July 17, 2009


All of my memories of High school are of giving Hanging Suplexes to nerds like this!!!!!!!!!While the girls said "damn check out his triceps"
posted by Damn That Television at 12:31 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Everybody needs a hug pug.
posted by everichon at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


People won't realize the trauma they caused when they were stupid kids, and when 20 years of anger comes boiling out, they'll be shocked.

Yeah, there's letting go -- and that's great -- and then there's completely unplanned remembrances and daydreams and suddenly you're having to unclench your fists and jaw and not appear to be ready to tear someone apart on the bus on the way to work.

Let's get real, no one gets out of high school unscathed. Your teen years are rife with cringe-making awkwardness.

Already covered adequately by others, I think. You've got to be kidding me.

I actually had some very interesting conversations with people who must have not said more than about 10 words to me during all four years of high school.

In my experience, this didn't take 10 years but 10 days. Suddenly the dreamy girl from math class with whom you've never exchanged a single word has come over and is talking to you because you're both at a giant uni and know no one there and hey you both went to high school together!

Anyway, didn't go to mine, but did go to my g/f's. Nice trip to her home town, but she didn't really get anything out of the reunion itself.

Also: psychological damage is toxic stuff, but physical abuse, for whatever reason, bends a person in ways that don't seem to come unbent. Ever. Though I guess I've got some days left yet.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny: I was wrong, my apologies.

....See, that's all most of us former-bullied want a lot of the time: "I'm sorry I did that, I was wrong."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only guy I knew in HS who had triceps worth checking out* never picked on anyone that I knew of.

--
*Caled was a tough kid, raised partly on a ranch out west, but I never knew of him bullying anyone. One day he started doing dips on a porch rail or something, thought it was really cool how hard it was, and pretty soon he had these killer triceps.
posted by lodurr at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2009


If you can't hate the people who changed your worldview permanently, severely, and pervasively negative, who can you hate?

Sometimes, being a victim is a fact, not a mentality. I think his reasons for not wanting to go to the 25th reunion - and not wanting to have anything to do with his high school - is entirely valid.

But, for those you you who think he needs to move on, I assert that his blog post was indeed a therpeutic step in that direction. "Get over it" is easier said than done, so at least appreciate the process of doing here.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:36 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny: I was wrong, my apologies

Okay, I forgive you.

Are you my BFF now?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:37 PM on July 17, 2009


I have to say I'm a bit surprised by the people saying "oh get over it" People broke his fingers and assaulted him. That's going to really scar some people.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2009


why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic achievement?

Because we don't value intelligence in the US. Really.


I'd go further and say that many Americans actively mistrust intelligence and education (e.g., Sarah Palin's success). This seems to be changing slowly, as the geeks have been ascendant in our technological age, and we have a nerd president, but this particular culture war is far from done. Nerds vs. Jocks writ large.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Was beaten regularly by the freakish sadists in my grade school, and later, HS. I have the solace of knowing that some of them are now in state lockup, and the safe assumption that the rest are doing as badly, or nearly as badly with their lives. You can't grow much on rocks; children with violent, hate-washed souls don't generally grow up to be happy adults.


Oh, and banished:
That JERK just made his son a target. Any geeky kid who knows or claims to know karate needs to be taught a lesson in humility. Give me any 3 football players from any high school in the country and they will easily take him down, black belt or not.

Any geeky kid who knows karate needs to be taught a lesson?

You have issues.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:39 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's get real, no one gets out of high school unscathed. Your teen years are rife with cringe-making awkwardness.

This guy got held down and had his fingers broken in front of a laughing crowd. Cringe-making? Sure. Awkwardness? I'd say it goes a bit farther than awkwardness, personally.


Yeah. Teenagers can certainly be assholes, but I'd call *that* torture.
That is sheer failure of basic humanity. Not "oh, those darn kids."
posted by emeiji at 12:41 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


and it really, really isn't about embracing victimhood. It's about being free to move on.

Being free to move on comes in many forms, though. Sometimes it's realizing that in refusing to forgive you're hanging onto the power you have over something that doesn't even exist anymore. Sometimes it's in realizing that you're approaching 40 and still living in fear like you were when you were 14. Sometimes it's just saying "Fuck that shit, I hope they die eating a bag of dicks."

But, end of the day, you have to stop being the victim. And there's power in being the victim. Moving on means stopping being the victim and taking control. I don't see him doing that.
posted by dw at 12:41 PM on July 17, 2009


And sometimes it's not any of those things. Sometimes it really is not actually thinking about them at all, until they do something to remind you.
posted by lodurr at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2009


For the record. I actually approve of hanging onto this kind of roiling hate. Seriously, if you can't hold a grudge, you can't be trusted with something heavier, like a checkbook.

What I find kind of gross is the need to write a big, long blog-entry on a completely un-related, public blog.

Want to whine? Do it in your own blog, that's what it's there for!

Save the math blog for math.

Also, yes, what this dude suffered was above and beyond and I'd certainly be peeved (homicidal?) after all these years too.

Don't know about training my sprogs to take up my fight for me though.

Does the kid shout, "I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, now prepare to die!"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:42 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


At least he acknowledges his lack of social skills, but I'm not sure if he's done much to improve them since 1984 since he's sending his kid in with karate training and guiding him through his own bitterness.

That said, the administration deserved to be fired for their lack of reaction to this serious bullying going on. I did face something similar as a young child in elementary school who, as a high achiever, was bullied and sabotaged, artwork and tests ripped from the bulletin boards and destroyed. I was also stolen from, had correction fluid spilled on my black clothes, and even mildly physically assaulted. No matter who I went to, nobody stopped it and I developed an anxiety disorder that I thankfully no longer have.

But high school was sublime. Just wonderful all around an experience. And I'll be going to my reunion.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:43 PM on July 17, 2009


This reminded me of my school experiences, except I never got my fingers broken and I did have friends. However I was subjected to constant taunting, bullying, and threats, and I never "rubbed anyone's face in it". It actually blows my mind that some people on the thread think the targets of bullying often deserve it. My crime was that I was smarter than most people and not interested in a lot of bogus social politics. I wasn't mean, or arrogant, or dismissive of less smart kids. Pretty much I wanted to just be me, and learn something in school. I did crazy, antisocial stuff like studying in study hall ...

To some extent kids have to work this stuff out for themselves I guess, but schools need to have an absolute zero-tolerance policy for physical threats, bullying, and intimidation. That kind of stuff is not OK in adult society, so the idea that "boys will be boys" or that people gain character from being abused sounds a lot like a way for past bullies to retroactively justify the fact that they were not nice people as kids. At a minimum, kids caught bullying need a social worker sent to their house to see why they are doing that kind of stuff. Even if, and maybe especially if, they are from financially or socially elite households. Bullying isn't a rite of passage and it's not ok. Ever.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I hated high school. I didn't have a particularly bad time at it -- I was never physically bullied (well maybe once or twice but nothing chronic), I had a decent amount of social outlet, I was smart enough to not have to struggle with grades... But I never really felt like I had any real friends from high school.

Okay, I should clarify that. I have an incredibly vibrant circle of friends who work diligently at keeping in touch with one another. Some of us have friendships going back to 8th and 9th grade. We all come together every year around Halloween for a huge reunion / party, and that's wonderful and marvelous.

But that group is not really the crowd I grew up with, in many respects. The shockingly idyllic little neighborhood I grew up in had several houses with boys all the same age, all within a few blocks of each other. We went to the same school together, elementary through graduation. We were all in the same cub scout / boy scout troop. When you add in the rest of the boys and girls I started out first grade with that also went to high school together, it was a pretty unavoidable group for those of us who were unwitting members. The typical "cohort", we were.

When I graduated high school, my future was a bit fuzzy. I went to (West) Germany for a year as an exchange student, and then attended college out of town. So I lost touch with a lot of those with whom I'd spent the preceeding twelve years. It was sort-of okay with me, actually. Like I said earlier, I didn't spend time in high school feeling like I really had friends.

Sure I had the crowd that I did things with. And I had a group of kids from the church I attended; a lot of us had grown up together through sunday school and youth group as well as english class and such. But I never had one of those soulmate friends, a buddy that sticks next to you through thick and thin, who loves you better than a brother, blah blah blah. Never happened for me. (Would I have wanted that? Hell yes. I still would!)

So, I went overseas, and didn't hear from, well, basically anybody. Those I did hear from, we kept in sort of sketchy touch, but it was something. And then when I did return, I immediately went away to school, and still was only hearing from a few people. Certainly nobody that I really grew up with...

By the time I landed back in my hometown after a difficult stint at college, there wasn't anybody around from that cohort I matured with. Meanwhile, the few friends who had kept in touch with me during my time away, they were all still around and had turned out to be part of an fantastic crew of people. (See my earlier mention of a halloween party.)

So, fast-forward to many years later, and it is time for my 20th high school reunion. I decide that, yes indeed I should attend. It's been a long time, I'm a much groovier person now than I was back then, and maybe I'll get to catch up with all the people I've been wondering about for the past while. So I pack my bags and make the arrangements and attend the reunion...

...and find it's perhaps the stupidest thing I've ever done. There were ~600 in my graduating class. Who is attending this event? Fewer than one hundred, and they are all drawn from two groups, the cheerleader/"soc" crowd, and the shop kids. Seriously. Where are the orchestra / band students? Where are the other A.P. track kids? Where is ANYONE I FUCKING KNOW???

Oh, right there. It's George (not his real name) -- the single, solitary member of that whole group of people from my neighborhood / elementary school. And it turns out that George has all the dirt on everyone -- what they're doing, where they're living, who they've married, etc etc etc. I suppose if one person were to attend the reunion for maximum benefit, it would be George. There was much conversation, much great catching up... but I note that now, a few years after the event, I do not find a single email from him in my inbox, despite locating several in my Sent Letters folder. He may be the hub of all information of interest, but he remains a slacker where I'm concerned.

Other than using George as my own personal Google To The Past, there was a lot of fake-nice conversation with faces that were vaguely familiar, and a lot of sitting around wondering why the fuck I'd even bothered in the first place.

The best part of the whole affair was that not even a single person from the group with whom I AM in touch bothered to attend the 20th reunion. The one guy, sort of the center of the continuing social hub, I called him to goad him into attending and he was a thousand miles away on vacation.

So, yeah. Fuck my 25th. Maybe even fuck my 30th, although I may attend that. I didn't have nearly the torture this guy had during his school years, but my own experience with reunions is, unless you were part of an "in crowd" when you attended, and have remained part of that crowd in the intervening years, the reunion really isn't for you in the first place so don't bother.
posted by hippybear at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


See, that's all most of us former-bullied want a lot of the time: "I'm sorry I did that, I was wrong."

But 25th HS Reunion Guy is never, ever going to get to hear that, since he's basically making it impossible for people to open up a dialogue with him. He posts on his blog, gets alot of people to agree with him that he had an unfair and shitty HS experience, and then has a ton of data points that make him think he made the right decisions about not attending his reunion and not having contact with people from his past.

So how does he get from where he is now to a place where that would make him a better father to his son? Somebody, somewhere should get the man to believe that "letting go" is something that will help him have a better life. I don't know how he's going to understand that unless someone, somewhere tells him that.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I find kind of gross is the need to write a big, long blog-entry on a completely un-related, public blog. Want to whine? Do it in your own blog, that's what it's there for! Save the math blog for math.

....What if he doesn't have another blog?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on July 17, 2009


This seems to be changing slowly, as the geeks have been ascendant in our technological age, and we have a nerd president, but this particular culture war is far from done. Nerds vs. Jocks writ large.

No, but it's clear who's winning this war now. Hint: They didn't play football.
posted by dw at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2009


To stay bitter about 2 decade old offends and insults, real or imagined is not impressive mental hygiene. Ask any counselor. Go to the reunion, no one will be trying to give you a wedgie anymore. Dig yourself. Those who are last shall later be first etc. Time Wounds all Heels. (Nick Lowe) : )
posted by celerystick at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2009


IAmBroom: Let me explain high school dynamics to you, as you are obviously uninformed. Where I grew up, people would brag about how you don't want to mess with them because they know karate... those people get messed with. It is interpreted as a challenge, basically.

In this case, the father is doing the bragging for the son. It's not a smart idea to say, my son is so badass, bullies watch out, he will kick all of your asses. Doing so makes his son a target, and whatever bully or group of bullies takes him down gets instant enhancement to their reputation. Understand?
posted by banished at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never gone to my high school reunions. By and large, I'm still friends with most of my close friends from high school (I'm 45).
posted by doctor_negative at 12:49 PM on July 17, 2009


Why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic achievement?

Not always true.

Data point: the prom queen and king at my high school were the editors of the literary journal. The administration honored our championship Science Olympiad team at school assemblies. And my own abilities afforded me a measure of respect among the other students, if nothing like actual popularity.

I don't mean to say that there wasn't bullying; just that the geeks were passed over in this particular environment. Cruelty is not intrinsically anti-intellectual. It will find purchase wherever there's any of kind fear, uncertainty, resentment. Wherever there's high schoolers, wherever there's people.
posted by Iridic at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2009


Really, so often this current vogue for "forgiveness" looks like blaming the victim. The victim is the one that's got to do the work. "You've got to forgive."

I understand the concept of toxic fear, I really do. I also understand that sometimes it's just gone, and the only point in dredging up the past in which it was born is to make the person who did it to you feel better.

Let's try a thought experiment: Suppose you have a child who is abused by her neighbor. Do we expect her to forgive him?

What if it's her father?

And if you say 'yes', are you saying that's because it will be good for her?

Here's the trick: Contemporary therapeutic best practices say 'no.' It does not help victims to be re-traumatized by confronting their abusers. That it does is a myth.
posted by lodurr at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


But 25th HS Reunion Guy is never, ever going to get to hear that, since he's basically making it impossible for people to open up a dialogue with him. He posts on his blog, gets alot of people to agree with him that he had an unfair and shitty HS experience, and then has a ton of data points that make him think he made the right decisions about not attending his reunion and not having contact with people from his past. So how does he get from where he is now to a place where that would make him a better father to his son? Somebody, somewhere should get the man to believe that "letting go" is something that will help him have a better life. I don't know how he's going to understand that unless someone, somewhere tells him that.

Until he is ready to hear that letting go would be good for him, it will not help him.

I know because it didn't help me. What looks to you like a lot of people sucking up to him him that "oh, you poor thing, that totally sucked", is what he needs to hear to finally believe that he didn't deserve to be treated that way. It took me years to 100% believe that I didn't deserve that treatment, and my treatment wasn't anywhere near as bad as his.

People cannot forgive other people until they are ready to forgive them. And until they are ready, they simply will not be able to hear any "but if you just let go of the grudge it'd be better for you" as anything but "you're such a baby to be letting something so insignificant bother you still".

He will be ready to forgive them when he is ready. Nothing you or anyone else can do will make that go any faster.

Oh -- and who's to say that he isn't a good father? You're basing your assesment of his parenting skills on one single comment in one single blog post; frankly, I think it'd be safer to have a BIT more of a data sample, but that's just me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Forgiveness is difficult, especially for old wounds.

People can do awful things without being awful people, and people can change.


Yeah.
posted by squalor at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2009


Oh, and oddly enough...

This morning I Googled an old student of mine from when I taught.

Kid was a 300 LB football player who sat in my Freshman English class as a Senior so that he could pass and graduate.

Gave me crap about not needing to know English (his first language) because he was going to be pro in the NFL after college.

Barely squeeked into an ACC school known for it's football program (vs academics) and was red shirted for a year because of a torn ACL.

He was an un-drafted free agent after college and went to camp with a pro-team and subsequently cut a few days later.

That's it. There is no other mention of the kid on Google. It's his entire football career, from high school through his 2 days with a pro team.

I doubt that he has a degree that will do him any good, I doubt if he even prepared for life after college that didn't involve football.

I was sort of hoping to see what he's doing now, as he was my benchmark for how those jocks turn out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:54 PM on July 17, 2009


Facebook "friends" truly stretch the definition of "friend,"

Indeed. I'm still trying to decide what is the appropriate response to friend requests from the guys who slept with me (guy) before settling down, getting married, and having kids.

Stories of broken fingers makes me glad I had a magic pass for "street" cred in high school, and missed out on the worst of that side of adolescence.
posted by nomisxid at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are benefits to letting go of your anger. There are also dividends paid if you hold onto it long enough.

I got bullied a lot in school. With two of my tormenters, things played out very differently in the years that followed.

One of them was a guy who made me dread band class like no other hour of the day. He was a few years ahead of me and much bigger than I at the time. Everyone else in our section looked up to him, so he was sort of a ringleader - he'd start, the rest would join in as class went on and it became clear I wasn't gonna slug anybody. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore and dropped band.

This guy - let's call him Steve - would eventually drop out of high school and go on to a brief, lucrative career robbing houses that his father built. Once his dumbass got busted, he spent a couple years in prison. After he was released, I encountered him at his brother's wedding, our first meeting since school. Over the years that passed, I had grown much, much bigger than he - like, a head and much-broader shoulders above the little bastard. At first, we were all acting like grown-ups and treating one another with mutual respect. As the evening proceeded and the liquor flowed ever more freely, Steve began to fall into his old patterns, apparently unaware of my new "take no shit from anyone" policy. He tried talking shit while a bunch of us were hanging out in a hot tub. He got hollered at and loomed over until he had to retreat! By Baldur, was that a glorious feeling! I don't resent Steve at all anymore - I stayed mad just long enough for it to pay out.

The other fella, Trevor, let's say, was another band class bastard. He had the good sense to finish high school and not rob a bunch of houses. During our senior year and the first years after graduation, Trevor and I had a lot of mutual friends and did a lot of tangential hanging out. We came to discover a number of mutual interests, not least of which were weed and beer. I found out a little about his home situation at the time we meant and understood a little better why he acted the way he did back then. I came to find out that rampant shit-talking actually was a way Trevor tried to make friends, which my younger, much more sensitive self just could not grok. We never had a big after-school-special purge & forgive session or anything like that, but we slowly, steadily became very good friends.

Trevor's one of my favorite people these days - shit, we hug and buy each other shots when we run into one another back home. Fourth grade ETW never would have believed such a day could come.

Were I to advise the author of this blog, I would encourage him to attend his reunion. Whether he stays angry or not, there's something very comforting and cathartic about seeing how old, fat and bald your former classmates have become. He might get a chance to purge some of his rage. He might get a chance to realize he's not as angry as he once was. He might find he's grown stronger than his former tormenters and he might wind up singing karaoke with them for all he knows. It's a shame he's not willing to even make the attempt.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about this recently, prompted by a couple of things—missing my 11th-year reunion (hippy school, probably too high to get 10th done on time), finding out that one of my pals from high school was on MeFi, and seeing a guy who used to bully me in a band.

The guy, Justin Walter, was a year or two older than me, and the most apt memory I have of him from middle school was that when I was passing my yearbook around, he got ahold of it and wrote, "Fuck you, I hope you die." I got it home and cried, because I was a great big wuss.

But about, I dunno, four years back, I ran into Justin when he was working at a local falafel joint, and he was nothing but nice to me. I know that he doesn't remember picking on me, or at least I hope he doesn't, but every time I run into him, he's been all smiles and in a totally innocent way too. He plays trumpet with a pretty great band, and I see him when he comes through.

I don't speak to any of my friends from middle school, really, though I just ran into one living a half-mile away (since I live 3000 miles from where I grew up, it's a little surprising). The folks that I'm still friends with from high school aren't the people I would have guessed…

I guess I don't really know where I'm going with this, except that, y'know, it's odd to see reunions as a universally celebrated rite of American culture and then realize as an adult that not only don't you have to deal with them, you never really have to stay friends with anyone if you don't want to. It's like growing up and realizing that you never have to get married if you don't want to. And frankly, the vast majority of people I went to high school with, well, I didn't have very much in common with them then, and I don't have very much in common with them now. I feel closer with a lot of people that I met on the internet than with people who ostensibly knew me during my formative years. And I think that's OK.
posted by klangklangston at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm not really surprised that nobody has mentioned the episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey's character wants to go back to her high school reunion to show all those jerks who were mean to her how successful she is now, only to realize that she was actually the jerk all along.

1. Everyone is teased in high school, not just you.
2. The reason the prom queen is the prom queen is that when she gets made fun of, she doesn't throw a hissy fit about it on her blog.
3. Even if (especially if) you were a nerd, know with 100% certainty that you probably regularly hurt somebody's feelings and internalized their subsequent rejection as bullying. They're over it- why aren't you?
posted by tumbleweedjack at 12:58 PM on July 17, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sure, the author admits some of his behaviors may have made him an easy target, but why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic acheivement?

Just one data point, but there wasn't really one in the high school I went to. There were kids in my AP classes who were in varsity sports who didn't get picked on, and there were socially awkward kids in the remedial math classes that were mercilessly tormented. The smartest kids in school weren't completely free from bullying, but in my experience the kids who got into the "gifted" track had relatively normal high school experiences and went on to college. On the other hand the weird loner kids who weren't very successful academically that I hung out with at lunch for most of high school had a much tougher time and a significant number of them dropped out. For me my academic success was actually something that helped me get at least some kind of social respect, especially with other smart kids, whereas a lot of other kids didn't have any kind of advantages to help them.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to say I'm a bit surprised by the people saying "oh get over it"

Me too. If someone had broken my fingers "just to hear the sound they made" when I (and that person) was 16-17 years old, I'd still have a problem with it 20 years later. Unless I'd managed to beat the crap out of him in the interim, in which case I'd feel just fine.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was rejected by the kids in the Chess Club. Sure they let me play, but they didn't accept me at all. Now that fucking hurt. I am pretty sure it was because I was stoned off my ass all the time, but I had no friends and desperately wanted to be friends with them. That particular wound still smarts late at night sometimes.
posted by milarepa at 1:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


tumbleweedjack - point taken, and good lord was that a fantastic episode ("that's right, a jet - to New York Cityyyyy!") - but unless you've got a time machine and a TCP/IP-compatible mind-reading beam, please don't make such broad assumptions about everyone's past, behaviors and motives. And if you do possess such technology, post that shit to Projects, man!
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:08 PM on July 17, 2009


I mounted a write-in campaign for class president. I knew that I'd had at least 10 votes cast for me, and I also knew what the total vote count was said to have been. I should have been the second-highest vote-getter, at that rate. But they didn't even announce me....maybe it's because I was a graduating in a month....*
--
*My friends and I reckoned that the fact that I wouldn't be there in the fall made me the ideal class president. This actually made sense to us at the time, and we weren't even stoned. Well, I wasn't.
posted by lodurr at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2009


Gee, the jackals and armchair psychoanalysts of mefi seem out in force today.

dw: But, end of the day, you have to stop being the victim. And there's power in being the victim. Moving on means stopping being the victim and taking control. I don't see him doing that.

Well, to me it seems like he is doing just that by telling the people sending him unwanted invitations to class reunions exactly why he's not interested in spending his hard-earned money and vacation time to hang out with people he never got on with for the purpose of reliving "glory days" that were not that great.

EmpressCallipygos: He will be ready to forgive them when he is ready. Nothing you or anyone else can do will make that go any faster.

Yes. And it should be noted that neither "forgiveness" nor "moving on" requires that one sit down and have a few cheap beers with the people that made your life hell. Neither require maintaining an ongoing relationship or feigned intimacy where such is not required by other obligations.

EatTheWeak: It's a shame he's not willing to even make the attempt.

Actually, what I find shameful is that a person's decisions to develop his own social networks and make his own decisions about how he chooses to spend his time and money isn't being respected here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


The bullying in my junior high and high schools to various kids was non-casual. Broken ribs. Swirlies. Swirlies in unflushed toilets. The administration did ... not ... care. It just was not their job. "Boys will be boys." "Girls can be like that at that age." It ended in murder in one case. Another murder happened after I graduated, serving as a nice reminder that the administration continues not to care. In loco parentis actually means "we have the rights of the parents when it is convenient for us to demand them; as to the responsibilities ..."

I learned to view graduation as the culmination of a long series of painful courses about my "classmates;" I felt I had learned my lesson (people suck in packs; nobody will be coming to rescue you), no need to revisit. I talk regularly with everyone I want to talk with from my high school. This consists of two people. Outside of those two, I once ran into someone from my high school class, five years after graduation. Small talk turned to discussion of what our ten year reunion would be like. He says:

"That's assuming we'd even get on the list. Did you get the invite for the five year?"
"There was a five year reunion?"
"Yeah. I didn't get an invite, either."

That's when I realized that, while the jerks of the world might cover and smooth over some of their own past actions with layer after layer of rock candy, schmaltz deposited by reliving fond memories, I'd always be a second class citizen to these people. Forgiveness requires the injurious party to have thought they had done something wrong, and this was not going to happen. All was right with the world, and I was on the B-list for reunion invites. So be it.

Not only do I have no urge to subject myself to some kind of mass gathering where we figure out how we ended up in the rat race, with my starting position frozen where I had been at graduation as a nice little handicap, I have a feeling that anyone who thoughtlessly wanted to reenact any "fond" rituals from high school would be surprised at the results. I cannot reasonably imagine anything positive happening to me at a reunion.

As to everyone else, I don't give a good goddamn if they have changed; the only thing I owe is to myself, which is avoidance of annoyance and worse. Some people say, "Oh, that grudge, it's such a heavy burden to bear." Most of the time, it's more like a cudgel — every time I start feeling like I'm getting sucked into one of those old high school games again, that weight comes in handy when I want to smash my way out.

I do not want to feel better about some of those people. I'm not bucking for canonization and, frankly, the ability to recognize bullies of all stripes has served me well in adulthood. Unless the apology I'll never get anyway ends with a hop into a time machine, apologies are designed to make the person apologizing feel better, not help anyone else.

Jeers to my peers.
posted by adipocere at 1:11 PM on July 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Meh. My 30th HS reunion is this fall (didn't graduate, 'whatever beacame of you?!). Stop being passive aggressive. It's High School for God's sake. It's an accident that you where there with them. You can't choose it or fix it, it's an accident of birth. Move on, and your black belt kid ain't fighting anyone either.
posted by fixedgear at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2009


Misslynster raises the question of forgiveness.

If someone I’d never met before walked up to me on the street, called me a loser, and laughed at me, it’s possible that, under some circumstances, somewhere down the road, I might forgive them. But I certainly wouldn’t buy a plain ticket, get a hair cut, press my good shirt, pack up my wife and kids, and travel out of state to spend a day having polite conversation with them. So why would I do so for the people who treated me like shit in high school? What makes them any different? The fact that I know their names? That I remember what they looked like before they started to go bald?

Bondcliff suggests that bitterness is a bad way to go.

Maybe I’m just missing something here, but I always figured that you hate the bad stuff and enjoy the good stuff. There was a lot about my high school social hierarchy that was evil. Saying so and acting accordingly doesn’t make me some sort of emotionally stunted sociopath. There were a few things in high school that were good. If we were talking about those things, I’d reminisce fondly and make jokes. All of the above seem to me like appropriate responses.

More importantly though, it’s now our generation's turn to be responsible for the manner in which we socialize and educate the rugrats. We’re paying the taxes that support those schools, raising the children who attend them, and voting in the school board elections. If we’re going to do better than previous generations, we first have to acknowledge the nature and extent of the problems. I don’t see how a sane person can do that without a certain amount of anger.
posted by Clay201 at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


Just one data point, but there wasn't really one in the high school I went to. There were kids in my AP classes who were in varsity sports who didn't get picked on, and there were socially awkward kids in the remedial math classes that were mercilessly tormented.

This was pretty much my high school experience as well. The people in my AP classes were overwhelmingly smart, socially adept, cool people, who played sports, had friends and were seldom picked on. The guys I played Magic with were awkward losers, and so they were picked on, the ones who were smart, the ones who were of average intelligence, and the dumb ones. I was picked on less and had more friends when I stopped acting like those guys, not because I got dumber junior year.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:19 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Everyone makes bad decisions up through high school (and sometimes beyond) because at that age, all of us are still knuckleheads. Hell, I broke up with a girlfriend once by leaving a post-it note on her windshield while she was at work.
posted by schleppo at 1:19 PM on July 17, 2009



I broke up with a girlfriend once by leaving a post-it note on her windshield while she was at work.


Somehow, the worst part of that isn't that you broke up with her by leaving a note on her windshield, it's that it was a Post-It.

I'm imaging that little square.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Imagining"
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2009


The administration did ... not ... care.

And that's where I'm putting my energy nowadays. When I was going through the Seattle Schools' insane school selection process (visit ten schools, put down your preferences, and get assigned to the school based on how the computer feels about you this afternoon!) I read up a lot about the anti-bullying curriculum each school was offering and reviewing the surveys of students where they specifically ask questions about whether they are bullied and by how many and how often and do teachers/principals care.

Luckily, we drew a school that seems to have its bullying under control and has responsive teachers and administration. Even then, I'll probably end up on the PTSA riding their asses the next six years and making sure they stick to their anti-bullying policies.

And it's not about my daughter. It's about making sure that schools are held accountable for providing a safe learning environment that's free from fear. So every damn year I'll be looking at that survey and asking them what they're doing to get that "30% say they've been bullied" figure down to 0%.

I have forgiven my bullies. The schools I went to, NSM.
posted by dw at 1:25 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I realize now that what got me over any lingering bad feelings about high school (and my experience was, on balance, mostly good) was actually teaching high school for three years and seeing just how dumb, self-centered, and full of shitty judgment adolescents can be. (They can also be great people, of course.)

When I saw that behavior daily, removed from it as an adult, I realized that I was allowing the judgments and actions of dumb-ass teenagers from my past to affect me, and that that judgment was mostly worthless, because we were all kids. While it doesn't excuse cruel behavior, it certainly helps one move past it.

Reminds me of a line from Saul Bellow, in The Actual I think, about how allowing someone's judgment of you to affect you gives them power over you that they likely neither merit nor have earned. So what I learned from that process was: be careful and aware whose judgment matters to you.

(But if someone had broken my fingers on purpose, that guy I'd still want to beat up.)
posted by LooseFilter at 1:25 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” - Lewis B. Smedes

This is such bullshit for the situation in the link. None of them are coming to him, full of regret, or asking forgiveness. Instead they're contacting him as if they're old friends and it's perfectly understandable that he'd be pissed about that, forgiveness or not.

Frankly, the high handed moralizing on display here is pretty sickening. "Oh, never mind your feelings or experiences, you need to forgive and put it all behind you and then you'll be filled with sunshine and rainbows, just like me and gee, isn't that great."

Fuck that. He doesn't have to forgive or forget anything from these people and that doesn't make him a terrible person or doom him to a horrible life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:27 PM on July 17, 2009 [19 favorites]


Hell, I broke up with a girlfriend once by leaving a post-it note on her windshield while she was at work.

You had a girlfriend in high school? Different worlds, you and I.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:32 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really, so often this current vogue for "forgiveness" looks like blaming the victim. The victim is the one that's got to do the work. "You've got to forgive."

I understand the concept of toxic fear, I really do. I also understand that sometimes it's just gone, and the only point in dredging up the past in which it was born is to make the person who did it to you feel better.

Let's try a thought experiment: Suppose you have a child who is abused by her neighbor. Do we expect her to forgive him?

What if it's her father?

And if you say 'yes', are you saying that's because it will be good for her?


You seem to fail to understand several things here:

- Yes, the victim is the one who's got to do the work. They're the one who's traumatized. After bitching at my therapist for nearly an hour about the unfairness of this, he told me that, "Yeah, that's the general opinion. It sucks, but that's just how it is."

- Forgiving someone does not necessitate confrontation. I didn't forgive my stepfather for childhood abuse through calling him up and telling him, it's an internal, personal matter. My forgiving him hasn't made him feel any better, as I still have absolutely no interest in ever contacting him again, it was done for my own benefit, so I would no longer have an excuse for letting myself be held hostage by my own anger.

I do not think forgiveness means what you think it means.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Forgiveness, to us, is a form of abuse.

Okay, but who's abusing who? These people moved on. You're the one who's keeping the bad stuff alive.

It took me decades to forgive a lot of people. Trust me, I've got *puhhhlenty* of reasons to call myself a victim. But for survival's sake, why the fuck would I choose to waste my precious energy on keeping the traumatic bullshit from my past alive for as long as possible? That sucks.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I lurk on the Classmates website using the name of a acquaintance who was killed in a car wreck the year after we were graduated (I did him a few favors back in the day, and since he's been dead now longer than he was alive, I figure he wouldn't mind). There I learned that our 30-year reunion will be held this month, but I am not going. Other than the friend or two I've managed to keep up with, I'm just not very interested. We were just kids and barely knew ourselves, much less each other.

It's not like high school is an intentional community - random circumstances of age and location throws us together and left to our own devices we do the best that we can.
posted by squalor at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2009


This poor guy went through hell. I can't imagine admonishing him to "get over it" (though when he is ready, moving on will be good for him) or encouraging him to attend the reunion. The admonishing is victim-blaming and invalidating of the hell he went through -- that would result in anxiety disorders, PTSD, depression, or other major psychological issues for many people if they suffered similar experiences.

My 20th high school reunion was last year. I didn't go. Not because I was bullied; I wasn't, in high school. Not because I was unpopular; I had friends in various social groups and wasn't an outcast. But because I can hardly imagine a more colossal waste of time than to attend. I don't even live but 30 miles or so from where the reunion was taking place, but why on earth would I care to go spend money to eat rubber chicken and catch up with people I didn't care about then and don't care about now? If I care about them, I'm in touch with them and can simply call or email to catch up. Anyone else is dust in the history bin.
posted by notashroom at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


He will be ready to forgive them when he is ready. Nothing you or anyone else can do will make that go any faster.

Oh -- and who's to say that he isn't a good father? You're basing your assesment of his parenting skills on one single comment in one single blog post; frankly, I think it'd be safer to have a BIT more of a data sample, but that's just me.


Gah, nothing I've said should even remotely suggest that I think the guy has fallen behind some sort of forgiveness schedule. Lord knows that I've got people in my far past that I would benefit from forgiving. Alls I know is that the only way I came to that realization is by talking to other people who held grudges and then let them go. Left to my own devices, I think I would have been completely fine with holding on to my grudges forever.

Doublegah, nothing I've said should even remotely suggest that I think the guy is not a good father, I just think he'd be a better one if he could let go of this stuff, when he is ready to do so.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:44 PM on July 17, 2009


A Terrible Llama: Somehow, the worst part of that isn't that you broke up with her by leaving a note on her windshield, it's that it was a Post-It.

Tell me about it. I couldn't even be bothered by writing out a longer letter detailing my reasons. I think I had room for 20-25 words and that's it (I wrote bigger back then; college changed that). If I ever have kids, they may or may not take karate lessons, but they'll damn sure know to not be a dickhead when breaking up with someone.

Funny thing is, we're still good friends. I must have a way with square-framed, adhesive-backed prose.
posted by schleppo at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Burning a swastika in his front yard, breaking his fingers, those actions open his "abuse" up to being a possible hate crime. Just my humble opinion

I was a bit too big to be bullied but I do remember one kid who got his had intentionally pushed into a disk sander intentionally. I saw it take part of his index finger off. To this day I regret not sticking up for him.
posted by hexxed at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2009


It took me decades to forgive a lot of people. Trust me, I've got *puhhhlenty* of reasons to call myself a victim. But for survival's sake, why the fuck would I choose to waste my precious energy on keeping the traumatic bullshit from my past alive for as long as possible? That sucks.

You're right. But -- by your own admission, it took you "decades" to get to that point. If it were so easy, why didn't you do it as soon as you graduated?

Because it's not easy, and people don't get to that point overnight. You've done so already. Not everyone has gotten there yet. Maybe they need a few more years still.

Let them have as long as they need. You took as long as you needed, after all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great Big Mulp, you conveniently quoted all but the last part of what I said -- the part where I point out that competent therapeutic professionals don't perpetrate this "forgive your abuser" nonsense, because it re-traumatizes their patients.

I would agree with you if you said that you and I have different definitions of "forgiveness." What you describe is what I'd call "letting go." Instead, you're saying that I don't know what the word means. I find that interesting. It's like you're trying to exercise power over my words....

Miss lynnster, how do you know who moved on, and what I'm keeping alive? Methinks you're assuming a bit. All I'm arguing is that it's rude to expect people to re-traumatize themselves by going to high school reunions so they can face and forgive people who abused them -- which people show every evidence of being un-interested in acknowledging that any abuse ever happened.

A lot of this "forgive to heal" stuff that's being spouted in this thread loses sight of two important features of this case: There was serious physical abuse, and the abusers are pretending it never happened.

Very simply and very clearly: Under those circumstances, you are preaching a "Blame the Victim" gospel.

This is not a dichotomous scenario: You don't have to choose between some person's definition of "forgiveness" and scurnging into a seething ball of anger. There are middle grounds -- and before all his old "friends" started pinging him, it sounds to me like Our Subject was doing just fine in that middle ground. I know it doesn't make for a dramatic story and it doesn't fit the gospel narrative that we seem to require in our lives, but it strikes me as a much more honest and prosaic true existence.
posted by lodurr at 1:49 PM on July 17, 2009 [10 favorites]


The adage "living well is the best revenge" is a trite platitude that doesn't really work, even in the Don Simpson way over the top case. However the flip side can be damaging. The fact of some asshole who made my life a living hell for four years turning out to be wildly successful would tear me up. If karma can't strike back at these people I'd prefer they remain anonymously ignorant of their success.

"He makes clear that he wants to post this to his own site where he can control the responses. I think we should respect his wishes and take it off a high traffic front page where the responses are far from his control."

I read it as not wanting the comments on his blog to devolve into him defending his view or being judgemental.
posted by Mitheral at 1:50 PM on July 17, 2009


If I ever have kids, they may or may not take karate lessons, but they'll damn sure know to not be a dickhead when breaking up with someone.

You know, this actually sounds like a pretty admirable ambition for parenthood.
posted by lodurr at 1:51 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


miss lynnster: It took me decades to forgive a lot of people. Trust me, I've got *puhhhlenty* of reasons to call myself a victim. But for survival's sake, why the fuck would I choose to waste my precious energy on keeping the traumatic bullshit from my past alive for as long as possible? That sucks.

Forgiveness doesn't mean pretending that the bad stuff never happened, and it certainly does not entail an obligation to repair relationships that, in the case of class reunions, were imposed by bureaucratic institutions.

Which is exactly what Mr. (Dr.?) Chu-Carroll is responding to here. I don't get the idea that he's spending his days seething with rage over prior high school abuse. He's responding to repeated and persistent requests for a relationship, albeit a rather weak one. And he's perfectly entitled to tell people who were nasty to him to fuck off.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:59 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I skipped my 25th last year, mainly because it's across the country and the people I'm still friends with weren't going. My 10th was interesting. There were people I forgot almost immediately after graduation, and seeing them at the reunion brought back the intense feelings from high school, like I'd flipped a switch at graduation and flipped it on again at the reunion. I was afraid to talk to the girls I was afraid to talk to in high school. I loathed the guys who were jerks then and wanted to be buddies now. My high school girlfriend showed up (and she wasn't in my class). We got into trouble for sneaking airline bottle of booze in.

No, but it's clear who's winning this war now. Hint: They didn't play football.

I played football and was on the school newspaper. Not everyone fits the dichotomy.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:07 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that the Administration is at fault, moreso than his classmates. The kind of psychotic behavior they allowed is pretty ridiculous, and someone should have been fired for allowing a kid to hold another down and break his fingers. That's a bit beyond the pale.

On the other hand, this guy needs to fucking let it go. Every five years his blood pressure must skyrocket.

The proper answer to "Are you coming to the reunion?" is "No." Not "HOW COULD YOU EVEN ASK THAT YOU ASSHOLES GOD I HATE ALL OF YOU FUCKS!" Not everyone held him down or laughed through his pain.
posted by graventy at 2:23 PM on July 17, 2009


Roses are red
Violets are blue
I just used a Post-It
to break up with you
posted by batou_ at 2:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I had the usual geek experience in a high school full of preppies (Darien, CT, if anyone knows the culture there.) I don't hate, resent, or even dislike my ex-fellow-students, but I have no desire at all to actually go see them again. The people I was vaguely friends with I've kept track of online, and the rest made no effort, now or then, to build any bridges. Rich, spoiled upper-middle class kids have, from what I can tell, become what was expected of them: rich, spoiled upper-middle class consumers.

I didn't like hanging out with their type in school, and as an adult I like that I now have control, to a certain extent, of who I have to associate with, so I still don't hang out with them.

Shallow people, furiously afraid they'll loose what social status they have, trying to break into the upper class by buying the lifestyle on credit.
posted by Blackanvil at 2:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]



why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic achievement?

Because we don't value intelligence in the US. Really.


Think George W. Bush
posted by notreally at 2:29 PM on July 17, 2009


It should be noted that the author has responded to the idea that he is bitter and needs to let this go in two comments on the blog.

He seems fine, says he's recovered and worked though it, just doesn't want to deal with shitty people. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:34 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think people are granting that experiences, including experiences of bullying, can differ greatly. Bullying is a spectrum not one thing. Just because you got picked on a bit or pushed into a locker occasionally and turned out just fine doesn't mean that you know everything about high school bullying.

Some kids wake up afraid every single day. Every single day is an attempt to make it through without something terrible happening. Just like having an abusive parent. There's no escaping it. There's no avoiding it. Physical and/or psychological torment, every day.

Some kids end up with PTSD it is so bad. You know, the thing that Iraqi war vets get because people are trying to kill them and so they're in a constant state of stress and tension? Or because they see little kids blown to bits or their buddies shot in front of them? Yeah, that PTSD.

Maybe you experienced less severe or less constant bullying. Maybe you had a better support network among friends or a better family life. I'm not going to judge somebody who was held down and had his fingers broken because he's not ready to forgive and forget.

High school can, and does, break people. That's not hyperbole; it's just truth. Not most people. Not the great majority of people. But some. And I'm willing to cut them a little slack.
posted by Justinian at 2:34 PM on July 17, 2009 [17 favorites]


The proper answer to "Are you coming to the reunion?" is "No." Not "HOW COULD YOU EVEN ASK THAT YOU ASSHOLES GOD I HATE ALL OF YOU FUCKS!"

Actually, that seems like a very sane response to an insane people.

Not everyone held him down or laughed through his pain.

From the post:
In high school, I didn't have a single real friend in my graduating class. I had a very few friends who graduated a year before me; I had a few who graduated one or two years after me. But being absolutely literal, there was not a single person in my graduating class who came close to treating me like a friend. Not one.
Close enough.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:41 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This guy got held down and had his fingers broken in front of a laughing crowd.

This is what I don't get. That's not bullying. That's assault, and there are laws, police, judges, a whole prison system! just ready and waiting for these assholes.

That is, if the police actually took juvenile assault charges seriously.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:43 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


An additional conflicting issue is generational. Somebody Chu’s age who is gay will have gone through a long closet period that encompassed high school. So did all the other gay kids. Going to a reunion as the only, or one of an unknown suspected number of, gay adults makes things even more uncomfortable. “I wonder who else is?” does not really work as a counter to such discomfort.
posted by joeclark at 2:53 PM on July 17, 2009


The only problem with "forgiveness" is that that type of bullying at that young an age rewires the shit out of you in damaging ways that can actually take decades to reverse.

Example: growing up, my dad (who has since reformed in a HUGE way) was a massive prick to me. Criticized everything I did/wore/was/whathaveyou always. Every day. Every time he saw me.

Now there's a benefit to that, in that that (along with the usual school bullying, tho really only in middle school - high school was pretty cool) forced me to develop my "comeback wit" and sharpen the hell out of it.

There's also a huge downside to it that I only really realized I was doing in the last few years. When I walk down the street. Every day. All day long. I anticipate possible verbal conflicts with everyone I pass. And Im not even kidding. It's very very fast-paced: "They would probably say this, so you parry with this. After that, they would probably say this or this, so respond with this, this or this."

It's sort of like that menu screen the Terminator had but its all very quick and in the back of my head.

Part of me likes having that ability, and over the years Ive tried sanding off the edges to make it less of an offensive tool and more of an innocent type of fun-making, but I cannot tell you how many personal relationships over the years have been doomed because of how that environment wired me.

And that doesnt even get in to the school bullying, which left me with a low self image that I am still working through.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:04 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


That is, if the police actually took juvenile assault charges seriously.

Oh they do.
As long as the juveniles are assaulting an adult.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:06 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]




Data Point: In all the schools I went to in Both Houston and Oklahoma, though I was bullied (much more in Houston), it was never because of my academic achievements, and in fact I never saw anything disparaging ever done because of someone being smart in either place.

To be honest, I'm curious about my Ten Year reunion coming up in a few weeks, but I'm not going for three reasons:

1. Barely have enough money as is without blowing a significant amount on a fun-filled vacation to Bartlesville.
2. I'm pretty sure they all have kids now, and that's just not a conversation I can spend a weekend having three dozen or more times over.
3. I'm more than a little afraid to have my own Liz Lemon moment there, because as much fun as I had in High School, I must have pissed off more than a few people. I was never malicious that I recall, but I was cocky and certainly thoughtless.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:23 PM on July 17, 2009


kirkcarcha: I played football and was on the school newspaper. Not everyone fits the dichotomy.

By the time HS rolled around, most of the really serious jocks & jockettes had stopped being status-conscious weenies. That is, the ones that were actually good athletes. W.r.t. the ones that I actually knew, they seemed to have found something they were more interested in caring about. (There were still status-weenie-jocks, but they were more like the status-weenie-non-jocks than they were like other jocks.) I think credit goes to a mix of things: It was the '70s and people didn't care as much about status (or so it seemed to me then); and we had a few teachers, like the wrestling coach (a John Irving fanatic) who didn't tolerate bad behavior, or the loveably goofy latin teacher who had a strange talent for appealing to athletes.

In jr high, though, most of these same jocks had been major league assholes.

I remember at the time thinking how strange it was. All we'd done was move a half mile down the road to a different building -- all the same people -- yet many of us treated each other differently.
posted by lodurr at 3:27 PM on July 17, 2009


the summer before I started I essentially made myself over physically...I ended up with tons of friends and invitations and guys who were actually interested in me for real and not as a prank. It was awesome that it was so easy but also kind of depressing, when you think about it.

I don't think so. It's superficial to only be interested in people who are pretty while not caring about the person behind it (and that happens), but that's probably not what happened in your case - more likely, the rest of you made the grade in spades, but you were neglecting social graces like appearance just enough to hold you back. Like a guy with a great personality but bad personal hygiene; there are plenty of other guys who have great personality AND great hygiene, so if he doesn't bother with the hygiene, that people gravitate to those with both doesn't imply that they don't value personality, it means that fully developed people are more appealing than less functional people.

It may have seemed to you that it was all about appearance because appearance was the only thing you (initially) didn't already have going for you. Change that one little thing and suddenly you're golden.

OTOH, it might have been all about appearance :)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:30 PM on July 17, 2009


>>>why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic achievement?

>>Because we don't value intelligence in the US. Really.

>Think George W. Bush

. . . vs Obama.

A third of this country aint' gonna vote for the guy who throws like a girl. Yes, these are the morons among us.
posted by @troy at 3:30 PM on July 17, 2009


Man, I'm so glad my class didn't get their shit together for the 10-year, because my lone remaining HS friend is scary and said she'd drag me, and I'd rather not go unless I could do it Don Simpson-style.

Back to this guy, "forgiveness" doesn't seem like enough of a reason to me for this guy to revisit the mental hell. I say good for him for not going, and also for putting his geek kid into karate. If I were going to spawn, I'd do the same thing (I started being bulled on day one of kindergarten) and get the kid in ASAP. If you're born to be a bully target, it's best to know you can take care of yourself if you have to, I think.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:37 PM on July 17, 2009


To stay bitter about 2 decade old offends and insults, real or imagined is not impressive mental hygiene.
I guess I missed the part where the author tried to impress you.
posted by Flunkie at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


My own experience was very similar, and my 10 year high school reunion is in 7 days. I really have no interest in going. I'm pretty sure that the people I did like and I hung around with won't be going there anyway, so what incentive is there? Should I chat with Dahl, Robbie and whoever the third guy was, who beat the hell out of me for kicks during lunch hour and left me bleeding on the soccer field about "glory days"? Should I reenact wedgies? Should I try and chat up the girls who (literally) spat at me in the hallways?

What a pointless concept.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:51 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't want anyone tied to me, especially not at a high school reunion.
posted by anthill at 4:06 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


High School reunions aren't a pointless concept - I think it just depends on your situation. The guy in the article was a victim of terrible physical and psychological abuse that would reasonably give rise to symptoms of PTSD. He doesn't want to go, he wants to write about his experiences, and all of that is perfectly sensible. But if your high school experience was merely awful, I think it can be really amazing. I was never cool in school, but I went to my ten year and I'm so glad I did - not just because I had a great time, but because it put the whole experience of adolescence (which takes up a lot of real estate in most of our brains) in a new perspective.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2009


If he'd moved on there would be no blog post to discuss. He hasn't moved on at all.

I'm not sure that writing a blog post and trying to make sure his kid doesn't get bullied means that he hasn't moved on at all. Moving on (or "forgiving" or what have you) isn't synonymous with forgetting everything bad that happened or failing to have any emotional reaction to past events; I rather think that it's possible to be angry at your mistreatment (when it comes up) because it was unjust, and yet to simultaneously live a life where that anger is a minor and very infrequent part of an otherwise satisfying existance.

Life's too short to go looking for assholes. I've got a busy and fulfilling life, and I've got plenty of smart, creative, funny, and all around reasonable people to spend my time with. My high school experiences (with a bunch of kids who hurt me pretty deeply via non-physical bullying) don't affect me much today. I don't go to sleep cursing those kids. I've got a full and varied life, and it's not worth my while to obssess over it; it's also not worth my while to waste my time, money, and emotional energy to go rooting around the past to see if they have changed. If people ask about my high school years, I'm not going to sugar coat them: they were miserable, I had no friends until I reached college, and it was very hard for me to trust anyone for a long time. No amount of forgiveness is going to change that, and it's silly to pretend otherwise. Which sounds bitter, and perhaps it is, but it's a minisicule part of my life these days, and seeking people (or information about people) out in order to forgive them wouldn't change how the past shaped me, or what I plan to do in the future. By any reasonable standard, I've moved on.

My impression is that the guy's in a similar state: he's not particularly interested in confronting the past for some big cathartic confrontation or reconciliation. Part of his life was miserable, and he's not going to pretend it wasn't, but it's the past, and he has no desire to get embroiled in dealing with that stuff for any reason. Beyond dealing with bizarre friend requests from former tormentors and trying to make sure his kid won't end up in the same position he did, I don't get the sense that he otherwise dwells on it or seeks out any kind of confrontation related to it. The anger's got a place in his life, but it's a small place, a place apart.

Honestly, dwelling on the past to the point where you yourself need to seek out people (or information about them) to confront or reconcile or forgive - that, to me, sounds much more like an inability to move on and let the past be past.
posted by ubersturm at 4:17 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


But because I can hardly imagine a more colossal waste of time than to attend.

This.


Also, they have 25 year reunions now? Have things changed that much in the past 5 years?
posted by madajb at 4:21 PM on July 17, 2009


I really have no interest in going. I'm pretty sure that the people I did like and I hung around with won't be going there anyway, so what incentive is there?

It took me longer than ten years after highschool to figure this out (I'm slow), but I've noticed that while it's easier to keep doing what you're doing, there are some people who are far more likely to say "um, ok... count me in!" whenever presented with some random weird option to do something that is outside what they normally do.

Almost without exception, their lives are enviable as a result. Maybe the reunion would suck, maybe you'll hit if off with someone who turns out to have ambitions in an area you're interested in yourself, you'll join together and eventually cure cancer. Who knows?
There's one way to find out, and plenty of ways to never know.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This dude should be watching the current season of Big Brother. It's all about cliques: The Athletes, The Brains, The Offbeats and The Populars.
posted by ericb at 4:44 PM on July 17, 2009


There really does need to be a distinction made between "teasing, swirlies, and wedgies" and "getting the shit beat out of you on a regular basis" There are some kids whose school experience is such that if it happened in the home, they'd be removed. But we excuse it as "kids will be kids" and nobody comes to their defense.

When you're physically abused in the home, as you grow up, most people would probably push you towards some sort of therapy to deal with the trauma. It's widely known and understood that getting beat as a child is damaging. Period. Why do we try so hard to pretend that it matters who does the beating? Somehow if the beatings come at the hands of other children it's ok? You just have to magically "get over it"?

With help, it takes a long time to heal the wounds of childhood abuse. Without help...good luck. Usually people find help through trying to fix some other problem. Bad relationships, anxiety, substance abuse, anger management, etc. But a lot of people are just kind of forced to swallow it, and that sucks. So good for this guy for speaking up.

Even if you get over it, you still have the right to look back, and rightfully call bullshit

As to the griping about the karate...so what. Is he trying to turn his kids into mini Chuck Norris killing machines? Probably not. I'm guessing they'll learn the confidence that he never was taught. That's a good thing.

If you ask me, the most important lesson in all of this is that none of us is born with a complete set of tools. Some tools are valued so much by society that a kid learns to get by with what he naturally has. Some deficiencies can be masked enough to get a kid by until they round out their life's education. Some deficiencies we just assume everyone should have, and never think to give that kid the extra help they need. Some kids need physical education just as much as other kids need a math tutor. Unfortunately P.E. in most schools is where these brutal pecking orders are enforced.

I was lucky. I endured some pretty bad situations in my 6th grade year. The next year, I was in a different school, my parents put me in Pop Warner football. I sucked at football, but for the first time in my young life I learned to turn my head off and deal with my body. And it made a difference in how I carried myself. I also learned how not to be afraid of getting hurt. Which makes a big difference in how you deal with the world around you. And while I didn't realize it was therapy at the time, I spent an hour a week after school with a "tutor" who spent way more time talking to me about how I felt than with my homework. People who know me now find it unbelievable that I was ever a victim of bullying, because in addition to having great parents, somehow I hit puberty and the universe decided "hey, just for kicks, lets give that skinny short kid with the coke-bottle glasses the body of a linebacker". After that I could win all the spelling bees I wanted. I had problems in HS, but getting picked on wasn't one of them.
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:46 PM on July 17, 2009


If someone purposefully broke my finger in front of a jeering crowd, I would not forgive, nor would I forget. I don't understand the majority of responses here. He hadn't mentioned it until ghosts from his past started getting electronically buddy-buddy, so yeah, it's going to be in his thoughts ... it's clearly not the picture some of you are painting.

As far as going to a reunion in general is concerned, it should be looked at as an anthropological field trip in which you get to see a large amount of people instantly age 10+ years. If you're not going, see if you can pick up any of the photos from the event -- it's educational.
posted by user92371 at 4:47 PM on July 17, 2009


I find it's best when reading "Good Math, Bad Math" to stick to the good math posts.

"Even when I shot up in height, to nearly 5 foot eleven between junior and senior year, I weighed under 120 pounds."

So things would have been better if he weighed more?

"Ya know, this smacked of one of those long posts people do right before they leave a fandom."

EPIC ARTICLE: Flounce
posted by Eideteker at 4:49 PM on July 17, 2009


Maybe this is Diablevert's This American Life link?
posted by hippybear at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2009


I thought it was interesting, at my 20 year, there was one gentleman who had killed himself in the intervening years. The story I received was incomplete, but I was left with the impression that he was unable to reconcile the playboy image he had created for himself during high school with his later realization that he wanted to do it with outies instead of innies.

I never have verified this, but the bits and pieces I've gathered seem to verify that.

posted by hippybear at 4:58 PM on July 17, 2009


"Even when I shot up in height, to nearly 5 foot eleven between junior and senior year, I weighed under 120 pounds."
So things would have been better if he weighed more?
I fail to see why it would be inconceivable. Even in this thread, there's been a person who said that he was too big to be bullied.

Being 120 pounds certainly didn't help.
posted by Flunkie at 4:59 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


This article was particularly poignant to me, not due to my own high school bullying experience, but because I'm a father to an almost 5-year-old boy with Autism who will be starting kindergarten this fall. When I see him interact with other (typical) children his age, as much progress as he's made since his first diagnosis, there is no denying that he acts different and he's reached the age where other kids are starting to notice. I keep hoping that his school experience will be as "normal" as possible, that other kids will understand he's different but still play with him and like him and include him anyway without teasing, but my own school experience, seeing how kids who are outside the mainstream tend to be treated, makes me realize that this is as much fantasy as hoping he learns how to fly.
posted by The Gooch at 5:12 PM on July 17, 2009


Gooch, at least where I used to live the elementary school kids were unbelievably kind to kids with mental and cognitive disabilities. Honestly, they were nicer to those kids than I am. It was pretty humbling. Kindergarten might be hard but the numbered grades should be OK. At least, I hope the kids in your area are as nice as the kids I see.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on July 17, 2009


“Some kids end up with PTSD it is so bad. You know, the thing that Iraqi war vets get because people are trying to kill them and so they're in a constant state of stress and tension? Or because they see little kids blown to bits or their buddies shot in front of them? Yeah, that PTSD.”
Been picked on as a kid. Been in combat. Not to marginalize abuse, but it’s a little bit different, ok.

“Really, so often this current vogue for "forgiveness" looks like blaming the victim. The victim is the one that's got to do the work. "You've got to forgive."
Or let it fuck up your life, yeah.

“Let's try a thought experiment: Suppose you have a child who is abused by her neighbor. Do we expect her to forgive him?...And if you say 'yes', are you saying that's because it will be good for her?”
Forgiveness is for you, not them. You let it go because it’s harmful to hold on to anger rather than accepting it and moving on. Why let someone else influence your actions? Why give them that power? Or worse - why give the ghost of their memory that power? Better to come to terms with it. Doesn't mean you have to overcompensate the other way of course.

“Fuck that. He doesn't have to forgive or forget anything from these people and that doesn't make him a terrible person or doom him to a horrible life.”
Just like the happy-go-lucky folks in the middle east.

“I was sort of hoping to see what he's doing now, as he was my benchmark for how those jocks turn out.”
Yeah, athletes, what horrible scum they are that they should be doomed to miserable lives. It’s such a shame that no other group of human beings act cruelly. It’s good we exploit them into following the low return tournament odds of getting into pro-sports and neglect their education (hey, they’re ‘stupid’ they deserve it, amirite!?). Of course, *cough* it’s wrong if they’re minorities.

“Even if (especially if) you were a nerd, know with 100% certainty that you probably regularly hurt somebody's feelings and internalized their subsequent rejection as bullying.”
Thank You.

“Any geeky kid who knows or claims to know karate needs to be taught a lesson in humility. Give me any 3 football players from any high school in the country and they will easily take him down, black belt or not.”

Well, I’ll grant that this guy seems to have put his kid into karate for the wrong reasons. I don’t know that he would or wouldn’t have made the same choice were he not bullied, but it seems that this is the reason why he did it. Which, I agree with folks above, is a mistake. Martial arts is ok. But anything done the way he seems to be doing it would get spoiled.

As to the other: when I was a kid I read comics. Did well in grade school. Pretty much kept to myself. Had anger problems growing up so one of my uncles who had spent most of his life studying physical combat decided to train me. In the meantime my dad coached my football team. My anger issues got worse when he died, but I kept playing ball and training, and hanging out with my geek buddies who read comics and enjoyed school (which I got worse at, obviously). Spent most of my youth fighting on behalf of my geekier pals, and others in general. I just hated to see people get picked on.
But they were just as cliquish and catty and cruel as any other clique if not moreso. They’d make fun of my football friends as brainless and my stoner friends as stupid more than either had time or energy to. So they could be hurtful. Of course, that was mostly the hangers on, not the core. In each group I’d hang with, jocks, geeks, stoners, there were people who were passionate and didn’t have time for other b.s. Mostly those were my close friends. Guys who really liked to train and play, the guys who really got into serious concepts and intellectual discussion, the guys who were passionate about metal and punk (and altered states of consciousness) and being counterculture. Always seemed like the guys with time on their hands were the ones who caused trouble whatever/whomever they were attached to.

But I digress - humility. I was at a party. Guy on the team threw beer on one of my nerdy acquaintances. I’d known both of them most of my life. The jock I didn’t like. He’d fake being hurt in the pee wee leagues so we called him Tweety (I bwoke my widdle head). But he took roids, got big, blah de blah. So I yelled. He yelled. Various girls tried to break it up. Typical party fight stuff. So he pushes me and I opened a whole case of hurt on him. From my POV, I’m a big hero. I stood up for my buddy. He pushed me first. All that. Well, he wound up in the hospital and, I find out later, my guy had been giving him crap about his brother, who had committed suicide a few months before. After that I was a social pariah for some time. But then, no one knew where I was coming from either, and that I didn’t know what had happened before that.

There’s something there to be said about violence and cruelty and appearances. But the big thing is – you don’t know everything going on in other people’s lives, their perspectives, all that. Recognizing that, is humility. And it does help you avoid doing harm if you act from there instead of looking for revenge or action.

Hell, give me 2 geeks on pharmaceutical anti-depressants in black trenchcoats and they’ll easily take out any 34-odd students and teach the whole country a lesson in humility, but one upmanship in violence is the kind of thing we’d like to avoid in school no?

“This guy got held down and had his fingers broken in front of a laughing crowd. Cringe-making? Sure. Awkwardness? I'd say it goes a bit farther than awkwardness, personally.”
Y’know, that’s the big thing for me. Where were this guy’s parents? I get a call from the hospital and my kid has broken fingers from some kids in school, someone’s going to jail. Whether it’s for assault or gross negligence, someone’s ass is going to sting, there’s no excuse for that, and I’d likely have a few words with the other kid’s parents as well if not the local newspaper and the school board.

Maybe that’s why this guy is putting his kid into karate. Far be it for me to say you don’t need to get your own back. But it seems like this guy feels that’s the only way to address bullying. And it certainly isn’t. What about the kids who don’t take karate, they supposed to fend for themselves? It’s not enough that his kid is ‘tough’ – and I guarantee if he’s not one of those “oh, not MY kid. If MY kid hit yours he had a good reason” parents, he soon will be if that attitude remains - what’s necessary is that the environment is as engaging and supportive as possible in order to prevent bullying. Both for the bully and the people they lay displaced aggression onto.

The fact of the thing isn’t enough. You should know why. Maybe the bully is getting beat on at home. And yeah, while the kid he beats on might think “good,” if it didn’t happen, he wouldn’t be looking to pound on someone.
Reason enough to think and investigate before reacting.

High school was ok for me. I did have a lot of fun, and the friends I had then I still have. But reunions? Who's got time for that bullshit?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:18 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


A good friend of mine was a bully in high school. He ashamedly admitted this to me after a few drinks one night. A lot of people still hate his guts. And he hates himself for it.

I was only bullied in junior high, and part of a pretty awesome geek group in high school.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:47 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


147 comments about why some dude should or shouldn't go to his high school reunion, nobody wins
posted by doobiedoo at 5:59 PM on July 17, 2009


Wow. I think it's safe to say this topic has touched a nerve in everybody. I'm a former yearbook editor, winter formal queen, all that crap, and still the only way I got convinced to go to my 20th reunion was when a coworker who had just come back from his 30th said, "You know, the great thing is by now, everybody has been beaten down in life by something."

High school is horrible enough without getting your fingers broken by a laughing mob. I think it would be beautiful if he could forgive these people at this stage in his life, but I don't think he's required to.
posted by queensissy at 6:03 PM on July 17, 2009



“This guy got held down and had his fingers broken in front of a laughing crowd. Cringe-making? Sure. Awkwardness? I'd say it goes a bit farther than awkwardness, personally.”
Y’know, that’s the big thing for me. Where were this guy’s parents?


He talks about this in comment #44. Says they pitched a fit but stopped short of filing a lawsuit. Doesn't say that anyone ever tried calling the police, though.
posted by dilettante at 6:10 PM on July 17, 2009


The proper answer to "Are you coming to the reunion?" is "No." Not "HOW COULD YOU EVEN ASK THAT YOU ASSHOLES GOD I HATE ALL OF YOU FUCKS!"

Okay, but he's saying the conversation is more like this:

"Are you coming to the reunion?"
"No."
"Are you coming to the reunion?"
"no."
"Hi, remember me? Coming to the reunion?"
"No, I don't remember you, and no, I'm not coming to the reunion."
"Hi, are you coming to the reunion?"
"Who are you, and no, I'm not coming."
"Hey! Remember me from gym class? Are you coming to the reunion?"
"Yes, I remember you from breaking my fingers in gym class, but no, I'm not coming to the reunion."
"You coming to the reunion?"
"no."
"Hey, I heard you're not coming to the reunion -- that's not true, is it, you're coming, right?"
"no I'm not."
"Are you coming to the reunion?"
"no."
"Will I see you at the reunion?"
"No."
"Are you coming to the reunion?"
"No."
"I'll see you at the reunion, right?"
"OH MY GOD ARE NONE OF YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME FOR THE LAST TIME NO I AM NOT COMING, OKAY???"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


The fact of the thing isn’t enough. You should know why. Maybe the bully is getting beat on at home. And yeah, while the kid he beats on might think “good,” if it didn’t happen, he wouldn’t be looking to pound on someone.

If the bully didn't pound on you, you wouldn't have been pounded.

Seriously, what exactly do you tell the kids who ARE just minding their own business and a bully whales on them? "oh, you have to excuse little Timmy, he's a problem child, just suck it up when he pulls your pants down in front of the whole lunchroom"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Never trust anyone who enjoyed high school.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:07 PM on July 17, 2009 [11 favorites]



There is no end to the violations committed by children on children, quietly talking alone.
- Elizabeth Bowen.

I got my nose broke by a bully in high school, had it pretty rough, though sadly not the roughest. Was lucky enough to get some closure whilst in there however.

The worst bullies to me personally were these droogs on the bus. Living a long way from town meant the bus took 45 minutes to get to school, and I couldn't imagine 45 minutes that could be any worse, thanks to these dumb, insecure thugs.

Interestingly, it was mostly not physical, just constant abuse, dead flies mashed into my (then long) hair, etc. etc. Standard Operating Procedure that was sadly not confined to me, but stretched to encompass most of the smaller people on the bus, even the girl who had Down's Syndrome and was in primary school.

Many complaints to the high school administration were ignored or downplayed - an all too typical reaction I have no reason to believe has changed. Finally, I had had enough, and starting sifting about in my mind for a solution. Inspiration mercifully struck.

Whilst these bullies hated me with a passion, I had a friend who caught the bus one day a week who was rather tough, and they were always sucking up to him. The bus also stopped at a railway station halfway along the trip, and these two facts were foundation for the perfect plan.

One day on the trip, I got my friend to purchase a coke at the railway station. He drunk half, and then surreptitiously passed the can to me, and I poured about 150 mls of Ipecac Syrup in. Ipecac syrup is what they used to give you when you ate rat poison or whatever. It's a blisteringly powerful emetic, guaranteed to make the most powerful stomach empty in under ten minutes. The bus was still about twenty-five minutes away from school at this stage.

My friend said he didn't feel well, would the bullies like the rest of his coke? Gleefully, they drunk all the coke in about thirty seconds, whilst I - almost paralysed by hysterics - sat back and waited for the fireworks.

Five minutes in they started getting pretty pale. Then - gloriously - the "vomit hands" started coming up. They were gagging, lurching forward but nothing coming out yet. Our bus route passed through a very bumpy, twisty area 3/4 into the trip called The Icebox. I knew there was no way they could get through that stretch of route without blowing chunks.

Sure enough, we hit the icebox, and they were starting to dribble a little, looking at each other, terrified, eyes like saucers, confused, nervous and very very nauseous. The bus hit a large pothole, and Tim, bully number 1, went off like Old Faithful. Vomit poured out of his mouth like a molasses avalanche. The biege tide of chewed up cereal poured down his chin, over his uniform and into a turgid pool on his lap. Everyone in the bus was mesmerised by what had happened. This seeming invincible tryant was covered in his own spew, horrified and embarrassed.

Of course, the sight of all this half-digested breakfast sent Justin, bully number 2, off. The vomit flew out of his mouth like a spray nozzle, coating his pants, school bag, and odious friend in a fine mist of masticated toast. It smelled horrendous, and yet the almost piquant, bitey scent seemed magical to me.

The whole bus was enthralled. I was now laughing so hard I thought I would pull a muscle in the my throat. But the theatre didn't stop there: ipecac does a thorough job, for the remainder of the trip those boys hacked up every last particle in their stomachs and kept dry-retching whilst everyone else in the bus scooted as far away from them as they could. These bullies were the ultimate unclean now. They went straight home as soon as they got to school.

I'm pleased to say I was considered a hero. I didn't even try to deny it, and was happy to go to the office for the inevitable confrontation with the vice and principal. Under their outraged questioning (I was a "good" student"), I calmly pointed out that I had brought this issue to their attention multiple times, and they had done nothing, I had no other recourse, and that they were lucky I simply made the boys throw up, rather than something more drastic.

They couldn't even suspend me. I was expecting at least that, and had told my mother that morning in a pre-emptive strike, she wasn't bothered at all, and actually seemed proud of me.

Without a doubt, it was the funniest thing I have ever seen, and also the thing I'm most proud of in my high school years. The school bus was never the same thereafter; a happier place, with a notably silent area 3/4 of the way back, where two bullies huddled together that day on.
posted by smoke at 7:20 PM on July 17, 2009 [66 favorites]



They couldn't even suspend me.


These days you'd not only be expelled, you'd probably be arrested. Note that they wouldn't be arrested for attacking you constantly. It's part of keeping the kids in line: turn a blind eye to the abuse and then punish harshly anyone caught fighting back. This isn't always the case but certainly at my school anyone caught fighting would be suspended at best and no lousy excuse like "he started punching me and I had no way to escape" mattered.

Slipping a kid a substance like ipecac... yeah that would not go over well.
posted by Justinian at 7:40 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Big fuss not needed. Don't like treatment from school in the past? Why write about it? Just ignore and move on.
posted by Postroad at 8:08 PM on July 17, 2009


He sounds angry.

I didn't go because I didn't care, but... there are things that just have to be let go.
posted by porpoise at 8:25 PM on July 17, 2009


My brother: I'm being bullied at school.
Mom: Try to talk to him or go tell your teacher.
Dad: Kick his ass.

The latter prevailed!
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:39 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I went to my 10 year high school reunion, experienced some wonderful schadenfreude and told myself I was so over it. But actually, I've enjoyed catching up with some high school people on Facebook. Others I just don't care about.

The one who jumped up and down on my face during a kickball game in elementary school doesn't Facebook much, but his wife does, and she's a friend. I'd actually pretty much forgotten that incident until this made me think "Well, at least I was never physically tortured" which then got me to thinking that actually I was, though in grade school rather than high school.

The kid who broke my nose a couple years later isn't on Facebook so far as I know, and I expect I wouldn't care to be his friend if he was, though it has less to do with him having broken my nose 25 years ago, and more to do with the fact that we almost certainly have nothing whatsoever in common these days. We didn't then, either, besides very similar street addresses.

I still can't decide if I'm over high school.

I think I may still enjoy feeling superior to those people a little too much. If I was really over it, really, truly over it, I wouldn't get so much pleasure from knowing that many of the people who put me through hell haven't moved much past high school.

On the other hand, if I wasn't at least a little bit over it, I wouldn't be able to derive any pleasure from knowing that some of them actually have grown up and moved on.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:44 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Big fuss not needed. Don't like treatment from school in the past? Why write about it? Just ignore and move on.

...

There are things that just have to be let go.


Yeah. And would those damn rape victims shut up and let it go already? Jesus I'm tired of reading about it.
posted by Justinian at 8:56 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think he's answering the wrong question when they ask "are you coming to the reunion?" There's only one reason they're friending him. The answer he needs to give is "No, I can't get you a job at Google, we only hire the best and the brightest, and you are neither."
posted by aninom at 9:17 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


He sounds angry.

Well, yes, they broke his fingers. And put burning swastikas on his lawn. And so on. Really, is it a terrible thing to be angry when something happens that reminds you of how you were tormented and abused as a kid? What's the right response? "Well, I'm sure the kid who broke my fingers had a bad family life, so really, it's OK that he broke my fingers?" "Yeah, the guy who sent me a facebook message about the great times we had together as kids was the one who burned a swastika on my front lawn, but I'm sure that was just his way of showing affection?" Are such forced attempts to play down one's natural moral indignation to injustice and cruelty really healthier than simply leaving the past in the past (admitting but not focusing on the pain it caused you) and building a good life for yourself and your kids?

Honestly: getting pissed off at the bizarre hypocrisy of your former abusers trying to treat you like an old friend is totally reasonable. Sitting at home every night, eaten up by hate, chanting the names of the kids who tormented you 25 years ago, not so much - but that's not what he's doing. It sounds like he'd moved on and been living a damn decent life. A series of weird messages from his former classmates/bullies (approaching him, not the other way 'round) brought the past back to his attention, he got sick of it and made a statement about why he's angry at their lack of remorse for how they treated him and why he thus feels no need to deal with these people. When the 25th reunion furor dies down and they stop bugging him, he'll presumably return to his happy daily life and put it behind him again. What's so unhealthy about that?
posted by ubersturm at 9:20 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think that anyone has said that there is a "right" response. I don't think that being angry at people who tormented you 25 years ago is an ideal response, but that doesn't mean I think it's wrong.
posted by blucevalo at 9:52 PM on July 17, 2009


I signed up for Facebook just this year, a couple of months ago, for career reasons. I hadn't before, simply because I had no desire to re-connect with people from my high-school, which I believed was all anyone ever used it for. I was no-kidding nuts in an uncomfortable way in elementary, middle and high-school, and I really didn't want a reminder of how alienating and agonizing the experience was. I didn't understand my peers, my peers didn't understand me, and every day was war and horror.

I don't need to forgive and forget that shit. I got to remember, and keep the hate sharp, because the kind of crazy I was seems to run in our family, and I will need this to understand what my own kids will be going through.

The good news is that my inbox overflows with invites from my old BBS and Rocky Horror and Gaming Club buddies from my college years... now those were some good people, and re-connecting is awesome.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:28 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most people don't really change a lot over time. They just learn to coat their ugliness with a thick layer of social convention. Mr. Chu-Carroll is a perceptive man.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:16 AM on July 18, 2009


Been picked on as a kid. Been in combat. Not to marginalize abuse, but it’s a little bit different, ok.

Sure they're different. Unless you were drafted, you chose to be in combat. You were trained to fight and you had means to do so. You had comrades-in-arms who fought with you, and a support structure designed to enable you to do so. Furthermore, you probably possessed an ideology which justified combat to yourself. You were risking pain and suffering with the goal of protecting or serving your country.

Is combat horrific? Yes, no doubt. However—

People who are physically and mentally abused to the level of severe damage (broken bones, psychosomatic effects, burns, cuts, etc.) have it worse. They didn't choose it, they usually have no power with which to retaliate, they have nobody who faces the torment with them, and the support structures are, if anything, turned against them. Worst of all, a victim of this sort of cruelty has no psychological defense. There is no reason he is suffering. There is no hope in it, no purpose. Every day becomes a torment and he dreads it. When he lies down to sleep, he dreads waking up the next morning because he will be going to school to face his tormentors; when he wakes, he dreads school; when he is at school, he dreads the periods in which his tormentors have access to him. Now, what if his home life is also dysfunctional? That means that after he gets past school, he has to dread going home as well.

Suicide has killed more young people than Iraq and Afghanistan combined since those wars began.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:01 AM on July 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


A Terrible Llama: Somehow, the worst part of that isn't that you broke up with her by leaving a note on her windshield, it's that it was a Post-It.

Tell me about it. I couldn't even be bothered by writing out a longer letter detailing my reasons. I think I had room for 20-25 words and that's it


You could have just put a circle with the word "YOU" inside it and a line through it. Someone should just print a bunch of those so high school boys unsure how to break up with their girlfriends could just stick them on their lockers or whatever.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:10 AM on July 18, 2009


My parents moved me to a different town before I started 7th grade - putting me right smack in the middle of a horde of already formed cliques from the 6-7-8th grades packed into the middle school.

Things were so bad on the bus ride - spitting in my hair, threats of violence, tripping, "No you can't sit here loser", etc... - that I would often have excruciating stomach pains, just from being so stressed out. I made up a sad little song that I would sing to myself (silently), just to focus on something else.

"I want to go home, to where my friends live/
That is where I want to be/
I want to go home."

Over, and over, and over. I know it's silly.

This continued for the rest of middle school, and through my junior year in high school, until I accidentally discovered that by not giving a shit anymore, that somehow made me "cooler." I enjoyed a brief flush of attending events with the popular kids, until I saw it for what it was - pure horse shit.

I left town about a month after graduation, lived overseas, did pretty well in my career, and had lots of great adventures. I don't care if I never see those fuckers again in my lifetime. (well, at least 95% of them.) Once was quite enough. Plus, I don't care about their stupid golf "benefit outings," their trips to Applebee's, what their numerous ridiculous children are doing, how great their new deck/grill is, how fucking high-larious the "girls" all acted on a ladies' night out ... I do not care. And when they try to friend me, it gives me no small amount of pleasure to hit that ignore button. Fuck 'em.
posted by HopperFan at 3:16 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


He who angers you controls you.

And that's all that I want from you. Stay the fuck away from me. I don't want to hear about your lives. I don't want to know how you've changed since high school. I don't want to hear about your jobs, your spouses, your children. I've got a good life now, and I cannot imagine a reason in the world why I would pollute that world with contact with any of you.

Seems angry to me.
posted by bwg at 3:48 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


This: Nice trip to her home town, but she didn't really get anything out of the reunion itself.

That's the thing with highschool reunions. Now, this blogger experienced not bullying but criminal assault and both his parents and school authorities are hugely culpable for not doing something at the time (if indeed they didn't, we have only his word for it). I think what he's missing though is that the people who are contacting him might also have been in fear of these people and felt helpless to help him-- the school authorities, not to mention every adult he came in contact with apparently-- were hanging him out to dry, and these criminals were breaking his fingers for god's sake! Inasmuch as we have established that everyone is a scared pussy in highschool, I find it sad but not that surprising that no one came to his aid. The authorities weren't helping him, actual physical terror was involved, so the kids stayed out of it. Perhaps not excusable but understandable. Kids learn from the adult example. These adults behaved badly, the kids copied their bad behavior and ignored it.

I think he needs to contact one of the people who have reached out and ask them-- why didn't you help me.
posted by nax at 5:01 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I thought this comment from the site was interesting:
Wow - I'm so surprised that this happens in real life. I guess it's just something that I have seen on TV. I'm from Malaysia, and have never been bullied. In fact, I was one of the popular ones in school.

Scoring 100% in a Math test makes you a mini-celebrity and getting high grades and scores makes you more popular, not less. I don't understand why people would be ostracized for being intelligent?
Sure, the author admits some of his behaviors may have made him an easy target, but why is there a stigma (for lack of a better term) attached to intelligence & scholastic acheivement?


An excellent question I have often asked myself. I was very, very lucky: I grew up abroad (my father was a Foreign Service officer), and at the international school I went to in Japan for the crucial grades 7 through 9, I too "was one of the popular ones in school"—I won't even say "despite my good grades," because we all respected good grades. It wasn't quite so idyllic at Lincoln High in Buenos Aires—I was definitely considered a social misfit and didn't have many friends—but I was respected and nobody tried to do bad things to me. I can't imagine how I would have turned out had I had to suffer through a typical U.S. grade-school and high-school experience.

Why is there a stigma attached to intelligence and scholastic acheivement? Damned if I know, but it's not doing this country any good.

Oh, and you people who are mocking or condemning the author of this piece for not having "gotten over it" should try to get over your own smugness and lack of empathy.
posted by languagehat at 6:24 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Most people don't really change a lot over time. They just learn to coat their ugliness with a thick layer of social convention.

For example, look at AutoAdmit, a "network of websites for prospective and current college, graduate, law students, and lawyers." Sounds like it would be full of articulate, thoughtful, mature adults, right? Or at least, a good representation of adults who may attend his reunion?

But when traveling in packs and posting anonymously about the article we are discussing, here's a sample of what they offer:
"Christ, what a loser."

"I thought this was literally about our High School dweeb who suffered many of the same things. I recently became friends with him on FB and he appears to still be a huge dork."

"Two words: I'M FAT."

"HAWT"

"He looks like a giant, balding bird with a ponytail."
Remind me again why he should attend the reunion? Because people change after high school, and everyone becomes just so much more mature?
posted by Houstonian at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


blucevalo: I don't think that anyone has said that there is a "right" response.

Funny, that's not at all how I see it.

I see a lot of people getting very exercised about the idea that he "ought to" or even "needs to" "forgive".

That sounds a lot like a "right response" to me.

I see a lot of people who are highly invested in this idea of forgiveness. It makes me suspicious of their motives whenever I see people so highly invested in other people performing what's essentially a moral behavior.
posted by lodurr at 6:56 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find it sad that talking about being a victim of bullying makes one an object of scorn and is considered evidence that the victim has not been able to progress. When we look at someone's desire to talk about an ugly incident from the past as a stigma, it just adds another layer of shame. The wish to share one's own story about the past, itself becomes shameful, implying that the teller is somehow abnormal, perhaps immature, or 'trapped in the past'. I don't think dwelling on the past is good for anyone, but dwelling is different from wanting to share their own experience. And I would hate for anyone to think that relaying a painful experience to me that shows their vulnerability not only at that time, but now as well, would be met with a sneer of derision.

Paradoxical commands (most common example: Be spontaneous!) like 'Be confident' or 'Let it go' are pretty much useless as advice. All they do is condescend.

What evidence is there that he's pushing anything on his kid? All I see is his concern that his son knows how to respond to physical aggression. There's little point in speculating whether that will make his son victorious in schoolyard fights. It might, or it might not. There are other benefits. Namely, knowing that one has a right to defense, and being able to respond to aggression appropriately instead of ruling out any reply in kind. This isn't a psychological complex hoisted from one generation to the next. It's a father broadening his son's education. I suspect it gets some smirks because the father is a white, self described geek. If he was black, or latino, and working class, saying similar things about getting his son in the boxing gym, there wouldn't be any commentary on the supposed immaturity of the father.
posted by BigSky at 6:58 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Namely, knowing that one has a right to defense, and being able to respond to aggression appropriately instead of ruling out any reply in kind.

Right, any decent kids Karate school will be coaching the kids on conflict avoidance. And the kid will likely be in good enough physical condition that he'll never come in for scorn. Inspires discipline, gets a nerdy kid acquainted with his/her body -- if the kid likes it, and it's a responsible school, strikes me as all-good.
posted by lodurr at 7:12 AM on July 18, 2009


If he was black, or latino, and working class, saying similar things about getting his son in the boxing gym, there wouldn't be any commentary on the supposed immaturity of the father.

I think the problem is that the father has his kid in karate, specifically, not that he's teaching him to defend himself. Karate is a nerdy activity, and it just does more to set your kid apart from his peers. A kid who says he knows karate sends the message, "I may be a little geek, but I can beat you up" and all this does is invite every bully to prove him wrong. Even if he's a good enough fighter to defend himself, he's still going to do it using karate, and to the other kids that's going to make him weird. Maybe this isn't right, but it is how people will react to them. Honestly, he'd be better off making his kid play football, so he spends sometime in an activity that will make him seem more, rather than less normal, and maybe build up some strength on the side.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:13 AM on July 18, 2009


I'm 45. When I was a kid, karate was exotic. Now it's bland as boxing: It's that stuff Chuck Norris does in Walker reruns.

There's a lot of assumption that's tied up with the Karate thing, too. We don't know that he "made" his kid do anything. We don't know that the kid's going to brag about anything. We don't know that anybody would pick fights with him if he did -- that's a cliche that I've never personally seen borne out. As I noted, a good, responsible kids karate school is going to be careful to teach the kids about avoiding conflict. They're not all like the school in Karate Kid.

This reminds me of the self-defense/martial arts threads, which i find really instructive but which invariably consist at least 25% of people saying in effect "in a real fight none of this would help you." That's invariably countered by a bunch of experienced-sounding folks coming back with "that's why you don't get into fights." They say that because they learned that through training and experience. Somebody taught them that, or helped them learn it.

I'll wager that the kids who get beat up for "knowing karate" or "knowing kung-fu" are the ones who got it from a book or took a few lessons and dropped out or had a friend show them some moves. 'Cuz they don't know enough not to get into a fight.
posted by lodurr at 7:26 AM on July 18, 2009


A Terrible Llama: Somehow, the worst part of that isn't that you broke up with her by leaving a note on her windshield, it's that it was a Post-It.
Tell me about it. I couldn't even be bothered by writing out a longer letter detailing my reasons. I think I had room for 20-25 words and that's it
You could have just put a circle with the word "YOU" inside it and a line through it. Someone should just print a bunch of those so high school boys unsure how to break up with their girlfriends could just stick them on their lockers or whatever.
You could always go the Homer Simpson route:
Dear Baby,

Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.
posted by Flunkie at 8:14 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was a geek, hung out with geeks... but I was quite good at sport. Champion swimmer in my year one year, but OK at ball sports too.

Oh yeah, and I used to eat shitloads. Constantly.

So the "cool guys" didn't know what to make of me. I was just the weird little geek who was OK at sport who always used to be bloody eating. I didn't exactly straddle the two cultures but I definitely didn't get bullied and was able to say "g'day" to most kids and get a friendly response.

/my $0.02 worth
//GO ME!

posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2009


He who angers you controls you.
Trite.

In reality, he who holds you down while his buddy intentionally breaks your fingers controls you.
posted by Flunkie at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


For example, look at AutoAdmit, a "network of websites for prospective and current college, graduate, law students, and lawyers." Sounds like it would be full of articulate, thoughtful, mature adults, right? Or at least, a good representation of adults who may attend his reunion?

Ummmmmno. Not at all. It sounds like it's going to be populated with 25-year-olds in law school. That would be a very bad representation of 42-year-olds from all walks of life.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


...And one of my landmark reunions was in a hired room upstairs in a pub full of hawt chicks in a very affluent area.

Me and my buddy are pepped up on goofballs [so to speak] and were all "fuck, do we really wanna hang out with a bunch of balding fatties going "Hi. You look good. So what do you do? Kids?" for 5 hours?

We stayed downstairs nearly all night. Saw an excellent fight involving cops and bouncers and lots of action, surrounded by hotties. Then we rocked upstairs with 20 minutes remaining to rawkus applause from 100 or so very drunk people.

I recommend showing up late.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:33 AM on July 18, 2009


> Karate is a nerdy activity, and it just does more to set your kid apart from his peers. A kid who says he knows karate sends the message, "I may be a little geek, but I can beat you up" and all this does is invite every bully to prove him wrong.

Unless, of course, your kid actually knows his shit:

The two Grade 9 students suddenly found themselves front-page news when one of them, a Korean martial arts expert with a black belt, was charged with assault causing bodily harm after he broke the other youth's nose with a left-handed punch.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:49 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is telling to me--yes, it's a bunch of mid-20s law students, but, um, last time I checked people in their mid-20s are considered adults, certainly much more so than adolescents.

Many people really do not change, and many of the dumb assholes we knew in high school are still, in fact, dumb assholes. I try to forgive and be compassionate in my life, they are qualities I value and lead to actions I esteem. However, too much empathy and understanding can also cause a bully/tormentor/asshole never to be held accountable for his/her actions or words, either. I've found that being held accountable is usually the only way someone will learn to stop doing harmful, hateful things to others--if the rude asshole in line at the store is given special, extra-pandering treatment from the manager instead of being thrown out for being so rude, that person has learned that being a rude asshole is effective for their benefit rather than that people, collectively, don't tolerate childish behavior from adults. Etc.

So maybe this:

I think he needs to contact one of the people who have reached out and ask them-- why didn't you help me.

If he does nothing other than make someone aware of past poor behavior, maybe it will cause them a moment's reflection that may become a catalyst for some kind of positive change in how that person treats others going forward. Maybe not. Worth throwing out there as a response that is more potentially productive for all than "fuck these people" or simply ignoring. And there is power in confronting people, even with simple questions that make them empathize with you, albeit waaay after the fact. (But then, I tend toward Pollyannaism, so there you have it.)

And also this:

A Terrible Llama: Somehow, the worst part of that isn't that you broke up with her by leaving a note on her windshield, it's that it was a Post-It.

Tell me about it. I couldn't even be bothered by writing out a longer letter detailing my reasons. I think I had room for 20-25 words and that's it


Lordy, when I think about the dumb ways I broke up with girls as a teenager...I think I did manage to apologize to most down the road, though.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:24 AM on July 18, 2009


I have been eaten alive by various anxiety disorders and attitude problems of mine that refused to yield to my own analysis until, very recently, I finally thought about high school. Again. That was where they were from. And I had shoved them away from my mind because I refused to "be a victim" of high school.

In terms of my personal development, that was like refusing to use Neosporin or Band-aids on a cut because I didn't want to be a victim of bacteria.

My problems weren't from bullying -- I was extremely lucky to spend my four years in an excellent boarding school. They stemmed from the administration's treatment of us, and from [blah blah blah teenagecakes]. But it gave me a keen interest in American high school's problems now.

We lose sight of how totally artificial this problem is. I'm not saying that teenagers were invented, as Phillippe Aries might have, but their suffering in this country surely has been. In the vast majority of communities throughout history, teenagers spent most of their days in the company of persons of all generations. They were apprentices, either to their masters or their mothers, learning trades or keeping house. God knows we don't need more of that, but we need a new paradigm in which teenagers do not learn the rules of society mainly from each other.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:51 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was spared this kind of ridiculous bullshit at my snazzy Jesuit high school, despite being a floridly pretentious humanities nerd. Reading the FPP and ensuing thread accounts remind me of threads about prison rape: What the fucking fuck, United States?
posted by everichon at 11:02 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Trite.

STOP TELLING US THE OBVIOUS! AARGH! PUFF! SNORT!

It was meant to be trite, but that doesn't make it any less true. This guy is angry, and he has every right to be.

On the other hand, maybe writing about it will prove cathartic in some way; about the only measure of control he has at the moment is to tell them all to fuck off.

If it helps him feel better then the bullies will have a lot less control over him than they seem to still exert.
posted by bwg at 11:08 AM on July 18, 2009


I see a lot of people who are highly invested in this idea of forgiveness.

And I see a lot of people who are even more invested in this idea of non-forgiveness.
posted by blucevalo at 11:24 AM on July 18, 2009


But, for those you you who think he needs to move on, I assert that his blog post was indeed a therpeutic step in that direction.

Living well is the best revenge. Those kids are not still persecuting him, they don't even exist. He is now persecuting himself by feeding his anger. He can choose to stop doing that. Forgive and forget -- for your own sake, not for theirs.
posted by binturong at 11:29 AM on July 18, 2009


We lose sight of how totally artificial this problem is.

This is absolutely right--age-segregation is among the worst failings of U.S. public education.
"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."

John Taylor Gatto
posted by LooseFilter at 11:30 AM on July 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Living well is the best revenge. "

The brothers Crane for the the rebuttal:
Frasier: NILES! Niles, get a hold of yourself! Stop it! Stop, stop. It's all right. You're no longer an awkward teenager, you're a renowned psychiatrist. Danny Kreizel may have won a battle or two back in junior high, but that's where he peaked. You won the war. You know the expression, "Living well is the best revenge"?
Niles: It's a wonderful expression. Just don't know how true it is. Don't see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. "Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well."
Frasier: All right, Niles. [heads into the kitchen]
Niles: [follows him] "Whereupon Woton, upon discovering his deception, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act again by living even better than the Duke."
Frasier: Oh, all right!
posted by Mitheral at 11:52 AM on July 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


He is now persecuting himself by feeding his anger. He can choose to stop doing that. Forgive and forget -- for your own sake, not for theirs.

Please read what the author wrote in the comments: He's not bitter, doesn't hate his tormenters, worked through his feelings and thinks karate is about more than self defense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on July 18, 2009


And I see a lot of people who are even more invested in this idea of non-forgiveness.

But we're not trying to tell you that you're somehow deficient for forgiving.

You, on the other hand, are preaching about how deficient these non-forgivers are going to be....
posted by lodurr at 12:38 PM on July 18, 2009


I find this thread really bizarre, to be frank. It's choc full of people who seem to have this powerful need for Dr. Cho to forgive his tormentors. Who are being countered mostly by people saying one or both of "try to understand why he's angry," or "try to accept that his way is not your way."

But these forgivers -- it's not good enough that they've learned to forgive. Everyone's gotta do it.

It's like they feel guilty about and need to get everyone else in on the act or something.
posted by lodurr at 12:41 PM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I see a lot of people who are even more invested in this idea of non-forgiveness.

No -- we're only saying that telling someone "you should totally get over it" never works. You can't just magically tell yourself "right, I'm going to forgive that guy riiiiiiiiiight......NOW!" It is a process, and everyone goes through that process in a different way.

Telling someone "you should just let go of your anger, you're not doing yourself any favors" when they are not completely ready to do so is like telling a woman who's only six months pregnant, "you should just induce your baby now, it'd save you so much trouble." But it doesn't work that ready. The baby will be born when it's ready to be born. The mother will deliver the baby when the baby is ready to be delivered, and when her body is ready to deliver it. But until that time, that woman is still going to be pregnant.

And a person will forgive people when they are ready to forgive them. And until that time, they may look angry about that issue to you. But -- just like a pregnant woman is not always going to be pregnant -- that person is not always going to be angry.

We're not against forgiveness. We're only saying "let the poor guy come to that point in his own time, in his own pace, in his own fashion."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you can't forgive and forget, just forget. I can barely even remember the damn name of my high school, much less the names of (m)any of my former classmates. And good riddance.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:47 PM on July 18, 2009


You, on the other hand, are preaching about how deficient these non-forgivers are going to be....

Where did I "preach" or, actually, say anything that resembles your characterization?
posted by blucevalo at 1:54 PM on July 18, 2009


No -- we're only saying that telling someone "you should totally get over it" never works. You can't just magically tell yourself "right, I'm going to forgive that guy riiiiiiiiiight......NOW!" It is a process, and everyone goes through that process in a different way.

Have I said anything that disagrees with any of what you are saying?
posted by blucevalo at 2:13 PM on July 18, 2009


Where did I "preach" or, actually, say anything that resembles your characterization?

You're right, you didn't. You just completely failed to notice all the people before you who did, when you said it wasn't happening.
posted by lodurr at 2:33 PM on July 18, 2009


Speaking as a former, and current, nerd who was bullied in high school -- although certainly not as badly as the author of the article -- I want to point out something that a lot of people are missing here: It is a completely false dichotomy to assume that either (a) one forgives one's tormentors; or (b) one is constantly filled with uncontrollable rage at your tormentors. In fact, it is perfectly possible, and even advisable, to never forgive those people, while at the same time being completely well-adjusted and at peace.

Let me put it another way. We forgive people that matter to us: If our significant other, or our brother, or parents, do something that angers us, it's worth moving towards forgiveness to maintain a worthwhile relationship. But: If some jock asshole repeatedly slams you into lockers, there is no reason to seek a meaningful relationship with this person. There is no reason for forgiveness, unless you buy into the bizarre notion that lack of forgiveness = all-consuming rage. But that equality is false. Being at peace is not the same as forgiveness; it is often the opposite.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:54 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow you guys sure like seeing black and white when the world is full of grey. Which kind of goes along with the problem we've been discussing.

What amazes me is this grand misperception... I don't think anyone who's found forgiveness for what was done to them by the horrible people who existed in their lives did so automatically. Nobody's saying that. That's ridiculous. We *all* have had to fight with our emotions over the years to find peace within ourselves. It's a process for EVERY HUMAN BEING. We all do the best we can with what we have to work with.

The only thing some of us are saying is that once we finally got to the place where we opened up enough to consider forgiveness -- which has NOTHING to do with FORGETTING, might I add -- we realized in retrospect just how much time wasted and damage we did to ourselves -- and often ONLY ourselves -- by holding onto our anger and bitterness.

There's a ginormous difference between that and telling everyone to get the fuck over their problems.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:27 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You just completely failed to notice all the people before you who did, when you said it wasn't happening.

Okay -- if I'm right, then why did you say that in the first place? I don't understand why you are ascribing to me things that I never did. If I've done something to offend you other than disagree with you, I apologize.
posted by blucevalo at 3:30 PM on July 18, 2009


And also, some of us... okay, well, I... made it clear in my comment that there *were* a few people who, once I allowed myself to view them with fresh and forgiving eyes, were discovered to be ginormous assholes after all who didn't deserve the time of day. Which made me feel great because I realized I had every reason to dislike them when I was a kid, they were just nasty people and I had a brain in my head. Upon realizing the reality of those relationships I was able to let go and no longer held those conflicts inside of myself either... I just went "Okay! Good to know, that wasn't my fault. You just suck and are a miserable human being! So I was right after all! Buh-bye!" End of bitterness. Since those people are worthless to me I let go of that bitterness as well, I realized those people's opinions never should've mattered NEARLY as much as I let them. In the end, I think in those cases they weren't the people deserving forgiveness... I needed to show that forgiveness and kindness towards *myself* by letting go.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:38 PM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


We forgive people that matter to us: If our significant other, or our brother, or parents, do something that angers us, it's worth moving towards forgiveness to maintain a worthwhile relationship. But: If some jock asshole repeatedly slams you into lockers, there is no reason to seek a meaningful relationship with this person.

How is forgiving the same thing as "seeking a meaningful relationship" with someone? Why is it only meaningful or acceptable to forgive someone in order to maintain a relationship with him or her? May I not reasonably forgive someone I will never see, hear from, or interact with again? May I not forgive someone who does not matter to me at all?
posted by blucevalo at 3:40 PM on July 18, 2009


miss lynster et al: How can you be so sure that this "forgiving" that you descrive (I'd call it "letting go" -- "forgiving" is an english word with a specific meaning that doesn't match well IMO with what you describe) is not what Dr. Cho would like to do?

Except that people who don't seem interested in remembering what actually happened keep harrassing him, looking for validation of their (to him) bizarre and wildly inaccurate recollection of the moral events?

Its seems to me that telling the people who are harrassing you to let you the fuck alone is a perfectly valid response to that.
posted by lodurr at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2009


May I not reasonably forgive someone I will never see, hear from, or interact with again? May I not forgive someone who does not matter to me at all?

Why would you?

You assume there is value in that. I for one don't. As miss lynsster put it, sometimes you figure out that they're not worth your further consideration.

If you want to maintain that they should still be forgiven -- then that's a personal view, and I would argue, essentially a religious one. As I've noted, it's not regarded as sound therapeutic practice to ask people to contemplate their abuse. And as I said up-thread, if that works for you -- great. But don't expect it of others. To do so is presumptuous to say the least.
posted by lodurr at 4:14 PM on July 18, 2009


But don't expect it of others. To do so is presumptuous to say the least.

I don't. And I still don't know why you think I do. Again, you seem to be conflating my views with the views of others in this thread. I've never said anything about expecting others to forgive. Others in the thread may have. That's a different story.
posted by blucevalo at 4:40 PM on July 18, 2009


So, let's be clear: It's OK, and not a sign of deficiency, if someone chooses not to forgive others for the harm that they've done to him/her in the past?
posted by lodurr at 5:31 PM on July 18, 2009


My 20th was last year. Didn't go. Thought about it, but there was a great music festival that weekend. If I went to the reunion I would have been thinking about the festival the whole time, because the weekend agenda looked pretty tepid and sort of pricey. My family reunions are much more interesting and entertaining, and we have them every couple years.

High school was great at times, but I mentally checked out at the beginning of my senior year, started becoming very cynical and didn't want to have anything to do with high school anymore. Most of the good memories involve not being at school, particularly that year, and I resented the time I was there until graduation. And my grades were barely passing for the two classes I needed to graduate, in one case the teacher basically giving me a couple tenths of a point to bring me to a D- , so I could get on with it and get out of there. Graduating early may have been a good idea in retrospect, but it wasn't really on my radar at the time.

I don't resent it now but am not really sentimental about it either. A parent taught at the school and was respected and liked, but it became a bit too much after a while. It was a relief to move on from it at the time, and a lot of the people who became my close friends as adults are still in my life, some known from high school, but most not. Life out of high school was much more interesting and far more treacherous, and high school memories and problems faded quickly. Even the black sheep, undiagnosed ADD artist types move on from the Breakfast Club.

Maybe I'll go to the 25th. Was at a funeral recently and was sort of ribbed about it by someone I knew back then that I wasn't at the 20th. Well, didn't have the heart to tell her, but it's just not that important, but if I'm in the area ...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, let's be clear: It's OK, and not a sign of deficiency, if someone chooses not to forgive others for the harm that they've done to him/her in the past?

I concur.
posted by blucevalo at 7:37 PM on July 18, 2009


Where are the orchestra / band students? Where are the other A.P. track kids? Where is ANYONE I FUCKING KNOW???

Oh, see, that's no good. I wasn't really unpopular in high school, but I was a true band geek. Apparently there were a lot of band geeks absent from the last reunion for my school, as well as the previous ones. Those were my people. If they're not there, why bother?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:41 PM on July 18, 2009


I did a search for "boring" and bondcliff's post was the only one that came up.

My 10th was boring and awkward as all fuck. "What are you up to?" repeat x 100. What a top night!

I sometimes avoid GREAT FRIENDS I haven't seen for years if I spot them at the shops etc because of this. And I'm a great conversationalist. I'm like freaken Parkinson.

I just hate trying to fill in the gaps of five or more missing years at a shopping mall while our respective partners stare impatiently at the ground. That's why I've been wary of any catch-ups [school, Uni, whatever] since.

Let me repeat my advice: Go to your reunion. Show up very late when everyone is ratshit drunk.

Anyone remember that great movie Breaking Away? In one part, a gangly interloper is walking around asking all the girls "Hi, what's your major?" My 10th reminded me of that.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:26 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here's what I found at my 20th reunion: The people who were assholes were still assholes. This realization was unbelievably freeing. "Whaddya know, it wasn't me, I'm fine, it was them." The guys all got fat. The women all looked great. The people who seemed superficially nice were probably fine people, just didn't connect and spent the reunion doing the 10 years of catching up with this person whose life I don't care about how do I end this conversation. And then there were the three people who were really good friends, but with whom I'd lost contact, and it was like there was never a day's break in the relationship. Wonderful. It was an oddly schizophrenic event-- boring, affirming, amusing, scary, uncomfortable all at the same time. Kind of like high school, come to think of it, except that you can leave whenever you want.

I'm going to my 36th in 2 weeks. Finding old classmates (they did the whole thing through Facebook and yahoo, hilarious) has been a blast, but I felt no need to "friend" the people I wasn't friends with. I've got other things to do in my hometown, and I'm campaigning for the other art nerds to please come, but if they don't whatever. It's like going to a museum-- you are under no obligation to like everything you see, or participate in every event, or talk to everyone on the tour. But it's fascinating to see how things used to be, and how well they've stood the test of time.
posted by nax at 6:07 AM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, is that Facebook thing right on the money—these fuckers people constantly seek me out. Why? Because I kept running into them even through fifteen years of college and university! Even in my good times at SF and Berkeley, it was like Welcome to the Terrordome 15. But good news!

Here it is. I learned not to hate. I learned not to fight. I learned martial arts. I learned to be a success. And now just recently as a matter of fact, I learned I didn't have to be afraid.

That's right, I have very recently learned that the first response to any given situation—and this can apply across the board, from to bullies to even zombies (rare but feasible)—fear is an option. Another option is reaction.

Personal history: I got beat up from age seven on up. I got beat up through high school and into college. In college, I got tired of getting beat up and learned to fight back (YES WE CAN). From there, it was a lifetime to learn how to avoid confrontation; how to deal with confrontation non-violently; how to deal with confrontation when violence cannot be avoided ("enter a battle as if going to a brother's funeral; there is no joy in war"); and now how to be unafraid.

But that's not the end of the story! The best part about all this is now I work with kids, lots of kids but most closely with really smart kids. And I get to share with them all the important stuff I have learned that enables them to avoid 1)being victimized and 2) getting beat up at all!

In fact, I have had the opportunity on several occasions to go to the parent's homes of children of who are bullying other children, and stand my ground to bullying parents! (There is only bittersweet victory in this, as it means that the child they are raising to bully must continue to deal with a bullying parent—but at least another child will not be harmed for this sadness.) When children see an adult not back down from a bullying adult, in the very least,an element of possibility and hope is demonstrated and illustrated.

I could go on and on about bullying. It bites. But hopefully everyone gets that. And yes there are many ways to recover from these vicious attacks assaults and experiences. But it can take, oh say, upwards of 35 years!

However, the point I want to make here is that when those who tormented attacked and oppressed me all those years ago reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter (or email, or contact me because they "saw me on television or heard me on the radio or someone send them my website" etc), I am not "friending" them or even replying.

They may not be bad people but they are bad for me. Once I was a boy and a teen and a young adult, and to me all those manifestations of myself are very much alive within my very active inner-life. The memories of those times have mostly healed (very nicely I might add) but I would be doing myself a real dishonor and disservice to invite into my life the individuals who caused so much physical emotional and psychic suffering for me.

Instead, as it has been said throughout this wonderful thread, I take luke-warm satisfaction in learning of the ordinary and unremarkable lives that these people have come to have. Whereas I? I am pal'ing with astronauts and playing with supercomputers and teaching superkids how to have amazing lives!

Forgiveness for me means not interacting. But if ever they come in close again—and they do, they do!—what is discovered is the (inner) child they beat up is now well-companioned by the man I have become! And no I will not be friending you on Facebook.
posted by humannaire at 8:04 AM on July 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Instead, as it has been said throughout this wonderful thread, I take luke-warm satisfaction in learning of the ordinary and unremarkable lives that these people have come to have. Whereas I? I am pal'ing with astronauts and playing with supercomputers and teaching superkids how to have amazing lives!

Ordinary people like me are so unremarkable and lame! LOL, AMIRITE?!
posted by milarepa at 11:33 AM on July 19, 2009


ordinary and unremarkable lives that these people have come to have...

Like having friends and family that love them and cherish their company. Summer weekends taking the kids sailing or hiking. Evening barbecues in the back yard. Celebrating a niece's birthday with 3 family generations present. Granted there are the less-idyllic times: a fight with your spouse, a child's illness and the unexpected expense of having to deal with the tree that fell on your house during an ice-storm. Yeah -- ordinary and unremarkable lives suck. LOL, AMIRITE?!
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on July 19, 2009


The best part about all this is now I work with kids, lots of kids but most closely with really smart kids.

Yeah -- because the 'dumb' ones don't really matter. LOL, AMIRITE?!
posted by ericb at 11:45 AM on July 19, 2009


NERD REVENGE!
posted by ericb at 11:47 AM on July 19, 2009


so, ericb, how could humannaire have phrased his reminiscences in a way that wouldn't have irritated you?
posted by lodurr at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Life is a curious journey. Most, if not all of us have had challenging periods. Many of us have behaved poorly in the past. Many of us have been subjected to poor treatment at the hands of others -- whether by classmates, an intoxicated parent, a cheating or abusive boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, a domineering boss, etc. Some of us have even been cut down at the knees. However many of us have learned to stand again, to move on.

If a sense of superiority is what you cling to in order to obviate past hurts, past differences, so be it. I disdain such an attitude. To me heralding that you are smarter, richer, and/or more powerful than others you have encountered in your past is in my book simply distasteful. In the grand scheme of things -- "Who the fuck cares?" Get over yourself and realize that we are all basically the same. What matters most is the nature and quality of our relationships we have with family and friends NOW. To me that's all that matters.

I feel sorry for those who are consumed with reliving past relationships -- especially those that involved tenuous acquantainces and interactions. I feel especially sad for those who end up gloating and can only feel better in an "if they could only see me know" stance. Life goes on. Let bygones be bygones. Hug you kid. Have a beer with friends. Call your Mom. After all, that's what really matters.
posted by ericb at 12:36 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If a sense of superiority is what you cling to in order to obviate past hurts, past differences, so be it. I disdain such an attitude.

PARADOXISTERICAL
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:57 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


ericb: Do you understand that the way you choose to make your case makes it look as though you regard yourself as superior to others?
posted by lodurr at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2009


(FWIW, I took humannaire's comments to be focused on accentuating the positive. He happens to work with smart kids; smart kids getting bullied was a big theme in this thread, and I assumed that's why he focused on it. He seems to be taking an activist stance in opposing bullying behavior, and his language makes me think he probably tries to do this in a non-combative way, which I think are both admirable -- and honestly I come away from that comment feeling pretty upbeat.)
posted by lodurr at 1:15 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


He seems to be taking an activist stance in opposing bullying behavior, and his language makes me think he probably tries to do this in a non-combative way, which I think are both admirable...

I agree 100%.
posted by ericb at 1:39 PM on July 19, 2009


Do you understand that the way you choose to make your case makes it look as though you regard yourself as superior to others?

Really?Can you please explain how you think such comes across as so?
posted by ericb at 1:52 PM on July 19, 2009


Your use of the word 'disdain' indicates a feeling of superiority, and your pervasive tone of disdain cements that indication.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2009


Disdain? really? Oh, fuck, maybe I shouldn't have used my thesaurus and just said "don't like."
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2009


Ya' know what?

I'm quite confident that Ralphie doesn't dwell on the past torments of Scott Farkas these days. After all, he gave that %^#$& his due!

But, having to don that pink bunny costume on Christmas morning? That's another story ... and likely was the reason for many hours on the therapist's couch years later.
posted by ericb at 2:24 PM on July 19, 2009


"Seriously, what exactly do you tell the kids who ARE just minding their own business and a bully whales on them? "oh, you have to excuse little Timmy, he's a problem child, just suck it up when he pulls your pants down in front of the whole lunchroom"?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos

Seriously? I'd expect intervention. I'd expect the parents of both kids to be involved by the school. I'd expect school lunchroom supervisors to work to prevent the problem. I'd expect little Timmy to get counseling if necessary and if he is getting his ass beat at home for the police to be notified as per the law and for them to be involved.
In short - I expect resolution and I expect results. I don't expect failure to be an option.

Why in this case the police weren't called and charges (and several lawsuits) weren't pressed after his fingers were broken as a kid, I don't know. Stopping until I get results, as a parent, wouldn't have occurred to me. I don't know why his parents didn't continue.

What is it you're proposing? That we react before inquiry? So, vigilante justice is ok? Because that's my gut feeling. I'd be happy to go over to little Timmy's house and saturate it with lead, or maybe just drag little Timmy's dad out of the house beat him to a pulp and drag him behind my motorcycle for a bit? Not really the best idea.
So, teach little Timmy to fight? Yeah, ok. Now it's Ninja jr. high school and we're all engaging in an arms race.
No, I think starting with investigation as to why is a pretty good idea. In the meantime, plenty of methods to prevent bullying. I'm not shy about penalties. I just hate 1/2 assing anything.
And little Timmy should learn to suck it up, learn not to be a victim, but learn to not let it dictate his emotions. humannaire seems to have.

"People who are physically and mentally abused to the level of severe damage (broken bones, psychosomatic effects, burns, cuts, etc.) have it worse."
sonic meat machine

And people who are sold into child slavery have it even worse. Where did this move from some bullying this guys suffered with perhaps one extreme incident to this every day becomes a torment?
There is a difference. There's a difference between PTSD suffered from car crashes, from traumatic events, and from combat. Let's cut this "oh, other people have it so much worse" shit. I've been to veteran's hospitals and I've seen starving children, this "yours isn't as bad as" shit cuts zero ice with me. This guy did not have it that rough, ok?
Had a bad time in high school and he's (rightly or wrongly) raw about it and won't go to the reunion. Boo the fuck hoo.

"I see a lot of people who are highly invested in this idea of forgiveness. It makes me suspicious of their motives whenever I see people so highly invested in other people performing what's essentially a moral behavior."

Yeah, why would anyone want to hang out with some scumbag who will cut them some slack and forget about it.


"In reality, he who holds you down while his buddy intentionally breaks your fingers controls you."
Totally. That's why throughout history the side with more guys always wins. Inciting an enemy to attack then ambushing them has never worked as a tactic, ever.

----------------
Please read what the author wrote in the comments: He's not bitter,

"Stay the fuck away from me. I don't want to hear about your lives. I don't want to know how you've changed since high school."

"doesn't hate his tormenters,"

"I cannot imagine a reason in the world why I would pollute that world with contact with any of you."

worked through his feelings and thinks karate is about more than self defense

"To definitively finish any fight that anyone starts with him in a way that will teach his abusers and their cohorts to stay the fuck away."
-----
Yeah, he's on #1 happy street there.

There are many ways of approaching this. Maybe this guy is involved in his kids school. He didn't mention that, he mentioned "But when some fucker like one of you tries to lay a hand on him or one of his friends, he'll beat the living crap out of them."
Not 'if,' 'when.' And the opponent isn't defined for his child but rather as one of his own.

Now I'm a firm believer Si vis pacem, para bellum, if you want peace, prepare for war.
But he's already preparing to respond violently.

I'll readily concede, these are just words and perhaps his focus just happens to be here today and maybe it's hyperbole. But they're his words.
He might well be right, I'm not arguing he isn't. But those words are wrong.
Being prepared for violence and anticipating it are two different things.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:07 AM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]



Of course, the sight of all this half-digested breakfast sent Justin, bully number 2, off. The vomit flew out of his mouth like a spray nozzle, coating his pants, school bag, and odious friend in a fine mist of masticated toast. It smelled horrendous, and yet the almost piquant, bitey scent seemed magical to me.


Metafilter - a complete and total barf-o-rama.

posted by smoothvirus at 7:16 AM on July 20, 2009


>Seriously, what exactly do you tell the kids who ARE just minding their own business and a bully whales on them?

Seriously? I'd expect intervention. I'd expect the parents of both kids to be involved by the school. I'd expect school lunchroom supervisors to work to prevent the problem. I'd expect little Timmy to get counseling if necessary and if he is getting his ass beat at home for the police to be notified as per the law and for them to be involved.
In short - I expect resolution and I expect results. I don't expect failure to be an option.


Well, he didn't get that back then. Why, then, if you feel he should get resolution, do you think that on the other hand he should "let go" and blithely try to forget that that ever happened?

....Unless you're speaking strictly of the whole "my son is learning karate" thing, in which case I misunderstand your point and apologize.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on July 20, 2009


EmpressCallipygos - that's the basis of what I'm speaking of. Learning karate is great. I plan to teach my kids krav maga as well sending them to other martial art instruction. By no means would I expect any of my kids to "kick the crap" out of someone in school. Violence is not power, control is power. If I've taught them well enough they would be able to avoid or defuse a conflict before it even begins. If that's not possible, they would be able to avoid violence in the confrontation. If that's not possible then they should be able to defend themselves without causing serious harm. All of that comes from confidence in oneself and one's abilities which is a more important internal skill set than knowing simply how to kick ass.

His response should be to let go of the emotional attachment while taking the situation as an object lesson. Most definitely not forget the whole thing, but so too, not seek to reconfront the old situation. Not constantly refight the old battles.
He did not get any real resolution when he was powerless. One would think he would, as an empowered adult, draw from his experience and learn non-combative methods to conflict resolution.
Apparently he has not. Apparently teaching his kid to violently confront other kids - first - is his solution.
Having lived most of my life in violence, I can say pretty confidently that's really not the best path to avoid victimization. In fact, it's a good way to become oppressive oneself. One is not right merely because one is or has been a victim.
Actions cannot be grounded in fear or anger. Nor does prior injury legitimize or justify such actions.
Is it hard to turn a hardship into positive action, sure. But if we condemn the bullies for giving into intolerance and violence why should we give a pass to this guy if he advocates it?
That's the only thing I have a problem with. Getting over this kind of thing can be hard, sure. And I don't have a problem with the fact that he seems not to have. He needs time. He doesn't want to get over it, whatever - no problem.

But he seems to have hit everyone in his high school with this 'you people are scum' mindset of his and appears to be projecting that on his kid. And acting based from that center. Acting, I should say, in anticipation of violence instead of against the root causes.
Want to kill a tiger? Get a rifle. Want to stop tigers from killing? Burn the tall grass.

He's free to feel however he likes. I'm not saying he should relieve his emotional attachment to this because it makes old aunt biddy happy or it's the 'right' thing to do. I'm saying it because I've been there myself and it's just good advice in mental hygiene.
Nothing wrong with being horny. I'd advise against screwing hookers without a condom though on the same practical basis.

So, methods of conflict resolution exist, diplomacy exists, plenty of other ways of finding resolution in school and, more importantly, preventing bullying by inquiring into the formative causes.
But he doesn't speak about these kinds of endeavors, apparently opting for the 'kick the crap out of them' response. I disagree. And I suspect his focus stems from his anger from past treatment. Therefore I surmise he should let that anger go and judge a clearer, more efficient response, with a more rational expression that doesn't engage in blanket statements and such.

But then, that could all be just sounding off. That's fine. But we're parsing what was said, forgiveness and all that. I think a lot of folks are using 'forgiveness' in different terms.
I think a lot of you though have no experience with real violence and think things can be solved simply though superior prowess or being mad.
Getting angry and/or staying angry doesn't accomplish or change anything. Usually it leads to an escalation in violence.
Certainly - it can be an impetus or catalyst for change. Just as one can use a boat to cross a river.
But it doesn't look like this guy has changed, or even addressed, the circumstances that led to his getting bullied. He's simply laid it on the people themselves and prepared his kid to fight them in the same circumstances he was in. Which is none of my business really and he's free to do so.
I'm just pointing out he's lugging a canoe around with him and not heading towards the water.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:48 PM on July 20, 2009


Fair point, but I didn't get the sense that he was expressly telling his kid "you should learn karate BECAUSE THOSE MEAN PEOPLE IN HIGH SCHOOL DIDN'T LOVE ME WHARGARBL". I got the sense that it was more, ".....let's sign you up for karate, how's that sound? ...Never mind why, just trust me.". For all we know, he maybe pitched it with a "ooh, karate, you can be like the guys in action movies!" kind of pitch, while meanwhile telling himself that "good, just in case some other kid tries to work him over, at least HE'LL be safe."

Another thing -- while you are right that violence doesn't solve things, that is NOT what karate teaches either. Quite the opposite -- karate schools caution the students that it's NOT smart to go around thinking that violence is the way to fix things. The idea is to avoid conflict if you can, but if you can't, well, here's the last resort you can use. So the mere fact that he signed his kid up for karate isn't necessarily something that we can take as read that he's also indoctrinating his kid in any kind of Hatfield/McCoy scale generational grudge match. I saw this firsthand when my little brother took judo for a couple years -- okay, yeah, my brother did use me as a practice dummy sometimes, but that may have been par for the course with the "hey, let's annoy my big sister"; he didn't go around picking fights with other kids, is my point.

So, yes, you're right that diplomacy and conflict resolution is always the preferred option. However, we do not know that he ISN'T teaching his kid that. Because, his essay wasn't about How I Am Raising My Child, his essay was about Why I Am Not Attending My High School Reunion.

On a tangent, I'm honestly not sure why people are getting the sense that karate is a "nerd sport" -- martial arts are actually considered cool in several sets from the kids I've seen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on July 20, 2009


correction --

while you are right that violence doesn't solve things, that is NOT what karate teaches either

What I meant is, "karate doesn't teach that violence solves things anyway."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on July 20, 2009


"Another thing -- while you are right that violence doesn't solve things, that is NOT what karate teaches either"
A. Depends on the teacher. B. It doesn't really teach self-defense either. Or fighting. Whole other can of worms tho. C. Been in martial arts since I was 5. Boxing since I was 8. Done a lot of teaching to civilians and military personnel in a variety of applications and I have taught some kids. What one is taught in class and what one does outside class can be two different things.

"So the mere fact that he signed his kid up for karate isn't necessarily something that we can take as read that he's also indoctrinating his kid in any kind of Hatfield/McCoy scale generational grudge match."
No, I agree. The fact he's signed his kid up for karate doesn't say anything. The fact that he expects his kid to kick the crap out of people does. These are his own words, not mine.
And again - maybe he's just sounding off. Maybe not. In either case I'd expect a fair instructor to teach his kid pretty much all the stuff you say, and that may run contrary to what the kid hears at home. It's been my experience that what a kid sees modeled by his parents, unless there's a very close relationship with someone else, this is what the kid tends to follow.

"However, we do not know that he ISN'T teaching his kid that."
I'd speculate that he is. Perhaps that rests more on hope. What we do have are his words. That's all I'm going by. Plenty of otherwise seemingly enlightened parents living vicariously in a number of ways through their children. Behaving outrageously at sporting events and so forth.
I'm not really saying he is or isn't, I'm saying by his words - those ideas, that kind of emotion, the form there - leads to bad behavior.
Again, maybe he was angry just then and he was just sounding off. Done that myself. So, I'm not saying he's wrong. Just that the mindset behind those words lead to poor outcomes.
He probably will forget all about it an a week. If so, great. If he really means all that stuff and expects his kid to kick ass because he's learning karate, that can be a problem.

"I'm honestly not sure why people are getting the sense that karate is a "nerd sport" -- martial arts are actually considered cool in several sets from the kids I've seen."

Most social type fights are just dominance assertion. If you do any real damage - that is - if you ignore the social status components and take it seriously as a self-defense situation, people get all bent out of kilter.
Prissy: "Smed! Why did you break Chad's nose? All he wanted to do was stick your head in the toilet and flush it 20 times!?"
This tends to be true even in more serious settings, gangs and such. Your top guy, your biggest rival, etc. usually isn't your best fighter.
High school football has a social component. It didn't for me. I took it seriously. And I did very well there and in college. But you tend not to see those people socially because, y'know, they're in the gym. Same deal with martial arts.
So what determines a given sports social cred seems to be determined by the hangers on, not the level of investment.
And there are layers. So you've got karate and point fighting which seems to be for kids mostly. And there's the ritual and tradition and the gi and such.
Then you've got got MMA and people talking about Lesnar and all that. Nerdy? Doesn't look like it. Plenty of people into that. But then you have the nerd types delivering stats and such.
In martial arts I'm a bit outside the social loop because I'm not a sport fighter. But I think recognizing that something is for 'nerds' or perceived as such recognizes that it has a social component. Wherever it might be on whatever hierarchy or spectrum. Applications, not so much. I mean, who talks to a contractor about building houses? You'll talk to other DIYers tho. And recognize there's subsets of interest groups (woodworking, cabinets, etc.)

I guess I'm avoiding saying anything disparaging about karate in general. But the storefront dojos do engage in a lot of stuff, ritual and so forth, not related to the physical skills.
Some kids really get into that. But then, those are the kids who need that structure.
Reminds me of Jesse Ventura saying religion is for weak people, people who need a crutch.
But y'know, sometimes someone does need a crutch. And if going to karate class helps them be a better person, learn certain values, more power to them.
And too, I've seen a lot of jock types who have been put through serious training and stress who have broke because they've never paid attention to their internal selves. Just got along on physical gifts.
Ostensibly football and other sports are supposed to teach many of the things karate does, self-respect, working to achieve a goal, respect for an opponent, etc. etc.
But there's often a gap between what is and what should be. What is stated and what is executed.
So too - with that in mind, I look at this guy.

I have the same attitude towards firearms. And it works both ways. In the wrong hands, even the best tool is a weapon. Conversely, anything in the right hands is a weapon or a tool. Attitude is everything. If he did get a firearm, I'd approach the discussion the same way. If he was teaching his kid to shoot, same thing. But people derive different implications from such a thing because of the perception of firearms. Now I'll cede, it is a bit more work to kill with your hands. But one's limitations should not be circumscribed by one's physical tools but by one's principles and judgment.
Any conflict can escalate into lethal violence. You only need one party willing to continue to ramp it up or hell, just let it continue going on.
Which is a serious indictment, to my mind, of the columbine administration and others that allow interpersonal violence to go on.
One of the things I remember hearing (from Marylin Manson of all people) was, when asked 'what would you say to those kids (the two killers)' he said "I wouldn't talk, I'd listen to them."
It was in Bowling for Columbine I believe. But that was brilliant.

No one, it seems to me, listened to this guy, the guy in question here, when he was a kid. And they should have. Because at the very least that would have been one more method of non-violent conflict resolution, one more method of relieving stress, etc., that he would have at his disposal because it would have been modeled for him.

Doesn't look like he got much of that even from his parents. And I don't know what he's modeling for his kid. So it's possible that the violence that was visited on him will be perpetuated.
And that's really what I'm talking about. 'Forgiveness' in those terms. Because violence and the spread of it is the enemy. People, hell, they can change. Die. All sorts of mutable things.
And sure, you don't have to like them.
But, I mean, the words he used in the essay - that seems peaceful?
Some guy who minded his own business at lunch, hardly ever saw this guy - he's a fucker too because he went to that high school?

I'm no stranger to using harsh language, so I'd be a hypocrite if I said this guy was out of line.
Just saying this isn't the way to go about preventing acrimony and no amount of any training whatsoever is ever going to be enough to protect someone from it. So, generally speaking, it's better to chill.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:46 PM on July 20, 2009


I'd speculate that he is. Perhaps that rests more on hope. What we do have are his words. That's all I'm going by. Plenty of otherwise seemingly enlightened parents living vicariously in a number of ways through their children. Behaving outrageously at sporting events and so forth.
I'm not really saying he is or isn't, I'm saying by his words - those ideas, that kind of emotion, the form there - leads to bad behavior.
Again, maybe he was angry just then and he was just sounding off. Done that myself. So, I'm not saying he's wrong. Just that the mindset behind those words lead to poor outcomes.
He probably will forget all about it an a week. If so, great. If he really means all that stuff and expects his kid to kick ass because he's learning karate, that can be a problem.


You're right that all we have are his words -- but we also need to consider the context in which those particular words were delivered.

Rarely do any of us use the same words when speaking to our families that we use when we are speaking to a public forum. also rarely do we use the same words when speaking of one particular event that we use when we are speaking of another event.

The words that he use are indeed angry. but -- he is writing about an angry subject. There is no overwhelming cause to assume that he would be using those very SAME words when speaking to his kids.

IF he is using these words TO his child, I agree with you, but the mere fact that his words EXIST is no reason to assume that he is speaking these words TO his child directly. I guess I'm just not seeing the evidence for your belief that just because he told US that his high school experiences in part influenced his choices, that he is also telling his CHILD the same things. I know I learned things as an adult about the motivation for some of my parents' choices that I'd had no clue about when I was a child; I also know that other adults knew about these motivations, even when I didn't. There's no reason to assume that, just because he told US these things, in this very specific context, that he tells his own child these things in other contexts.

I guess what it comes down to is:

He probably will forget all about it an a week. If so, great.

I'm not seeing any reason to assume he hadn't forgotten about it all within a half hour of hitting "post." But you're not seeing any reason to assume he HAD forgotten about it. I'm just not seeing why we shouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt that he HAS forgotten about it after having blown off some steam.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:38 PM on July 20, 2009


I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm just arguing that these particular words are indicative of the wrong attitude. Certainly that attitude can be transitory.

As far as the kid thing goes, I don't know either way. All depends on what he does really. What you tell your kids and what you show them are two different things. And they far more often watch the latter. It's true for adults as well.
I noticed this when I was training people. I was, completely unintentionally, a role model. And I'd see people sounding off, following the same patterns I'd use, espousing similar opinions, focusing on the same things. It happens as a matter of course really. People, if left alone, tend to mimic other people.
So I started thinking "Gee, is there any reason I shouldn't fully embody the values I espouse?"
Nope. So I started walking the walk, cutting down on the acerbic talk. Genuinely followed seeking peaceful resolution and having a harmonious attitude. Hard work really. And ongoing.

So, maybe he has forgotten about it and he's not modeling his high school experience for his kid. Maybe this is just something that happens to really gets his goat. Ok. Been there too.
But every time I have I've regretted not saying something I mean rather than just expressing the anger.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:10 PM on July 20, 2009


I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm just arguing that these particular words are indicative of the wrong attitude. Certainly that attitude can be transitory.

I would posit, then, that because these words were found in the context of a piece of creative non-fiction about a specific topic - namely, "why I am not going to my high school reunion" -- the author was trying to build a convincing case about why one would not want to go to one's high school reunion. And, part of that would probably involve harnessing and channeling some transitory emotions.

Yeah, his nasty feelings about his high school experience are recorded for the ages, but that's the risk writers run. We write about things, and we walk away and leave our words behind. But the words become static once they're published to an extent, and we've moved on to something else. Expecting this guy to always be dwelling in this kind of rage would be like expecting Steven King to be constantly thinking about ways zombies could gouge your eyes out -- and while I acutally can see Steven King doing a hell of a lot of speculating to himself about that, that doesn't mean he doesn't ever take a break and think about puppies or something. What Steven King writes, and how Steven King lives, are two different things, and it would be uncharitable to assume that certain passages from CARRIE or some such are "indicative" of King's "attitude" toward anything -- and not just because they're fiction.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 PM on July 20, 2009


Well, King did buy the car that hit him and smash the hell out of it.
Beyond that, his words are all I have to go on. Here or anywhere else.
If someone says they're Joe Military and makes a certain statement that's goofy and runs contrary to my direct experience and elementary knowledge (an LT. is higher rank than a Col., say) it might or might not invalidate my, or anyone's, belief in their experience, but I can address what they said.
So - I can speak to the fact of the matter that colonel is a higher rank than lieutenant. I can say "You are wrong about this."
And I can call into question the validity of their authority and background. Doesn't mean I am perfectly correct in the latter. And again, I cede that. He may well have harnessed and channeled some transitory emotions.
That does not mean the statement he's made with them is valid, any more than some guy with 20 years in the service can't be wrong about a Col. being a lower rank.
This guy could be the greatest dad ever and have in all other ways totally cut loose everything that happened in high school. He's still wrong in what he said here.

In the same way - I empathize with him. I've sounded off on metafilter and I've at times had some very harsh things to say, sometimes I'm right, sometimes I've been wrong. Where I've been wrong I've apologized.
I do not use the excuse that, well, I was channeling those emotions to prove a point. Wrong is wrong. That's this guy, that's me, that's anyone.
Given the absolute dearth of people who seem willing to apologize or admit an error, even the slightest error in judgment here (with some exceptions), and elsewhere, I'm not surprised the contrary attitude prevails.
But again, I'm not arguing this guy, I'm arguing what he said. Surprising that so many people are unwilling to forgive and unwilling to see anyone else drop something.

Although many folks seem to carry grudges on mefi. I don't. Doesn't much matter to me who says something, if it's wrong I'll disagree with them, if it's right, I'll agree with them. After the thread is over, it's forgotten because I wasn't agreeing with that person, but the statement they've made. Certainly it's tough to divorce the two sometimes. But I figure you're doing someone a favor by subjecting their statement to robust argument, as long as you're seeking resolution and understanding rather than just bitching at them because their name is 'whatever.'

Same deal here. This guy's words/attitudes are wrong. Those words and that attitude can - not that it will - can lead to certain things that aren't so healthy and that's why they're wrong.

But this guy though has a whole rest of his life to live, so yeah, judging him on just what he said here, no that'd be wrong, I'm with you there. This is just a slice of one moment here. But again, that's the bit I'm talking about. Outside that, what, he's a doctor? So he's probably got it together.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:35 PM on July 21, 2009


Smedley, I think at this point the safest thing to do would be to shrug, admit we each have different standards we hold people to, but that there's nothing wrong with that, and just call it a day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on July 21, 2009


...what, he's a doctor?

Well, of mathematics, yeah. (Which I'm not sneezing at.)

(Nice close to a contentious thread. Funny how that so often happens on the really long ones.)
posted by lodurr at 1:14 PM on July 21, 2009


EmpressCallipygos - well, I don't think we're in disagreement, just taking different perspectives. You're saying "Trunk" I'm saying "Tail" - but y'know, an elephant is an elephant so it's a pretty large thing to cover in a thread.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:40 AM on July 22, 2009


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