Whipping Boy
January 14, 2015 4:58 PM   Subscribe

A writer spends forty years looking for his bully. Why? Allen Kurzweil's book "Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully" will be released next week. A short piece on a bizarre aspect of the fraud of Prince Robert and the Badische Trust Consortium, for which Viana, the object of Kurzweil's search, was a shill: “I Dub Thee Sir Sammy."
posted by cwest (30 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Just one bully? Ha. Amateur.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:23 PM on January 14, 2015

He's basically Bruce Willis from Pulp Fiction... but without the Christopher Walken character.
posted by Nevin at 5:33 PM on January 14, 2015

I googled one of my bullies, and it appears he's a police officer.
posted by larrybob at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken rehearse for The Maltese Falcon II.

Joel Cairo: "You always have a very smooth explanation ready."

Sam Spade: "What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?"
posted by clavdivs at 5:49 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my own childhood bullies tried to friend me on Facebook.

She grew up on my street, went to my grade school, was with me all through high school, was on my softball team, and even went to my church, so she was pretty much inescapable; and took such delight in picking on me that she is one of the only two people I've ever heard my father call a bad name (about ten years ago, after I was WELL into adulthood, the topic of bullies came up in conversation and Dad asked if I was talking about her, "because she was a REAL bitch").

She used her married name, so I didn't recognize who was asking me to be her facebook friend. I sent her a short message asking her to forgive me, but I couldn't place the name, who was she? She told me her childhood name.

The delight I felt when I rejected her invitation after that was almost sexual.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 PM on January 14, 2015 [42 favorites]

I've had nothing to do with the nasty piece of work who lived next door when I was a kid but happily she fucked up at work and made the press a few years ago, revealing (i) she still lives in the same crappy town, (ii) had a shit job which (iii) she had lost for being kind of dumb.

posted by biffa at 6:11 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I read this essay last week and I must admit I couldn't understand the point of it. I think everything comes together on the last page or so when the writer briefly reflects on what the watch meant to him.

However, I could not understand the time and effort it took to track down a childhood bully, and then the time and effort it took to stay in contact, all the while for years skirting around the real issue of why he had reached out in the first place.

I did not have a good time at school as a child. I did not have very many friends until I went to university when suddenly everything changed. I was beaten up in Grade 8 and had to change schools because of a bully. Reflecting back on this particular junior high school in mid-80's suburban Canada, I really wonder what the hell was wrong with the neighbourhood. Why were kids so violent and fucked up. It was like the River's Edge.

I spent two pretty normal years in a different junior high school in a different neighbourhood before attending the same high school with my tormentors from Grade 8 (and elementary school).

I see some of the people that used to torment me (and I was tormented in Grade 8) on Facebook, but as a 40-something it doesn't mean much to me. It happened in the past, the deep past.

The sad thing is that my treatment will pretty much forever be a part of me. My experience in Grade 8 affects how I deal with other people, how I expect them to deal with me, all that stuff. I have never, ever felt at home in Canada, and while I definitely do not regard Japan as an "escape", the alienation and "microaggressions" reported by other foreign residents there just make me shrug my shoulders.

I'm used to feeling alienated.

But do I hold a grudge against these people? No. I have learned to move on. We were children then. Different people.

So I thought this article was pretty strange. Too bad about the watch, though.
posted by Nevin at 6:14 PM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

I now have no desire to read his book on the subject. Feels gross and manipulative throughout and that ending. Yuck. I think the piece is very much a mirror for the author, as much the subject.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 6:54 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh wow. I just googled the biggest bully in my junior high school, and he's in prison. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but that seems like such a cliche!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:00 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ok, so, there was this group of about five boys that used to pick on me as a group and also there was this one guy who picked on me more or less on his own.

Four of the five guys died in a terrible car accident when I was a Junior in high school.

The one guy went on to become an absolute delight of a human being.

I would never have thought this at the time, but at age 47, I am sorry for the guys who died and take much more satisfaction in the fact that the other guy turned out to actually be a mensch when he outgrew the terrors of adolescence.

Those four guys, though, man they gave me terrors. It wasn't just the bullying, it was the group bullying. Stuff just tended to escalate with them and I was hardly their only target. The mourning period at school was an odd thing - all of us who they'd tormented having to suddenly behave like we were sorry that they were gone.

Well, at age 16, I suppose I was sorry that their families and friends were so sad, but I had a hard time working up sorrow over their absence because my life became distinctly less awful once they were gone. I had wished them dead so many times that I did feel some guilt, as if my wishing had killed them. Now, I just wish cold, wet feet on people who anger me.

The other guy - I think I've told this story here before - I ran into him about six months after high school graduation and he'd already transformed just from being away from home and in college. He was very, very friendly with me and when I was friendly back, expressed gratitude that I was being cool to him despite how he'd acted in high school. He apologized with no equivocating, no explanations, just something like 'I was a complete asshole to you and I'm sorry."

We didn't stay much in touch, but I just looked for him on Facebook and other than an enormous weight gain (that pretty much mirrors my enormous weight gain) he seems to be doing pretty well.

What a world, what a world.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

This got me to look up some of the bullies from my old school. I don't know if I'm getting soft, or something, but I saw some pictures and thought "oh, he looks like a pretty nice guy." Except one guy, but hey, maybe I'm just remembering the kid who used to threaten to beat me up every day, and not seeing the more mature adult who, incidentally, looks like he wants to beat me up.

Another guy apparently loves going to strip clubs and posting about it on Facebook - given what I remember of him, I guess it would be more surprising if he didn't. Also, at least one guy apparently went Ivy League, but I went to school in a pretty affluent neighborhood, so there's no surprise there.

Also, one guy is now a theoretical physicist, which is actually genuinely heartwarming: this kid was awful to me, but I always got the sense that he was really messed up. I hope this means he figured himself out.
posted by teponaztli at 7:19 PM on January 14, 2015

I looked up someone who threatened me in high school, and he has basically turned into Biff from Back to the Future, posting glamor photos on Facebook of himself at nineteen wearing a puka shell necklace and a polo shirt with the collar turned up.
posted by craniac at 7:39 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thankfully my junior high bully hasn't tried to friend me on FB, but I can see part of her profile. When you grow up in a small town and your parents decide they don't want to go to church anymore, that they'd rather make waffles and read the comics on Sundays instead, it's almost a Hollywood cliche that blonde christian children will tell you you're going to hell and start tormenting you. She lives in another small town now. She would like to sell her acrylic paintings and has a bible quote gif on her page about blessing one's persecutors.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:40 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know if it's universal or not, but here's a little food for thought:

The person who bullied you in school, probably doesn't know he did it.

To him it wasn't a big deal. Just joking around or being kids or whatever. He won't remember it the way you do, because to him it was just a passing thing, a minute or two a day here or there, it just happened.

I'm sort of friends now with someone who bullied me in middle school. We've never spoken about it, but I'm quite sure if I mentioned it, he'd have no idea what I'm talking about. He's a perfectly fine person now.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The person who bullied you in school, probably doesn't know he did it.

To him it wasn't a big deal. Just joking around or being kids or whatever. He won't remember it the way you do, because to him it was just a passing thing, a minute or two a day here or there, it just happened.

that may indeed be true.

On the other hand, I've met up with someone else from high school who was more of a "frenemy" than an outright bully, on two separate adulthood occasions - and at age 26, and again at age 32, she was still just as selfish and self-centered and narcissistic, and thus I have absolutely no compunction about continuing to find her distasteful and want nothing to do with her. Sometimes they don't change. (She's tried to friend me on Facebook too. TWICE. I've ignored the invite both times.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:26 PM on January 14, 2015

My bully knows full well she was a bully, and about a year ago (~7 years after our last encounter) sent me a Facebook message acknowledging it -- and asking forgiveness.

What killed me was that her message did nothing but dredge up old hurts, resentments, evils -- things I had not thought about in years and, had you asked me before she contacted me, things I had forgiven. It was only after she asked me directly that I realized: no. You have done damage.

Somewhere, in another universe, there is a girl who achieved her professional dreams and left the bullies behind. In this universe, only half of that has happened. Luckily, it's the half I wanted.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 8:44 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

One bully was an Olympic diving champ who plowed his car into a group of kids.

One went to Yale.

The last is dead.
posted by clavdivs at 10:14 PM on January 14, 2015

Just looked up my biggest childhood bully. He is an associate at a private equity firm run by his uncle.
posted by knoyers at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The person who bullied you in school, probably doesn't know he did it.

I think this is often true. When I was in grade eight there was a girl who fell into disfavour in our small grade (18 students in my grade). It was just your typical middle-school drama and as a result she was excluded and tortured in typical Mean Girls fashion (though both boys and girls participated). It eventually got to the point that her parents went to the principal because she wanted to change schools and the principal came to the class and gave us all hell.

Last year someone organized a reunion for our elementary school cohort on facebook. The girl in question is FB friends with a bunch of us but has never had any contact beyond accepting friend requests (e.g. when I first friended her I sent her a message asking how she was and what she had been up to and received no reply). She was invited to the reunion but she didn't reply and didn't come.

That wasn't very surprising. What was surprising was that several people at the reunion remarked that they were surprised she didn't come. Only one other person and I even remembered how we treated her during that last year. And when we said we weren't surprised she didn't come because of that, they didn't know what we were talking about. Not even when we reminded them. Not even when I described specific incidents.

I don't think it's that they thought it was all in good fun at the time. I don't think they did think that at the time. It was major big deal middle school drama at the time. I think they've forgotten because it never made an emotional impression on them. They knew it was making an emotional impression on her at the time, but since they weren't traumatized by it, it just never stuck in their minds. That's my theory, but it doesn't explain why one other person and I did remember.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

The person who bullied you in school, probably doesn't know he did it.

Oh, they know, because I got them suspended and the police called during High School.

She's on FB, but we're not friends - either in FB or real life. I won't even bother reaching out. And looking at her feed, it's all spam that she's tagged on and/or incoherent reminisces about Wisconsin - where neither one of us live anymore. So, it doesn't look like her life is going all that well.

I see no use in watching that life play out.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:40 PM on January 14, 2015

On another note, the scheme run by his ex-bully bears a striking resemblance to one I encountered here in Australia some years ago... which also included fake knights, self-appointed chivalric orders, heraldic shields, duped celebrities, false banks and imaginary kingdoms! The perpetrator of that one is currently serving a sentence for fraud.
posted by andraste at 12:01 AM on January 15, 2015

I'm starting to feel like I'm the only one who, even though I was bullied pretty relentlessly throughout elementary school and junior high, could not name a single one of my bullies if you paid me.
posted by kyrademon at 5:54 AM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

On another note, the scheme run by his ex-bully ...

The bully's other job as regional manager - Forever Living Products is basically a pyramid/multi level marketing set up, it's the Amway for getting your relatives to buy diverse Aloe Vera products.
posted by biffa at 6:08 AM on January 15, 2015

The person who bullied you in school, probably doesn't know he did it.

To him it wasn't a big deal. Just joking around or being kids or whatever. He won't remember it the way you do, because to him it was just a passing thing, a minute or two a day here or there, it just happened.

Guilty. As in, I feel guilty about this. I didn't realize I was picking on this underclassman until one of our security guards came up to me and asked me to cut it out. I remember being pissed that the kid ratted me out because I never thought of it as bullying. He was an odd kid and a good sport every time I cracked jokes. I had thought he was in on it to some extent. Nope. I don't remember his real name because I had made one up for him and so I never reached out to apologize (which I envision as an Adam Sandler - Steve Buscemi - Billy Madison - moment) years later.

I suppose I could dust off the yearbook and figure it out, but I suspect that would be a little too self-serving and he wouldn't want that sort of contact at all.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:48 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kyrademon: Same here. I was thinking maybe it's because I moved around quite a bit so got to miss out on the whole small-town, everyone-has-known-everyone-since-birth kind of thing. To be honest, I don't think I even knew my bullies' names at the time, they were just assholes at the bus stop or whatever. Were they in my classes? Did they even go to my school? Damned if I could tell you. I wouldn't recognize them even if I was told who they were. All I can really remember is the big peacock hair and acid-washed denim, but it was like 1986, so that was everyone.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 7:11 AM on January 15, 2015

I remember my school days as a haze of bullying, and feeling like nobody liked me. But now I wonder how true it was and whether I was on the other end sometimes as well? I don't think I was, but I remember a lot of incidents involving heavy duty teasing where mean kids would be smirking and telling me that so-and-so liked me. Where so-and-so would be one of the kids who was ALSO a social pariah, and I'd be fumbling around trying to disclaim this because I had somehow internalized the idea that the friendship of another pariah was the kiss of death. And I assumed that other pariah would be doing the same thing in turn.

Why couldn't we pariahs just be friends? If we had, it would have taken the air right out of that type of torment. And in fighting it the way we did, we inflicted a lot of extra hurt on each other.
posted by elizilla at 7:43 AM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

My numero uno childhood bully is now a millionaire with a chain of medical marijuana dispensaries. Huh.
posted by throwaway account at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2015

Okay, I got curious (read: preoccupied) and dug up the bully and the frenemy I mentioned earlier up thread:

* The bully is apparently a special ed teacher, which...uh, yay, I guess? I still want nothing to do with her.

* The frenemy is some kind of self-styled interfaith minister/New Age/Feminist Spirituality counselor doomahaji-whatsit, and based on the complete twaddle she's posting on Twitter it looks like I ain't missing out on all that much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2015

I recently found out that the girl who bullied me out of enjoying three consecutive summers of sleep-away camp is suing the producers of the Naked Dating reality TV show she appeared on because they did not sufficiently blur out her ladybusiness.

The amount of schadenfreude and outright delight I experienced upon learning this is probably beneath me, but damn if I don't feel like all the life choices I have made since age 14 are totally validated now.
posted by nonasuch at 8:45 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I googled one of my bullies, and it appears he's a police officer.

Life imitates art.
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2015

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