Edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones
Dear Bully is a collection of stories about bullying written by some of the most prominent YA authors of our time. I read this book because several copies were donated to our school, and an interesting thing happened while I was reading. I realized that I was kind of a bully in high school. And if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m kind of a bully now sometimes.
People associate the term bully with big hairy teenagers that push down the little runt in the hallway and steal everyone’s lunch money. That may have been the modus operandi of bullies years ago, but now bullies look very different. And bullying isn’t just physically overpowering another person and laughing, it’s any action intended to intimidate or humiliate another person (my definition based on definitions from Merriam Webster, The Free Dictionary and OLWEUS.com). So based on this definition, ask yourself this question: were you a bully?
Yeah, you’re probably lying and don’t even know it.
What I realized through reading Dear Bully is that bullying comes in all different forms, has many different intentions, and most importantly, we – or at least I – have the wrong ideas about bullying in general. Usually we look at bullying from the point of view of how mean the bullying “act” is. We should, however, look (or try to) look at things from the point of view of the victim. Calling another kid “fat” or “fag” or “ugly” isn’t that bad, and doesn’t make you a bully, but put yourself in that kid’s shoes. He/She probably hears those words/taunts hundreds of times. You may not be a bully for teasing someone once, but you are a part of a collective bully that might be making someone’s life pretty miserable.
I also realized that as adults, we haven’t learned to deal with people who are different from us any better than we did when we were kids. I hate to admit it, but I'm pretty sure I'm still a bit of a bully. I used to work with a woman that I could NOT stand. Everything about her annoyed me– she was difficult to work with, had horrible personal habits, and generally drove everyone nuts. Honestly, I never really gave her much of a chance because she was so weird. Instead of being an adult, I acted just like I would have in middle school: I ignored her as much as possible, I conveniently “forgot” to do some of the things she asked, at lunch I would talk with others about how annoying she was and immediately go silent when she walked through the door, and – I hate to admit it – I was flat out rude to her about 90% of the time. And though I wasn’t the only one, I realize now that I could have handled working with a difficult person in a much more adult, professional manner, and that most of the time, I just wanted her to understand that I didn’t like her and wanted her to leave me alone. Only problem was, we worked together. There was nowhere for her, or me, to go. So I just kept being rude, accomplishing nothing.
Yep, I admit it, I bullied her.
Well done, Suzanne. Well done.
And now that I’ve read the wonderful stories contributed by such amazing authors as Jon Scieszka, Lauren Oliver and Mo Willems, I know that bullying looks different through every pair of eyes and that the most empathetic, friendliest, non-bullyesque thing you can do for another person is try to see the world through their eyes and understand their world. Life is hard for everyone, and the best that you can do for your classmates/coworkers/fellow humans is try not to make their journey any harder.