I’m a large FORTY!-year-old 6’5″ woman. The word intimidating has been used to be describe me on about 381 kajillion occasions. The people who use that word have said I’m both physically and intellectually intimidating. If you don’t know me, it can be a scar package.
If you do know me, you know that I’m kind of a shy, wimpy sort who avoids conflict as much as possible. When you grow up in a home filled with random bursts of domestic violence you learn quickly that conflict can have dire consequences and you work your ass off to dissipate or avoid causing any sort of tension.
Because I’ve always been the freakishly tall fat kid who avoids conflict, I’ve spent most of my life the target of bullies. They can smell us wimpy, damaged types and once they have us in their sites, life becomes hell.
I don’t think I ever, in my whole entire life, stood up to a bully. Until today, sort of.
The neighborhood where my sisters live is filled with kids. There are gobs and gobs of kids of varying ages, sizes, races, and religions. It’s a diverse and impressive little crew, and for the most part pretty peaceful. That is, until, Mean Maddy comes around. She’s called Mean Maddy because, well, she’s mean and to differentiate her from BFK’s daughter, who is also named Maddy but is decidedly not mean (and who is a sometimes crush-interest to my nephew, Liam).
A few weeks ago Cade and Nolan had a run-in with Mean Maddy and her little brother who called them losers and retards (a word most reviled because of Cade’s learning disabilities), stole Cade’s bike, and then hit him, repeatedly, with his own bike helmet. See? Mean.
Sister #3 had a talk with Mean Maddy about being a bully, but the kid just sassed back.
So today when Nolan informed me that Mean Maddy was out on the corner selling lemonade, I knew things would not end well. Despite my “just ignore her” advice, The Tibbles and their posse (last time it was just Cade and Nolan vs. Mean Maddy & Kid Brother) got into it with Mean Maddy.
Since Nolan was told after the last incident to go get an adult when Mean Maddy starts in, he ran and got my niece Jaycie (who lives two doors closer to the face-off spot) who then texted me to say she didn’t know what to do.
I slid on my shoes and headed down to the corner, all sweaty palms and fluttery stomach. See? These are the long-lasting effects of bullying. Like I said, I’m a 6’5″ FORTY-year-old woman but in this situation I turned right back into a meek, terrified teenager who learned early on that because of her size she would often be blamed for any kind of childish violence.
My mom loves to tell the story of how when Dr. Sister #2 and I were little kids maybe three and five, one of the neighborhood moms came over to chew her out.
“Your daughter beat up my son,” the other mother said.
“Which one?” my mom asked.
“The big one,” the mom said, incredulous.
“No, it was the dark-haried one,” the son, who was my age, said.
My mom called both of us to the door — big, tall blond me, and teeny, dark-haired Sister #2.
“This one?” my mom said pointing at Sister #2.
“Yeah,” he said. “She hit me with a hose.”
It eventually came out that the kid got the hose because he was calling me names. To this day, Dr. Sister #2, who recently earned her PhD by successfully defending her dissertation about social supports and the effect they have on domestic violence, is still a defender of those who cannot defend themselves.
So there I was nervous and walking toward a showdown with a bully. I stopped in the middle of The Tibble posse which immediately erupted into a list of her crimes. “She started it,” Nolan said. “She was being mean,” Liam said. “She did start it,” Joseph, a friend of Tibble said. “She threw water at me,” Joseph’s little sister said, and showed me her dripping princess t-shirt.
Meanwhile, Mean Maddy & Little Brother started packing up their stuff. “Let me hear what she has to say,” I said, and tried to step through the mob of eight or nine kids.
“She told me to fuck a tree,” Joseph’s little sister said.
“That’s mean,” I said. “You should not hang out with mean people.”
“You’re right,” she said. “We should just stay away from her.”
By this time Mean Maddy & Little Brother had loaded up their wagon, and were heading home. “THANKS A LOT,” she shouted. “NOW WE DON’T HAVE ANYMORE LEMONADE AND MY MOM CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY ANYMORE.”
“Whose fault is that?” I asked, but she was long gone.
So, I almost stood up to a bully today and I totally would have if the sight of me hadn’t scared the shit out of her.