A friend of mine is very passionately devoting his life to bringing awareness to the bullying of gay persons. He recently had an experience on an airplane, as he was seated next to some older persons who represented Christianity abominably. You can probably imagine what happened – referring to my friend as though he weren’t able to hear or understand them, and when he stood up for himself, pedantically and self-righteously explaining to him that he’s a sinner who has chosen foolishly and to his own eternal demise. Bullying, plain and simply.

I can remember similar treatment when I was in school. I was (ahem) more than chubby and had my little spirit shattered often by the horrible things the other kids said to me. There were even two awful teachers – 3rd grade, Miss Miner and 8th grade, Mr. Kamaneroff – who also joined in the laughter and “teasing.”

“Teasing” my ass! They were all shits who should have been zapped with an electric cattle prod 10 times for every awful word they said to me.

I remember acting as though it didn’t bother me. I remember pretending I didn’t dread going from one class to another… knowing that every foray in the halls meant I was vulnerable to another attack. I remember getting home from school one day and accidentally crumbling emotionally in front of my mom and finally telling her how a day didn’t go by without someone saying something horrible to me.

My mom died a little right along with me that day. I saw it. I saw the look in her face – wanting to comfort her child, but feeling completely helpless to do anything about it. I saw the same look on her face when I told her that one of the elders at church had touched me in a way I didn’t like. She didn’t think she could do anything about that either. I honestly don’t know if she said anything to dad about either of these, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she had and he reacted in the same way.

I think they both believed that the right thing to do is to suck it up. Be the strong one. Turn the other cheek and don’t rock the boat. Just let it pass. You’ll feel better in the morning. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

And in fact, I am just fine now.

Oh, well yes, I did have an awful marriage that went on far too long, then a second relationship that involved cheating (him) and forgiving (me) THREE TIMES.

And then there was a job at which my bosses treated me like crap and I stayed… and stayed… and stayed and took it. Suck it up; be the strong one; turn the other etc.

There’s also the hard knocks in life that I’ve managed to work through because – well, compared to what I endured in the halls of grade school – those hard knocks were a piece of cake. And there’s the confidence I have that comes from living through what didn’t kill me.

It is possible to prosper in spite of hardship – perhaps because of it – though I for one would definitely prefer my hardship come a little more organically than from some snot-nosed, lack-luster want-wit who felt better about him or herself because at least they weren’t fat like me (I still hear it echoing).

I’m proud of my young friend for standing up for himself on that plane. I’m really glad that he blogged about it to the world and that blog is poised to go viral. I’m happy that he’s fighting to help us all put an accurate name on that bad behavior. I’m proud that he’s giving parents and friends and teachers the words to identify that behavior, so that mothers don’t have to die a little because they have no idea what to do with the gawd-awful things their child just told them.

I’m also grateful for the point of reference with which to examine my own circumstance. None of this would have happened if {gasp} my young friend hadn’t been on that plane, seated next to those troglodytes, which led him to blog about the whole ghastly experience… that is poised to go viral…