This is the fifth excerpt of my book “Shattered Image” It is a book about childhood bullying and the effects it has on unhealthy self image and the choices we make to deal with it. For me those choices were eating disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction and a suicide attempt. Release date is tentative for June 2013. Please keep checking back for more excerpts and book release details.
I was sixteen. I worked up the nerve to attend my first high school dance, a Sadie Hawkins Day event held in the high school gymnasium. The best I could do was to go alone. At this point, I could only dream of “someday” going to the senior prom. The only dance or social event of any kind I attended other than my high school graduation was this dance, a party that can only be described as a scene from the movie Sixteen Candles. Standing with a bunch of social outcasts against the gym bleacher, wishing I could join the fun. I stood there watching the kids with dates, dancing, laughing, and talking about where they were going to hang out after the dance. I scrutinized the facial features and physical appearance of every guy with a girl I considered pretty and tried to analyze what it took to be that guy. I thought I could never be outgoing. I thought I could never be handsome. I thought, What can I change? What can I control to change my image? I knew I had to change the image in the bathroom mirror. As I stood there, wishing I were one of the guys dancing and trying my pubescent moves with a pretty girl, I needed a different body and outlook on life. As if she had read my mind, one of the prettiest girls in the school made eye contact with me and started walking towards me. I began to sweat. By the time she came face to face with me, I was dripping with perspiration and my heart was pounding so hard I was afraid she could hear the noise it was making in my head. I remember every detail of her facial expression, her black hair, and the disdain in her voice as she said, “Do you always hold your brother’s hand you walk with? I think that’s weird.”
She and her entourage of friends giggled and walked away in a manner intended to let me know in no uncertain terms that holding my little brother’s hand was the conduct of weirdo-losers, the rejects like those standing against the gym bleachers. The sight she referred to was a time a few days earlier when she had seen me holding my little brother’s hand as we walked home from school together. My father has always instilled in his sons the idea that we should help each other and be there when our family members need us. He reiterated that we should always comfort and protect each other in times of need. Because of the love and respect I have for my father and the profound sense of family which he has instilled in me, I never thought that someone else might think that looking after my little brother would make me seem odd. I assumed all parents told their children to do the same in their own families. The hurtful words of the lovely young girl who insulted me at the dance were not out of the ordinary realm of adolescent insults, but her expression of disgust towards my innocent actions shattered the image even more After she walked away, I blended into the bleachers of the gymnasium, and later ran into the night to walk home up that same hill where the lovely young girl had seen me holding my brother’s hand.
My childhood experience with bullying may seem mild in comparison with the bullying that takes place in a world of social media in a spontaneous, rapid-fire barrage of insults, but the results were just as hurtful. I still remember the lovely young girl’s expression of disgust and the sneer on her face as she uttered the words. She probably went to college, met the guy of her dreams, had kids and maybe even grandkids, and lived a normal life because she did not suffer from a skewed self-image or the behaviors that result from bullying and social rejection. The world of social media has merely multiplied the kinds of bullying that children, adolescents, and even adults can engage in and the types of problems that can develop for the vulnerable subjects of bullying. Studies have shown that BDD increases the likelihood that will attempt suicide. Some of those less severely affected will probably suffer eating disorder, drug addiction, or alcoholism because they were unable to find a healthy coping mechanism to deal with the negative treatment from family, peers, and/or leaders, such as teachers and coaches. Adolescents particularly remain silent, while their parents are ill-equipped to understand the shattered image or simply not wanting to admit their child hates himself or herself. If the adolescent were to admit problems as a result of bullying, that would seem to the adolescent that he or she was admitting a failure. The parents, too, are unable to admit any kind of failure as a parent.
The interaction at the high school dance was the first time I had experienced any type of rejection by a girl. Perhaps the incident can more accurately be described as bullying rather than rejection for I had made no advances toward her.