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Surviving Embarrassing Situations and Bullies

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Me and my ringlets

Me and my ringlets

My First Educational Experience

Where I first entered the school system in rural Indiana, there were no kindergarten classes. So my mom spent time with me at 4 and 5 years old, teaching me the alphabet and number systems, plus she taught me to write my name along with a few words. I felt very confident in entering the first grade. The big problem was that our little rural school had combined the first and second grades into one classroom. So I could hear not only the assignments for the first graders (me) but also the assignments for second graders. My teacher assumed that we first graders knew very little and spent a lot of time, too much time in my estimation, just covering the alphabet, which I already knew. So after filling my paper with A’s and B’s, I felt like I could do the assignment I just heard her giving to the second graders. Now my big error was to go to the front of the room and interrupt the teacher with the question, “I finished this, can I do the assignment you gave the second graders?” It may have gone better for me if I had just tried to do it and see where I got. Instead, she raised her voice and ordered me back to my seat.

The education I got that day was not to try to excel and not to interrupt the teacher.

“Haters and bullies are always cowards, you know. They like to pick on little guys.”

— Scylar Tyberius, Sebastian the Great

I'm leading my siblings in a chorus

I'm leading my siblings in a chorus

Middle School PE Bullies

By Middle School, I didn't know what I would be, but I did have a few classes that were favorites. I loved science and English. In the years before there was a gymnasium built at the Middle School out in my rural hometown, we used a mobile home that had been parked at the end of the playground, for showers after Physical Education (PE). The mobile home had a wall installed to keep the boy's side and the girl's side separate (but we girls could always hear them over there). It was a little cramped but we made it work. One day, one of the mean girls brought a camera into the showers. She made quite a stir, as everyone was grabbing towels and covering up. She thought she was so funny. Then she noticed me. I was quietly doing my best to ignore her when she grabbed my skimpy little towel away from me. The only thing I could think of to do as she snapped pictures was to turn my back to her. She pointed and yelled, "Look! She has a dimple in her butt!" Sure enough, I have a dimple on my cheek. So what. Everyone laughed and she snapped several pictures. She said it was priceless and the pictures would be published in the yearbook.

Now I have to ask, where were the teachers when you needed one? I spent the whole year in agony, expecting that my behind would be featured in the yearbook. Later I found out that there was no film in the camera, but still, it was agony. If I had been a little less self-assured, I may have been one more of the statistical girls who killed herself over teenage depression. Or I could have gotten a gun and shot up the place. But I didn't. I quietly waited for the yearbook to come out and quickly scanned the pages praying that my caboose would not be there. It wasn't.

I'm 16 here.

I'm 16 here.

Think It Through

What I hadn’t thought through was that no publisher would actually publish pages of a pornographic nature in a public-school yearbook. Also, the girl may have gotten into real trouble having film developed of a pornographic nature as well. I should have realized that she was bluffing the way she kept laughing at my agony. Still, I was a kid and a bit naïve.

But what if, as is the case with so many teens today, I took it to heart and decided to kill myself before the yearbook came out? It would have been a tragedy seeing that the mean girls were full of crap and there was no film in the camera. When I think about it, I am lucky to be here today. I must have thought deep down that they wouldn’t do such a thing at my expense. I still lived in dread just in case they were that mean.

I'm constantly studying

I'm constantly studying

“Life is a fight, but not everyone’s a fighter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.”

— Andrew Vachss, Terminal

High School

It is no wonder that I stayed to myself in high school. I made very few friends and escaped into my world of art. Whenever there was free time, you could find me in some obscure corner sketching in my sketchbook. When someone did happen by, I never looked up but kept on sketching. When someone would ask, “Did you draw that,” I just nodded yes and continued. It was a stupid question seeing that they are watching me draw it. Then the question, “You are a real artist, aren’t you,” to which I nodded yes. I knew then that I would pursue art because it was my best escape. I became known as shy Denise. I excelled in my schoolwork. And why not? I had no girlfriends or boyfriends to divert my attention.

What amazes me today is when someone comes up to me and greets me like an old friend, stating they knew me in high school. Usually, I don’t remember them and certainly couldn’t have claimed them as a friend in high school. But if it gives them good feelings to think they know me, I’ll let me.

Yearbook Staff

My favorite classes were art (of course) and the yearbook staff. In my freshman year in high school, an art teacher noticed my work and invited me to join the yearbook staff. You had to be invited to get on the staff. I felt very honored and stupidly announced the following year that I would create the cover design for the yearbook my senior year. Only a senior on the staff created the cover and it was quite an honor. Right away I made an enemy. There was another girl my age who wanted the cover design, but she could see that I had more skill than she did. So, she went about setting me up to get kicked off the staff. She hid my photo proofs, misdirected some of the people who were supposed to show up for photos, tore up my page designs, and told the teacher/director that I was a slacker, not getting the work done. By the end of that year, he pulled me aside and let me have it as gently as possible that I was off the staff the following year. It really hurt.

I only put it together later that Paula had set me up. I was again too trusting and couldn’t imagine anyone hating me so much that they would do such a thing.

My job to feed the horses meant I had to climb into the rafters to pull a bail of hay down.

My job to feed the horses meant I had to climb into the rafters to pull a bail of hay down.

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”

— Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

Final Thoughts

I went on with my art, but Paula did not. Paula did design the cover for the yearbook our senior year, but I didn’t think much of her design. Since then, I have designed many book covers and I am proud of them.

Did you have bullies in your formative years? How did you handle them? Did you believe people were basically good until they proved they were not, like me? I’d love to read your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 12, 2021:

Mary Norton,

How wonderful for you. Smaller schools where all the parents know each other sound like a great situation. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2021:

I'm so sorry you had to go through this bullying, Denise. I was lucky to be in a school where our parents knew each other so there was not much of that going on. It is sad that nowadays, there is so much of that going in schools and even online.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 11, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

It is a solace. It's like a secret place where I go hide from the world and the birds sing there and a lovely breeze blows. All is calm and serene there. Everyone should have a secret place, a fortress of solitude, where they can go to get away from the cruelties of the world. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2021:

Thanks for sharing your stories of growing up. Bullying is so harmful, and it is tragic that some kids actually commit suicide over it. I am glad that your solace was art and that it still brings you joy today. You are so good at it!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Pamela Oglesby,

Children can be cruel, can't they? Where does that come from? Is it deep inside all of us or is it learned behavior? I sometimes wonder. I only wrote about a few incidents.

There were many more. You were very fortunate to have escaped that kind of abuse. It makes you feel so small and helpless. I'm glad you were there for your sister. It's worse when there is no one to turn to. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Devika Primić,

Oh, many times I wanted to quit but I just couldn't do it. I'm humbled by your friendship and kind regard. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Chrish Canosa,

I feel the love and hugs. I've never been called resilient before but I guess it's true. Thank you for your lovely comment.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

MG Singh emge,

You are truly fortunate if you never had to face a mean kid or a bully. They can make you feel so small and helpless. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Nithya Venkat,

I am glad I didn't hurt myself too. I'm happy to be here even if things have been a struggle. Art does not pay well but it is my love and I'm so grateful to have it in my life. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

John Hansen,

Yes, I'm glad I survived. When I think about how close my dad's guns were and how easy it would have been to get the key to the gun case they kept on a key rack in their bedroom, I am grateful that I didn't have homicidal or suicidal thoughts back then. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

You probably can't relate to the issues of shy girls but there are a lot of us in the world and who knows, you may have a daughter like that someday. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Linda Lum,

I'm sure I would have been your friend as well. I tended to gravitate toward the abused and oppressed in high school. Eventually, a group of four of us formed. One black girl, one girl with epilepsy, one girl with some physical issues I never knew what, and myself. We would eat lunch together and surround each other against the bullies like putting all the wagons in a circle against the attack of Indians. Unfortunately, none of us had classes together so we could only support each other at lunch. Thanks for commenting and being my friend.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Misbah Sheikh,

You are right. They are fooling themselves if they think they are healing themselves by hurting others. When you hurt people you are hurting yourself as well. No one wins. I find when I help people and lift others up, I am lifting myself up as well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

BRENDA ARLEDGE,

Yes, I've had that happen to me too. So many thought they were my friend in high school and they barely acknowledged my existence then. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

I didn't have politics on my side. I was at the bottom and not the top. Even though I had the best of grades, that just made things worse. The kids and especially the girls resented me for having good grades and having the teacher hold up my papers to show the others what they could be doing if they applied themselves. Some wanted to copy off my tests or cheat but I wouldn't let them. If I had I think they may have liked me and lightened up on the abuse but I didn't think cheating was right. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on July 10, 2021:

Bill Holland,

It's so different for girls. What was I going to do, fight the bullies? Girls just didn't do that then like they do today. I wish I had the gift of words though. I would have loved to tell them off, rip them a new one, take them down a peg or two verbally. But I didn't have words. I was too shy for that. I took it silently. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 10, 2021:

Children can be so mean. Your experiences are awful, but you have overcome all of that abuse beautifully. I guess I was fortunate as I didn't get bullied. My younger sister did and I spent time trying to protect her.

I think I kept a bit of a low profile. I appreciate reading your story as I now things like that still happen and it is so sad for some children. I never bullied anyone. I didn't like bullies and avoided them when possible. Thanks for sharing your experience, Denise.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 10, 2021:

Denise you share your experiences with an open mind. Your art is beautiful and your talent is amazing. I see that you are not a quitter.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on July 09, 2021:

A wonderful Day Ms Denise,

Leadership begins at home. Childrens actions are influence by those who are close to them. Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us. I'm pretty sure you sometimes wonder how strong you have been! I like your stillness and resilient personality.

Chrish is sending power hugs and love!!!!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on July 09, 2021:

I liked reading this article but it's something I've never experienced. Bully's no, maybe I was a bully or kept on the right side of bullyies.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 09, 2021:

Denise thank you for sharing your story. You were brave and did not give up on your art. I am glad that you did not hurt yourself during tough times.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 08, 2021:

Thank you for sharing your story, Denise. I may not have been bullied at school, but I witnessed it happen to others, unfortunately. Children can be heartless and cruel, but so can some adults. There are so many trolls and bullies on the Internet now that it is hard to control. You survived it all and that is what is important.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on July 08, 2021:

Very interesting account. Good job.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on July 08, 2021:

Oh Denise, how I wish we had known each other during those school years. I would have been your friend. I didn't have your artistic abilities, but I was bullied nonetheless for things outside of my control. School was very lonely and hurtful. People wonder why I've never attended a class reunion.

When we are growing up, of course we compare ourselves with others and the comparisons sting. And then there are the haters who recognize the gifts that you DO have, and find ways to put you down, to play on your weaknesses and insecurities.

Love and hugs to you.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on July 08, 2021:

I enjoyed reading your article, Denise. I believe Bullying is the worst form of abuse. “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” According to psychological studies, a lot of people say they bully others for their self satisfaction. I truly can't get that I mean how someone can heal himself by wounding another?

Thank you for sharing this

Blessings and Love

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 08, 2021:

Denise

I'm so glad you stayed to yourself & didn't let them bother you to the point of hurting yourself.

Kids can be so mean & today it goes viral instantly with these cell phones.

That was a great video to put with this story.

I remember being bullied when younger, but more so I remember how childish these kids were.

I was a majorette & college prep student in high school.

I went to school for 8 yrs with the same kids in elementary school only for them to tell me they couldn't be my friend any longer if I was friends with these other classmates from college prep.

Sad thing is...the college prep kids refused to be my friend if I kept talking to my old friends from elementary....So I ditched them all.

I became friends with students older than myself who were like juniors & Seniors while I was a freshman.

I also made friendships with people from a neighboring school where I often went roller skating.

It amazes me now years later the ones I run into and they introduce me as their high school friend.

I enjoyed reading this one.

Take care.

Rosina S Khan on July 08, 2021:

It was good to go over your school days and the bullies you had to face. You had been brave, bold, and patient and it paid off. I don't remember having school bullies but because I was always at the top of the class with my Dad's help in my lessons, many envied and there were politics. But no one could change my position in the class.

I loved the quotes and lovely pics from your younger days. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking article, Denise.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 08, 2021:

Tough times back in the 50's and 60's. No time for gentle spirits, I'm afraid. I had no choice. My dad insisted I fight the bullies and earn respect, so that's what I did. Period, end of story. It was easier to fight the bullies than face my dad and tell him I ran away. Just the way it was back then. Was it the right parenting approach? That's not for me to say. I survived, and life is good. And you are correct, so many of that bullying could have led to suicide, or mass killings, but oddly they did not, so I'm thankful for that.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience, and blessings to you always.

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