Thirty five years ago at school I was bullied.
To the point where other than memories of the bullying I have no other memories of school.
Never physical, that would have been too easy I could have fought back, or shown my bruises to a teacher. It was always verbal so there was no evidence. But the evidence is very much there, even thirty five years later.
My peers bullied me by laughing at me. Either behind my back, thinking I couldn’t hear, or setting me up to be the butt of the joke.
“here, we bought you a Lucozade” at the end of PE, for me to drink it and then be told “ha ha ha, we found it in the bin outside”
On the last day of term as we were all signing shirts, two of the girls thought it would be hilarious to write “bitch” across the back. So I couldn’t see it but would know they had done something as they collapsed into fits of laughter.
Never being picked for the teams and hearing the groans as the team with the fewest members got lumbered with me.
Of the whole school laughing as did the final 400M of the 800M race on sports day on my own
I could go on but I am 48 this year and should probably let it all go. But sadly it isn’t that easy. Generally speaking I have but that feeling of not wanting to be laughed at is something I can’t get beyond and it means I go out of my way to avoid situations where it might happen. Where people might point at me and say “what the hell is she doing?!”.
Or worse, where those people might share a photo to social media and invite their followers to join in the joke.
As happened to a lady at the gym this week. If you have missed it, this is the photo that a bodybuilder called Diane Andrews shared to social media:
We have no idea why, and she has now apologised but its too late. The apology means nothing because the damage is done. And it is for this very reason that I refuse to join a gym. God knows I should, but taunts from 35 years ago still haunt me and mean that I can’t bring myself to do it. It is self preservation at its most fierce.
Why would I put myself in that position? Best to just avoid it all together, right? If I don’t join a gym this can’t happen to me.
Last year on holiday in Rome, Mr B got cross with me (rightly so I might add) because we all went off as a family to play crazy golf, and I refused to join in. I said I wanted to take photos. It was a press trip after all and wouldn’t it be nice to share photos of the golf course with my readers I reasonsed. Mr B got cross because in his mind my just being there wasn’t the point, we should be playing as a family. Not five playing, and me taking photos. He was totally right of course and it had nothing to do with my wanting to take photos. I am rubbish at golf, even the crazy kind and I didn’t want other families to be held up by an idiot mother in front who can’t hit a golf ball round a windmill. Self preservation kicking in, and it’s pathetic, I know it is but those feelings run deep and they aren’t something you can just move on from when every fibre of your being screams “don’t put yourself in that position” but makes you come up with every excuse to keep you safe. Even when it means your husband will get frustrated because you’ve never really talked about the real reason.
So when incidents like the one above happen those feelings all come rushing back and go a long way to support my stance on joining a gym. Or rather on not joining a gym. Because this sort of thing does happen, here is the proof. It happened in LA last year too, and those are two that have hit the papers, I am sure this happens more regularly than we know.
Diana may have now apologised to the lady in the pic, the lady in the pic may have said “I couldn’t give a stuff” but what about the rest of us?
What about those of us that would love to join a gym but who saw that picture and said “This, this is the reason why I won’t”?
The women who would love to do our power walking during the day rather than in the dark when people can’t take photos? What about us?
No apology is ever going to be enough to excuse the fact that the incident happened.
It doesn’t go away just because somebody then posts a few words and a heart emoji a few hours later.
It never goes away.
Photo of a gym courtesy of Shutterstock