High School Reunion: New comment thread

We’ve been having some load trouble with the ScienceBlogs server, and the
400+ comment over on the high school reunion thread seem to be resulting in a lot of timeouts. In an attempt to reduce the number of errors, I’m closing the thread on that post, and asking folks to post any new comments here.

285 thoughts on “High School Reunion: New comment thread

  1. Blake Stacey

    On a technical note, I’ve noticed that I get the message “An error occurred” if I try to post on GM/BM while logged into the ScienceBlogs back end. It might also be an issue for other people with SB accounts; I don’t know.

  2. DG

    I was neither a cool kid in school or picked on…just another average Joe.
    Obviously what these people put you through was wrong and cruel, but the mere fact you posted this article…25 years later…screams that you are both scarred (who wouldn’t be) and still bitter over these past experiences. Even if you wouldn’t admit it I assume you are hoping that someone from your high school class finds this and spreads the word to other classmates and they read it. And if some of your asshole classmates who did this stuff to you read it and have the same mentality as they did in high school, they will prob get a rush out of this knowing they fucked you up 25 years later. Sick bastards.
    What does this come down to? You hiding behind your computer screen writing a letter saying “fuck off.” Why not man up, go there and prove to them what you couldn’t do years ago and tell the people who did this to you to “fuck off.” Then meet some of the other people that may have turned out to be not so bad.
    The best thing you could have done though was not write about this, simply ignored them and not show up to the reunion. I don’t plan on going to my high school reunion when it comes up because like you I don’t give a crap about what people are doing now, i’m just not going to respond and leave it at that.
    Best of luck to you and you’re family. Google is awesome, lucky bastard.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      ” And if some of your asshole classmates who did this stuff to you read it and have the same mentality as they did in high school, they will prob get a rush out of this knowing they fucked you up 25 years later. Sick bastards.”

      Well, duh- and I wish more people “got” this. This is why the only effective measure is to blast the school authorities with media or some form of litigation. My ass would be all over most of the schools I went to (we moved a lot, like a lot of abused kids, in fact every single adult friend I know who has been abused, was moved around a lot as well) if not for statutes of limitations.

  3. Nomen Nescio

    i get “an error occurred” sometimes too (although not nearly so often as “timeout, but don’t post again, because it probably went through anyway”) yet i certainly don’t have an sB account. so while that might perhaps aggravate the problem further, i doubt if it’s the only cause.

  4. Nomen Nescio

    Even if you wouldn’t admit it I assume you are hoping that someone from your high school class finds this and spreads the word to

    dude, this is the internet and Mark works for Google. if he wants someone — anyone in the western world and outside of a cloister, really — to know, he can easily find their public email address and simply tell them. and given what he up and called these selfsame people in a very public blog post that’ll live in archives until the end of digital data, there’s no slightest reason to assume him too timid to do it.

  5. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Hope nothing. I dropped a link to this in the reunion forum. Remember, the whole point of this was to let me answer, once and for all, my former classmates who were contacting me on facebook. I thought that was obvious.
    That doesn’t imply that I’m bitter or consumed by rage or anything like that. Just exactly what I said in the post: I don’t want to have any contact with those people. Period. Not even enough to send them a personal note.

  6. DG

    Agreed, he could find anyone. All I meant is that there is a big difference between a face-to-face “fuck off” and article on a web page. And the point of my message wasn’t about going there and saying them to screw. My single point was the best thing he could have done was say nothing. Why give the bastards the satisfaction knowing he is still thinking about it 25 years later?

  7. Pete M.

    Thanks Mark, for writing this. I’m like many here, a former high-school outcast. My experience wasn’t as physically bad as yours, but it was bad. I still sometimes experience pain at memories of my time in high school, even though it was more than 15 years ago and my life is so much better now. It’s really cathartic just to see so much shared experience, and I really appreciate your willingness to use your own experience (intentionally or no) as a catalyst.
    For what it’s worth (not much, I guess), I think the way you’ve dealt with your experience in relation to your own children is excellent. I’m glad that they will have the tools – the physical skills from Karate as well as their parents’ unequivocal support – to enable them to be confident, happy, and strong. Good luck to you and to them!

  8. James

    If you want your children to know how to defend themselves I’d advise you to find somebody who does Systema. How I wish I knew it back in high school.

  9. Rob

    I hated high school, and middle school, and big chunks of elementary school. Parts of my story are similar to yours, though I didn’t have it as badly as you did: no broken bones, and a couple of friends.
    I’ve never been to any of my high school reunions either. I couldn’t see the point in it.
    Ten or fifteen years ago, I did run into the guy who spat in my eye in 11th grade. He apologized, and I forgave him. I’ve done things I wish I could apologize for, so I understand how he felt. I haven’t seen him since.
    You, of course, are under no obligation to forgive anyone just to make some anonymous internet poster feel better. I don’t understand why some folks feel the need to tell you to go meet these people you can’t stand and never want to see again.

  10. bluefoot

    I don’t understand why not wanting to spend time and money to meet up with people you haven’t had contact with for 25 years is somehow dysfunctional. Or means you’re bitter. Or scarred. I can think of a lot of things I would do with my hard-earned money and limited vacation time – like seeing people I care about/who care about me, whether 25 years ago or no – but spending it on people who have never cared about me, and who I couldn’t wait to get away from? That’s completely irrational.
    I went to my 20th HS reunion, out of curiosity more than anything else. Oddly, even people who I knew had changed (both positively and negatively) in the intervening 20 years reverted back to high school at the reunion. Surreal.
    MarkCC – I really liked your post. I am appalled at the indifference of the school administration. I graduated in 1984 from a typical suburban high school, and while the adminstration turned a blind eye to a lot of things, breaking fingers is beyond the pale.

  11. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    People keep focusing on the broken fingers. I realize that it’s a particularly vivid image. But honestly, of the things that people did to me, that’s [i]far[/i] from the worst in terms of how much harm it did to me.
    The administration of the school, I think, didn’t really believe that it happened the way I said it did. I don’t think that they really thought it was OK to hold someone down, and twist their fingers until they broke. But I think that they thought that bullying and routine violence among teenage boys was completely normal and nothing to worry about, and that my injured hand was the result of one of those supposedly routine fights – that I was lying about it to cover up the fact that I hurt myself fighting.
    That was really the attitude of the administration: pretty much that boys will be boys, and when someone gets hurt, that’s just the way it goes.
    Frankly, considering the things that people did to me, I don’t think that the physical stuff was necessarily the worst. Threats, lies, vandalizing my house, burning the swastica – those were worse. The time I spent recovering, working through all of it, was much more about dealing with the emotional scars of those things that the physical scars of the beatings.

  12. JMG

    Excellent post Mark. I actually had a pretty good time in high school, but I can see your sediments. Great for talking about this.
    What I do want to say is for all the commenters posting things along the line of “You’re selfish and stupid for putting your kids in karate, because you obviously have issues, don’t take it out on them”, etc. Martial arts in general, I think, are good for any child. It shows them discipline, increases self esteem, and provides something to “look forward to” outside of school. In short, it’s great. Would putting kids in little league or piano lessons be good for them as well? Yes, for some of the same reasons. Even if Mark was projecting his feelings onto his kids, putting them in MA, this would have several external benefits for them anyway. I don’t think this is the case, and I think it was a rational choice on his part.
    Unless you’ve met Mark and his kids, and seen how his parenting style is, don’t make assumptions based on pysch 101 knowledge.

  13. Valerie

    I honestly don’t see why so many are urging you to go face your tormentors and give them a chance to apologize or pretend to be buddy-buddy with you, pretend to care, pretend that everything that they did to you 25 years ago didn’t happen. So what if those people are different now. So what if they changed. You don’t have an obligation to give a fuck, and I’m glad you aren’t letting them guilt-trip you into some fake-ass song and dance routine to show everybody, “Hey! You did some fucked up shit to me in high school, but it’s ok now!” Why didn’t they try to contact you before 25 years had passed and say something then? Because they either don’t give a shit, or they’re too ashamed. In either case, you don’t have to give them that chance. It’s not their right. It’s a privilege that you can choose to bestow — or not.
    I, for one, applaud you for how well you’ve done. I know that probably sounds condescending, but I swear it’s not. A lot of people -would- hold on to that bitterness, hatred, and anger. Just because you honestly don’t want to see any of these people that weren’t your friends, didn’t stick up for you, and didn’t seem to give a damn about you until, conveniently, a 25 year reunion doesn’t sound like you’re bitter or holding on to something. It’s just genuine don’t give a fuck.
    I graduated in 2005, and from what I know, there wasn’t any bullying in our very small (300 students who had literally gone to school together since Elementary) school. I wasn’t picked on. I wasn’t fucked with. Do I want to go to the reunion that will be coming up next year, or in 2015, or 2020? No. I don’t care how these people are doing. I don’t care how they’ve changed. I just don’t care. It’s that simple. We aren’t friends. We aren’t enemies. I just don’t give a shit about them, and I don’t have to.
    Keep on keeping on. Keep snuggling up to your wife. Keep raising your children to defend themselves and still be good people. Keep working at your awesome job. You don’t owe those people a damn thing, and living well is the best thing you could possibly do to show them that.
    Much love and good luck.

  14. Dylan

    Excellent post, and excellent points. I agree completely Mark.
    Off Topic… have you kid try Kung Fu. Karate is like hitting someone with a bat. Kung Fu is like hitting someone with a morning star. Circular and direct.

  15. Andrew H

    It seems from the comments that a lot of those folks who caused you so much pain are still assholes.
    I don’t get their sense of entitlement to your time and your life.
    I admire your candor and ability to move forward and still clearly face the past.

  16. D

    It is truly terrifying to read about the emotional and physical abuse that you had endured. I think you did the right thing by not going to the reunion if you wouldn’t have enjoyed it.
    My high school had almost no physical abuse and little psychological abuse. While the school’s administration is to thank in part, I am still somewhat baffled when it comes to the big picture. We had all the typical cliques that remained somewhat segregated, however bullying was never a problem. The worst things usually came to were people talking about other people behind their back.
    Thankfully, I do not have a story similar to yours (and many others here). Throughout high school I had often bounced from one group of friends to another. While I had little trouble making friends, I had a lot of trouble keeping them. I openly expressed my interest in science, mathematics, computers and high academic achievement, however I never really felt like I fit in with the geek crowd or any other well defined clique. While I didn’t really feel alone, I never felt like I had anybody to connect with beyond a superficial layer.
    College has been great so far. Pursuing a degree in engineering has allowed me to meet many other like-minded individuals. I feel that this is mostly due to disappearance of the rigid social structure that existed in high school. I have made many good friends that I will likely keep for many years to come.

  17. Calli Arcale

    I was tormented from about fourth grade until about tenth grade. Only had one finger broken, thank goodness. I was a scrappy little kid, and if I’d known martial arts at the time, would likely have wound up in jail with assault charges…. I had a lot of anger at the bullies. The girl who broke my finger was a year younger and a foot taller. Being a late bloomer doesn’t go well with being a nerd.
    Of course, I was generally the one who got in trouble for it. The fight where my finger got broken was the last fight I got into. I learned my lesson about fighting back; it did me no good, because they could seriously kick my butt. (To the guy in the first thread who asked how you could let it happen to you, WTF? Do you think people ought to be invincible? It’d be nice, but this is the real world, and some of us are small, uncoordinated dweebs who can’t win a fight no matter how hard we try. ‘Cuz I sure tried. I put *everything* into those fights, and got my butt handed to me each time.)
    I had self-confidence by the time I graduated high school, and was no longer troubled by bullies. But even so, I did not attend my 10-year-reunion. Didn’t even attend my college 10-year-reunion. I didn’t see the point. As far as the bullies, I no longer harbor any ill-feelings towards them. I’ve forgiven them. But that doesn’t mean I’d want any kind of a relationship with them. I really don’t care to meet them again.
    One shows up on Facebook every now and again, with the automated thingy telling me that he was a classmate, so I might want to “friend” him. Not a chance. I remember late in high school, we were talking, and he asked if I remembered some of the bullying. Well, he didn’t see it that way. He thought we’d had some kind of private joke going, that it was all friendly ribbing. It wasn’t. It was all deeply hurtful. So I think that it’s true that many of the bullies do forget that what they did was so awful. This may be because they didn’t realize how hurtful it was, either due to obliviousness on their part or because they’re the sort of people who thinks that stuff is funny so therefore you should too. Or their memory has simply changed with time. Some people in the other thread expressed doubt that could happen, but it does. Research shows that people’s memory is extremely malleable — and if you lie about it, the lies can eventually get incorporated into the memory. Intentionally or unintentionally. I think narcissists (who are more likely to bully anyway) are probably quite prone to their memories of an event shifting to present them in a more favorable light, so I expect many of your tormentors truly do not realize just how badly they hurt you all those years ago.

  18. Cathy

    Nice to hear from someone else who hated going to high school in Jersey. I was the big-nosed, pimply, intensely shy kid. I suffered only minor bullying, mostly because I tried VERY hard to fly below the radar. I did have many an awful day in gym class: I was routinely one of the last ones picked every single time. Whenever the gym teacher said “pick teams,” I wanted to cry. When the time came for my 10-year reunion, only 1 person showed any interest in my coming. Yep, I was so unliked that no one even tried to be my friend 10 years later. Not that I would have gone to the reunion anyway. I shook my head knowingly when you mentioned martial arts: I have the same plan for my children. Oh, and I’m sending them to a private school.

  19. Catharine

    Excellent, moving post. Stunning comments in both quality and quantity.
    In middle school and high school I was a friendless freak/idiot/loser. At some point (around 10th grade) I just refused to go more than 2-3 times a week. I graduated on time (D average) because my mother pulled some strings. Unfortunately, this had serious repercussions for my post-high school educational opportunities, as did my family’s belief that I was just plain stupid. (My other siblings – and everyone else in my family – were expected to (and did earn) graduate/professional degrees in various fields.)
    But for me, school, horrible as it was, was just a bad dream. Life at home, on the other hand, now that was a nightmare. Unspeakable things happened often, starting very early and continuing very late. For some reason I (alone) was the scapegoat for my father’s rage and perversions. Either nobody noticed or nobody cared. I have spent my entire adult life just trying to be “normal.” I am still a friendless freak/idiot/loser but now you can add underemployed underachiever.
    It’s been 25 yrs since I graduated from high school. I have never even been invited to a reunion. (Of course, I wouldn’t go…)
    Now I have to helplessly watch as my own son, who is 16, 4’10” and weighs 70 lbs, has severe ADHD (and is bipolar to boot) struggles through high school with poor grades (but a genius level IQ) and poor social skills. At least I know that I have never deliberately hurt him and have always tried my best to help him. I’m not going to lie, I would have liked to see him start his freshman year at MIT. But at least I know that what happens in high school does not necessarily have to determine the rest of your life.

  20. Dan S

    since everyone is sharing their stories i might as well share mine.
    While i never suffered the same physical abuse the writer has suffered, my middle school and first two years of high school were horrible, and left me with lasting emotional scars as well.
    I was the new kid in 7th grade, and quickly became known as the weirdo. I made friends with a few foreign exchange students (from hungary and germany), but I unfortunately ended up being at the bottom of the social status chain. I had not one or two bullies, but a majority of the class picking on me, mocking me and sexually harassing me. When a whole class decides you are a target, life gets miserable. And when the teachers WILLINGLY ignore it, it only empowers the bullies to continue. Shame and embarrasement become the new normal along with thoughts of suicide. With only a few people to talk to (parents not included), it seems as though it would be simply better to end it and be pain free.
    I entered High school a year after columbine (I sympathized with the two shooters). And the physical harassment died down due to the beefed up security and the fact that i had grown to an above average height and weight, especially since oreos had become my new best friend. The verbal rumors however, continued. One things i don’t see discussed here is how bad rumors can get in high school. I know girls suffer alot from it, but guys can too. Since i was too big to physically confront, the lies about my intelligence and hobbies were common (idiot-savant, down syndrome, druggie, molester)became common. I even overheard on my teachers talk about me using one of these comments.
    To survive, I managed to become simply a-social for the rest of my grade schooling. A ‘ghost’ if you will, but i think Orson scott card said it best with “I’m A fart in the air conditioning, i’m there but nobody knows it”. My only outlet was in boy scouts, where people knew me for who i really was.
    Fortunately i managed to recover in college, making friends across all boundaries. It helped i was in a science program that drew from all the old high school cliques (earth sciences) and was even asked to join a fraternity after they saw me building a watermelon launching trebuche with a my roomates.I accepted and it allowed me to continue expanding my social skills.
    Some people do recover from their school traumas. For others it is a lasting event that haunts their memories. And in some ways the trauma can be bad enough to cause PTSD in a few. I know my experience drove me to get as a far away from my school as possible and is probably the same for most of the people commenting on this board.
    I agree with the french, and the best result is living well. I, for one, have no interest in going back to my reunions, since most of them are a way of simply showboating how well you are doing compared to everyone else, especially to those who tormented you. I say never go back and leave them hanging.
    And for the record, i am now a commanding officer in the Navy

  21. Bob

    Mark – good for you.
    I had my own issues in school (which are not germane to your post so I won’t burden the thread with them).
    I have to say that you are taking the healthiest path. You have stated clearly “my life has moved on in all sorts of fantastic ways from you horrible people and I want nothing to do with you.”
    My kids also study martial arts. The three of us go to the family taekwondo class as often as possible. It has been a great thing to do together with the self-defense benefits coming in at a strong second for them.
    As a fellow Dad, I strongly recommend martial arts with your kids if your school, schedule, life, etc. allows for it. It’s great exercise, together.

  22. Lisa

    A friend just sent this link to me and said it reminded her of me. I was not a geek in high school. I was a pretty girl that was too trusting and got fucked with from both girls and boys. Some of it was really psychologically damaging, and some of it was downright sexual assault.
    I did have a friend in HS that I’ve kept up with through the years, even though I don’t think she ever believed how traumatic it all was for me back then. When I recently flew home for a visit, this lifelong friend felt the need to invite a few people from our past to come hang out with us. When I refused because of the whole souless bastards thing, she said “it’s been 20 years, why can’t you just get over it?” I no longer have this person in my life. For reasons she still will never understand, I severed a 25 year friendship because I realized she never got it and never will.
    I don’t have kids, but I do have a job where I manage college students, mostly female, and the number of them that have similar, jacked up high school experiences, is astounding. I see the self loathing and poor decision making that it produces and I try to help them as best I can by sharing my own experiences, listening to theirs and letting them know they control their own lives now.
    When something shapes you, for better or worse, you don’t get over it. You can choose not to be bitter and angry (which didn’t happen until I hit my 30s) and say what is done is done and grow as your own empowered person, but to think that it is somehow your responsibility to forgive something that was not your fault, is just fucking stupid.
    My 20 yr reunion is next year and you can bet your ass I won’t be there.

  23. Sili

    I really don’t get why people here want you to go to that reünion. Nor do I at all your ‘classmates’ for lack of a better word have been eager to get you to go.
    My HS time was neither particularly good or bad. I was lazy and nerdy, but I revelled in it, really. Still, while I had a few acquantances I never socialised and I have paid no attention to what happened to anyone since. I think I got an invitation for a ‘four year’ meet-up or summat and I ignored it, and somehow I’d got myself on an email-list for the ten-year-do. Unfortunately I did not then have an email interface that’d allow me to junk it.
    Good on you! for writing this. I cannot begin to imagine what it musta been like. As someone said: You won.
    To fuck with forgiveness.

  24. bluefoot

    Mark – re the broken fingers, I think for me the thing is that actually broken fingers is a pretty hard thing for a school administrator to ignore or dismiss, rather than other forms of abuse that are more easily passed off (or ignored), though less damaging (long-term). On the scale of physical violence, I can see many schools saying “it’s just roughhousing” if no blood is drawn, or no bones broken, but once it goes past that, it’s a lot harder disregard intent.
    But my own experience agrees with you: the physical abuse I experienced in my youth (at school and elsewhere) was a lot easier to deal with long term than other sorts. Perhaps because the physical is concrete – something tangible that can be quantified.

  25. lynn

    Hey Mark,
    I didn’t read all of the comments, but my advice is to not listen to the people who say, “put the bitterness behind you and enjoy your reunion” or “forgive them and go enjoy your reunion”.
    Here’s why:
    a.) Reunions are mostly pissing contests, and you’ve got nothing to prove to these people.
    b.) They might only being doing it (persistently inviting you) to make themselves feel better,
    It’s great that some of the people in your high school might have matured, and are no longer complete jerks, but that doesn’t mean you have to associate or participate in your reunion.
    With all of those traumatic memories it will most likely not be enjoyable for you. It may be emotionally cathartic which would be a good reason to go, but it doesn’t sound like it would be.
    Good luck!

  26. DuWayne

    For those who seem to think that there should be more forgiveness, because all those bullies have change, I have a hearty and heartfelt, Fuck You!!!
    I wasn’t bullied in school. I was an introvert and very, very bright, but with severe ADHD and bipolar I was a poor student and being somewhat rugged, not an easy target. But most of my friends were the geeks who got picked on. They were wonderful friends and loyal enough to inspire loyalty. But as we got older, even with me to deflect some of the physical abuse, there were issues.
    I wasn’t one of the trained, “official” peer counselors, but I referred considerably more students for suicide/self-harm intervention, than the rest of the student body combined. And most of the kids I referred were evaluated “at elevated risk,” to “serious risk” (I was never told who specifically, but was told to keep up the good work). More than a couple of them thanked me later, in spite of having been really pissed at me initially.
    Two of my closer friends, in particular, had almost outright indicated to me, that they wanted to die. One of them I am pretty certain was well on his way. Three kids I didn’t know (not close to my grade level) and one that I did, actually did kill themselves.
    That’s the kind of impact that these fucking scum fucking bullies had. I am more than thrilled to discover some of them truly regret who they were and what they did – but that doesn’t change what they did, especially to the people who bore the brunt of the abuse.
    And to make it clear just how fucked it is, what Mark is describing here would never have happened in my school. I am absolutely horrified to read about his experience and mystified that it happened in these relatively modern times, in New Jersey of all places. So the kids I was friends with, weren’t experiencing nearly that level of abuse – yet many of them were pretty seriously fucked up by it.
    So ex-bullies, get the fuck over it – the people you bullied don’t give a flying fuck how you’ve changed. And those defending them – again, get the fuck over it.

  27. GDL

    I’m going to be a first-year English teacher in a middle school in the fall, and I’m saving this essay for use in my class. Thank you for writing it.

  28. td

    RE my comment:
    If you’ve “moved on” you have a very funny way of displaying it. Clearly you are deeply deeply invested in your victimhood here to the extent that you’re making choices for your children based on it. Its kinda pathetic.

  29. I Don't Do School

    I read a comment somewhere that said “kids are kids and always will be” as a justification for this sort of abuse.
    I’d just like to say that kids that are loved and treated fairly at home, DO NOT do this kind of thing (unless they are suffering abuse elsewhere). Cruelty is a learned behavior, usually a retaliation toward someone other than their own bully or abuser.
    I left high school after a few months and was self-taught until college. My child does not attend school either. He hasn’t been exposed to torture or bullying or been taught it’s “normal” to be treated that way. Neither have the dozens of kids on our home ed group. They are all empathic, kind kids – from toddlerhood up thru their teens years and beyond. Yes, kids can get into arguments or tease (sometimes going too far out of their own ignorance but never with the intent to purposely hurt anyone) but they are never cruel or intentionally mean. They certainly don’t abuse each other, and no one is viewed as a geek or a nerd or an outcast. They view each and every person as an equal, maybe not as someone they click with but with respect for who they are regardless.
    So please don’t tell me it’s impossible for kids to do so. Kids in overly competitive environments (like schools), that have suffered abuse or neglect of their own, and have been taught social skills by 30 other kids trying to learn social skills at the same time act and treat others that way.
    To the author of this post, bravo to you for moving on and leaving this in the past. You do not owe anyone a chance to apologize, you don’t have anything to prove and you certainly don’t have to waste your time mingling with people you didn’t even really know!
    *Would anyone tell a woman she should have lunch with her rapist??*
    What I do hope is that if your children begin to be treated these ways, you don’t leave the burden of protection solely on their shoulders. There are alternative schools that focus on equality and respect (Waldorf, Montessori, Sudbury etc) and homeschooling isn’t the sit-at-the-table-and-read-a-bible practice that it used to be. There are alternatives to allowing our children to think shitty behavior should be tolerated for the sake of learning.
    Good luck. 🙂

  30. Escaped2Harvard

    its one thing to be bullied in school and another to be bullied at home.i was bullied by my parents and sister for being a geek and for being “different”.
    in school i had issues with bullies until i decided to randomly attack anyone who bullied me and that gave me a reputation.
    i think its important that schools have a well designed policy to deal with both school and home bullying. if i hadn’t left for college early i don’t think i would still be around.

  31. DuWayne

    No td, what’s kind of pathetic is you not understanding at all why someone who went through that, would do what they can to prepare their own children for it. It’s not being invested into victimhood, it’s called taking care of one’s children.

  32. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #28:
    Give me a break. What kind of parent doesn’t try to help make their children’s lives better? What kind of parent doesn’t at least try to help their kids maximize their good experiences, and minimize their bad ones?
    Since I loved math, my dad started teaching me neat math stuff when I was in second grade. He loved it, and he saw that I loved it, and so he did his best to teach me more of it. He always regretted not having the chance to learn to play a musical instrument, because his family was too poor to be able to afford it when he was a kid. So when my brother and I showed interest in music, he made sure that we had the opportunity to take lessons to be able to develop it. That’s what a good parent does.

  33. Mark Black

    I ignored my 10th reunion and will likely ignore my 15th coming up next year. Not because I was the “kid that got beat up” but because those kids were/are my friends. I fortunate enough to not attract that kind of attention in school, but many of my close friend’s weren’t and they won’t go to their reunion. Instead we’ll hang out, drink beers, or plan a trip to a faraway place.
    Befriending the nerds, the geeks and the otherwise outcast made my life far richer than it would have been. Kudos to you for your post and for living your own life…which I’m sure is greatly enriching the lives of those around you, just as my friend’s lives enriched mine.

  34. Eric

    Reading the story about your Rabbi beating up the three guys…
    It sounds like he may have studied ‘Krav Maga’. It is an Israli form of self defense. The idea is to (like your Rabbi said) end the fight as quickly as possible.

  35. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #34:
    I very much doubt it. He learned to fight in Philadelphia during the 1920s. He said Judo and boxing.

  36. Christina

    I too, was/am a geek and it was only AFTER high school that I became a model while still my main focus was on social sciences (I’m a forensic PI).
    I went to my 10 year and just laughed at how fat those cheerleaders god; how pathetic they’d become. I felt no need to attend the 20th because the 10th did nothing. I get no joy from showing them up.
    My time is better used with my real friends. Thanks for the post. This is the first time I’ve felt compelled enough to post a comment.
    Bravo to you!

  37. LPW

    I was very popular in high school and colleges. As an artist type
    however, jealousies attacked our art depts.
    Also, were bloodline problems, too political to discuss here.
    but enough to keep me from my re unions.
    Sometimes even the popular ones suffer too, but
    in a different way, from super secret bullies.

  38. cooper

    Good on you Mark. I have read through a lot of these posts, and the people that are bagging on you have no idea what they are talking about.
    The fact is, whether at home or at school, this is abuse. You were an abused child, and trapped in a situation that most people really don’t understand. The fact that a lot of people view their microcosmic community of high school fondly, or never really left it, I think is warping their perspective. No one ever tells a woman that after 5, 10, 25 years she should seek out the abusive husband who beat her because he might have changed. Nobody expects abused or molested children to “move on” and buddy up to their abusers.
    Who gives a shit if these people have changed? Given that you managed to move on through your own will without professional help speaks good about you, and why should you put yourself through the mental anguish that might come about from trying to relive those days in some kind of nostalgic celebration?
    Also, I know you aren’t a christian, but some of these people have their theology screwed up anyway. One-way forgiveness isn’t part of christian theology any more than it is Jewish. The whole point of christian forgiveness is to mimic the forgiveness of god, who, btw, doesn’t forgive unless you offer contrition either.

  39. jdac

    It probably goes without saying, but Mark, you should beware of the martial arts dickwavery you invited by saying your kid was taking Karate.
    I’ve got my own opinions, of course. I think good kickboxing looks the same matter what you call it. Ditto for grappling.
    More to the point, I doubt that many MA students (myself included) have seen enough (if any) physical altercations outside of class to have tested all or even most of their techniques thoroughly. Skepticism, is, as always, important.
    Sorry if I sound like I’m lecturing here; I don’t mean to.

  40. Hope

    Good for you! I was targeted in HS as well, not so much for my social skills, but that I had the nerve to be a lone punk in a sea of cowboys. Every day that I went to that school I wanted to throw up from the stress of the level of harassment I received. Although not as much on your level, I was bullied daily by the local cowboys, the MALE ones (I’m a woman) who were all far larger and stronger than I, with threats, intimidation and every trick in the book. Last year, one of these idiotic cowboys found me on Facebook and I nearly threw up on my laptop when I recognized the name. I completely understand your deep revulsion at the mere idea of seeing the people who did this to you again. Good for you that you have addressed it here, and for helping to empower your kids as well.

  41. Kaew C

    Some people might disagree that putting your kid through a karate class wouldn’t do much good, but from my personal experience, it can and will make a difference if he use it to defend for himself and his friends. Back in middle school, I trained Muay Thai with my uncle, and he trained me as he would with his top adult students. I was fit and confident with my fighting ability. In one afternoon, I got off the school bus and one of the upperclassmen followed me from the bus, I noticed and had a bad feeling of what was going to happened, and it did. I end up beating his face to a bloody pulp, and the guy was about 50-60 pounds and at least half a feet taller than I was. It was my first time fighting and when I completely overpowered him, the adrenaline really kicked in. I couldn’t stop hitting him, as if I was enjoying myself, but I was able to snap out of it and ran home. Luckily no one saw what happened and he did not report to the school or the police, nor came after me by himself or with his friends. After that incident, I tried my hardest to avoid any fight, even if they were to slap my books off my hand in the middle of hallway, call me names, or even spit on me. To sum up the point I’m trying to make is that martial art can help one defend himself, but its nothing more than a fighting tool. One of the most important thing your kid must learn is self restraint. I was lucky and nothing bad happen after what I did to that guy, but it might be a different story with your kid.

  42. eigenvector

    Bless you! And all the hundreds of other respondents. We are legion! My best/worst memory was being forced to do physics homework for the jocks then catching heck from the teacher for copying from them. Graduated and never looked back, never went back! I’m with you all the way! Best regards, Jim

  43. Kaew C

    Just correcting myself from the previous post. On the first sentence, I meant to say that some people might think that putting your kid through karate class wouldn’t do much good.
    Also a side note, when I said that I tried to avoid fights even if they were to call me names and spit of me, its because I was afraid of what I could do, and most of the time I just ignore or laugh it off because it really didn’t bother me. Of course your kid doesn’t have to tolerate those things like I did.

  44. Robert Grumbine

    Actually did read through the whole prior comment thread and this one. Not infrequently depressing.
    For what it matters, add my voice to those saying you’ve done well — both in your write up and in what you’ve described doing.
    A couple of more detailed cents … I went to two high schools — K-10 in one system, and 11-12 in a different system (county and state, though I only moved 17 miles). The first system was a fair amount like yours sounds. Lots of blind eyes turned to serious physical violence. We math/science/… nerds and geeks weren’t especially targeted for it, perhaps. I constituted a large fraction of our nerd and geek population, and was always one of the tallest in my grade. That fact did a lot to limit my own physical assault experience to a couple of probable concussions, getting jumped from behind a time or two, and other more ‘minor’ things. I did have friends, at least. Not a lot, but I wasn’t entirely alone in that respect, though I pretty much was on being interested in learning.
    Second school system actually had a math/science/engineering geek population, math club, and the like. Over there, I’d say that we geeks _were_ particularly targeted as a group. But in that system, the kinds of violence and verbal abuse that were condoned in the first system were _not_ tolerated. So although I was no less a Nerd Master over there (even with a population of nerds, I was over the top), I experienced far less crap than in the first system. And, actually, that’s one of the downers. Because it was far from zero. Just that I could open a book in class (one for my amusement, assignment having been dealt with already) without having reason to believe that I might be assaulted in the hallway afterward for doing so (that was what ’caused’ one of my blacking out and seeing stars assaults).
    Having seen two different systems, I’ll suggest to those suggesting that ‘everybody gets that’ that they have only seen things like my second school system. In the first it was definitely not ‘everybody’, it was particular small groups and only them. And the levels in the first were unreal to the people in the second.
    On the parenting, well, Mark is going to hold to doing his best for his kids. And those of you damning him for it are unfit to be parents. Got your attention? Good parents do their best for their kids to have better lives than they did. One of the things that made Mark’s life bad when he was growing up was being beaten up for being … himself. That including that he was a math/science type and that this is something our culture has long been very down on. Very down on meaning accepting of verbal and physical abuse being directed against the nerds and geeks. There hasn’t been a revolution and all such things ended in the 25 years since Mark’s high school days.
    So what does a good parent do? Do what he can for his kids not to have the problems he had. A martial arts class addresses that. So would telling them never to be themselves, and never display any interest in or talent for math or science. Hmm. Which route leads to the kids growing up to their best possible selves, with all talents fully developed and expressed? It ain’t the one hiding their light under a bushel. A class in ‘how to be spiffy in personal relations’ might be better, but those are pretty hard to find. Ignoring it is the most common option, but does nothing for his kids’ chances to have things better.
    I was fortunate in my parenting, in that my daughter was almost as geeky as I was, but a) was a girl (they fared better) b) was in a science and tech magnet program, so surrounded by a herd of other geeks and c) was (is) extremely good at personal relations. She did do sports, including some karate. Sports are themselves good things to do, and good (especially for girls) for weathering the storms of jr. high and early high school. On that basis again, yes, Mark’s kids should be in karate. Or soccer/tennis/track/… or multiple different ones.
    To go back to a comment made a few times earlier — living well is the best revenge. I agree with that. But for that sort of revenge, the way to carry it out is as Mark has — look in the mirror (or blog) and say “My life is now extremely good. I’m married to a wonderful woman. Parenting wonderful kids. Getting paid a comfortable amount to do work that I like. …” Goes for me too. Going to a reunion just to show that to other people, or to gloat in their not doing well, is not living well. That’s staying in that same petty world they live in. Bah. Those years way back then were enough. They’re done and gone. At least until nitwits fill our facebook mail box with pretense that those were the ‘good old days’. Then we’re reminded what it was that happened back then.

  45. raresilk

    Mark. I am happy you survived your abuse. You should be proud. The “Mark” of our high school committed suicide. No one cared. Our “Mark” was fat, a social retard, etc. But extremely intelligent. He was bullied and abused. We had other “Marks” but he was the “Markest.”
    I personally am a female “social retard” of the intelligent strata. We go through different stuff in high school, particularly if we are from working-class or poor families who are not allowed to have smart children, at least where i went to school. i felt more abuse and contempt from teachers than from other students, although the students dished out plenty. well, perhaps i asked for it. i slept (stoned) through their classes, or didn’t show up at all. i didn’t do their homework. but on test day i was always there, and i aced every single one of their tests. they hated me because i could do this. one quarter i got F’s purposely in everything just to be able to walk into the principal’s office, jump up and stomp on his desk, and shout “are you happy now? i’m finally living up to your expectations!” Then i aced the next semester again. (they did kick me out of the school system for the desk thing, as a last straw to all the other stuff, but i got back in by applying to vo-tech and acing electronics which i’d learned on my own.)
    i am in touch with a lot of people from my high school now on Facebook (i like to call it fakebook.) We are having our 30th reunion this year. In fact, it may be happening right now. I’m not there. I don’t have the energy to hate them. I don’t have the energy to like them. I just want to make peace with that part of my life.

  46. ginger

    Three messages to you, Dr. Chu-Carroll:
    1. Good on you, blowing off the reunion and providing an example for other people who had shitty school experiences and might feel pressured to go “confront” or whateverthehell the pro-reunion people are gassing on about.
    2. I don’t understand why people are fixated on exactly what you’re teaching your kids in terms of self-defense arts, but I take from the fact you’re teaching them that they are allowed and encouraged to defend themselves, they can come to you and you will help if they are bullied, and they are worthwhile people no matter how their peer interactions in school go. I think these things will help prevent bullying, of them, around them, and presumably by them. (It happens sometimes.) I don’t think it matters whether you teach them tae kwon do or boxing – what’s important is you’re teaching them how to prevent and survive violence against them.
    3. Good for you surviving and having a well-balanced, happy life.
    As to those posting here to criticize: Are you under the impression you are improving Dr. Chu-Carroll’s life by pressuring him to go to his reunion? Do you really think that you have some super-great insight that he hasn’t had, with the decades he’s spent recovering from an inescapable, emotionally and physically violent situation, in one of the two places where any child is legally and ethically entitled to safety?
    You survived similar school violence, you went to your reunion, you are glad you did? Well, say that, then. Don’t say he should handle it differently. Different strokes for different folks.
    If you haven’t experienced violence in school, then show some humility in your response, because you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

  47. heather

    Hi Mark,
    I feel this is a great blog entry, thank you for sharing this account of your experiences in high school. I also had shitty experiences in high school and understand the whole “getting contacted by assholes wanting you to go to the reunion” thing. It felt good to read your perspective and identify with some of the things you spoke of. And martial arts for the kids is great! Kids who have the opportunity to study and practice martial arts are getting a great benefit.
    Thank you!

  48. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #44:
    I like the way you put it in the end of your message. I don’t hate the people who tormented me in high school. Hate requires far too much connection, too much energy. After working through it, I still think that they’re terrible people, but there’s not enough connection left, not enough energy to it, for me to really be able to hate them any more.
    I hate what happened to me. But it’s a part of me. I may have come to terms with it, but I’ll never be able to accept it as anything less than monstrous. I think that there’d be something deeply wrong with me if I *didn’t* hate it. But the people who did it are a different matter. I don’t hate them anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I ever want to see any of them again. That’s a big part of why I don’t want to see *any* of the people from my HS class. It’s not just the abusers that I don’t want to see – it’s all of them. Because they’re all a part of that part of my life. I don’t want to forget that part of my life, but I don’t particularly want reminders of it either.

  49. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #47:
    I really think that the karate thing is a great thing for kids. If you find the right studio,
    with the right teachers, it’s an extremely positive thing. As I’ve said in other comments: the self defense part is incredibly important. But there’s a lot more to it than that. It teaches discipline, control, focus, and confidence.
    The dojo that we take our kids to is wonderful. The main teachers are two brothers. In addition, they select from their black belts, and teach them to teach. The people teaching in any given class range from about 15 to mid 40s. The brothers are incredibly good at reading children, and at communicating with children on the right level. My daughter, when she was in second grade, getting ready for her first real belt test, said “I really like Sensei Bob. He’s tough and kind of scary, but he acts that way because he wants us to do good.” Even when he’s shouting at them, the kids always know that he really, genuinely cares about them.
    And you can see it in the kids. They’re *proud* when they do well at Karate. My hyperactive daughter can sit motionless in Karate class. They’ve worked very hard with her, and they’ve taught her how to focus, how to control that energy. It’s not easy for her, and she can’t do it all the time – but the stuff they’ve done with her in Karate has been nothing short of amazing.

  50. Jim C.

    For everyone’s reading enjoyment: Dan Savage’s article Clique…Clique…Bang!

    While I didn’t suffer the extreme abuse some of my friends did, I was fucked with enough to spend four years fantasizing about blowing up my high school and everyone in it. I can only imagine the scenarios that must have rolled through Marty’s head on a daily basis. Watching SWAT teams inch their way toward Columbine High, I wasn’t shocked that something like this could happen in a high school. I was shocked that it hadn’t happened in any of mine.

    To those minimize this treatment: the handwriting’s on the wall. Ignore it at your own peril and that of your children.

  51. Omri

    No bones broken, or anything like that happened to me. My main tormentor had the decency to have his change of heart halfway through my junior year, not years later. But I’m still not going to mine.
    10 years ago, you might have a dilemma because the only way to renew ties with people you liked was to go to the reunion, and meet up with the assholes. Now there’s Facebook. So why bother? All the people I liked in school have already used Facebook to contact me. The guys who bullied me are just not worth a plane ticket to meet up with. Even if their lives went to shit while mine is getting pretty sweet, I have no desire to wave that in their face.

  52. hikikomorihime

    I agree with letting go of the anger, but never forget those experiences. Never forget who did it. Always distance yourself from them. They’ve proved what they are made of. They aren’t safe people to associate with. … Aside from that though, keep enjoying your current life. Don’t dwell too much on that past other than to use certain memories to highlight certain names in your “why I avoid this asshole” list.
    BTW, make sure your kids aren’t learning just one self-defense style. Multiple ones are useful. In a one-on-one situation, I’ve always found restraining the other person until an authority figure gets there to be far more satisfying, and for some reason far more humiliating to the person who wanted to have a fight.
    I also avoided my HS reunion to avoid having to deal with people that I had no desire to mingle with after they made my HS days hell. It’s like, “Wait, I got beat on a daily basis at home, then came to school so I could suffer torment at your hands… Years later it’s all supposed to be swept under a rug??? NO… It doesn’t work that way. You go your way, I go mine! All will be most happy that way.” Which it is… I don’t have to deal with hearing any of their banal life details, and they don’t have to be bored with my dorky hobbies. WIN-WIN!

  53. Tria

    Just wanted to drop you a comment to say – good for you for giving your kids a chance you didn’t have. I was bullied to the point of bulimia and suicide attempts in high school, and emotionally ostracised by teachers for how difficult I found it to even try to fit in, so I know, painfully, just how you must have felt.
    Simply put, kids are cruel, and teenagers can be even worse. Those scars never truly go away, and anyone who is lambasting you for that now just can’t have been on the receiving end in their time. I don’t blame you at all for not wanting to go to the reunion. Good for you for standing up and saying so and telling them why, instead of putting up with being nagged about it.



  55. d.o


    I’m a nerd and proud of it, about 90% of the world is idiots, idiots don’t like nerds, why!? I have no idea. Maybe because they don’t like having someone smarter then them, or maybe simply because … there a absolute idiot. When I say idiot, I don’t mean someone who is less intelligent, I mean the type of people who have the ability to study, the ability to learn, the ability to have ambitions … honestly, people like that are hobo’s in waiting. Every important discovery is made by a nerd/geek basically, our school system is pretty messed up, by not being strict enough and trying to encourage nerds/geeks. Even though society may not like us (the majority at any rate) I am a nerd, and I am proud of it.

    Good blog post.

  56. Ed Marshall

    I have to say, you’ve given your old classmates more attention with this blog post, and the ensuing commentary, than it sounds like they were worth (to you). I would have called that expenditure of effort an terrible waste, but you’ve struck a chord with a lot of people who went through similar experiences, myself (to a much smaller degree) included.
    My take: you’re quite right, on all counts. Life is too short to intentionally waste on situations that serve no purpose but to upset you or drag you down. You know full well how much of a reminder of your childhood will be present at that reunion, and you have every right to invite your prior tormentors to kindly go fuck themselves.
    Also, you are your children’s father, not an anonymous crowd of pundits with opinions on how other people raise their offspring. You’ve made choices in their care that were the right ones for your situation, and anyone suggesting otherwise is neither in full possession of the facts, nor in the moral position to judge; it’s purely an act of hubris on their part, and you should have none of it, just as you’re having none of your reunion class.
    Once the storm of comments on this post dies off a bit, push yourself away from the keyboard, hug your wife and kids, and go back to enjoying the life you’ve built for yourself. You’ve certainly earned it.

  57. Brian X

    Two stories, neither in much detail.
    I don’t know that I was bullied physically, but I was certainly emotionally abused by many of the kids around me. I was weird — smart, hyperactive, hell, once told off the principal of my elementary school in first grade. I wound up getting bounced to six different schools over twelve years since my parents never quite seemed happy with the way I was being treated (certainly true in elementary school, but later on…). There was a time in summer camp where the isolation and such wore on me that to one particular younger kid, I became the bully. It wasn’t until he started avoiding me that I realized that, and I’m glad I did because it’s not a person I wanted to be, then or now. If I ever saw him now, 20 years later, I would apologize, but would never expect him to forgive me.
    But it’s funny — although I remained something of an oddball the whole time, and had a long way to go socially, I actually had friends by the time I got to high school, to the extent that by the time I got to the school I graduated from, I think I actually qualified as one of the popular kids. But I would have never known that at the time — I’d been broken years before and have never yet recovered; the isolation still remains even well into my 30s.

  58. Brian X

    MarkCC: since I’m not a regular here, please forgive me if what I’m about to say doesn’t meet your posting standards.
    Go fuck yourself with a chainsaw.

  59. LVM

    Oy, does this strike a chord with me. I was the only Jewish kid in a very anti-Semitic school system (in a foreign country). I was also very bright, very geeky, and extremely socially inept. My elementary school years were hell. I didn’t get broken fingers, but I had a nice twisted ankle to show for it. I lived in a war zone for most of my elementary school years – I never felt safe; the other kids were always picking on me. I never got as much as a moment’s respite. The teachers were against me, because they were just as anti-Semitic as the kids. (I was frequently physically attacked in class, in full view of the teacher, who did nothing to stop it) I was also an extreme pacifist when I was a child – I literally could not hit another human being. My father tried his best to teach me, but I could not inflict pain on another person. Something in me rose up against it. Needless to say, I suffered for my pacifism.
    I’ve moved on. Literally, in fact. I moved halfway across the world, with my parents, when we emigrated. I left that culture, that language, and that life behind. I don’t remember very much of the years I spent in that hellhole of a country, and I am glad I don’t. Even if I were in the same country as those people, I would not go to a reunion. They made my life hell for several years. They drove me to near-suicide. I have not forgiven them.
    I am not a victim, and I do not dwell on the past (I literally haven’t thought about all that stuff for years). I think all of us former geeks have moved on with lives that are far more exciting than anything the bullies could even dream about. But the experience has shaped me and taught me; and one of the most important things it has taught me is to appreciate my friends. I don’t think I’ll ever take friendship and kindness for granted. I have many friends now, and they are very nice to me, and it fills me with joy and gratitude.
    I don’t blame you for not wanting to go to a reunion; why would you want to? Forget about those people, and on the night of the reunion, have dinner with some friends. Or just stay home and watch TV. And think about how wonderful it is that you don’t have to spend time with those people anymore.

  60. JThompson

    Stories like this are far too common.
    I came out of high school with a slightly different experience, but one that wasn’t much more fun.
    Our school actually had a kid die from bullying. Pushed off the bleachers and cracked his head open. Course, the pusher was a star linebacker, so obviously the kid must’ve tripped.
    The linebacker’s reasoning for why he wasn’t responsible was “It’s not my fault he fell on his head. He shouldn’t have done that.” No charges were pressed. We had a shot at becoming state champions (or whatever the hell they call it)that year.
    I grew up taking lots of martial arts, so I wasn’t easily bullied physically. The problem came because I was raised to protect kids that couldn’t fight and life isn’t a shitty after school special. The bullies don’t realize the error of their ways and become a lifelong friend of the outcasts. They just start attacking in bigger packs.
    I never managed to graduate because in one year I was suspended for roughly 70% of the school year. I also kept a broken hand and cracked kneecap the entire year because they never healed before I had to hit something with them again. (The hand healed, the knuckles look a little funny. The kneecap still sucks.)
    Most of it was about religion.(Deep south) I was an atheist and wouldn’t go pray at the flagpole in the morning and wouldn’t let them force other kids that didn’t want to go to go and pray.
    So what school taught me was violence is the only form of conflict resolution, what you keep is what you fight for, to survive you must become worse than your enemies, and authority is there to protect the oppressors so you should attack it at every turn as well.
    “What’d you learn in school today honey?” “Sociopathy.”
    I’ve gotten rid of most of that kind of thinking, except the “protect others” idea, which is what makes me a flaming liberal…Flaming liberal or not, I can still think of a few ex-schoolmates I’d love to run into without any witnesses around. (The above mentioned linebacker being one of them.)
    What these kids remember from school is they were your best of friends. Comforted you when you needed it, even. The very essence of human kindness to you. Perfect human beings. If you mention a specific attack, they’re going to accuse you of remembering things wrong or making things up.
    So fuck their attempts at whitewashing and thinking you might want anything to do with them.
    The same goes double for anyone with a “Just get over it.” attitude.

  61. Anon

    Hi, my first response after I heard about this post, was that there is a good chance my teenage self would have killed the person who broke my fingers. I would have contemplated the probability of my own death (less than 5%), the probability of spending years in prison for murder (20%-25%), and coldly planned my method and carried it out (50%-60%). I believe that almost everyone is capable of murder under the right circumstances. For me, breaking multiple fingers would have crossed over that line. I don’t believe I would have killed if it was only one broken finger.
    I believe my response to this hypothetical situation is based on my genes. I believe a small percentage of the human population have this gene to react in over-the-top fashion to a perceived injustice that is counter to the individual’s survival or well being. And having a small percentage of fanatically retaliatory members is evolutionarily beneficial to the race. Based on my life experience, I believe I have this gene.
    I was 4’10” to 5’1″ and weighted 90 to 105 pounds during my junior and high school years. I am an immigrant girl who went to schools in poor neighborhoods where the population was overwhelmingly black. I was most at risk during my 5th to 8th grades. Going to school was a dangerous activity. I watched serious violence at school and around school bus stops and playgrounds almost daily (although guns were less prevalent back then). There were occasional deaths and rapes. I was in numerous situations where I thought I will be beaten up by a group of kids much bigger than me. Somehow, for some reason, none of those situations progressed to the stage where we came to blows. Many times I was able to diffuse the situations with words. Other times, I let out a piercing scream and took a fighting pose. My entire body underwent a change where every hair seemed to stand straight up and electricity seemed to visibly pulsate. I think, in some way, my attackers felt this in their body. I think this may have lead my attackers to decide there were easier prey elsewhere and walk away. I don’t know what really happened. I feel very relieved and lucky for having survived each of those encounters. I feel strongly that if any of those encounters progressed to the fighting stage, I would have fought until I was close to death, but I would also have inflicted serious damage to my attackers.
    During 10-11th grades, my family moved to an affluent neighborhood and I no longer had to fear for my physical safety. During this period, I think there were many, vicious sexual rumors that circulated about me, but I barely noticed. The rumors seemed to bother my acquaintances a lot. Some girls will cry relaying them to me, but a few boys were also visibly upset. By then, nature had turned my body into a sizzling hot chick, but I was also a geek. This seemed to present a major challenge to popular boys and a few sexist male teachers. Except for the advanced calculus teacher who gave me a C for no reason when I should have gotten an A, which did hurt, the ugly rumors washed off of me like water from a duck’s back. After 11th grade, I went to college, and it seemed like I went to Heaven. There were all these polite and kind people who were very interesting and who found me and the things I was interested in interesting. I mostly forget about my earlier school years, but once in a while, a story, like this post, brings the memories flooding back. Then I remember the great, dark underbelly of society.
    Almost all the time, I am a kind, gentle, honest, and moral person. My nickname has been smiley face or happy face wherever I go since first grade. People who know me will not expect any violence from me. But if the circumstances were just so, I believe I am fully capable of murder. I was also a whistle blower a two jobs.

  62. LP

    I found this blog linked from LiveJournal. I’m not sure if you’ll read this, since you get quite a few comments, but I just wanted to say that I feel for you Mark. I really do.
    Kids can be the worst bullies. Jr. High and High School were a nightmare for me. Not only was I victimized by the other students, I was fucked over by the administration. I never had my fingers broken, but I did experience some physical abuse. I’d often come off of the school bus in tears, and come home to cry. I’d beg not to go to school because I knew what awaited me. It’s been almost four and a half years, and yet I still can’t talk about it without tears welling up. Much of my teen years are repressed. I have syptoms similar to PTSD. It got so bad that during the last quarter of my senior year, I ended up in a mental institution for six days. I was driven to the brink of suicide more times than I can count. I know the damage that bullying can do all too well. I know about the profound emotional, mental, and psychological scars it leaves. For some of us, High School was the ninth circle of hell. It nearly broke me.
    I honestly, truly do not blame you for not going to your high school reunion-and some of the comments to your original post angered me. The kid that broke your fingers for fun sounds like he’s a psychopath without empathy. Those are the sort of people that torture animals. No one in their right mind would do something so horrific.
    My plan in life is to leave this place behind and put as much distance between myself and my painful memories as much as possible. I plan to support myself with good, loving, kind, supportive people. It looks like you’ve done that. I’m still healing from my experiences in Jr. High/High School, but time has healed the wounds to some degree. I think distance will help as well.
    All my best to you, from one survivor to another.

  63. Richard

    That broken fingers thing – my fingers were broken in school too, but not by another student… they were broken repeatedly by teachers!
    My crime was to be naturally left-handed and attend a church school – and the left hand, being ‘sinister’ was subject to satan’s influence.
    The school’s solution to this ‘satanic influence’ was to ensure I couldn’t hold my pen in my left hand so I was forced to use my ‘more Godly’ right hand.
    This was, I later discovered, a pretty common occurence in church schools in the 1970s – I rather hope it doesn’t continue to this day.
    Parents – if you love your kids, keep them out of the pernicious and dangerous hands of the church schools… if there is a God, that isn’t where he is.

  64. Anonymous

    The very fact that some people ask Mark to forgive his bullies for a CRIMINAL act (breaking bones is Battery, isn’t it) is proof positive that this society has a lot of growing up to do with regard to bullying. Thankfully, many states have passed laws forcing schools to draw up meaningful antibullying policies, with several making cyberbullying explicitly illegal. Still, as Bruce Hornsby sang
    “Well they passed a law in sixty-four
    to give those that ain’t got a little more
    but it only goes so far
    cuz if the law don’t change in others minds
    all they’ll see at hiring time is the line of the color bar.”
    Bullying because someone’s a geek, wimp, timid, odd, or unacceptable is like racism and homophobia in that it’s looking down on others for the wrong reasons. If it were “all-American guy or girl next door” types breaking the fingers of someone of a different race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, I have no doubt this would be considered a hate crime.
    Other matters: I agree 100% with the comparison of blaming the victim of bullying with blaming a rape victim for asking for it. Focusing on the victim’s shortcomings is just a shield bullies and rapists use to deflect responsibility from themselves, keeping them from having to answer for their actions.
    On that note, here’s an early 90s Youtube video of sociopathic punk rocker GG Allin, when he said basically came straight out and said “rape is good for women because it’ll make them better able to handle tragedies in life” – This is within the first 10 minutes of the video!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2LvZd_9aMU (warning, sensitive people should DEFININTELY pass on this video, as this is not the only thing Allin claimed!).
    Someone saying that rape is good for women because it toughens them up and builds their character is PRECISELY what happens when we handwave away “minor” abuse of others. Abuse of one person is a gateway behavior toward abusing others. Stopping bullying is undoubtedly a good long-term crime reduction program. It’s certainly cheaper than putting 50% more police officers on the streets and doubling the amount of prison space.

  65. Jose

    Interesting, I had my bad moments too, but I had my good moments. I had been the “most popular” guy and the “least one”
    I could defend myself, I’m tall and strong and my father teach me a lot about self defence,but I have what could be described as a curiosity addicted mind and I tested what happends what you do when “you turn the other cheek” (Sorry, I’m from Spain, I don’t know how to translate it, it’s what Christ said to do about defense).
    I learn there are two kind of reactions on people:
    1)Oh, sorry, I didn’t knew I was hurting you.My fault, I stop now.
    2)You don’t defend yourself. Hehe, I will abuse you more.
    The last reaction needs defence to came back and attack the fellow. If not, it’s only going to get worse,and as you loose position on the status order you will have to defend yourself MORE for less.
    I think it is a game some people like to play, if you put someone down, you go up on the status line. The most shocking thing I discovered is that they can’t put you down!!! you do yourself.
    Reading this:
    http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html I really feel like USA education system are the worst designed against bullying of all.
    Sorry, being GEEK doesn’t mean to be bullied, it’s the school system what makes it, so please don’t generalize your experience about all geeks.
    What you have is someone that had decided to not fight, he is not going to be anything more than the last person in the social status. I think it necessary for our leaders(first one in social status) to be able to defend yourself to defend others. To be a leader you have to fight, if you don’t want to, no problem, you take your position at the end, as necessary as the leader one.
    Being intelligent or smart does not have anything to do with your decision.
    If you are interested in discussing this topic, feel free to mail me. I will be glad. I don’t read this blog.

  66. stephen

    All I can say is that I’m floored by what assholes many of your commenters are. I never imagined you’d get anything other than 100% support and total understanding.

  67. Lisa Clarkson

    I think it’s horrible what happened to you. I do want to challenge you on the idea that you have moved on.
    Signs you haven’t moved on:
    * you felt nauseated when you saw the list of names
    * your original post definitely uses language that is bitter and hostile
    * you say you don’t want contact with these people but you link to the post in their reunion forum
    This period in your life still seems to hold power over you. I think it’s a great decision for your son to learn karate and I don’t get how people are attacking you on the “life” stuff, but it seems you have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to how much sway the behavior of these assholes 25 years ago has over you today.

  68. GaryB, FCD

    Mark, as you can see you aren’t alone.
    I graduated in ’72 and my experiences in school pretty much parallel yours, except for the hyperactivity. Even before I started school I was being teased and abused by older kids simply because I was ‘different’.
    I have never, and will never, attend a school reunion.

  69. Bullied in HS

    Best post ever. I didn’t even know about my HS reunion till the week before and felt great hearing that everyone wondered where I was. I thought to myself “Everyone?? I doubt that”. People who’s names I couldnt even remember but knew they stupid mugs apparently even asked. I have a great life now and i’m not stuck in the same small town talking to the same small people. Those who matter I keep in touch with, the assholes that dont, ring up my food when I go home.

  70. Matt

    Though I could never stoop to the level of shooting up a school, in a weird way, I kind of understand those kids. Bullies in school can be downright cruel. And I would think the mental abuse/embarrassment they cause can be even worse than the physical.
    So many of the guys that picked on me in highschool are total pot-head losers now. And most of the girls that were “hot” back then aren’t so hot anymore. I too wouldn’t go to a class reunion even if you paid me. Of course, all of the popular people want to go back, because they had years of positive reenforcement back then and many of them still think they are hot shit.
    I couldn’t be happier with my life right now. I’ve got a big house and I drive a German engineered sports car. I’ve got a gorgeous asian girlfriend and support from a loving family.
    Oh, and a big fat smile on my face with the middle finger in the air.

  71. VolcanoMan

    It sounds very much like you got it worse than most people. I was lucky: my school had its share of bullying, but generally speaking there were enough people who didn’t fit in that a bully had a hard time earning an appreciative audience. Most of them stopped trying in 10th grade.

  72. Chris Coy

    I had similar experiences at first… I dealt with them by becoming violent when pushed too much. It worked – by my sophomore year no one would touch me, even though I was scrawny and hardly visually intimidating. That experience has made me believe that the only way to deal with stupid, rude and abusive people is the same as one should deal with a pack of hyenas… shoot them and waste no time on emotion for them.
    As for facebook, I’ve had quite a few people try and add me as well. People who didn’t cross the line of physical abuse, but never respected me, and made fun of me frequently. When I’ve brought up to my real friends that I still have a strong dislike, or don’t care if they live or die, or in some cases hatred still exists – my real friends sometimes don’t understand. “It was so long ago, we were just kids!” Yeah? Obviously they’ve never been there.
    So much for shallow and rude people – may you burn in hell.

  73. Stevie

    It’s good to see you’ve overcome the hurt and that the experience did not leave you bitter..
    So does this mean you will not be attending?

  74. Katrina

    The funny thing is in this world today the geeks are the hot ones. It’s definitely a good thing to be a geek now, it’s just sad that our older generations had to go through all that.

  75. brokenclavicle

    I find the fact that such cruelty is allowed to run rampant in schools in the US appalling.
    I myself had a bit of trouble in elementary and in highschool, but most would be bullies would leave me alone after the first time they came at me as I had a notoriouly violent streak when cornered, which subsequently got me suspended a few times regardless of it being self-defense. Unfortunately this made me a bigger social outcast, as I was regarded as problematic by fellow classmates and school staff.
    As for your kids, above karate (unless it’s Shidokan or Kyokushin styles) I would recomend you enlist them in a good Brazilian Jiujitsu school. Grappling and submission skills are a must for people when at a size disadvantage. Boxing is also a great way to toughen up a kid.

  76. sea creature

    Mark, thank you for this thread. I never experienced bullying the way you did, just social ostracism, in my all girls catholic high school. I was taunted mercilessly by boys in my K-8 catholic elementary school for my (later fixed by orthodontia) teeth and appearance in general. The amazining thing to this day to me is the way adults minimized or ignored such cruel behavior.
    I’ve also known girls who were sexually assaulted in high school (held against walls and groped, even penetrated) who had their complaints dismissed.
    Incidentally, I too graduated in 1984 and have never attended any reunions. I found it amusing that on one one reunion mailing almost all of my high school social group was on the “missing” list.

  77. Seth Manapio

    Second the Brazilian Ju Jitsu. I would put it over Shodokan Karate… my brother is a black belt in the latter and I’m a blue belt in the former, and I can take him if I can get him on the ground.

  78. Sarah

    I can understand not wanting to go. First of all, high school was just four years of your life. It’s inconsequential. I’ve been out of mine three times longer than I attended it. Never understood the need for a reunion.
    Also, if people break fingers? They won’t have changed. I don’t think there’s any amount of maturity or life experience that can cure someone of being a sociopath. If anything, behavior escalates.
    And finally, forgiveness isn’t always healthy. It absolves tormentors of guilt so they’re no longer accountable for what they did, and it prevents the targets of abuse from feeling the anger/outrage that’s not only appropriate, but necessary to the healing process. People who advocate blind/undeserved forgiveness tend to buy too many Hallmark cards and read too many Chicken Soup books. I advise them to step away from the drippy pop psychology.
    Sorry you had to go through all that, Mark. If it’s any consolation, it’s usually the exceptional people who are bullied by the unremarkable. Hopefully these dull, ordinary dipwads will take a hint and you will be able to get back to living your life.

  79. anonimous

    have you tried to do the math and think about it as an experiment? Random sample of the society.
    if all of them but you were assholes, what is the probability that you meet an asshole in NJ?
    Is it really possible you had such a bad luck? Or there is possible, remote possibility your imagination went too far and extrapolated bad experience to the whole class/school…. Please do not take this as an excuse for idiots that did all these horrible things, it is just an attempt to provoke thinking about sociological consequences of it. It is not only your private problem!
    Point being,

  80. Vorlath

    I suppose I’ve been lucky all those years ago. I knew how to fight (and lived in a decent neighbourhood and went to a good school, so never saw real weapons or anything like that in a fight). But even in this good school did I fight. But I never once started it (ok, maybe a few times when they were running away from beating up someone else). And the reason I did fight the very first time was the same reason as another commenter said… I snapped. The bully went too far and I was going to get hurt really badly no matter what. So I had nothing to lose.
    What people don’t understand about defending yourself is that it really has nothing to do with physical violence. It’s about making it more difficult and more troublesome for the bully to continue what he is doing. If he’s going to bully you, he’s going to have to work for it. The free ride is over. That’s what people don’t get. The actual fighting part is HORRIBLE. And you don’t need to win a fight. Too many people don’t get that either. Once you’re in a fight, whether you win or lose (as long as both are standing up to each other), you’re both in it for the duration. If the bully wants to have another go, he’s going to have to endure and that’s not what bullying is about. Rarely does a bully come back for a second time, even if technically he’s won. Heck, 90% of my confrontations were averted just by standing up to them even though I was the second smallest guy in my grade. Not a single punch thrown.
    So after that initial fight at school, every time someone wanted to pick on me, I just thought they were crazy. It was unbelievable how little they knew about fighting. However, I did lose quite a few of the initial fights (size difference) and a few more later on. But the number of fights dwindled to almost nothing within a span of few months and I could then get on with school life. The biggest difference initially was that there was no more line not to be crossed. There were no rules like in my home neighborhood where parents are nearby. That really changed me. That’s something no one should ever have to go through. Truly attempting to cause physical harm to someone else is a shock to the conscience. And the subsequent adrenaline rush can immobilize you (and thus result in your ass being kicked along with a few teeth. I remember this one time that wasn’t a fight but where I had my head smashed into the corner of a desk and had some teeth cracked. Luckily, new ones grew in their place, and he did truly apologize. Not sure what he was going on about, but his view is that it was an accident. “Yes, I only wanted to smash your head against the flat surface of the desk, not the corner of it!!!”) After seemingly countless fights where you’re up against multiple opponents, the rush isn’t too bad (remember, I stood up for others on occasions when I could. Bullies HATE that. It goes against some BS rule of theirs. And BTW, they have this illogical thing about not ratting on them. They don’t understand that you can’t be a rat if you’re involved. Besides, it’s a cheap tactic just so they don’t get into trouble and so you don’t gain an advantage.)
    Anyone that thinks self defense is just like starting a fight has no idea what it’s like. NOT ONE CLUE! However, I still believe that every kid should know how to throw a punch. Not to use it. But to discourage fighting. It really does eliminate most confrontations and you can tell if the person standing in front of you can fight or not. Running, when required, was used without hesitation when possible.
    And same thing happened at my school that happened to a few other people commenting. Once bullies started appearing with black eyes, bruises and cuts that I inflicted, the school administration realized that there was a problem. ME! I was the problem that must be stopped. Top student giving black eye to “highly respected parent’s” son didn’t fit their worldview. Top student getting beat up did. The funny part was forcing us to apologize to each other. I became a pro at false apologies. Fortunately, I don’t remember any of their names or faces as they mattered to me as much as dirt. The only fight I remember is my last one in grade 12 against people from a rival school who came up to us out of nowhere in a parking lot in town (my friends did not get involved). The ensuing conflict was excruciatingly brutal. The details I cannot publish here. All I can say is that those from the rival school who could still stand fled the scene at the end. After that, and based on the looks of my friends who were watching me during the entire thing, I swore off fighting forever. And have kept that promise to myself to this day. I don’t ever want to see that look again.
    I don’t go to my reunions either though I might go to the next one. Depends if I don’t have better things to do. Anyone I went to school with knows how to reach me anytime. And I got along ok with probably most of them by the time grade 12 came by. Like I said, I was really lucky not to have a bully problem. I can’t imagine what people do who cannot come to terms with inflicting pain on others. It’s not something people should even have to consider.
    I post this as a view of someone who went to a good school in a good neighbourhood. I’ve been passive and I’ve stood up for myself. I still say the second option was a choice while the first was not. Either way, it sucks. After school, the sky’s the limit. I never think about any of this unless I see blog posts that are on the topic.
    Simply get rid of people that are bringing you down. Going to that reunion for Mark would be pointless. There’s nobody there he wants to be reunited with. And it’s just a reunion. It’s not like he’s missed the last ship off the planet as the Sun is going supernova.

  81. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #80:
    It doesn’t take many people to totally screw up social dynamics. Take a small number of extreme jerks, and put them in a situation where there is no discipline, no conseqences for their actions, no matter how extreme. What you’ll end up with is that small group running rampant. A large number of people, put into that situation, will take advantage of it – even though they’d never *create* the situation, once it exists, they’ll navigate it, and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Between those two groups, you get a very strong social dynamic which dominates. Then you get people who are on top of the social group – they probably don’t even notice what’s going on beneath them. And you get a lot of people who are just scared – they don’t actively participate in it, but they don’t do anything that might draw the attention of any of the dominant cliques.
    That’s why I put so much stress on the role of the administration. In any large group of people, there’s going to be a few sociopaths. Let a bunch of teenage sociopaths run wild, and they’ll do things that are astonishingly awful. But in general, there are controls on them. In a school, that’s the job of the people running the schools – the teachers and principals. If they don’t do that job, then you get the kind of chaos that I experienced.
    My graduating class had something around 250 people in it. I’d argue that around a dozen of them were sociopathic. That’s 5%. Not an unreasonable estimate at the number of sociopaths in the population.
    Another 20 or 30 students took advantage of the dynamics. I wouldn’t call them sociopaths. I think that they’d probably call themselves something like realists. They’re the kind of people who go into a situation and look for how they can benefit from it. They don’t care whether the situation is good or bad – they way they see it, it is what it is. It might not have been what they would have chosen, but that doesn’t matter. They approach it as it is, and look for how to take advantage of it. There are a lot of people like this.
    Combine those two groups – the sociopaths who create a crazy dynamic, and the realists who exploit it, remove any moderating influences, and you’ll get my high school.
    All it takes is the removal of moderating authority. Put a ineffectual principal in charge of a great big group of teenagers, and you’ll get that.
    It doesn’t require extraordinary bad luck. It doesn’t require a particularly unusual group of teenagers. All it takes is a very typical teenage population, and a lack of discipline.

  82. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #81:
    Yup, you’ve got it exactly.
    The point of knowing some kind of self defense isn’t just to win fights. The basic point is that bullies are cowards. Like I said before, they’re people who get off on the power of being able to inflict pain on someone else. They don’t want to fight – they want to hurt someone. The moment that they need to pay an actual price for doing it, to risk actually get hurt *themselves*, they back down.
    If you’re capable of fighting back well enough to hurt them, they’re going to lay off. Even if they manage to beat you up, but they get hurt in the process, they’re *not* going to come back for more.

  83. Kimberly

    Mark, I can SO understand what you are saying. Next year is one of my class reunions. I’ve yet to go to any of them. No one clambered to be nice to me in school; now they want to be? Screw ’em.

  84. KB

    I completely agree with and support your call to skip the reunion. However, it’s been 25 years (my entire lifetime)! You’re married, are a proud parent and are successful. Nerd, jock, whatever: that’s a great accomplishment in life no matter what your high school standing was. While I want to believe that you’re “over it” the last two paragraphs of your article are strong evidence against that. I’m not going to tell you to get over it, forget about it, move on, etc. But when I read about your son, I got compelled to pull out my little soap box.
    I 100% agree with others here who suggest that in addition to self-defense classes, your son could use some guidance and schooling in SOCIAL skills as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure that unless your son grows up to be a ninja, social skills are a better life-skill than karate. Also better to teach him: GEEK PRIDE!! As some others have pointed out, being smart these days is actually pretty fucking awesome. Your son will likely have a much better, dare I say GOOD time, in high school. He has every chance at having the penultimate HS experience: girls, friends, fun. I respect where you’re coming from. I do. I’m just not sure it’s healthy to put a small child in karate in order to defend himself from future bullies. It’s like you’re preparing him for a life of misery rather than a life of happiness and success. He should NOT be worried about whatever experience you had; he should look FORWARD to high school. Your experience should stay yours.
    High school is not a cold, miserable hell-hole. There are some (and I mean NO offense by this) who are not only geeky (which is a-ok, even awesome) but perhaps a little anti-social. Sometimes the combination of the two can put a chip on one’s shoulder that affects the attitude not only projected but perhaps inflicted on other classmates. When you’re sixteen, you take EVERYTHING personally and you’re probably the most insecure you’ll ever be in your whole life. It’s important for people here to realize that this applies to all 16 year olds. Not just the geeky ones. If you’re an anti-social nerd walking around being kind of a dick about it, you’ll get picked on. Not because someone thinks you’re dirt, but probably because they’re interpreting your demeanor as directed toward them in a personal way (even though you feel exactly the same way about them. We’re so self-centered at that age!) I am not accusing you, or anyone who has posted here of being guilty of that, but your son might be if he starts adolescence all defensive for no particular reason. Not a good head start.
    Full-disclosure: I was not picked on in high school, am not anti-social and am not as intelligent as most of you posting. You have every right to tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about. I just wanted the other side to be heard.

  85. Robert Slaven

    I couldn’t read all the comments; made me a little too ill. But I read enough, thanks in large part to a friend on Livejournal who linked to your post.
    I probably have Asperger’s, absolutely suck at social cues, am a total math/computer geek (did PC support forever, then changed careers last year at age 44 to become an actuary), was a skinny allergic little git when I was a kid, and when we moved to Yellowknife NT when I was 8, I was put into grade 5 because I’d already finished grade 6 math and was reading at at least a grade 6 level.
    The 5 years from grades 5 to 9 were hell. No broken bones, but lots of beatings up and bruises and black eyes. Lots of emotional, mental, and psychological torture. Hung by my lower legs out a 3rd-floor window over a concrete patio, for example. Girls pretending to like me so I’d respond in some puppy-love manner so that they could then all laugh at me. When Dylan and Klebold did their thing in Columbine, my sympathy lay more with them than the others. If I’d had the chance to become as well-armed back then….
    My dad was a lawyer and later a judge, so he once threatened to sue the school board. The principal then called me and my main bully into the office, chewed us BOTH out for 10 minutes or so, then kept me for 10 minutes longer and chewed me out more. WTF? Needless to say, I never bothered reporting any other problems to principals or parents after that.
    The only reason high school (grades 10-12) was better was because (not being in the same homeroom class/herd of students all day) we self-segregated into groups that didn’t interact that much. My bullies were pretty much all in the “druggies” or “jocks” groups. There was also the “aboriginal students from the small communities”, and then the “band” group, where I ended up and finally found some decent human beings. I went to my 10th and 20th reunions, partly ’cause I was still in Yellowknife and didn’t have to travel, partly ’cause there were a few people I didn’t mind the idea of seeing again, and partly as a bit of an “in your face” moment. (I was the one they all figured was gay or whatever, and I ended up having more kids than anyone else. I also kicked ass on Jeopardy, which was a nice little achievement to wave in their faces. I also filled out and was now bigger than most of them.) Now that I’m living in California, though, I didn’t bother flying up for the 30th two weeks ago.
    Anyhow. I feel your pain, bro. I can totally relate. And I really appreciate your post.
    As for all the people saying “forgive and forget”, I have something to say about that. On the one hand, my religious beliefs include “you should forgive everyone”. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean you have to do it right away, and it also doesn’t mean you let people get away with shit. It’s like, if someone burgled our house (which happened a few years ago, but no-one was caught), I need to work to forgive them, so I don’t have poison in my heart. But if he was ever caught, he should still go to trial and go to jail and pay me/my insurance company restitution.
    If you choose to forgive them at some point, you might find that healing. But you have no obligation to allow them to occupy any place in your life at all, including on your Facebook flist.
    And God knows, I’m still dealing with repercussions. I was suicidal for a long time, and still suffer from severe depression. (I’m on two different anti-depressants right now.) I got into some nasty addiction problems, too, which have really messed up my life (and still cause me much grief, even after 3 years of sobriety). I don’t think God wants me to forgive them so they can get off scot-free; I think he wants me to forgive them so I can let it go and heal. I hope I can do that some day.
    Thanks again for your post.

  86. JoshS, Official SpokesGay

    To all of you bully defenders – Fuck. Right. Off.
    To all of you simpering, 12-Stepping, New Age, Oprah-fied “forgiveness freaks” – Fuck. Right. Off. Until you’re willing to tell a raped woman how good it would be for her “personal growth” to sit next to her rapist at a social gathering, then close your stupid gobs.
    It is BAFFLING that you people can’t see what’s right in front of you. Mark works for one of the biggest, coolest companies in the world, and you actually (I can’t believe it, even as I type it) think he’s personally stunted because he doesn’t want to lower himself to associate with these shit-kickers from high school. Huh?
    I was the gay kid beat up mercilessly in high school by skin heads. Like so many others here, the administration turned a blind eye. Nay, it was worse – the principal actually said “that’s the price you pay for being different.” This is sick and those of you puzzling over why the victims of this aren’t more magnanimous are the ones with some real explaining to do.
    Furthermore, for those of us who managed to get college educations and enter the professional, cosmopolitan world of grown up concerns, high school is of little relevance. I mean honestly, except in extraordinary circumstances, what appeal aside from provincial tribalism could associating with high school alums possibly have? Real grown up people aren’t proud of their high school or hometown, they’re proud of what they’ve done with their lives.
    Although there are exceptions, generally speaking, those who still pal around with their high school friends don’t tend to be, um, world citizens. They tend to be parochial people who never left the nest, and whose allegiance to their hometown/local football team/church parish/whatever was stronger than their desire to become something other than a townie. That’s fine; they get to make that choice. Other people get to find them tedious and boring and not worth spending time with.
    And no, I’m not at all disturbed by the elitism this “suggests.” It’s exactly the point.

  87. DCarroll

    The reason bullying is allowed to exist is because people make excuses and say the victim deserved the abuse. I can speak to the situation directly because Mark is my brother. He did not walk around with a chip on his shoulder and he didn’t act like an anti-social dick. The disgusting abuse that he suffered was not deserved and certainly not called for. Every administrator said what you said ,”What did he do to deserve the abuse?” Give me a break. You weren’t there and you didn’t see what he went through. It may make you feel better to say he had some ownership in what happened to him but that just isn’t true. As a current teacher, what Mark suffered was the worst case of bullying I have ever seen. And when I read his post, it literally made me cry to remember what he went through. The only way he got through it and didn’t become a statistic (one of those kids who reacts to the situation with violence) is by sheer strength of character. Now he does have a great life, but none of his peers deserve his forgiveness.
    To everyone speaking so much about Mark living out some retribution dream through his children- again, give me a break. Half the kids in this world take some kind of martial arts- his kids are not alone in taking karate. Mark’s kids are the sweetest, smartest, most well-adjusted children. He is a great father, and karate is just one of many activities in their lives.
    Mark doesn’t talk much about what he went through. I’m glad he wrote this post, and I suggest to him and all the other readers that share similar experiences that they talk to the counselors in their children’s schools about the current bullying program they have in place (most schools have them now). I think it would be so valuable to have someone like Mark talk about his experiences in a school setting. The worst part about bullying is not the actual bully but the other kids who watch and don’t step in. If people could voice what they went through it may encourage kids to step in. I also think it would be great for kids who are getting bullied to see that there is a life after bullying.

  88. windy

    Signs you haven’t moved on:
    * you felt nauseated when you saw the list of names
    * your original post definitely uses language that is bitter and hostile
    * you say you don’t want contact with these people but you link to the post in their reunion forum

    Apparently some people’s idea of having “moved on” is not having any negative emotional reactions to past events.

    I 100% agree with others here who suggest that in addition to self-defense classes, your son could use some guidance and schooling in SOCIAL skills as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure that unless your son grows up to be a ninja, social skills are a better life-skill than karate.

    And those are by no means conflicting goals unless Mark’s enrolled his kids in Cobra Kai or something. Martial arts classes very often are good opportunities for social interaction as well.

  89. ofrmgfo

    Look at the bright side. You, and many of the rest of us Geeks, Nerds, etc make enough money to have the high school jocks mow your yard, and that snooty bitch, well she should
    be sure to have your toilets well scrubbed.
    What was it that Khan said ?
    my 40th went cruzin by in 06.

  90. Ian

    Hi Mark,
    I completely get where you are coming from with everything as I had similarly traumatic experiences and a similar recovery. It’s strange the way some people are reacting to this and assuming you are constantly filled with rage and decaying on the inside when it’s just the opposite. Your not wanting to interact with these people is very rational.
    When I have children I plan to put them in martial arts as well. I am very much a pacifist and believe fighting is wrong, but I also think my willingness to fight back kept my bad experiences from becoming exponentially worse. When they are more mature and have internalized a peaceful philosophy, you might consider putting them in a more effective martial art like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai.
    Thanks for writing this post,

  91. KB

    88: I’m sorry if I at all suggested that Mark, or anyone, deserves bullying. This is not the case at all. His case is obviously more extreme than others, but no one DESERVES or ASKS to be bullied. I was just trying to emphasize that, in general, we’re talking about insecure high schoolers here. Not malevolent, violent sociopaths. The behavior can be explained and even understood to an extent from a sociological and evolutionary stand point (which I won’t get into here). The real problem, as Mark so heart-breakingly points out, is the obvious ignorance and inaction on part of parents and administrators in these situations. While bullying can be understood, it should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
    Kids are effing stupid. That’s why they need adults and parents. While I understand Mark’s anger toward what happened, they were all young. There are people that don’t deserve his thoughts or attention at all (finger breaking? this isn’t bullying, it’s literally criminal), but what about the rest of the classmates? To hold a grown person responsible for their stupid teenage transgressions is silly. Think of mistakes you made in your adolesence and then think about someone holding them against you FOREVER. Some of what happened to him is extreme, but some of the kids there were just being kids (to answer your point about those that stood by. How many of us had the cajones in high school to assert ourselves confidently, let alone attract the attention of the bully?)
    I’m also not saying “forgive and forget” or even “you shouldn’t be angry about it.” I’m just saying move on. If he’s so well-adjusted and over it, why publicly rant about his old classmates? Why not simply ignore friend requests and rsvp no to the invitations and then move on? Done and done.
    Regarding his kids. Obviously, I don’t know him or them AT ALL. Even in the slightest sense. I was simply responding to what he wrote in the article. His son’s very constructive, very healthy activity was just framed in the middle of this angry, rather bitter rant. The problem with running back to these situations in a negative light (much like this “fuck you” letter to those inviting him to the reunion) is that one can find themselves back in that angry, hurt emotional state-of-mind from all those years ago. It’s not something you want your children to get sucked into. The idea of speaking at a bullying program seems more constructive than this.
    But finally, while I don’t really agree with the tone of his article there at the end, I think the fact that it’s brought so many people here to share their own horrible experiences is fantastic. For everyone that has, I really hope they’ve grown into happy, successful adults.

  92. Maria Bell

    Your post and all the comments made me cry. I graduated in 1981 and remember high school incidents that were similar to yours but I wasn’t the victim and I wasn’t the bully – I was the bystander that didn’t do anything. To be clear, I was one of the ones witnessing but NOT laughing though…. just at a loss for what to do without becoming the next victim. Most of the time, I’d say to my few friends (wasn’t that popular either) let’s go and not try to witness the disgusting behavior, hoping that without an audience, it might stop. I apologize to you though I do not know you. I’m so sorry I did not do more for classmates who were in your same position. Really wish I could have done more, but didn’t have the guts…

    Did the high school experiences have a profound effect on me? Yes and not sure how this really happened, but I ended up raising children who actually stick up for victims and have the balls that I never had to put a stop to it. My oldest girl has made comments to me like “I’m nice to them (& defend them) because I don’t want to be on their hit list when they pull a Columbine and because its the right thing to do anyway… ” She doesn’t tolerate shit behavior from bullies and it has made her the target – sometimes even from teachers who have a habit of humiliating/belittling students themselves and she calls them on it. Sad… You would not believe what goes on these days; bullying has reached new heights – it has reached an all time high with cyber bullying which is so much quicker than the traditional grapevine and now has the ability to “record” the bullying to brag about.

    BTW, My oldest girl was attacked in several incidents, the most severe by 5 other girls in 4th grade and it resulted in a dislocated shoulder, bruising and I also got the comment from an administrator “What did she do to bring this on?” as though she was responsible for an invitation for the abuse – yes, this crap still happens. She is now the stronger for it all. (We sued the school district and won. )

    But who do I really blame? Parents who raise these bullies – they are the reason the bully acts the way they do – whether they are abusing the child themselves and the kid retaliates against a weaker person or being a role model of being a bully themselves or just ignoring the bad behavior when it first surfaces dismissing it as “Boys will be boys” or “She didn’t mean it really…”. It is all just sickening… Parents need to wake up and take responsibility for their child’s behavior!

    The positive side of this for you – you have risen above it and you are strong! You have a great job & family and are doing right by your children helping them to be prepared. Bravo! Good Karma to You!

    Peace be with you!

  93. DCarroll

    Re 92: Again you are excusing the behavior and saying “Kids will just be kids.” If I tormented someone for 9 years of their lives 20 years ago, I think somebody writing me a letter saying that it wasn’t okay would be more than justified. There are certain actions that you take in this world that you can’t ever take back. Mark has moved on, but he wanted one opportunity in his life to tell all the jerks he went to school with that what they did was not okay. I think he has earned that without people telling him he is bitter. I’m glad for you that you never experienced bullying. Maybe it is easy for you to say that responding to it in any way is silly. But as you see by the hundreds of comments that there were a lot of people out there who were terrorized in school. I think it gave Mark and many other readers a little bit of peace to be able to say out loud “F off.”

  94. KB

    94: I’m not excusing behavior. Instances in Mark’s life are extreme. In general, however, it’s wrong for people to demonize bullies, which is the trend I’m seeing here. Yes, sometimes kids will be kids. They’re inexperienced, unknowledgeable and insecure. Poor decisions made during a time of growth and learning should not be held bitterly to heart by a grown man 25 years later (speaking in generalities, not to Mark’s specific case). There are the sociopaths, yes, but there are also just chicken shit kids too young to make the right decisions. They should be allowed to grow out of that. Otherwise, aren’t we just perpetuating the bad things they do by requiring them to keep that identity? That’s the point I’m trying to make. It has nothing to do with Mark specifically.
    But to the rest of your point: fair enough. Every one deserves a chance to flip off the people that tried to hold them back in some way or another. I respect that completely. A quote I hold near and dear to my heart, and that I keep posted discretely on my desk at work: “If my blood were alphabet soup, it would spell ‘I’LL SHOW YOU MOTHER FUCKER.'” So here’s to everyone getting their chance to spell it out for the rest of us!

  95. Big Sarge

    Loved this post and comments. I cannot say I shared a similar experience. I was a bigger kid 6’4″ 200 lbs, who wrestled. I was not a geek, and am not very smart. I had social skills and lots of friends. When it wasnt wrestling season I liked to play around computers and video games. So my best friends were geeks. And there was a huge problem with bullying in my school. I got into quite a few fights for my friends. By graduation in 2006 I had been suspended 7 different times faced expulsion twice, broken 1 kids nose, broke 1 kids hand, and been to the hospital for various injuries myself fighting for my friends. Like I said I’m not smart, so even being at school all the time I struggled to keep D’s. But my “Geek” friends were there to help me and thanks to them I graduated with everyone else. Hearing your story and the other ones here too is aggrivating. All my friends have gone to college to get degrees and high paying jobs. And most of them are having the time of there lives. I joined the Army and have spent two tours in Iraq. But if it wasn’t for them I’d be another burger flipper without a diploma. I still tend to be friends with geeks, mainly because they are just nicer people. Not really sure why I’m saying all this. Just wanted to let you know I’m sorry for the way you and all the rest of you with similar stories were treated I guess.
    Oh, and not to try and tell you how to raise your kids. But Mixed Martial Arts or Wrestling is great for self-defense purposes. Because almost all fights end up on the ground.

  96. Lurker

    re #92, I wouldn’t account the events that happened to Mark to mere stupidity, they are hateful acts and a lot more indicative to a personality problem than anything else.
    My high school experience wasn’t as bad as Mark was except that my problems was with the authority. The first school, I was thrown out of the school on the ground that I cheated on my exams because I wasn’t doing any homework assignments at the time (due to muscular problem which made writing painful), yet, I had consistent high mark (80% and more) on the exams.
    After I’ve been thrown out, I spent all my free time at my local library to learn English, computers, some physics and various other bits and pieces.
    For the second school, I had a really good Cambodian friend who was on the tall and overweight side and since I was making a lot of money at the time, I usually provided him a cartoon of cigarette from time to time (we were both smokers) and I never had any problems there except with the administration (again…)

  97. LVM

    Signs you haven’t moved on:
    * you felt nauseated when you saw the list of names
    * your original post definitely uses language that is bitter and hostile
    * you say you don’t want contact with these people but you link to the post in their reunion forum
    This period in your life still seems to hold power over you. I think it’s a great decision for your son to learn karate and I don’t get how people are attacking you on the “life” stuff, but it seems you have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to how much sway the behavior of these assholes 25 years ago has over you today.

    There are limits to how far a human being can “move on”, I think. Moving on does not mean amnesia. Of course he’ll feel nauseated when he sees the list of names – they tortured him, for crying out loud. Is he supposed to forget it? Does “moving on” mean associating with those assholes once again as if they’d done nothing wrong? And why on Earth is he supposed to associate with them at all?
    I have moved on as much as one possibly can, I think. I moved to a different country, speak a different language, became a different person. I have a good job, good friends, a good life. I am happy now – happier than I’ve ever thought I’d be. I rarely, if ever, think about what I experienced as a pre-teen. But I have not forgotten or forgiven. If one of the assholes who tormented me had tried to get in touch, I’d refuse to have anything to do with them.
    I have not forgotten because my body and my subconscious have not forgotten. I used to have a severe stutter when I was a kid – a reaction to what I was experiencing in school. I had speech therapy and it didn’t do squat. It was really bad. When I speak English, I do not stutter; when I speak my native language, I do. My body remembers.
    My subconscious remembers, too. I get oddly exaggerated surges of gratitude when anyone is at all kind to me. Sometimes, when I am being treated with ordinary courtesy by an ordinary stranger, I want to weep for joy because I am treated as a normal human being among human beings. I do not show these reactions; I do not experience them every time I interact with people; but every so often I do, and I know why.
    Bitter and hostile? Well, I’m not sure I’m all that bitter, or all that hostile. Refusing to forgive or forget doesn’t make someone bitter or hostile. It just means that you are unwilling to have anything to do with a given person. Those people have done enough damage to my psyche. I have a full life now, plenty of friends, and limited time. If I have the choice between going to a reunion with the people who tormented me and made my life hell – however nice they might be now – and going to a party with my good friends, I’ll take the latter alternative.

  98. SEP

    I was in a similar situation (of less magnitude), and it was excruciatingly painful to deal with it at the time. Many of the cruelest people had been my good friends years before. And many of the more intelligent people in advanced classes with me exhibited the same destructive tendencies as their less-aware brethren. Although I’d label them as opportunistic bastards rather than sociopaths.
    You seem remarkably well-adjusted for all the shit you went through. I’m glad you managed to get over it. I found my own way out, through a combination of extra-curricular activities, relocation and bravado. I learned how to act in ways that kept me out of most trouble. It saved me from a lot of grief. I’m still uncomfortable in many situations, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me. Self-defense has made me a master of artifice.
    While I appreciate some of the results of my forced maturity (an early route to empathy and understanding, conflict resolution), I still cannot condone that behavior, nor can I consider it as a rite of passage. And when I see these c*ck-suckers “friend” me online it brings to mind many unpleasant thoughts. I have no desire to socialize with any of these bottom-feeders, and if they don’t even have the fortitude to remember and resolve their past behavior I see no need to even speak with them.
    I’ve “forgiven” them, but there are plenty of people around that I’d rather meet than give them a second chance to screw up again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that I have to become their best friend. Nor does it mean that I owe them anything beyond letting it all go.

  99. echidna

    I can’t help feeling that intelligent people (sometimes called geeks) are intelligent because they have good memories, and prefer reality to a fantasy reconstruction of events. To anybody who prefers fantasy, particularly religious fantasy, this might seem to be “bitter”. Is this strange term “moving on” a code for “pretending that past injuries did not occur”?
    Mark isn’t bitter; he is a realist. He is under no obligation to act in a way that satisfies other people’s fantasy construction, or reconstruction, of events.
    Mark, well done on this post. It has resonated around the world.

  100. Nomen Nescio

    trying to psychoanalyze other people’s emotional health and states of mind based on things so immaterial, so unlikely to show a complete picture, as ASCII text on a computer screen (and such short messages, such tiny pieces selected out of an entire life!) is usually recognized as futile. there’s just no way a complete stranger could get enough context through this sort of medium to really understand something that complex.
    yet some folks will insist on trying, naturally, and even go to lengths to convince others that their remote diagnosis of perfect strangers are complete, correct, and credible, all arguments to the contrary be damned.
    if i were to indulge the impulse to do that on this thread, and choose to apply it to the fellow poster named “KB”, i could very easily end up concluding s/he must have some episode in their past for which they feel a great need of gaining forgiveness, but are unable to gain it.
    as far as really understanding a fellow human being goes, that guess is roughly as informative — and as reliable — as what a magic 8-ball might give me, of course. but it would explain some of KB’s persistent behaviors, amusingly enough. (well, even magic 8-balls are supposed to amuse, are they not?)

  101. David

    It strikes me that the only person who hasn’t grown up here is you. Clearly your classmates put you through a lot of emotional stress as a child. And here they are as adults reaching out to a fellow adult, recognizing that despite your differences you may find you have interests in common and can be decent to one another. You, however, are scared to face them and accept that maybe they actually have changed. Are you worried that you might realize that they’re not so bad after all? Don’t you think they deserve a chance? Or should they do as you have done and assume that nothing has changed? Should they all hate you for being that weird little kid just like they did when they were younger? It seems to me that you are the only one here forcing yourself to stay in the past. If this is the way you act as an adult, it’s difficult to imagine that you didn’t encourage this behavior as a child. Now, it’s never okay to say it is the victim’s fault, but sometimes life isn’t pretty and you have to show a little goddamned backbone around other people. Sadly, that’s just as true for children as you and I.

  102. JThompson

    @92: Really? I’d suggest you know not what you speak of, then.
    If torturing someone to hear them scream isn’t being a violent sociopath, just what the hopping fuck do you think a sociopath is?
    Where do you think the adult violent sociopaths come from? They were fine until 18, then they magically turned into one?
    (If you’re sensitive or sane, stop reading my comment now, it’s related to sociopathic behavior, and about as disgusting as it gets.)
    I can recall walking into my highschool parking lot one day and wondering just what the hell an unrecognizable pile of blood and fur was…After asking around a while, someone finally told me “Oh, (insert names of 4 guys) found a bunch of kittens in the woods behind the gym this morning and took them out here at lunch.”
    I came home so worked up my mother kept me out of school for a week because she thought I’d have literally murdered them had I gotten near them. (She was right.)
    So does this fall under “Bullying is bad, but boys will be boys”? Are they not violent sociopaths? I’m pretty sure you’re confusing what you grew up with with what some other people grew up with. Finger breaking and burning symbols of hate fall pretty much in the definition of violent sociopath.

    Now, it’s never okay to say it is the victim’s fault, but I’m going to anyway, because I’m a stupid asshole with even less empathy than brains. I’m the kind of person that’s glad to point out it’s her fault for wearing a short skirt.

    Fixed it for you, David.
    People don’t change, you ignorant troll. I’ve yet to run into someone from highschool that wasn’t the same person in a bigger body ten years later.
    I have to wonder if you’d be stupid enough to point out a woman prosecuting her rapist should forgive and forget and drop the charges. That was way back there! We’re up here now! Stop living in the past!
    Actually, I don’t have to wonder at all.

  103. Katie

    “Stay the fuck away from me. I don’t want to know how you’ve changed since high school.”
    People grow up. People change. But it looks like you haven’t. Maybe these old classmates, these old bullies, are contacting you because they’ve changed their ways and are sorry for what they’ve done in the past. Maybe they want to apologize to you in person. Maybe they really want a second chance.
    Or …maybe not. But you never know unless you go and find out.
    “I don’t want to hear about your lives. I don’t want to hear about your children. I’ve got a good life now, and I cannot imagine a reason in the world why I would pollute that world with contact with any of you.”
    and yet you are telling them about your life and your children. Kind of hypocritical.
    You may say you have a good life but you seem emotionally damaged and incapable of moving past your high school drama. Not only that, you are reliving your nightmares through your children and ‘preparing them for battle’. A skinny geeky boy who knows karate… yeah that’ll save him from the the anguish and torment that you experienced. I second the therapy suggestion. Seek help.
    Your kids are geeky and they’ll probably get it as bad as you. Life isn’t fair. Too bad.
    Writing a whiny blog about how bad you were treated, as if you were the only person to ever be bullied, doesn’t do you any good. It’ll probably open up old wounds. And if you’re bullies are still bullies, then they’re reading this and laughing at you. Hopefully you understand that by now.
    by writing that blog entry and asking them to “stay the fuck away” you’re practically asking them to pick on you again. I really wouldn’t be surprised if some of your old bullies commented on this blog. You really know how to make yourself an easy target.
    Really though, I think everyone deserves a second chance. If you actually do give them a second chance, it makes you look like a better person in comparison to them. That and you could always hope that they’re college drop outs with shitty jobs so you can brag about your PhD and working for Google. You will look golden next to those pieces of shit.
    I just don’t understand why you are complaining publicly to the internet. I may not have been physically bullied as bad as you, but I was bullied from kindergarten to my first year of college and I would never dare write a “fuck you letter” to my old classmates and post it publicly online. It just makes you look sour, bitter, and stuck in the past.
    What’s done has been done. It’s all in the past. You shouldn’t dwell on the past so much. Just move on.

    This sort of reminds me of this one time, a friend of a friend of mine, let’s call her Rachael, she was getting bullied by a group of kids. This was my Senior year. Rachael was a geeky, chubby, anime lover, writes fanfics etc. She only befriended/dated other ‘geeks’ like her. Well anyways she was dating a freshman at the time.
    While I was in Spanish class a group of about four or five people were on the computer and had found her livejournal and were reading her entries out loud. They were making fun of her, her interests, and her relationship with a guy who’s three years younger than her.
    When I got home, I sent her a comment explaining what happened and suggested that she put her entries on private. So by the next day she did just that and then she posted a public journal entry addressing her bullies. It was pretty lengthy, whiny and unnecessary; in short it was basically “I thought this was a Catholic school. Would Jesus do what you did?”
    And again, they read her journal and laughed at her. One of them even left anonymous comments harassing her.
    You can deny it as much as you want, but words hurt. You can try to “fight” for yourself, defend yourself on an online blog, but it probably causes more harm than good and simply creates another reason for them to make fun of you.
    Don’t want to go to your high school reunion? Fine. But just don’t post a detailed blog entry about why you’re not going and about how much you still hate those people.

    About a year ago I ran into a former bully of mine.
    First off a bit of info: We went to school with each other from first grade to eighth grade. She is what I considered the “nicer bully” – meaning she never got physically abusive (her best friend on the other hand…) This girl would usually just call me names and mock me a lot. I’ve forgotten most of the things she said to me so maybe they weren’t damaging enough to ‘stick’ or scar me for life or whatever. or maybe they were so harsh to the point I tried to erase them completely. I don’t remember much of my social/school life from 1st to 6th grade. Maybe this is why. Makes me wonder if there’s such a thing as ‘forced amnesia’ either way it’s helped me move on.
    Anyways I was a second year student at a community college. I was walking towards building 1 just as she was walking out. I recognized her but wasn’t completely sure if it was her since it was six years since we last seen each other but then she said “Katie (last name)! Wow, how’ve you been?”
    The way she approached me was..friendly. Like we’ve been friends who haven’t seen each other in years. So I tried to present myself the exact same way. Friendly and happy to see her.
    I could have just avoided eye contact and speed-walked the hell away from her, but I don’t hold grudges. If she wants to talk to me I’ll gladly listen.
    So we talked a bit for a few minutes about what we were up to said our “see you around’s/bye’s” and headed off to our separate classes.
    It wasn’t bad. I was actually glad to see a familiar face in a fairly large college full of strangers. If we ran into each other again or have a class together I wouldn’t mind talking to her again. and if she invited me to a party/get-together/coffee-run/whatever and I don’t have anything planned I think I would accept the invite.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      @Katie Damn girl you need to grow some balls, you seem like a sniping, snitty, puritanical little doormat. Ugh the vibe off you really sucks.

  104. JThompson


    The way she approached me was..friendly. Like we’ve been friends who haven’t seen each other in years. So I tried to present myself the exact same way. Friendly and happy to see her.

    Afraid of confrontation and absolutely desperate to be accepted by people that hated you?
    Dare I suggest you’re the one that hasn’t gotten over things?

    Makes me wonder if there’s such a thing as ‘forced amnesia’ either way it’s helped me move on.

    Then I suggest you stop griping at people that haven’t forgotten for writing a “whiny blog”.
    I’m sure you’ll take offense at my tone, but to be honest my tone was slightly nicer than yours.

  105. LVM

    It strikes me that the only person who hasn’t grown up here is you. Clearly your classmates put you through a lot of emotional stress as a child. And here they are as adults reaching out to a fellow adult, recognizing that despite your differences you may find you have interests in common and can be decent to one another. You, however, are scared to face them and accept that maybe they actually have changed. Are you worried that you might realize that they’re not so bad after all? Don’t you think they deserve a chance? Or should they do as you have done and assume that nothing has changed? Should they all hate you for being that weird little kid just like they did when they were younger? It seems to me that you are the only one here forcing yourself to stay in the past. If this is the way you act as an adult, it’s difficult to imagine that you didn’t encourage this behavior as a child. Now, it’s never okay to say it is the victim’s fault, but sometimes life isn’t pretty and you have to show a little goddamned backbone around other people. Sadly, that’s just as true for children as you and I.
    But why does he have to go to that reunion? It’s not actually mandatory, you know. People skip high school reunions all the time. People also choose their friends, and choose to avoid certain people.
    Heck, I skipped all my high school reunions so far, and I actually had a semi-decent high school experience. Do I have to go, just to “show backbone”? Heavens. What if I have no time? Presumably, Mark is a busy man, and I’m not sure he’s got the time to go to such an occasion – and why should he?
    As for “adults reaching out to a fellow adult” – the nice thing about being an adult is that one can avoid the people one dislikes. As a child, one has no choice. As an adult, one can choose one’s friends and acquaintances. And quite honestly, I don’t think I could be friends with even the nicest adult who was a bully as a child. Not because of my own past, but because I just don’t like such people. Generally, bullies are either (a) cruel or (b) conformist sheep. They might grow out of beating people up, but they don’t grow out of being cruel, or being conformist. I prefer to hang out with kind people.

  106. LVM

    Oh, and #96 – your posting made my day. You are a wonderful person, and your geeky friends were lucky to have you in their lives.

  107. Katie

    “Afraid of confrontation and absolutely desperate to be accepted by people that hated you?
    Dare I suggest you’re the one that hasn’t gotten over things?”

    No. It’s just not in my nature to be rude to somebody who is happily greeting me. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as a person is being nice and polite to me then they deserve to be treated the same. It doesn’t matter how she treated me in the past. Like I said, I don’t hold grudges.
    If she was just somebody I barely knew I would have reacted the same way to her greeting.
    “Then I suggest you stop griping at people that haven’t forgotten for writing a “whiny blog”.
    I’m sure you’ll take offense at my tone, but to be honest my tone was slightly nicer than yours.”

    No I didn’t take offense at your tone. However I would just like to add that I like to focus only on the positive moments in my life and block out the negative. By blocking out the negative moments of my life (and not dwelling on them constantly like Mark), over time those memories become small and hazy. Which is why I feel like I’ve ‘forgotten’ most of them. but then again, I’ve never had my fingers broken or a swastika burned into my driveway. Either way, just move on. Unless Mark has a time machine, he can’t change what happened.
    I just don’t like to dwell on negative moments in my past and I just never talk about them. and I rarely do so online. This is one of those rare occasions.
    What does bitching, whining and dwelling over the past accomplish? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
    Whenever you start to think about how terrible your life is or how horrible you were treated in school, just think to yourself – “it could be worse.” There will always be somebody who got it far worse than you.

  108. echidna

    Katie@104: “… I’ve forgotten most of the things she said to me so maybe they weren’t damaging enough to ‘stick’ or scar me for life or whatever. or maybe they were so harsh to the point I tried to erase them completely. I don’t remember much of my social/school life from 1st to 6th grade…”
    You have no clue about your own life, but you want to give advice to someone who actually has a memory and knows how to use it?
    Have you not realised that Mark is a successful, happy person, who is able to communicate his experiences beautifully to a general audience? The general audience appreciates it.
    Have you not realised that the point of the post is not so much the abuse that occurred years ago, but the sheer cluelessness of the perpetrators, that they don’t even seem to realise that they were way out of line?
    Don’t worry about Mark’s emotional state. You should be concerned about what *you* are doing to enable, or prevent, bullying.

  109. yak

    Really though, I think everyone deserves a second chance. If you actually do give them a second chance, it makes you look like a better person in comparison to them.
    . . .
    That and you could always hope that they’re college drop outs with shitty jobs so you can brag about your PhD and working for Google. You will look golden next to those pieces of shit.
    . . .
    And if you’re bullies are still bullies, then they’re reading this and laughing at you.
    You know, it’s possible for Mark not to care about whether he “looks like a better person” than the bullies, or how his job compares with the bullies’ jobs, or whether bullies are laughing at him. Why should someone with good friends, a great job, and a wonderful family spend time or energy trying to impress a group of former classmates?
    Honestly, “Screw you, I’m not going to the reunion, and here’s why,” sounds a lot closer to “letting go” than “I must go and act like this never happened, because I’ll look like the better person, and the way I appear to others is a huge factor in every decision I make.”

  110. Katie

    “You have no clue about your own life, but you want to give advice to someone who actually has a memory and knows how to use it?”
    See my reply to JThompson.
    Would you want a rape victim to dwell about the rape and constantly replay that moment over and over in their minds? How would you expect them to move on with their life when they’re driving themselves deeper into depression?
    The same thing for child abuse, Would you want a victim of child abuse constantly replaying those moments when a parent beat him/her black and blue? How would you expect them to move on with their life when they’re driving themselves deeper into depression?
    Would you expect a bully victim to constantly dwell about what happened in the past when it is obviously hindering his social life and preventing him from enjoying or simply attending certain get-togethers like oh say a high school reunion?
    Just because I’m trying to block out certain moments of my life does not mean I have no memory whatsoever.
    “Have you not realised that Mark is a successful, happy person…”
    Is he really happy? He doesn’t sound like it.
    “…who is able to communicate his experiences beautifully to a general audience? The general audience appreciates it.”
    You’ve seemed to mistaken the word bitterly for ‘beautifully’.

  111. Katie

    “I must go and act like this never happened, because I’ll look like the better person, and the way I appear to others is a huge factor in every decision I make.”
    I didn’t say he -must- attend. I think it’s worth a try. He can always leave if he doesn’t like it there.
    Or he can just not attend. I don’t care. but if you’re not going to attend why bother writing about it?
    He doesn’t have to act ‘like this never happened’. He doesn’t have to “act” like anything. but it would be really nice if he went to his reunion and said “I’ve moved on. I don’t care about any of that anymore.” if somebody starts openly reminiscing about the days they used to beat the shit out of him or make fun of him.
    “and the way I appear to others is a huge factor in every decision I make.”
    No, not ‘every’ decision.
    But the way you present yourself to others does matter whether you like it or not.

  112. yak

    But the way you present yourself to others does matter whether you like it or not.
    Mark has a job at a great company, good friends, and a great family. These are the things that actually matter. The opinions of a bunch of former classmates or strangers on the internet (myself included) are not going to change that.

  113. anonimous

    Re>Re #80
    “…It doesn’t take many people to totally screw up social dynamics…”
    Point taken; have you read “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding?
    Schools lost this “social” component on the way, there are purely educational. There was a huge discussion in Germany about these two faces of the schools. Unfortunately, there is some kind of consensus that “schools are there to educate, not to make good people”.. the second part is up to parents. How this could work? The kids spend most of the time in schools, way longer than with parents?!
    In small villages this works pretty ok, as everybody knows everybody. Teacher/administration is your next neighbor. Social component is enforced through close contact outside of school life.
    You made really good point, about uncontrolled extremes destroying fine balance in society. This pattern is powerful and dangerous.
    Take for example Former Yugoslavia, at the time it was the most prosperous among eastern countries, with good contacts with progressive part of the world… and ended totally destroyed following exactly this pattern. Ten, not more, idiots took guns and went to some wedding party, killed a few innocent people for no reason, and said “we did it” … than the others found 10 idiots that took guns… the rest, the rest just followed and polarized from sheer fear… everybody was forced to take side…
    A few idiots managed to destroy complete country in a way much uglier than in your class, but following the same pattern.
    Disorientation of former Yugoslavia after Berlin wall fall, made it just an easy target … there was no single integrating ideal for the country. “Geeks” tried to work against it and organized civilized resistance, but it did not work, this was already the time where violence dominated… not something where geeks shine. They left the country.
    Even my uneducated grandfather was aware of this pattern, “it takes a lot of work and people to build house, but a cup of petrol and a match are enough to destroy it”
    School as an institution should get its reform, it is not only about pushing some knowledge into people, it is as well about making them responsible citizens… I am sure there are the schools, where it works, but this is not system enforced, it is then more based on self-motivation and “heroic acts” of single individuals.

  114. echidna

    You yourself said that you don’t remember a lot about certain rather long periods of your life. You have blocked certain things out. This is a coping mechanism, and if this works for you, then fine. Nobody has said that a victim of any sort should dwell on the bad experiences.
    However, not everyone can or wants to block memories. This is not the same as being bitter, it simply accepting the reality and totality of life. Just as it is not encumbent on a rape victim to publicly forgive and embrace an attacker, it is not encumbent on Mark “make nice” with his former attackers.
    Mark writes beautifully, and the resonance in the responses indicates that he has reflected the experiences of many. I’m dismayed by the audacity of people like you who just don’t get it, that sweeping things under the carpet and pretending that the abuse didn’t happen just normalises bullying in society.

  115. TSK

    People grow up. People change. But it looks like you haven’t. Maybe these old classmates, these old bullies, are contacting you because they’ve changed their ways and are sorry for what they’ve done in the past. Maybe they want to apologize to you in person. Maybe they really want a second chance.

    Ah, they are reformed !

    Or …maybe not.

    Yes, because…

    Your kids are geeky and they’ll probably get it as bad as you. Life isn’t fair. Too bad.
    Writing a whiny blog about how bad you were treated, as if you were the only person to ever be bullied, doesn’t do you any good. […] And if you’re bullies are still bullies, then they’re reading this and laughing at you. Hopefully you understand that by now by writing that blog entry and asking them to “stay the fuck away” you’re practically asking them to pick on you again. I really wouldn’t be surprised if some of your old bullies commented on this blog. You really know how to make yourself an easy target.

    Wait a sec. You actually *know* that these “reformed” people
    can be *still* bullies which conflicts with your purported argumentation of forgiveness. And convieniently ignores that the reason is not the will to forgive (because then the bullies wouldn’t have waited twenty years), but to project an image during the reunion.
    And, oh yes, Mark must be very afraid to be an easy target.
    How much people are reading his blog ? How much other people
    on scienceblogs are ready to help him ? What do you think
    will happen if a former bully tries to harass him and Mark
    post the name and the address of the bully and what he has done to him before and tries to do now ?

    That and you could always hope that they’re college drop outs with shitty jobs so you can brag about your PhD and working for Google. You will look golden next to those pieces of shit.
    I just don’t understand why you are complaining publicly to the internet.

    Because you never escaped highschool, princess. You are still extremely afraid to be punished if you raise your voice and you simply believe that like an ostrich nothing
    will happen to you if you stick your head into the sand.
    Be polite, be conformist and nothing will happen. Be polite
    to my highschool tormentors because they still could influence my life. They could laugh at me, oooooh. That will
    destroy my self-esteem, that may not happen. So I will try
    to forget everything that may hurt me. I can do it if I really try and I hate people if they forced to remind me this stuff.
    If in highschool everyone defines complaining as “wimpy” because it undermines the rightfulness of the bullies, then
    it must be still wimpy twenty years later. Riiight.
    And you pushed your highschool values into your normal life. Be pretty, be normal and brag about your husband, your
    money and your kids at your reunion because without that you are nothing.
    Highschool is *over*. Grow up.

  116. chris y

    but it would be really nice if he went to his reunion and said “I’ve moved on. I don’t care about any of that anymore.” if somebody starts openly reminiscing about the days they used to beat the shit out of him or make fun of him.
    Who would it be nice for?
    I wasn’t particularly bullied in high school, but it seems to me that this whole reunion thing is a huge crock. If there was somebody you were friends with at school, and you’re still friends, good, you know their number and you can call them. If you’ve lost touch, you’ve got other friends instead. If you weren’t friends in the first place, you’ve still got other friends – if you’ve moved on.
    What on earth is going through the minds of all the people here who think that Dr Chu-Carroll is in some way obliged to take time out and reverse his life by 25 years? Are you all on his school fundraising committee, so you want to shake him down for a contribution or something?
    Lokk, Dr Chu-Carroll was seriously abused at school, which doesn’t pre-dispose him to relive the experience. I’m on his side there. But equally important, he hasn’t seen any of these people for A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, since Reagan’s first term! And evidently he hasn’t wasted all those years. How many people that you haven’t seen for 25 years do you really, actually give a shit about any more?
    Seems to me that it’s the people shrieking for him to put himself to the expense and inconvenience of attending this party who need to get a life.

  117. Echidna

    Ah, TSK, I think you’ve nailed it. I had forgotten how conformist high school in the US is, and how the girls are always aware of who is looking at them and what they might be thinking.
    Give me the more independent, godless Aussie lifestyle everytime. Not perfect, but better than most. NZ excepted.

  118. echidna

    chris y,
    You said: “Are you all on his school fundraising committee, so you want to shake him down for a contribution or something?”
    I was puzzled why someone like Katie who really doesn’t think like a scientist (drawing inferences out of thin air) is posting so passionately on Dr. Chu-Carroll’s blog, and why although the overwhelming response on the blog is empathy, there are a few people who feel threatened by the very thought that Dr. Chu-Carroll could ignore the reunion – and not care about looking good to his old classmates. He must be bitter, right?
    Are these the classmates who are harrassing him all over again? They certainly seem clueless enough.

  119. Gaythia

    Mark has done a great service with his post here. It helps to remind those of us who experienced bullying that our own individual experiences were not really isolated events, but rather part of a social construct. As adults, we’ve done our best to raise our own children wisely. We try to give them all of the awareness and social and physical skills that we can. Where necessary, we attempt to actively protect them, or remove them from danger zones. We try our best to ensure that our own school systems are safe and rewarding places for all children.
    Some of the less sympathetic posts seem to be from people who were bullies. And they don’t want to be made to feel guilty about it now either. We need to be concerned about the impact of their own children on the children of others. Additionally, we need to be concerned about how these blame the victim, and often anti-academic, attitudes play out in society at large.
    As a nation, our goal is not to raise our children to join the Taliban, but rather to be thoughtful participants in a multicultural, free, democratic society. Both childish and adult versions of bullying must be confronted and ended.
    As scientists, we understand that many of the most critical decisions our country and the rest of the world face require the application of science to solve. We need a public that has science literacy. We need scientists. This means that we need a school system that is strongly supportive of those who show an interest in science. It means that we must have an educational system that actually values academics and creates an atmosphere where knowledge and learning seem desirable to all.

  120. carol

    Everyone posting can make a difference in children’s lives TODAY by checking out Vermont’s anti harassment law and helping his or her school to adopt an anti harassment policy. It isn’t difficult.
    Then be sure your administrators are trained to understand the law and policy, and that your teachers and all staff understand it. They then teach the children of all ages in their schools about it.
    Since you are at Google, Dr., maybe someone there could do his or her Google magic and disseminate information and a how-to manual to get this done all over the U.S.
    Best wishes to you always!

  121. JThompson

    @echidna @ 119: I’d wondered that as well…It’s entirely possible one of them googled his name.
    It’s also possible some of these people that are taking a story of bullying as a personal attack are remembering some of the stuff they pulled in highschool. Then blaming the victim, since thinking of it in any other way gives them an idea what they might’ve caused.

  122. Peter J. Nicol

    Read all of your comments in this thread, and can’t find that I disagree with anything you said.
    More power to you.
    In my school, it was pretty good, but we were in a special class for the bright kids, separated from the rest of the school. Somebody thought it was a good idea to give us a part of the library that no-one else was allowed into, reinforcing our difference.
    What is interesting is that we were pretty much bullied by the rest of the kids, but in our little cut off world, there was bullying in our group.
    So, I was both the bullied and the bullier. These days, it makes me feel awful thinking about a couple of incidents, and I can’t really explain the motivation. Some of it was ‘good natured’ if you will, but some was just bloody wrong, inexcusable…
    The stuff I copped from the tough guys was more physical, but isolated random incidents, and in a strange way, almost certainly easier to deal with than the constant nastiness we inflicted inside our own group on one particular guy.
    I think there was one ring-leader, and a few others sort of joined in…

  123. Arno

    Mark, respect! I already respected you for your blogs, your knowledge and your ability to clearly explain the things you do on this blog. But what you had to go through, and have grown out of from you school days, it is awfull. But it shows what strong person you are that you have outgrown these things.
    Never mind the idiots that claim elsewise, that claim you are not good for your kids because of the karate, that claim YOU do (or did) something wrong. They are either jealous or completely ignorant bastards. Or both.
    Indeed, you do not owe anything to any of those sick fucks that bullied you, not even to the ones laughing over it. If anyone would want to apologise, it is THEM that have to take the initiative, be VERY convincing and even then it is completely up to you whether or not you pay any attention to them.
    Fortunately I did not go through what you have, but I know that if somebody deliberatly broke my fingers, or did any of the other wrongs that have been *deliberatly* done to you over and over again, I know they still should not sleep well at night. The fact that your bullies can, says a lot about how great a person you are! And the bullies should be VERY greatfull for that. To you.
    @Blake Stacey: indeed, the only logical conclusion is that Marks son is Jebus 🙂 Which makes Mark… 😉

  124. spinetingler

    Forgive ’em, forget ’em, fuck ’em.
    I haven’t been to a HS reunion in the 30 years since I graduated. Mostly anyone I wanted to keep up with I’ve kept up with, and anyone who wants to find me can easily Google me.

  125. Seth Manapio

    Vorlath wrote “Heck, 90% of my confrontations were averted just by standing up to them even though I was the second smallest guy in my grade. Not a single punch thrown.”
    Absolutely true. Another reason to learn Brazilian Ju Jitsu: if the bully gets you on the ground you can keep from being hurt.
    Another great, constructive, and fun anti-bully skill is Parkour. Knowing how to run away effectively is an underrated skill.
    To those who think Mark should “move on”, the difference between victims of serious bullying (and Mark’s bullies were way, way worse than most) and people who weren’t is that the latter think you should “move on” and the former realize that not hunting those assholes down one by one finding a way to make them suffer is moving on.

  126. Anonymous

    By chance i was passing from a blog of yours: Math carnival dated at 2007. There was complaint of a mathematician regarding a submission by a non-bright person who had difficulty in basic maths such as division of fractions etc. I saw you also appreciated him. One difficulty of basic person was division of percentages and a Mr Adam had responded as instructing that that division should be done like normal numbers. When does it happen that you might divide two percentage?

  127. KB

    I am utterly confused as to why everyone is claiming “people don’t change.” Really? You’re exactly the same person you were when you were 16 or 17? I assume you must be to make such a ludicrous claim.

  128. Nomen Nescio

    @127: dividing percentages can happen when you’re comparing rates of change, or comparing the impact of factors that each produce some change to see which one produced the greater change, and want to say how much greater. in such cases, it’s sometimes easiest to convert the percentages to fractions and divide the fractions symbolically to avoid too much rounding error.
    @128: there may be some inadvertent equivocation going on here. of course people change over time in some senses, nobody’s the same at thirty as they were at fifteen. on the other hand, of course some factors of a personality remain unchanged, too; otherwise we’d be hard pressed to identify what a “person” means over time.
    a good argument can be made that clinical sociopathy (which can indeed be found in children, yes) is usually — perhaps always — a fixed part of any given personality. certainly adults diagnosed with it are oftentimes considered incurable.
    by now plenty of people have pointed out that for each bully there are many unhelpful bystaners who simply allow bullying to proceed without trying to stop it. such people likely do have consciences, and probably can come to regret their complacency; in that sense they can change. but folks who downright enjoy causing pain for pain’s own sake — if there’s any way to change a personality such as to remove that trait from it, please do let our penal system know of it. we could use a reliable, repeatable technique to do that.

  129. MniJ

    I was an outcast in high school as well. Got picked on a lot, but thankfully never got in fights. I was skinny, beanpole shaped, was more into electronics, sciences, music rather than sports and muscles. So I was on the receiving end of a lot of horrible pranks and what could be best termed mental abuse, so much that I don’t want to go into detail. I spent a lot of time the edge of fear, praying that somebody wasn’t going to beat the spit out of me.
    I hung with a few other weirdos/geeks/outcasts, so I was fortunate to have some friends. But I wasn’t ‘in’ with any crowd. My 25th reunion just passed this year. I didn’t go. I’m in the same position, with many old classmates wanting to be friends via Fakebook. But I feel the same way: I don’t want to see 95% of these assholes either. I don’t care what they’re doing these days, don’t care to hear any aspect of their lives. I won’t believe any iota of remorse over what happened to me in high school- heh, that’s even if they remember/acknowledge anything that was done to me.
    For all the jerks who reply that they “just don’t get it”, it’s because they never were the target of abuse. For me, high school wasn’t something I experienced, it’s something I endured until it was over. You can’t enjoy something when bullies and abusers steal that privilege from you. You don’t get over physical and mental abuse, damage to your property/possessions, being excluded and looked down upon.
    Like somebody else said, instill self-confidence in your kid. Get him to be outgoing and active. Karate-equipped but passive in nature will make him a target, and remember retaliation often brings escalation. Every time I see the ‘Dog Whisperer’ show, I think how much people are like Cesar Milan’s description of dogs. We’re pack-based. The weak, the outcast will get picked on by the dominant. If you can run with the pack, you’ll fit in and be accepted. There may be some event associated with establishing your place in the pack, but that’s bound to happen. If I knew this back in high school, I would have retaliated and stood up for myself.

  130. KB

    @131. You’ve made a point that a lot of other people here have: that even if the bullies that picked on you in HS showed some remorse now, 25 years later, you would not believe it or accept it. That’s really odd to me. Does it just make you upset in some way to think that they’ve matured beyond that and actually become full-functioning, successful, respected members of society? I could see how it would destroy the whole “nerds shall inherit the earth” paradigm of all the popular kids growing up to be fat and lazy while the geeks grow up to be bazillionaires. I’m honestly just curious since I’ve never witnessed or even heard about this kind of extreme bullying many are posting about here.
    Also, just to say something that I’m sure will anger some people that bother to read this, I think you can move on from abuse. I don’t think the scar of it will ever go away. I don’t think that thinking about it will never upset you, but I know there is a way to move away from it so that it no longer has power of you, who you are or the motivations for what you do. And I am saying this from a personal experience. You would be surprised at how common many types of abuse are: bullying, molestation, severe emotional or psychological abuse. It’s not only the weirdos that get targeted for this kind of stuff. You are not as alone as you think! And to say someone can move past it is not “hippy, oprah-hugging bullshit” — it’s true. For people that say it’s impossible, there is most likely some kind of desire not to let it go. I can’t blame people for this. Sometimes thinking about a situation in your past that made you feel small and worthless but only makes you feel angry now is empowering in some way? Almost energizing because in that moment, you feel almost exactly opposite of the way you did then? (again, only asking questions) While I respect Mark’s specific experience, I am definitely loving the broader discussion about this kind of stuff. I’m actually learning a lot from everyone posting.

  131. Beth

    It looks like you have a book here. Do you have the time or inclination to edit all of this and write it? From the responses you received, I’m sure it would sell!
    I loved your post! I’m delighted you have a good life today. It’s great your kids know self defense!
    I’m only a nerd who is a wannabe geek!

  132. yet another geek

    Thanks for writing this post. Clearly you have generated a lot of interest from many people with shared experiences. Feel free to ignore this response, since there is a lot of overlap with other responses, but there are a few things that you may find interesting in it anyway.
    As a fellow geek, I took in a lot of bullying and abuse from grade 5 through to 11. I started school early, so I was younger and smaller than all of my classmates and more socially immature. I was also smarter than them and a geek through and through, which placed me as different from the moment I opened my mouth in my very first class. Since I grew up in a small hick town where it seemed that most people married their cousins for the last eight generations, most of my classmates thought this was tantamount to open season on the different kid. This meant that I got beat up, teased, taunted and my school life was a living hell for years.
    In grade 10 I moved to a city a few hours away and the high school was twice the size of my previous high school. It turns out that shitheads abound everywhere though, and I was still picked on. Finally, in the beginning of grade 11 I started in a local shotokan karate class. My so-called “friends” used to ask me if I had learned any new sounds after I had been to a class.
    Within a few months though, my self-confidence had improved to the point that I was able to start fighting back. I never had to actually get into it with any of the bullies, it was just more the fact that I could (and would) stand up to them with absolutely no fear in my eyes that made them realize that they could get seriously shit-kicked if they tried to follow through on their current round of bullying.
    Ok, there’s the background. Now for the main event.
    Karate is an incredible confidence booster for just about everyone. I can attest to the fact that pre-karate, I was bullied (very similarly to your bullying episodes – insidious, with accompanying depression and suicidal thoughts running rampant), whereas post-karate, I was not bullied. Most of the change was entirely because of my attitude towards the bullies. This means that your children stand a very good chance of never being bullied simply by having attended many karate classes.
    For all of those people who start (as an earlier poster put it) dick-waving because of karate, I suppose I don’t really have to tell you that thousands of people ridicule what they don’t understand. Please ignore their rants, because you are taking the interests of your children first and by the sound of what your family has posted here, you are doing a fantastic job. Please keep up the great work, your kids will thank you for it in the years to come.
    Finally, I wanted to add some specific comments about karate, BJJ, judo and other martial arts.
    For over 25 years I have learned shotokan karate as my primary martial art, but have also learned in varying degrees (wait for it) – goju ryu karate, judo, jujistu, Brazilian jujitsu, muay thai, krav maga, akido, and boxing. I have taught at three schools, including my own, which ran successfully for five years. I currently offer free martial arts classes to local high school students, in an effort to combat bullying. Most of my students do *not* fit the stereotypical jock, but generally come to me because of serious social or physical issues. I have taught both of my children karate and judo for years. All of this is not said in the spirit of bragging, but to make sure you realize that I have a bit of an idea of what I’m talking about.
    Point 1 – There is no *best* martial art – they are all good, as long as the student is committed to learning his or her best.
    Point 2 – A blend of many martial arts over many years will help learn good and bad parts of all of them. The student will develop his or her own style that can no longer be called one particular art. Ultimately following a philosophy similar to Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do “the style of no style” may serve your children best here… Your mileage (actually theirs) may vary.
    Point 3 – A bunch of people have compared karate to other styles, saying things like “I knew a BJJ guy who totally whupped that karate dude’s ass because the fight went to the ground.” Right. I’m sure you did. I’m sure it’s also totally irrelevant because that is a statistical sample size of one. See many previous posts that Mark has written about statistics. Many fights will never, ever make it to the ground because the karate guy knew what he was doing and the BJJ guy ends up with a busted kneecap. Comparing styles is ultimately another exercise in dick-waving.
    Point 4 – Beware the overconfidence. Your children are physically still small. A 300 pound man still has a good chance of being able to sit on them and cause lots of bodily harm. There’s nothing wrong with your children getting a black belt in grade 4 as long as you realize that a black belt is only the beginning and that your children will relearn many things as their strength, height, weight and physical abilities grow with time – this means that they may end up still being a complete klutz when turning 12 or 13.
    Point 5 – It’s never too late for anyone to start any form of martial arts. The reason I started my first judo class was because my older son was taking it for 6 months and on a whim I decided it was a good idea to join. I was 30 at the time. It is still an active part of my life, and although my son doesn’t still take judo at that club, I teach him many judo techniques at my high school club, which he still attends regularly. The oldest person I taught was 55 when he started at my club about 10 years ago. For him, I emphasized low attacks, high defense so that the flexibility wasn’t as much of an issue. Mark, consider also attending with your children. You might surprise yourself and it takes up very little time every day.
    Point 6 – Martial arts will (if done properly) always be part of your children’s lives. It doesn’t have to dominate their lives. For me, karate and other martial arts are not my life (I have a fulltime job which does not involve martial arts), but have provided a wonderful balance to my life.
    I applaud you for the post that you have written but also the underlying steps you’ve taken to ensure your children do not go through the same misery you did.
    Oh, one last thing. For those people who thought that Mark should go and pretend those asshats from high school meant something to him and attempt some kind of forgiveness therapy, it seems clear that you have never actually been bullied. What were you thinking?
    YAG (Yet another geek)

  133. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    @131. You’ve made a point that a lot of other people here have: that even if the bullies that picked on you in HS showed some remorse now, 25 years later, you would not believe it or accept it. That’s really odd to me. Does it just make you upset in some way to think that they’ve matured beyond that and actually become full-functioning, successful, respected members of society? I could see how it would destroy the whole “nerds shall inherit the earth” paradigm of all the popular kids growing up to be fat and lazy while the geeks grow up to be bazillionaires. I’m honestly just curious since I’ve never witnessed or even heard about this kind of extreme bullying many are posting about here.

    As far as the forgiveness thing goes… I don’t see it as anything like geek supremacy, or any sort of snobbery or anything like that.
    An apology 25 years after the fact just doesn’t mean much. We’re not talking about people who tripped me in the hallway once; we’re talking about people who abused me, severely, day in, day out, every day for several years. They might have grown up to be responsible,
    decent people. But that doesn’t undo what they did. They still inflicted a huge amount of pain on me. I still needed to suffer through years of emotional pain for years after the abuse stopped, because of the scars that it left. Who they are now just doesn’t matter. They still did what they did.
    To use a fairly extreme metaphor: imagine someone who robs a bank,
    shoots a teller and guard, and gets away with a million dollars. 20 years later, he finally gets caught. He invested the money he stole, and became very rich, and now is a major charitable donor. He gives money to child abuse prevention, foster care, etc. He’s become an absolutely exemplary citizen.
    Should he be allowed to say “I’m sorry”, and get off without any punishment? Moderate the punishment, because he’s changed on done good? Maybe. Pretend that the crime never happened because he does nice stuff now? No way.
    If any of the people who abused me were to get in touch with me, and offer a genuine, heartfelt apology for what they did, I’d probably forgive them. But I don’t own them anything. I don’t have any obligation to do something like go to the reunion so that they have the opportunity to apologize should they feel like it. If they were geniunely sorry, they’ve had 25 years to tell me about it. I’m not exactly a hard person to find. It’s not my job to make it easy for them, to give them opportunities.

  134. sprawlgeek

    I would rank this in my top 5 of all blog posts. This is one of those threads that we can relate to in so many ways. I too have never gone to a class reunion. My small town mid-western guilt bothers me at times, but at the end of the day, I would rather be with my wonderful wife and kids or for that matter reading a good book. Time is precious and I highly value my free time. I was never physically abused, but the social abuse in a small school was at times horrible. My Dad died this year and so I went back for the first time in ages for his funeral. When you have seen what life has to offer, when you have been flown on corporate jets, when clients hang on every word you say, then to go back to those memories of mean-spirited abusive kids (whose parents did nothing) it is nothing short of surreal. I have found 2 things, 1.) Personal success is one great turn of justice. 2.) self-actualisation separates us from that past. Thanks for giving us the place to scream it from the rooftops.

  135. MniJ

    @132. It’s not a question of whether the bullies have “matured”, or “actually become full-functioning, successful, respected members of society”- or perhaps… not at all. You overlooked that possibility. I haven’t retreated to a cave or anything- the papers tell me of some of my abusive classmates’ fates: there was one O.D., a couple suicides, one went to prison (one who trashed my bicycle). Two have gotten booted out of jobs in law enforcement. Another doper was decommissioned from the service. There are plenty who have become stereotypical white trash.
    As I stated, I don’t care where they are at now, how much money they make (or don’t, on welfare), or how high up the elevator their corporate office is (or isn’t). They could be rock stars, doctors, Pulitzer prize winners, or astronauts. It wouldn’t matter. There ain’t no jealousy involved. It might be amusing to know where some of them are now, but I don’t care at all for any contact or socialization with them. They never showed me any interest in high school- aside from the target I posed- so why should I show them any interest now? Do I owe it to them, or them, me? No. Will it give me any closure, or fulfill my life in any way? No. Will a magical friendship develop from a meeting? Nah. Will contact and an apology do it? No. Do I think they’ll remember all of the things they did to me? No. Do I remember all of the things? Probably, and thankfully, not. It doesn’t matter. They magnitude of what happened didn’t faze them then, so it’s highly doubtful they’ve harbored or developed any regrets in 25 years. They were non-friends then, and they will remain non-friends now.

    Yes, you can move on from the abuse. I’ll say I did. I’ve gone from fearing the bullies… to loathing them… to a state of indifference. The water went under the bridge, but it left a stain behind. As kids we were all immature a-holes; I can forgive them partially for that- but the abuse that went beyond the level of “prank”, that’s inexcusable and there is no way in hell I’ll accept that they “didn’t know better at the time”. If their parents didn’t raise them with morals, its likely they haven’t developed any since then. I were to met one on the street or wherever, don’t think I’d be greeting them with a fake “Hey how ya doin’ SO NICE to see you after all these years!” plastic greeting. Nor would I greet them in ager. I’ve moved on, so expect a neutral “Hey, how ya doin'”, only because that’s my typical greeting.
    “I’m honestly just curious since I’ve never witnessed or even heard about this kind of extreme bullying many are posting about here.” – are you serious? It’s been in the news for years. All of the “school bullying” articles, news items, suicides- don’t tell me you didn’t hear about the Megan Meier? Wikipedia her. Are you saying you never heard or saw any bullying in your school? You haven’t seen any of the “anti-bullying” school programs lately? Or Cyberbullying? (Megan Meier) Neighbor, you need to read the news more often.

  136. itchy

    Just to comment on the “bully dynamic,” my situation was similar to #81, Vorlath. Everything he says was true for me as well.
    I was one of the smaller kids in my class. I wouldn’t consider myself popular or unpopular — just about average. But I was an easy mark for a small percentage of guys who were bullies. They were always bigger, but I would always come back at them much harder than they came at me. Most of the time, they’d be surprised. It was clear they didn’t actually want a fight. But, to save face, they’d have to fight back. There were not many fights where a real winner could be determined, because it was obvious as soon as we started that we both wanted it to end. (Well, it was obvious to me, maybe not to them. I did my best to make them think I wanted to keep going at it.)
    Never did a guy who bullied me once come back and do it again. As Vorlath said, it didn’t even matter whether he actually “won” the fight.
    One time when I was about 12, I was at a bigger classmate’s house — I’ll call him Joe — a guy who had bullying tendencies, but wasn’t always bad. He started something, we went at it. I don’t think either one of us was getting the best of the other, but, by luck, his babysitter happened to rush out as I was on top of him, and she shouted, “Stop beating him up.” Everyone froze. I got up and said, “OK, I’ll stop,” and went home. Phew!
    To my amazement, I was in the hallway the next week, and a different guy was starting to try and push me around. It might have led to something or not. Joe comes up to the guy and says, “I wouldn’t do that. He’s tough.” The other guy says, “Huh, him?” Joe says, “He kicked my ass.”
    From then on for the rest of that school year, it was smooth sailing.
    One other thing: At the same school, there was a kid who was the smallest guy in the class. He carried himself around like he was the biggest and commanded respect. I remember thinking, “Uh, maybe this is all an act, but if I were a bully, I wouldn’t want to test him to find out. He obviously appears supremely confident that he knows something we don’t.”
    I don’t say any of this as a recommendation for how to act — and these days, I’d probably be even more frightened that violence could escalate way out of control — but just to expose bullies as cowards who only want to get a “laugh” at someone’s expense without incurring any resistance.

  137. CL

    KB @ 85: High school is not a cold, miserable hell-hole. There are some (and I mean NO offense by this) who are not only geeky (which is a-ok, even awesome) but perhaps a little anti-social. Sometimes the combination of the two can put a chip on one’s shoulder that affects the attitude not only projected but perhaps inflicted on other classmates.
    Then those classmates should leave the oh-so-awful little antisocialites who so offend their delicate sensibilities the hell alone, instead of tormenting them.
    It’s not that hard. Really. All they have to do is go on with their deeply important social lives and not harass the kids who aren’t interested or aren’t good at that stuff. In other words, they could mind their own business.
    Some little cretin grabbed my kid and slammed his face into a locker door, because he was “having a bad day”. I took pictures of my son’s black eye and gave copies to the school, insisting that they handle it with the kid’s parents or I’d take the photos to the police. The kid transferred shortly after that. “Bad day” my ass. He did it because he COULD, because my kid was smaller and wasn’t interested in playing *pecking order*.
    I’m so sick of most people making excuses for deliberate cruelty, based on some bass-ackwards crazy notion that the kids who AREN’T tormenting people have to change THEIR behavior. It’s Orwellian; like all the blather about how women shouldn’t wear short skirts if they don’t to be raped.
    It’s victim-blaming idiocy, and it’s perpetuated because most people aren’t brave enough to do the right thing in front of all the other sheeple.
    So all y’all who are trying to do the same crap to Mark now because he posted this? Telling him how he should be handling it differently? Guess what–that’s GARBAGE. You should be ashamed of yourselves, but you’re too invested in keeping your own pathetic little pecking order going to get it. It’s sad, really.

  138. Alan

    Listen Mark, my heart goes out to you. These people were despicable and deserve a lot more than a good telling-off for their crimes. And, to be honest, I’m sure many of them are doing what they did 25 years ago but with a different modus operandi: status-seeking.
    These people got social status in their vicious clique by beating up the weak kid because that’s how society is in dysfunctional schools. Now they are inviting you to social gatherings because, guess what, YOU’RE THE BIG CHEESE NOW. You have a PhD in Computer Science, you are an engineer with what is probably the most respected company on Earth. In adult society that gives you the same status as the school bully had back in school. Knowing you grants bragging rights.
    That said, I’m sure some are just trying to reconcile in a very clumsy manner. But don’t have any illusions: the rest are looking out for number one, don’t give them the time of day.

  139. CL

    Don’t want to go to your high school reunion? Fine. But just don’t post a detailed blog entry about why you’re not going and about how much you still hate those people.
    Don’t want to read someone’s post about how much they still hate their high school classmates? Fine. But just don’t go into a long detailed spiel ON THAT PERSON’S BLOG about how you were bullied (but not too badly), but you don’t remember, so why doesn’t the blog owner just get over it like you did (by–what was that again? oh, yes–sucking your bully’s ASS when you met her again in public).

  140. KB

    @ 139: “You should be ashamed of yourselves, but you’re too invested in keeping your own pathetic little pecking order going to get it. It’s sad, really.”
    See, most people, when they grow up, grow out of that mentality (disclaimer: there are always exceptions to every rule). Really. MOST people WANT to be part of society. The fact that there’s a pecking order is really just a result of the way people find ways to fit themselves into their surroundings. We can’t all be the same because we AREN’T all the same (Myers Briggs helps illustrate my point). Some of us are smarter and some of us are better looking. Whatever. And don’t misinterpret me: this is not an excuse for anyone to bully or push around someone else for not being like them. Duh (if I may). It’s an argument that the “pecking order” is natural. Put groups of people or animals together and it just happens. Mostly because certain people are better suited for certain things. Sheesh.
    You’re slamming my opinion while ending everything with a “it’s sad, really.” Did you feel better after writing that? I bet you did. Isn’t that a form of bullying, putting someone down to make yourself feel superior in some way, even if it’s not physical?
    What I went on to later explain in #85 (and again, this is speaking in broad terms, not to Mark’s bullies or experience directly) that sometimes anti-social behavior can be interpreted as its own form of aggression (as many of these posts prove: “fuck them, don’t go. you’re the big cheese, let those bastards wonder.”) Adolescents with no real world experience can take this personally and react to it in aggressive way. For example, I interpret your post as being aggressive and even a little mean. If I were 16, my response would be more along the lines of “shut the fuck up. you’re just all pissed off because your pussy little son got beat up.”* I would meet your perceived aggression with my own. I might even escalate as I did here by invoking your son. Is your post meant to illicit some kind of angry response? As one adult talking to another, my assumption is no. You’re simply illustrating your point with a little fervor. (a. you think I’m excusing bullying behavior — which I’m not, or at least not doing on purpose as I don’t agree with this and b. your son got beat up and as a parent, your emotional reaction to that came across).
    Is this all OK? No. Is it going to happen anyway? Yes. (again, here I was talking about your average, ho-hum bully. Not some psychologically disturbed miscreant). In a utopian society, there would be responsible adults there to punish, educate and even redirect or dispel that aggression. And if that person is much like the bullies that Mark encountered, well, then they would need more than some guidance, wouldn’t they? But it’s not up to the kids to do this. It’s not about learning how to fight or just stand up for yourself, it’s about adults stepping in and being fucking adults and taking those kind of bullies out of the school. Period.
    *Illustrative purposes only. I don’t agree with that statement at all. In any way. Not even a little.

  141. Katie

    “Sucking your bully’s ASS when you met her again in public”
    lol what? I didn’t do that.
    What would you have done if you ran into a former bully of yours? Pathetically resort to physical attacks and kick her in the shins? Or maybe you’re the type of person who would run in the opposite direction, screaming and crying.
    I personally wouldn’t do any of those things.

  142. LVM

    But the way you present yourself to others does matter whether you like it or not.
    Yes, but which others? If I’m presenting myself to a biker gang, I’ll be presenting myself in a very different manner than I would present myself to a classical music appreciation society. Why should Mark bend out of shape to “present himself” to a bunch of low-lifes?

  143. LVM

    @143 – Your comments are rather insensitive, no? For all that you’re trying to describe yourself as a kind and forgiving person, you are not behaving in a kind way to Mark, are you? The difference between a truly kind person and someone who can don the mask of a kind person is just this – how you behave behind the veil of anonymity on the Internet to a random stranger.
    Mark has bared his soul to us; he has told us a deeply painful and personal story. The difference between kind people and unkind people is the reaction – the unkind people see weakness, and pounce. The kind people see pain, and sympathize. This has nothing to do with “geek” or “non-geek”; nothing to do with intelligence or stupidity. This has to do with empathy and kindness. You chose to pounce on the weakness rather than empathize with the pain.
    One of the reasons I will never hang out with the people who bullied me in school (or any people who bullied anyone in school) is just that – because I am now an adult and can choose my social life, I prefer to socialize with people who are kind. They don’t have to be geeky, they don’t have to be smart, they don’t have to be intellectual – but they do have to be kind. And kind people don’t bully others in school. Empathy is something you learn in very early childhood – it’s not something you can learn as an adult.
    So it doesn’t matter that the bully who broke Mark’s fingers has acquired some social graces and doesn’t break people’s fingers anymore. He still hasn’t acquired empathy. Nor have you, apparently.

  144. Katie

    @ 116
    “Wait a sec. You actually *know* that these “reformed” people
    can be *still* bullies which conflicts with your purported argumentation of forgiveness”

    I said IF.
    And if your* bullies are still bullies, then they’re reading this and laughing at you.
    You really need to work on your reading comprehension.
    Maybe they’re sitting at their computers, laughing about how pathetic Mark is…or maybe not. Maybe they’re going to have a good laugh about this blog during the reunion. Or maybe not. but either way, Mark doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about what those people are currently like. He doesn’t care enough to find out. Because he’s still the same little wimp that he was 25 years ago.
    *fixed my grammar error.
    Because you never escaped highschool, princess. You are still extremely afraid to be punished if you raise your voice and you simply believe that like an ostrich nothing will happen to you if you stick your head into the sand. Be polite, be conformist and nothing will happen. Be polite to my highschool tormentors because they still could influence my life. They could laugh at me, oooooh. That will destroy my self-esteem, that may not happen. So I will try to forget everything that may hurt me. I can do it if I really try and I hate people if they forced to remind me this stuff. If in highschool everyone defines complaining as “wimpy” because it undermines the rightfulness of the bullies, then it must be still wimpy twenty years later. Riiight. And you pushed your highschool values into your normal life. Be pretty, be normal and brag about your husband, your money and your kids at your reunion because without that you are nothing.
    Highschool is *over*. Grow up.

    haha woooow.
    And what’s wrong with being polite? I guess I should tell people to “fuck off” when they say “hi” to me, cut people in line at a movie theatre, steal change from homeless people, and not hold the doors for old ladies.
    Also, what’s wrong with conformity? Everybody conforms in some way. If you really hate conformity that much why bother using silverware when you eat? Clip your toe nails while at work, fart in elevators and pick your nose while on a date. You would do those things if you were truly anti-conformity.
    Sorry sweetheart, but it’s not called ‘high school values’. It’s just called being a normal person.
    Holding grudges is so high school. Grow up.

  145. Katie

    “Yes, but which others? If I’m presenting myself to a biker gang, I’ll be presenting myself in a very different manner than I would present myself to a classical music appreciation society. Why should Mark bend out of shape to “present himself” to a bunch of low-lifes?”
    How can you be so certain that they are still “low-lifes”? Do you personally know them?

  146. Katie

    “But I suspect you know them personally, don’t you Katie?”
    No. Which is why “Maybe” and “if” are words that I have been frequently using. I never claimed to be ‘certain’ that they have changed.
    Try reading my comments before you reply.

  147. LVM

    How can you be so certain that they are still “low-lifes”? Do you personally know them?
    I don’t, but Mark does. He knew them quite well in high school, it seems. And in high school, they were low-lifes. Anyone who is capable of deliberately harming another person without provocation is a low-life.
    And no matter how reformed they are, why should he put himself in contact with them? Does it benefit him in any way? I can’t see how it would.

  148. echidna

    I do read your comments, and I am struck by their inanity. And I used the word “suspect”, because although I was not certain, the position you are taking makes sense in that light. If you are not part of Mark’s old high school class, then you are indulging in some sort of weird fantasy where you think you have the right to tell Mark that he is somehow at fault for not wanting to see people who acted criminally against him. Totally inappropriate – and very impolite.
    You said:

    What would you have done if you ran into a former bully of yours? Pathetically resort to physical attacks and kick her in the shins? Or maybe you’re the type of person who would run in the opposite direction, screaming and crying.

    You are making stuff up; no-one suggested such actions. Making and breaking eye contact is sufficient, a short exchange if necessary. But pretending that nothing happened is not appropriate, because you would be giving the message that the abuse was ok. It is appropriate to pretend to forget minor social slights for the sake of social cohesion, which might have been the case in your situation, but the abuse Mark is describing was not a minor social slight, and there is no reason to promote social cohesion with these people.
    The way you construct arguments is not indicative of scientific reasoning: so what interest do you have in commenting? Are you trolling? Your emphasis on forgiveness, social cohesion at all costs, and a blithe unawareness of the reality of Mark’s situation is also typical of meddling Christians, especially YEC’s. Why *are* you here commenting in such an offensive way?

  149. Mag

    To all the idiots who don’t think a black belt is going to help his son (there are a few on the other thread): it will.
    Just publicize he has one, and his chances of never being in a fight will skyrocket. Bullies, to a very few exceptions, pick on those who they think can’t defend themselves. If everyone knows that someone has attained a good level of mastery in a defence sport, it will make him very, very much less susceptible to be picked upon.

  150. LVM

    What I know now about bullies, and what no one ever told me in a way I could accept when I was a child, is that what one must do when a bully first challenges one is to fight back with a grossly disproportionate response. Not a proportionate response – not an equal fight. A very disproportionate response. Then they’ll leave you alone. Humans, like other primates, establish dominance hierarchies. Showing yourself to be significantly stronger than the aggressor challenging you establishes your dominance, and prevents the aggressor’s hangers-on (who have a less dominant status than the aggressor) from challenging you.
    A black belt in martial arts will do admirably for delivering said disproportionate response, and will assure peace and quiet in the future. I wish that I could have taken a martial-arts class when I was a child; they weren’t available where I was. When I was in my 20’s, I took a few judo classes, loved it, and wished like anything that I could have taken them as a child.
    Also, an explanation, in primatology terms, of just what is going on would do wonders for a geek kid. No one ever explained the primatology of it to me. I really think it would have helped.

  151. Wendy

    (“My subconscious remembers, too. I get oddly exaggerated surges of gratitude when anyone is at all kind to me. Sometimes, when I am being treated with ordinary courtesy by an ordinary stranger, I want to weep for joy because I am treated as a normal human being among human beings. I do not show these reactions; I do not experience them every time I interact with people; but every so often I do, and I know why.”)
    This! I’m always stunned (nearly to tears)when people treat me with kindness and for the same reasons. (And for me it was due to 4 years of emotional torture at a school, 30+ years ago.
    The bullies who are showing up here have the same taunting voice still….
    Those who have been through it will also recognise the denial and whitewashing of the past by these people.
    Keep smiling Mark. You have moved on and done what you can to protect your children. Good for you!

  152. Carlie

    Or maybe not. but either way, Mark doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about what those people are currently like. He doesn’t care enough to find out. Because he’s still the same little wimp that he was 25 years ago.
    That makes absolutely no sense. If he were, in your words, a “little wimp”, he’d be going to the reunion and toadying up to them all, trying to get them to like him. The fact that he doesn’t care about them at all means he’s above and beyond them. Seriously, Katie, the worst thing that can happen to a bully is not only being ignored, but finding out they’re totally irrelevant. They are nothing in his world. Going to the reunion and either showing off how great he is now, as some have suggested, or singing kumbyah with them or whatever the hell it is you think he should do there is an acknowledgment that is much further than the effort they deserve, and the effort he wants to put in. They truly don’t mean anything to him, which is the best way to get past it of all.

  153. Dana

    I guess I was luckier… I was the geeky school weirdo too, and got the same treatment but mostly in junior high school (7-8th grade). In 8th I started fighting back, stabbed a kid who was trying to beat me up with a pen, it went in about a half inch, threw a briefcase full of books at another (he ducked but it left a permanent dent in the wall). Fortunately political correctness wasn’t strong enough yet and I didn’t get in trouble for self defense. After that they pretty much left me alone (probably “Don’t mess with him… he’s CRAZY!”)
    Not too many years later, one of the bullies died in a knife fight, one ran his motorcycle into a tree at high speed, another OD’d. As Heinlein said, “I don’t need to get even with my enemies; I outlive ’em.”
    Skipped my 30th a few years ago…

  154. Tim

    Five years out of high school the nightmares ended, never did collect the nerve to do any more school again. Pink Floyd’s sausage grinder image from “The Wall” fits so well.

  155. Steve LaBonne


    The bullies who are showing up here have the same taunting voice still….
    Those who have been through it will also recognise the denial and whitewashing of the past by these people.

    YES! This.
    Alan’s comment @140 is also right on the money.

  156. Gaythia

    Mark may be part of a growing trend.
    A news story in my local paper today seems to indicate that attendance at this year’s 10 reunion is way down. Apparently, the 40 year reunion will still be well attended.
    Alternatives, such as Facebook, give people a chance to connect with the people they really want to connect with. Perhaps most people then see no reason to deal with an event that may have been planned, and be dominated by, the old “in” crowd on the off chance they will meet someone they’d really like to see again.
    Now, we need to figure out how to create educational venues, including high schools, that are welcoming, supportive, and academically challenging places for all students.

  157. Brian Mills

    I was linked through to this thread on your site. Bravo! What you had to say really resonated with me. I was also a physically small uber-geek in high school. While I suffered actually little physical abuse, the psychological abuse was relentless and horrific. Couldn’t wait to get out, never wanted to go back, wouldn’t cross the street to piss on the abusers or their enablers.
    Again I say, “Bravo!”. Don’t let the assholes who did these things to you, or their apologists, get away with any of this “we were just kids being kids” shit.
    And, speaking of swasitkas, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who was bullied in school that the majority of Germans stood by and did nothing to counter the growing Nazi horrors.

  158. yak

    And no matter how reformed they are, why should he put himself in contact with them? Does it benefit him in any way? I can’t see how it would.
    Exactly. There are so many fun, interesting and rewarding things to do in this world, and life is too short. Why would anyone want to spend precious free time on an event where the strongest selling point is, “There’s a chance that people attending MIGHT not be lowlifes any more.”

  159. MarkW

    While it may be true that some bullies change and grow out of it, I wouldn’t count on it.
    My boss at a previous job turned out to be a bully; he had all these derogatory nick-names for people, he was very clever at putting people down, all that sort of crap. When I finally called him on it, he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
    So it’s not just “kids being kids” it’s bullshit power-politics from wannabe alpha-males. I’d be willing to bet that at least some of the jerks inviting MarkCC to his reunion just want a chance to relive the one time in their life when people thought they were important.
    I say you’re dead right Mark, don’t give them the satisfaction.

  160. Reinier Post

    To Mark: great to know you’re working on that book. You write so well, regardless of the subject. (The rants excepted, but this is not one of them.)
    To all: I was harassed in primary school, nothing vicious but enough to make me dread going to school or going home, until my mother told me: those boys are only doing it because they’re afraid of you. It flipped my whole perspective: I was no longer afraid of them. After that, I would just talk to whoever approached me, and all harassment stopped.
    The lesson: these boys were just poking at me, looking for a way to relate to me, to fit me into their world. All you need to do is establish that you’re friendly, in no way a threat to them, and approachable just in case of any doubt, and there will no longer be a confliet. Of course, in many situations that may just be too much to ask; I guess I’ve been lucky.

  161. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #146:

    Highschool is *over*. Grow up.
    haha woooow.
    And what’s wrong with being polite? I guess I should tell people to “fuck off” when they say “hi” to me, cut people in line at a movie theatre, steal change from homeless people, and not hold the doors for old ladies.

    And who suggested anything remotely like that? Straw men don’t help your argument.

    Also, what’s wrong with conformity? Everybody conforms in some way. If you really hate conformity that much why bother using silverware when you eat? Clip your toe nails while at work, fart in elevators and pick your nose while on a date. You would do those things if you were truly anti-conformity.
    Sorry sweetheart, but it’s not called ‘high school values’. It’s just called being a normal person.
    Holding grudges is so high school. Grow up.

    Define “holding a grudge”. One thing that keeps coming up in comments here is the notion that if an abused person hasn’t completely forgiven and forgotten about their abuse, that there’s something wrong. I think that’s nuts; in fact, I think that if you’ve forgotten about being abused, that that is a sign that you never really coped with it. Abuse leaves scars. You don’t erase those scars – you just learn how to grow past them, so that they don’t rule your life. What you call “holding a grudge”, I call “remembering my past”. I’m not going to forget what happened to me. But it doesn’t dominate my life.
    You can hold on to your abuse in a way that’s incredibly unhealthy – where you nurse it, where it dominates your thoughts and your reactions, where everything you do is controlled by your reactions to and memory of abuse. That’s the way I was when I started college.
    The way that you overcome abuse is by accepting that it happened, and getting past it. Not getting over it, but getting past it. If you’ve never been abused, you might not understand the distinction there, but it’s an important one. To get over it, to forget it, to remove it from your experiences is a betrayal of your self. It’s still there, it’s still a formational experience. It can’t be erased. To pretend to erase it isn’t recovery.
    To get past it is, as I said, to acknowledge it and remember it, to accept it and internalize it in a way that allows you to get to the point where it doesn’t dominate you any more.
    Of course I’ll never forget being held down on the ground on my way to gym, and having a leering asshole say “I wonder what it would sound like if I pulled your finger back until it broke. Let’s see!!” That’s a frighteningly vivid thing, and I don’t believe that any sane person who experienced it could ever forget it. Nor do I think that anyone who’s been through something like that should forget it.
    Those memories are a part of me, and always will be. But they don’t control me. They’re not something I think about all the time. They’re not a dominant influence on me. But of course they’re there.
    If you want to define that as holding a grudge, then so be it. But I think holding that kind of a grudge is healthy.
    Second – remember that I didn’t just decide to write this post out of the blue. I would have happily let the reunion go by without even really noticing it. I assume that there was a 10th reunion, but I never heard about it. The reason that I wrote this was because I was getting multiple contacts, via facebook, classmate, and email, from people who were trying to convince me to come to the reunion. The original motivation of this post was simply to reply to all of them at once, in a forum where I had some amount of control – where, for example, I could ban a commenter who was being overly abusive.

  162. sharky

    “They might have grown up to be responsible, decent people.”
    Or they might not.
    I found out, years later, one of my abusers is dead. He died in a self-destructive way, and I think it was directly related to the atmosphere we were raised in. I watched him change from a good kid to a… not-so-good one, and I didn’t know what to do or how to make it better because I was locked in too; I handled it just as badly, in my own way, on my own end.
    I never had my fingers broken. I had them stomped repeatedly, but not broken. I was never held down, just pushed down. I don’t have a facebook or a myspace because I do not want to be found.
    I do not want to be found because they were abusers and made abusers by our teachers and each other, and I watched it happen. I think I’ve trained myself out of the strategies of emotionally abuse I learned to fight back with, but I don’t trust them to have so much as realized what they did was wrong. You don’t get used to holding power over someone else as a part of your life, and making them suffer, and then just magically be a better person twenty years later. Something’s, at best, sleeping. Or just… hidden. I don’t know. Their wives and kids probably do.
    I don’t want to know. I’d apologize for my aggression in response if they needed that from me, but I don’t want any apologies from them, any knowledge of them, any part of their lives. I’ve forgiven, mostly for my own sake; but I don’t want our lives to touch again.

  163. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #163:
    Yeah. One thing that I’ve learned over time is that there are plenty of adult sociopaths out there. It’s worth learning to recognize them so that you can avoid them.
    In general, I’ve been very lucky at work. I was at IBM for 11 years, and if there’s one thing IBM is good at, it’s bureaucratic reshufflings. In 11 years at IBM, I had 10 different managers. 7 of them were fantastic. One was a decent guy, but a serious control freak. One was just an idiot who screwed up everything he touched. And one was a total sociopath.
    That last was a real problem. He constantly lied in order to get what he wanted. He manipulated people, made up all sorts of stories to get each person in his team to believe whatever he thought would motivate them in a way that would make him look good. That might be telling them how start they were; it might be telling them that another coworker claimed they doing their share of the work; it might be directly putting someone down. It didn’t matter to him. He’d tell contradictory stories – telling two different people who didn’t get along that the other had said something about them. When he got called on it, he was totally without the slightest remorse. It was obvious that he had absolutely no comprehension of the fact that any of this was the least bit wrong, and he acted genuinely hurt that people were upset with him. He really believed that the way he acted was the way that *everyone* acted – that no one would do anything different in his situation. The lying, manipulating, the setting people against each other – that was just the way to get things done. (Fortunately, I only worked for him for about 3 months – my second-shortest time with a manager.)
    But that’s the way sociopaths are, pretty much by definition. Manipulative, with no concern for what kind of damage they do.
    To get back to the high school issue: I’m pretty sure that some of the people who abused my were sociopaths, and that they’ve never felt a bit of remorse for anything that they did in their lives. I’m also pretty sure that there were others who weren’t, and who probably do feel bad looking back, at the things they did when they were teenagers.
    If someone was genuinely sorry and made the effort to get in touch with me to apologize, I’d probably accept the apology. But like I’ve said in other comments, I don’t feel like I’ve got any obligation to go out of my way to give them the chance – any more than I feel like I’m obligated to go back and visit that sociopathic manager at IBM (assuming he still works there) in order to give him the chance to apologize if he wants to.

  164. James A. Ritchie

    I suppose I was one of the lucky few. I was geeky, bookish, and ostracized, but I entered high school a bit above six-one, and weighed about 185. I was also “county strong,” as they said back then, and well versed in martial arts. So after two or three attempts, the bullying stopped.
    Anyway, yes, make sure you son learns martial arts. He may well need to fight.
    But I would also say it’s a very good idea to make sure his social skills are as good as his fighting skills.

  165. Mike

    I have been bullied three, maybe four, times while in school…
    1. 8th grade. I moved from a very middle class town where I was popular to an upper class town where I was on the outside looking in. I was judged every day because I was overweight and didn’t wear the right clothes. One day I wore a pair of camouflage pants to school, and my “friends” wouldn’t talk to me, since that is what skaters wore at the time (1998). I was also bullied into doing a lot of school projects on my own, since my group members would intimidate me into it. I was also physically assaulted regularly, as the popular thing to do then was to push people to the ground when waiting for the bus. It wasn’t until I came home one day with scratches on my forehead, which my parents thought was related to some girl I had a crush on, that I lashed out at my parents, and that is when it became obvious something was going on. School didn’t do shit, and I ended up going with my family to counseling for a good year just to become comfortable with myself.
    2. 10th-11h grade. A click in my neighborhood, who were a year older than me, heard a nasty rumor that I moved because I got into legal trouble (I most certainly didn’t) and they never let me forget about it. The abuse was emotional to the point where it was beyond intimidating and to the point of terror. Fortunately for me when I started 11th grade I hit my growth spurt and lost weight so I did become more confident in myself, and as a result I developed a new group of friends so their impact to me wasn’t as dramatic, but boy, did their abuse hurt.
    3. End of 12th grade. My circle of friends and I had a falling out, which I was part of the cause, so I ended up losing friends and we became somewhat adversaries for a time. Hindsight I am not disappointed since that time forced me to mature and to look inward into myself and who I am, but it did hurt to lose friends at a rather important time of my life.
    As far as forgiveness, after some time had passed I forgave the people I was bullied in 12th grade, and I haven’t forgiven, but I have left behind the people who bullied me in 8th grade. I don’t feel I owe then any forgiveness, since if anything, they owe me an apology. For what happened to me in 10th-11th grade, since my circle of friends unfortunately overlaps with those individuals, and while I thought I had gotten over what they did to me, my physical reaction to seeing them at a wedding last summer says otherwise. I am not expecting an apology from them, and I am not going to hold myself to forgiving them, as that forgiveness would be meaningless to them.
    I doubt I will ever go to a high school reunion, as I have remained friends with the people I liked at the time. Our wedding was the same night as our 5 year reunion, and about 10 people we graduated with were at our wedding. I made a joke thanking them for choosing us over them and told them they are probably having a better time, and all of them said essentially the same thing, “Why the fuck would I spend time with those assholes?”

  166. sharky

    Thing about forgiveness: I forgave because I was emotionally abused in a way that left me with a very toxic idea of what love was. Once I got out of it, I started hating my abusers. I spent time and effort forgiving so that I wouldn’t hate anymore.
    It was for my own sake, not theirs. I don’t get a gold star for Abuse Survival Superiority, and not everyone is going to heal the way I did.

  167. Lee

    To all the people telling Mark, in one way or another, to move on and let it go.
    He has. This is what moving on and letting go looks like.
    I have my own school stories I could point to, but I’m going to tell a different one.
    I was abused – abused hell, I was raped – when I was 4 or 5, by the teen kid who lived in the house behind ours. I spent my time in therapy in my 20s and 30s, and thought I had dealt with it, and moved on. Successful life, PhD, wife of nearly 20 years now, family and friends I love deeply, successful enough career balanced with having enough time for my family.
    But it didn’t go away – it never does, ever, for anyone. We remove it’s power over us, sometimes in parts, over years. We learn to not let us control it. But it does not go away. Like the kind of bullying Mark describes – what happened to him is as bad as what happened to me, if one can compare these things – it is part of our lives, forever.
    My wife named it best, and gave me the path to take an additional big chunk more of the power and damage of that out of my life. One night a couple years ago, some 45 years after it happened, she asked me for a fairly routine, unremarkable, sweet kind of physical intimacy between us. It triggered me back into that moment, a brutal painful collapse into shame, anger, fear, disgust, self-loathing, hatred – all that stuff. All that stuff which I thought had not impacted my life for 20 years or more, but id in too many ways in my abiilty to be intimate and trucsting in relatinship, all s sudenly there.
    It never goes away, really, because you can never make it not have happened.
    At one point that night as I talked and my wife listened, I asked her, ‘Is it ok for me to hate someone this much.” Her answer was, “yes, and it is ok to love him that much, too.” That isn’t forgiveness, far from it. When I think of what he did and the impact it has had on my life, I still hate him. But – with more healing since that night – I can also accept that it happened, that it had consequences, that it was part of my journey in this life and inseparable form all the rest of it, good and evil, that he himself was damaged and ugly and human – and I can accept it. I love my life, my journey in it, and hewas part of that – that is what she means. Not forgive it, but accept that it happened, and that I can find a way to live in a place where much of its power over my life goes away.
    I don’t want his apology, I don’t want to forgive him – as Mark says, I don’t owe him a damn thing. I don’t want a damn thing from him. If he has healed and realizes the evil he did, and is moved to live his life to try to bring good into the world instead of the evil of that moment – good for him.
    I don’t care to know about it, and I don’t owe him a damn thing. I do owe it to myself to live my life so as to minimize the ongoing damage and power of what he did, and I am doing that – but going back to a neighborhood reunion to see him would for fuck sure not be part of it.
    Thank you, Mark, for modeling for us what it actually looks looks like, here in the real world, to ‘move on’ from that kind of pain and trauma.

  168. don

    I taught my son that there are only two rules to remember:
    1) Never start a fight
    2) Always finish a fight you find yourself in
    It took me a long time to learn those on my own…
    So far they have served him very well.

  169. Kurt

    I hear ya. I’d be on year 23 for reunions this year and my position is the same.
    Why the hell would I pay money to attend and event to hang out with people I didn’t like so much the first time around?!
    I am a geek and proud of it. My beautiful daughter lovingly calls me a geek and I say “like that’s a BAD thing?”. Nothing was handed to me like so many of the other miscreants in the uppity town I grew up in.
    The d-bags that thought it was funny to pick on me amounted to very little in life from what I can tell. High school was the high point of their lives, how pathetic.
    Anyone that I gave a damn about I’m still in touch with, whether thru Facebook or other means. Everyone else can kiss my butt.

  170. Susan

    I’d like to thank you for posting. Your reaction to the bullying seems incredibly sane – moving on, ignoring the RSVP mail and teaching your own kids that if they’re bullied, you’ll be there to stop them.
    I do find it morbidly interesting to read the comments by people second-guessing you. “Forgive the bullies,” “Give them the chance to apologize”, “How dare you have kids,” and other such silliness. I believe that I am a reasonably intelligent person, and it has been my decision not to expose myself any more than necessary to current or former bullies and generally abusive asshats.
    It’s amazing how wise and relevant people can believe themselves, even when they have not gone through anything like a similar situation.
    Kudos on your successful life after high school. I certainly found that choosing MIT for college really helped, and even if there are bullies here – granted, Firestone’s only verbally abusive, but abuse is abuse – the vast majority of people are kind, accepting, and wonderful to be around. Nerdiness is just another aspect of life that the people around here celebrate.

  171. Bill

    Good for you Mark. I agree with your point of view. Why bother to re-connect with those you were never connected to in the first place? I haven’t been to any of my reunions, nor will I. I wasn’t abused, even had “friends”, but I feel no compulsion to return to the time when my self image was at its lowest and reminisce about the “good times”. Those people who I really had a connection to I stayed in contact with, those I did not I shed from life when I graduated. Why do people feel that there is some cosmic duty to go to these things?
    As for the martial arts, great idea. I am doing the same. There are several I wish I would have had the confidence to knock out, but sadly didn’t. I doubt my kids will have the same problem as they should be 3rd degree by freshman year. Besides the confidence one gains by not being as afraid of physical conflict, it gives a child a physical outlet outside the established system of school sports. This is a great thing as exclusion from school teams can have a huge impact on a kid’s self perception. Having an atheltic endeavor outside school will give a child something that he/she can indetify with, and thus a lot less likely to accept the notion that he/she is not athletic or physically capable if he/she were to not make a desired team. This is great for their overall well being.

  172. Red Stapler

    What a coincidence, my 30 year HS class reunion is in another couple of weeks. I can honestly say that I didn’t have it as bad as you, Mark, but it took literally years for me to get over the alienation and feelings of inadequacy and guilt that I accumulated all through those 4 shitty years. I was raised to never raise a hand against anyone, no matter if they hit me first, so you can imagine that I was a favorite target for some of the knuckle dragging morons in my school. Add in the taunting, the withdrawing to my own little corner of life, and the drug addicted brother I had at home, and it’s a wonder I’ve turned out as well as I did. I went in to school as a budding geek, smart, loved studying and learning, and finished school as a sullen, withdrawn loner.
    As for the reunion, I’ve noticed myself that a couple of the cretins that I couldn’t stand through school have friended me on Facebook, apparently either delusional or forgetful about those days. I do plan on going to the reunion, as I have every time my class has one for the simple reason of reuniting with my fellow misfits, having a few drinks, and reliving what few good times we had.
    But I’m 100% in agreement with your decision not to go to yours. My best friend and reunion drinking buddy from school passed away a few years ago, and every year it gets harder to face some of these people who either treated me as beneath them, or ignored me during the years that shaped so many of the years that followed. And as for the non-violence principle that I was raised with, good on you for getting your own kids karate lessons, as long as they only use it for defense. If I’d given one bully a black eye or a bloody nose back then, I’d probably be in a whole different life right now.
    My revenge is doing all of the geek things I should have been doing during and after HS, just 30 years late. Ham Radio license, working on my 4th AAS degree, planning on my BS degree, … Better late than never.

  173. Geoglyph Entropy

    Mag@153 I appreciate you mean well, but publicising that his son has a black belt could backfire – bullies might think “he thinks he’s tough, does he?” and take it as a challenge. Plus, if several bullies take him on simultaneously it can lead to a worse outcome.

  174. CL

    And if your* bullies are still bullies, then they’re reading this and laughing at you.
    And why would this matter, exactly? Oh, wait. I forgot. We Want Them to Approve So We Know We’re Okay. Because the values of the lizard-brained are the proper societal values.
    “Tee hee, oh, aren’t I mature, talking nicely to my bully because she’s finally talking to me nicely, like me, like me, please like me now!! Make my life complete. Oh, you see me! I’m a person to you now! Thank you, thank you!”
    Civil is fine, for a grown bully who approaches you in public. Coolly polite as you wave “goodbye” is plenty. “Fuck you” is actually appropriate for Mark under the circumstances, IMO, but civil will work.
    If you, Katie, have a desperate need to show some cretin who abused you how *mature* you are and how *worthy* of her approval, then “nice” is your approach. That’s your business.
    I’d be more accepting of your personal choice, though, if you hadn’t attacked someone (on his own blog, talk about lacking social skills) who had a different reaction. Since you did that, though, I mocked you; so sorry if I mistook your words to Mark for BULLYING.
    And KB? Reacting to bullying (and the ridiculous apologist dissertations about why bullying is something the victims need to work at understanding, for their own good, so they can fit in better with the warped society that condones it) is not “bullying back”. Calling bullshit where bullshit is spread isn’t hurting you or anyone else one bit.
    Anyway, Mark, I agree with you. You have nothing to prove to anyone. I’m not responding again because I’m too astonished that anyone who can operate a keyboard could think YOUR reaction isn’t perfectly appropriate.

  175. Anonymous

    @179: “And KB? Reacting to bullying (and the ridiculous apologist dissertations about why bullying is something the victims need to work at understanding, for their own good, so they can fit in better with the warped society that condones it) is not “bullying back”. Calling bullshit where bullshit is spread isn’t hurting you or anyone else one bit.”
    I didn’t accuse Mark of bullying back. I didn’t actually comment on that issue at all. I pointed out that you were being a bit boorish in your *own* post, which seemed ill fitting considering its content and the point you were trying to make.
    And as far as victims understanding bullying, etc. I wasn’t actually thinking in those terms. It was more of a broad statement on the dynamic of adolescent behavior in general — a reaction to your pecking order statement. But your point makes me realize that I should have tailored it to the greater audience of THIS blog post: victims of bullying. Late night — brain function diminished. So, apologies on that.
    @171’s statement really touched me. It’s so eloquent and spot on. Bravo.

  176. Nomen Nescio

    @180: is that you there, KB, posting as “anonymous”? if so, please try to stick to one pseudonym. you’re easier to killfile that way. thanks.

  177. --PatF

    I had none of these problems in high school — not that I did not have my share of problems, I just did not have problems with bullying. As far as I know, the bullying problem did not exist at my school. That’s because it was an academic high school where everyone’s attitude was oriented toward going to college. As far as I know, there were no bullying athletic cliques because they would not have been tolerated. (This, by the way, is my opinion and I would not speak for anyone else in the class.)
    On the other hand, I have had two jobs since high school — one summer job and one permanent job — where bullying in some way, shape or form was common.
    The summer job could actually be quite dangerous. It was with the power company and electrical lines are nothing to be toyed with. I was happy to leave that one.
    For personal reasons, I stayed at the other job for fifteen years until I realized that there was no way it would ever get better. I had only one chance to get out of it and find a better life. I did that and have never looked back.
    The point behind this otherwise self-indulgent screed is that, in all cases, the amount of bullying was determined by the administration. Other people have made this point and I want to reinforce it.
    If the boss wants to stomp out bullying, he/she can. Period. If the boss thinks that bullying is way down on the list of priorities — usually his/her next promotion is number one — then bullying will continue.
    You want to stop high school bullying, can the principal. Let the new principal know that stopping bullying is a priority. Keeping the job depends on it. Advancement depends on it. The principal’s career depends on it. Any administrator not on board with the program should get out.

  178. Pat Cahalan

    A couple of notes:
    * Many self-labeled “geeks” criticizing what they’re calling Mark’s lack of forgiveness or “getting over” the abuse. People, just because you underwent some sort of psychological trauma doesn’t mean that your coping mechanism is the right one, or that someone else undergoing some similar trauma must follow your coping mechanism in order to get well. Revisit your own coping mechanism before criticizing Mark; are you commenting because you honestly think he’s coping incorrectly, or are you commenting because some part of your own mind is still invested in the abuse you overcame, *and* using the method you used to overcome it?
    * Some people who underwent abuse never got over it, and may never get over it. I *don’t* think Mark’s included on this list at all, but there are at least a half-dozen comments that sound like they might be. *Not* meant in a sarcastic way, if you are still actively angry about abuse, you probably *should* look to see a therapist. That sort of bottled up anger messes with you.
    * Some people really feel compelled to engage in douche-baggery commentary. You’re that much of an ass, you find a link on Reddit or via someone else’s site and you have to drop by to let the Internet know that the douche-bag population is alive and well? Trust me, we know.
    * Everybody that has touched martial arts has some sort of opinion on what’s the best form to use. This is a really common aside on many of the comments (which is amusing to someone who heard a lot of these sorts of “religious wars” before). Since I’ve touched martial arts, I’m ergo required to comment 🙂 MMA isn’t exactly a long-standing “form”; there are a lot of pretender schools to MMA out there. Jujitsu has the same problem, since it got popular. Not that there aren’t good schools, but there’s lots of bad ones, too. Any martial art that teaches combat environmentalism and multiple ranges is a good alternative (Jujitsu, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Pentjak Silat, Jeet Kune Do). Silat’s the only class I ever attended where the instructor dumped a bucket of water on the floor and said, “Today, we learn how to fight on wet pavement”, but it’s hard to find a Silat instructor in the U.S. All that aside, learning any form is fine at Mark’s kids’ age, most people I know who are decent martial artists started with simple karate, judo, or taekwondo and learned other arts from there. Like Marcus said on the other thread, dominance behaviors matter. You learn that from just about any form that teaches balance and self confidence.

  179. Liang

    In this case the author is perfectly justified in not going, perhaps his abusers should actually APOLOGIZE before trying to invite him to a reunion? And even then it is perfectly reasonable in not wanting to go.
    Pretending as if nothing happened is simply ridiculous, which I deduct is why Mark is so emotion in his article.
    ‘Get over it’ sounds cool, but doesn’t apply here if you think hard enough.

  180. Thor

    Unfortunately, I know just what you mean. I don’t think I had it as bad as you did, but being the geek in an american high school culture that idolized athletic elitism, and from the school administration’s side that condoned physical and emotional abuse toward those that were intellectually gifted as “losers” is a setup for this situation.
    It was a rough time. It has formed who I am. When I had had enough, a formative year of acting out, sparked by the discovery of punk rock, had me routinely engaging in behavior that had a sentencing timeframe of >10 years. While a trying time, and very risky in retrospect, it did make me harder, and strengthened my resolve. I just graduated from a Harvard residency, and spent my post-HS years in Europe, where I took up thai boxing and banged a lot of hot scandinavian chicks, who appreciate a guy who can spell and not breathe through his mouth. Now, I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
    The only reason that I’d consider going to my HS reunion is to actually meet these people again. Have a nice little hello, then get introduced to their significant other, and then turn the conversation to a “remember the time” of all of the shitty and reprehensible things they did. And watch them squirm. While a lot of them probably married people that don’t care, I’d like to help make a difference for those that might be on the brink of divorce. Pushing them over the brink, that is.
    And I am totally with you on the martial arts thing. My children will be walking angels of death before they hit those trying teenage years. You don’t have to use it, and it will demand respect from any cretin who only accepts violence as valid currency. And yes, there will be parental bonuses for them helping out any geek in a bind.
    And also, to all who have posted, from initial poster onwards, with all the stories of abuse and pain, I salute you. Stepping up and telling your story takes balls.

  181. LVM

    I had none of these problems in high school — not that I did not have my share of problems, I just did not have problems with bullying. As far as I know, the bullying problem did not exist at my school. That’s because it was an academic high school where everyone’s attitude was oriented toward going to college. As far as I know, there were no bullying athletic cliques because they would not have been tolerated. (This, by the way, is my opinion and I would not speak for anyone else in the class.)
    I would not generalize it to “athletic” = “bully” and “academic” = “non-bully”. Geeky, smart kids form cliques too. And geeky, smart kids can be much crueler and subtler than athletic, stupid kids are. It may not be physical violence, but it can hurt just as much.

  182. LVM

    And really, I never understood the point of high school reunions. Even if one had a fairly normal high school experience, why travel halfway across the country so that one can stand around awkwardly with a bunch of strangers and talk about what happened 25 years ago? Sorry – I’m too busy living in the present to focus that much on the past.

  183. Ponderings

    I have gone to most of my reunions, but won’t be going to the one this year for various reasons. Quite frankly, they are rather boring, even when planned carefully. As others have said, those classmates whom we were close to we usually have kept in touch with anyway. And, the comical thing is, no matter where these reunions are held, everyone groups togther with their same old cronies as they did when back in high school. They all sit at the same table like they did in the school cafeteria. Then they try to out talk the other, trying to impress them with their kids and grandkids accomplishments. Of course, the first two reunions are about bragging about themselves while they are climbing up the social ladder. I am proud of how my life turned out but most people at these reunions could care less, nor do I care about them. ~yawn~

  184. LVM

    To all: I was harassed in primary school, nothing vicious but enough to make me dread going to school or going home, until my mother told me: those boys are only doing it because they’re afraid of you. It flipped my whole perspective: I was no longer afraid of them. After that, I would just talk to whoever approached me, and all harassment stopped.
    I’m glad it worked for you. It did not work for me. I heard that one. That one and “they’re just doing it because they like you”, and “they’re just doing it because they’re jealous of your smarts”, and “why don’t you just approach them and be friends with them”. Tried that. Got hit over the head with a full bookbag for my pains. In class. In full view of the teacher. I’ve forgotten many of the assaults, but that one I remember.
    I think there are “normal” social situations, in which bullying may arise but it’s relatively mild – the other kids are feeling you out, seeing how you would react, and when you respond in an assertive way, recognize you as an equal in the pecking order. Then, there are pathological social situations, in which no matter what the target kid does, they will be bullied. Eventually, the constant harassment and stress cause a personality change in the kid, and lead to further bullying (if you think of it in ape terms – a stressed or depressed ape cannot exhibit dominance behaviors over anyone, and quickly drops to the bottom of the pecking order). It’s a vicious cycle. An authority figure can nip that in the bud before it gets bad; but if the authority figures are not available or not willing to do anything, the target goes through years of hell. This appears to be what Mark went through, and what I went through. I’m not sure that talking to those kids would make one whit of difference.

  185. echidna

    Mike@189: In my experience, the level of bullying in a school is dependent on the culture that the administration of the school creates. If you have the principal and teachers visible and in control, then bullying is relatively rare. If there was no bullying at your school, then you were at a good school.
    However, to then assume that any experience different to yours is fiction is just plain ignorant. To say as much in the way you did on this blog is just plain rude. Crikey, you make all the stories about boorish Americans hard to refute.
    A quick “google scholar” search should set your mind at ease that bullying is real. Just check out this abstract:
    e.g. http://ijo.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/51/5/495

  186. Nomen Nescio

    And now you teach you children to kill at the slightest provocation.

    y’know, accusing others of writing creative fiction is not helped by then going off and doing that very same thing yourself. nobody, nobody on these two postings and now approaching six hundred comments has said anything even vaguely like that. engage your reading comprehension skills, or just sit silent.

  187. Brad

    I can identify with both sides…
    I was bullied.
    In 8th grade, there was a group who would stalk me every single day from the lunch room back to glass, to give me a wedgie.
    I think it was mostly due to my having been to something like 12 schools by 8th grade.
    But these pricks were vicious. I had visions of carrying a load of coke cans in a duffle bag to pummel them with, but I chickened out.
    Then, halfway through 8th grade, I was miraculously returned to my old school which i had attended from 3-5.
    I had old friends there.
    I remained there from 8-11.
    I began to bully.
    I remember punching Pat Henning in the back for no reason.
    Now, I want to punch myself in the back for being such a stupid f’ing asshole, knowing myself what pain I endured. Why THE F would I ever force that on someone else?
    I don’t know. I can only surmise that that’s probably the reason molested children end up molesting their own later.
    I’m not a molester, but I hit that poor kid in the back.
    At my 20th year reunion, all I did was look for him so I good give a heart felt apology, but he wasn’t there.
    I don’t blame him, and I don’t blame you.
    But some of us aren’t completely evil, and we have escaped the terrible grasp of high school social cliches.

  188. Anonymous

    Try Krav Maga if you want the kid to be able to properly defend himself against multiple opponents. Karate is more of a showoff than actual fighting.

  189. GeekGirlsRule

    That post resonated so deeply.
    Not ony was I the girl who blew the grading curve in most of my classes, had bad skin and glasses, but I also developed early which made me a moving target in other ways. In the course of my junior high and high school career in Idaho, before we moved away, I was beat up, spit on, chased through the desert, marked as the school slut, raped, hit by a car… The list goes on.
    I have used Facebook to get in touch with a couple of the few friends I had back then, but for the most part I could give two shits about the people I went to high school with, at any of my three high schools. (Yeah, add being the eternal “new kid” to the geek trauma.)
    My mother, the former cheerleader, doesn’t understand why I have no interest in going to my high school reunions. They still live near my last high school, and so she rats me out to the reunion committee every time, and every time I rip up the announcements. And when I see her, and she asks about them and I say something to the effect of “When Satan ice skates to work…” she gets this long suffering “Where did I go wrong?” face and sighs.
    I applaud you for writing this.

  190. RS

    This reminds me of a neighbor I had when I was a small, skinny kid. He was significantly older than me and he used to touch me inappropriately. I was too afraid to tell him to stop. One day I finally gathered the nerve to tell him to stop. Apart from that, he also used to hold me down against my will just for his enjoyment. Teaching me to defend myself was, I think, how he justified it to himself. Years later, once everybody got on the Internet, this deviant bastard started emailing me to catch up and stay in touch since we had been neighbors and friends for so many years. Whattt?? Are you completely fricking insane to imagine that I might want to have anything to do with you? What planet are you living on? Luckily, I’m not emotionally scarred from those experiences, just a little frustrated and very humiliated.
    Thank you for posting this, and thank you very much for teaching your son karate.

  191. Tammy

    To all the people telling Mark he should just get over it:
    I get so sick of people saying that and acting superior when they do. I heard way to much of the “just ignore them and they’ll stop” sort of platitude when I was in school and it never worked.
    I don’t spend time dwelling on the people who were assholes to me at school. Neither am I willing to pay money to see them at reunions. If someone wanted to contact me from school from years past who had abused me, they had better start it out with a heartfelt apology if they want any sort of reaction from me. Unless someone asks for forgiveness there’s no real reason to give it to them. Admittedly – I did plan to go to my 10 year reunion but ended up missing it. When it came time for the 20 year reunion, I decided I really had no interest in going to any of them because none of these people had kept up with me over the years, if we had that much in common chances are we would have run into each other by now, and I don’t feel the need to get in some sort of “I made out better than you” pissing match with people because I really don’t care what they think of me. I don’t care who they are now. I don’t care what they’re families are like. I don’t care where they work.
    I did get over how they treated me and moved on with my life. I have no need to spend time, money, or energy reliving those experiences with them again – I have moved on. I have no desire to reconnect with them – I have moved on.
    You may decide to continue in your victim blaming and self serving proclamations but I think you doth protest too much and maybe need to look into that. However, don’t expect any further response to you because I am moving on.

  192. Calli Arcale

    Tammy @ 198: Regarding the “just ignore them and they’ll stop” thing, I did find that it helped. It didn’t stop the abuse. But it did lessen once I stopped not only letting them get my goat but actually gift-wrapping it and handing it to them (so to speak). I became less entertaining when I didn’t have a hair-trigger temper. It takes work to hold your temper, and it takes an acceptance that they won’t magically become nice people when you stop letting them get to you. So “just” certainly isn’t the right word to use, nor is “they’ll stop”. And, of course, some bullies will just take it as a challenge, realizing they have to work harder to get you to crack….
    Which leads me to another strategy I used — deliberately weirding them out. No guarantees this will work, and it certainly won’t earn any friends, but I tended to find that having no friends was better than being the favorite target. If they insulted me, I’d start rambling random crap in a polite, cheerful tone of voice until they got tired of waiting to get a word in edgewise and left. Wouldn’t have worked with the more violent bullies, but by that time I was fortunate enough not to have any of them in my actual classroom.
    Still, it didn’t stop it. Just stopped the incidents spiralling out of control. I was still being verbally abused, but at least it wasn’t often ending up with physical violence, and I was able to put it out of my mind and enjoy at least some of my day. It made it tolerable. The bullying finally stopped midway through high school — when most of my tormentors had their own cars and thus weren’t riding the bus anymore. They weren’t in any of my classes. I didn’t have to see them on the bus. There just weren’t as many opportunities for bullying by that time.

  193. Anonymous

    Mark, thank you for posting this! It’s been 35 years since the worst of my school bullying experiences, but I still have a lot of trouble
    relating to kids (particularly boys) of that age group. And I know people in their 50s who still suffer far worse.
    Mark, teaching your children self-defense may help, but the most
    important thing you can give them is self-confidence.

  194. KB

    @ 189: It’s a vicious cycle. An authority figure can nip that in the bud before it gets bad; but if the authority figures are not available or not willing to do anything, the target goes through years of hell. This appears to be what Mark went through, and what I went through. I’m not sure that talking to those kids would make one whit of difference.
    You bring up an interesting point. For some bullies, they’re just young sociopaths and there isn’t much hope in changing that. What would be the best recourse for them? (In broad terms here?) I mean, you kick them out and they find another school. If they get kicked out of there, they’re just drop outs. Is rehabilitation possible for the bullier? Not sure if anyone on here has some insight into what the administration should do in these situations. The obvious answer is to kick them out, but then they’re just someone else’s problem (which I’m sure the victims don’t give a hoot about)….

  195. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #201:
    Sociopaths are actually extremely easy to control. The defining characteristic of a sociopath is that they act entirely in their own self interest, without any concern for whether their actions have any effect on anyone else.
    To stop a bully who’s a sociopath is simple: make it clear that their self-interest lies in not abusing other students. If it’s clear that they’re going to get punished for doing it, and the unpleasantness of the punishment outweighs the pleasure that they get for the abuse, they’ll stop.
    In terms of “rehabilitation” – that is, stopping them from being sociopaths, I’m not sure that that’s possible. Some of the stuff that I’ve read suggests that sociopathy stems from a physical problem with the brain – that the mechanisms by which we interpret and empathize with the feelings of others don’t work properly. Those mechanisms work to varying degrees in different people, ranging from people who are overly empathetic, to the point of being unable to separate their own feelings from their perceptions of the people around them, to people who completely lack any ability to empathize at all.
    The outliers in the latter category are what we call sociopaths.
    If that’s the case – if the underlying cause of sociopathy is an underdevelopment of some part of the brain, then you’re never going to completely “cure” it.

  196. Seth Manapio

    @134 “A bunch of people have compared karate to other styles, saying things like “I knew a BJJ guy who totally whupped that karate dude’s ass because the fight went to the ground.”:”
    No I didn’t. What I said was, I have a blue belt in BJJ, my brother has a black belt in Shotokan, we are the same exact size, and I can take him if I can get him on the ground.
    That is, he is a better martial artist with superior training, but until he learned ground fighting he was vulnerable if an opponent of equal size got him on the ground.
    This is an anecdote, not evidence. However, in documented cases, we have a small but relevant sample: the class of all MMA fighters. It is documented that you simply cannot win an MMA match at a reasonable level if you do not know a ground fighting style. The preferred style is BJJ.
    Mark’s son WILL benefit from learn a ground fighting style. If he does not know how to defend himself if a larger, stronger opponent brings him to the ground, he could be seriously injured by such an opponent. Karate will not help him there. And he cannot count on getting in a kneecap breaking shot when being rushed, especially since he may be attacked from behind.
    The idea that people learning self-defense should count on not being tackled is absurd and dangerous. Do you really think that a small kid in a high school should COUNT on never being taken down?
    Everyone interested in self-defense should know three things:
    1. A ground fighting style
    2. A stand up style
    3. An urban free-running style
    Apply these in reverse order when possible, of course.

  197. T. Bennett

    Since everyone else is pitching their own self-defense, I’ll second the suggestion for Krav Maga. The Israelis don’t mess around.
    I’m not a regular on your blog or even this site. I ran a search for how to deal with people from high school and reunions because I had gotten a note from someone on Facebook—someone of whom I don’t have the fondest of memories. A note from someone apologizing for stuff best left buried in 1989 where I had left it. I had forgotten all about it. Her note dragged up everything all over again. For those advising forgive & forget: We’re TRYING. The bullies and the bystanders don’t want to LET us.
    My parents moved to a rural district in 1979 to escape Indianapolis bussing policies, my father was a non-practicing Jewish convert living a secluded, secular lifestyle in a conservative Christian community, and though no one knew at the time, I had Asperger’s Syndrome. My father was further on the autism spectrum than me, an alcoholic and beat both my sister and me… it was the perfect storm. Looking back, I never stood a chance, even against the teachers who resented me and singled me out. Pushing, shoving, kicking, spitting, name-calling, cruel jokes, for YEARS is not something to forgive or forget, but they still ask.
    I’ve gotten apologies from classmates over the years, as well as from my parents. For whatever reason it’s always out of the blue, something that comes up and smacks me in the face when I least expect it. Just when things are going great, whether I’ve made a monumental achievement like my first book, or I’m out shopping at a Christmas sale, there they are, with their platitudes and thinly veiled appeals for forgiveness and redemption. This is how they remind me that once I was a punching bag with bad skin, my only friend in the world a boy they picked on as well. Once upon a time I was something less than human, and this is how they remind me.
    The reunion spam, the Facebook friending, the running up to me and being in my face, delirious with joy to see me when they never knew me in the first place… it all sucks, but the apologies from the ones who really hurt me are the worst, because now they’re slapping me one more time. Am I supposed to say that’s alright, I don’t mind? Or do I tell them to fuck off and walk away? Either way I am once more stripped of a bit of my dignity.
    The only goal I ever had was to be someplace where I didn’t have to be afraid all the time. When I got out it was like escaping prison, and it’s only in the last 5 years or so that I stopped having nightmares about being forced to go back. I love freedom in a way that I don’t think these bullies or even someone who had a normal school experience can ever know. It’s kind of like being in the cold rain all day, then coming home to a warm, crackling fireplace and a dry blanket. You just appreciate it that much more.
    I will not be subjecting myself to the self-flagellation of any reunion with the people who made so miserable for so long. However if the naysayers in this commentary think that I would be better served by stroking the egos and soothing the troubled souls of the people who once tormented me, I will gladly defer to your expertise since you obviously cherish neither dignity nor freedom. Now I wouldn’t change any of it—these experiences all came together to help shape who I am, and I am truly blessed. But if anyone ever calls me “Refried” again, my response probably won’t be quite as eloquent as this comment.

  198. LVM

    @201- yes, some bullies are sociopaths. But they are kids. An average adult can overpower an average child, both physically and emotionally. Kids are very easy to manipulate if you know what you’re doing. And while the sociopathic personality does not change, sociopathic behavior is fairly easy to change – just threaten the sociopath in question with a fairly severe penalty, and follow through on that threat if required. Once is generally plenty; twice may occasionally be required.
    But if the assault continues, the bully in question should go to the appropriate juvenile jail and stay there.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      @LVM – Exactly!! God I love this blog. People forget the social hierarchy so often is such that the bullies aren’t always those on the socioeconomic bottom but in fact those propped up by money and status they are born into. So such measures (expulsion, juvenile detention etc) can only result in them learning that they lose social and economic power by bullying. This makes a HUGE difference in their life and forces them to consider what they are ALLOWED to do. This isn’t actually difficult.

  199. E. M. Eells

    Anyone who hasn’t been through it has no business telling you what you should or shouldn’t do about it. Period.
    I didn’t get as much of the physical abuse as you did, just a whole lot of the psychological stuff, at home and at school, from both the kids and the teachers. Having adults be the instigators is a special brand of hell.
    I considered attending my 20th reunion – it was for the second of two high schools that I’d attended, which was smaller and had a more tolerant population. I still couldn’t bring myself to care that much. No matter how polite or forgiving I could conceivably bring myself to be, I have no desire to go back to the feeling of being that tormented person. I’m someone very different now, in a way stronger for those experiences, but not interested in feeling awkward and isolated again, even for one night.
    Kudos to you not only for surviving but for learning enough from your experiences to give your kids the tools they need to defend themselves and cultivate the kind of inner strength and confidence that keeps them from becoming targets in the first place. And thanks for writing about your experiences – it is important that those of us who can relate know that we are not alone, and that those who can’t relate understand the extent to which this kind of bullying continues to happen.

  200. Mark

    I’m glad you wrote this; it’s good to hear someone else’s opinion. Next year is both the year my little sister graduates from high school (the same one I went to) and my 5 year reunion and I was deciding if I wanted to go or if I had to invent some unbreakable plans. I wasn’t a geek in high school, but I’ve got my own stories. No better or worse than your’s, of course, just different.
    I’m a transsexual man. This means I was born female, but that assigned identification didn’t match with what I felt I should be. Through the use of hornones, I now appear completely male and everyone assumes (correctly) now that I am as such. In high school, I hadn’t figured this out about myself – I went to a private, New Englad, prep school. At that point, I was just a dyke. I was a dyke, everyone knew it, no one liked it. People treated me horribly, wrote nasty shit on my locker, etc etc etc. This part isn’t important – they were MEAN.
    I’ve been debating for a year or two now if I wanted to go to my graduation. I look completely different. Odds are some of them wouldn’t even recognize me, and that’s saying something because there were 85 people in our graduating class. Part of me wants to go back to see all their reactions as to how I’ve changed. The other part of me never wants to see any of them ever again. I’ve heard a lot from people who want me to go back to show them up. Thank you for writing from the other perspective. It is really good to hear from someone who was treated badly in high school who has absolutely no intention of ever going back to see them again. It’s an important side to hear. Thank you.

  201. Anonymous

    I totally feel you and all the other commenters.
    So, additionally to being the only geek (first 8086 with the age of 7), I was the only Turkish guy in all schools I went in. This would be primary school as a 7 year old to the age of 19.
    All the time I got bullied, because I am different than the others. From the age of 13-16, I even got bullied by two girls. All these years of being psychically and physically attacked because of character and heritage resulted in a quite high body mass that gave my punishers another plane of attack possibilities.
    So, years and years I got bullied by one or many people in my schools. After some time, i got used to it. Apathic, emotionless, didnt’ gave a F about it. Like a puppet. Shoved around, beaten, thrown away.
    After getting out of my torment known as School, I got me a Job in a production facility and later in a Radio Shack kinda place. It was nice, I could build up a mask of the friendly sales guy. When at home, I constantly immersed myself in a cloud of cannabinoid vapour every night.
    Then, I even had a girlfriend for a couple of years, but she dried out like a flower, stuck in the desert of no emotion that was me.
    Well, now I am ’bout thirty and alone. I never have made it to be what I wanted, even tough I tried (IT Education). My self confidence is so low that I am merely able to socialize what I need to do my job and stay out of trouble. I have a couple of friends who take me as I am and can go on living my life as an emotional loaf of bread, ocassionally lightened up by a nice Computer Game.
    Advice to people who have geek kids:
    Give them what I never had. Self confidence trough affirmation and – as Mark does – a good Martial Arts education. No money, no toy, no television and no computer/console in the world can replace self confidence. This will help your kids in their whole life. I am living proof of it. I mean, the proof of the lack thereof. Daaah… you know what I mean.

  202. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #208:
    Please, find a way to get yourself some psychiatric counseling. It’s never too late to find a way to put your life back together. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be painless – but it’s possible, and it’s worth it.
    Don’t let the bastards who abused you win.

  203. vanya

    Where were your parents in all this? It’s amazing how oblivious even caring parents can be. Of course in the 1980s no one questioned school, you just had to go and suck it up. Things have changed for the better. We have an intelligent sensitive 11 year old with mild Aspergers, and we homeschool him. There’s no way in hell he’s going to school unless HE asks to go. High school is a joke anyway, it’s purpose is not really to educate, it’s to keep teenagers off the streets. Every one of you here who was victimized as a kid would have been 100 times better off staying at home with some good books, and you probably would have learned more. What really annoys me and my wife are the criticisms we get from well meaning relatives and friends – “aren’t you worried if J__ home schools, he won’t make friends? Sure he can learn math and history at home but what about socialization?” I think I’ll print this thread out and hand it to the next person who prattles on about how school is just SO important for socialization.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      A note regarding public schools- I’m always mystified that so many feel public school is worse than private or parochial school. From what I’ve seen, public school offers a wider range of socioeconomic and diverse backgrounds while these elite schools simply act as social bubbles to ostracize and further abuse the poor while arbitrarily raising the children of monied parents in the hierarchy. Education + money = dysfunctional social dynamics.

  204. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #210:
    My parents were constantly in the principals office, trying to raise bloody hell. They went to school board meetings. They met with teachers. They did everything they could, with one exception. They really didn’t believe in lawsuits. If I were in their position, I would definitely have hired a lawyer, and sued the living shit out of the principal and the school system for refusing to do anything.
    They did consider homeschooling, and private schools. Private schools were just out of the question financially. Homeschooling they thought wasn’t a good idea academically. As I said, I was a geek. It was pretty clear that I was going to wind up going into science or engineering – and they couldn’t give me access to the kinds of math and science programs that they had in my school.
    The thing is, the school was, academically, pretty good. In math and science, for kids in honors classes, it was excellent. They kept trying to find some way of forcing the administration to do something about the abuse, without taking me out of the academic environment.
    I think that that was the right thing. I got a lot out of the academics at the school – particularly science, music, and math. (The math program was excellent, but my father was teaching me so much math at home that I was generally way ahead of even the honors classes at school.)
    My parents also gave me a *lot* of support at home, in a variety of ways. Like I said, my dad was constantly teaching me math and science stuff. I was very involved in music programs, and they found me a wonderful teacher for private lessons, and helped me get involved in a local community orchestra. (All of my friends from high school were people I knew through music. Just the luck of the draw that the people I wound up knowing in my own school either weren’t in my graduating class, or graduated the same year I did, but went to a different school, or both.)

  205. trrll

    I had a wonderful time in high school. I was a geek, and the smallest guy in my class to boot, by a substantial margin.
    But I was a geek with judo. I didn’t win every fight, but I didn’t have to take crap from anybody, no matter how big they were. And there’s not much glory in beating a little guy, while being thrown down on the ground and held so you can’t get up by a guy much smaller than you doesn’t help your reputation, so people were not in a hurry to try me.
    Karate is OK, but I generally favor judo over the striking arts for kids. Most fights at school are dominance rituals rather than battles to the death, and a lot of karate techniques are not really appropriate. You tend to be reluctant to hurt somebody unless it is clear that you have good cause, so you let things escalate rather than responding immediately. On the other hand, there are a lot of judo techniques that clearly establish dominance without doing serious injury, so you don’t have to wait–and the option of doing damage is still there if you need it. And judo teaches you to fall safely, which is probably the most valuable self defense tool you can learn, because a lot more people get hurt falling down than in fights.
    The last reunion I went to, a guy came up to me that I remember throwing in the locker room. I’ve long forgotten what the fight was about. He didn’t mention it; I don’t know if he remembered. He seemed happy to see me again, and I was happy to see him.

  206. Patness

    Mark, I understand completely. I was lucky that mine took a major reversal from playful “let’s ruin this kid’s life” to a respectful “holy fuck I can’t believe you survived” around my last year in highschool.
    In fact, one of the principal agitators in the whole affair was watching me answer a question and blurted out “You have really nice teeth!”.
    On that somewhat upbeat note, someone else seems to feel the same way, and has sung a song about it, called “Are You Fucking Kidding Me?”

  207. Amy

    I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I’m sorry you were hurt in this way. It must have been very sad.
    While I wasn’t a persecutor, I wasn’t persecuted either. Though because my little brother was a ‘geek’ by some people’s standards, I can relate to some of the emotion on that level only. It makes me so sad because when I was in high school I could done a better job and have befriended someone like you (even been a better friend to my brother), but I was too self-centered to realize… not aware of what people like you and my little brother were dealing with! Though I have always loved my brother, I justified our seeming lack of relationship, due to lack of common interest. He’s brilliant. I’m average. He loved video games and art. I loved physical activity.
    Looking back, I’m sad that I wasn’t taught to value him more and to seek out a relationship with him… he’s a super neat person (I’m sure your wife and friends would agree and be able to say the same to your childhood enemies) as I’ve found out later in life!
    I had the following thoughts in response to your post:
    1) I want to try and make up for lost time with my brother, with whom in the last years I have been building a rewarding friendship. I just think he is SO neat… quite different than the average joe AND very special.
    2) I want to teach my kids that when someone is different, sometimes we naturally aren’t attracted to form a friendship with them. But that doesn’t mean we avoid them, or join in with bad, mean-spirited people against them (we must stand against that kind of behavior!). Instead, we can realize that people who are different are very interesting. Because of their differences there are many things we can learn from them (people like yourself gifted in mathematical/computer skills, immigrants, people who are part of another sub-culture, musically talented, super-athletic, history buffs, people with amazing people skills, etc). We can gain valuable experience by befriending people who are different than us.
    3)I want to attempt to maintain good communication with my kids so that if they are experiencing the same sort of thing that you have, or know someone else who is, we hopefully can sort it out together. I want to be there to tell them that there is always someone who will love them with all their quirks and that they too can be a blessing to someone else who might really be suffering. I want them to learn to forgive and move on. I want them to see the hurtful person also as a damaged person (they are mean and imperfect and we should not be like them)… blah, blah, blah.
    For the last 8 years or so we have been immersed in another culture and language (overseas) and so, later in life, I have personally experienced some minor outcast feelings… people here have no shame to make fun openly. Being the one who stands out, doesn’t understand the language etc, isn’t easy or fun a lot of times. So, my kids hopefully will be able to learn to experience both sides of the equation to a safe degree; being gracious as those who are different, stand out and don’t always fit in, as well as being the kind of people who understand and help others who stand out worse than they do.
    I’m really glad you posted this because I know it is a real area of struggle, not only in some people’s past, but in some people’s present. I am encouraged to think of what I can do to make a difference in my little sphere. 🙂

  208. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #213:
    That link is absolutely wonderful. It’s pretty much exactly what I was trying to say, only done with a wonderful sense of humor – not to mention a fantastic singing voice. I love it!

  209. Jonathan Vos Post

    I was beaten up in Junior High School. I don’t know if they have reunions, but I probably would not go if they did.
    My son was beaten up by one psychopath in elementary school, who literally tried to twist my son’s head off. The moment the Principal told me and my wife that nothing could be done because no knife, gun, or drugs were involved, we left that school and never returned. My son graduated elsewhere, at a school where he was twice elected Student Body President, and was Valedictorian. My son also earned a Brown Belt in a particularly demanding old-school Karate dojo. I heard that the psychopath was years later jailed for something else.
    I did not get harassed much in High School, because we were all geeks (Stuyvesant H.S., NYC, a prototype “academic magnet school” with 4 co-alums high in the Obama administration).
    Likewise, not much harassment at Caltech, as everyone (including Jock and Stoner) is a geek. There was a “showering” hazing, but I did kind of ask for it (some people over-react to puns or practical jokes).
    I’ve been reconnecting with high school and college and grad school alums via Facebook. But this morning when I was summarily (and I think without human intervention) subject to account termination. FB does not tell one WHY they do this; they just point to an extremely vague FAQ. They also contend that users do not have the right to see what content was deemed to violate Terms of Use. I emailed an appeal, which they auto-acknowledge. And then I was deluged with emails from some of my 340 Facebook friends asking WTF. Which, of course, I can’t answer. I suspect a False Positives scenario, guilty until proven innocent. One rumor is that too many siblings link to each other on FB, a default assumption is automatically made that there is a false identity issue. But I Don’t Know.
    I enjoy Caltech reunions very much. And at least annual reunions of some High School alums who reside in Southern California.
    Last point: Harlan Ellison has spoken, written, and eloquently been on documentary film describing the bullies who tortured him as a school kid. He uses the names of those bullies as the monsters and villains in his fiction.

  210. Marcus Harman

    I was that guy too. I was the fat geek who would get held at knifepoint and robbed of his dinner money buy a gang of ten thugs as adults “turned the other cheek”. I was the fat kid who had to explain why the tuba the school had lent him had dents in it and had to pay for repairs. I was the fat kid who managed to hide the bruises covering his body for two years until his parents caught him coming out of the bath. I was the fat kid who had to pick the fuckers off one by one and dish out broken noses and new faces until they left me alone. Like you say, I did not start any fight, but I finished all but one. Unfortunately the selfish bastard died of throat cancer before I could have words with him.
    Like you I had only a very narrow group of people who stayed out of the abuse and an even narrower group I could call friends.
    The best day of my teens was when I waved goodbye to that school, the people in it and the county it all happened in.

  211. CJ

    I came across this by the recommendation of a friend so I thought I might share my experience too.
    I can sympathize with many of these experiences of being bullied. I can particularly relate with the ignorance by school administration as told by Mark.
    I went to junior high school in the 2000’s (I’m a college student now) and suffered a great deal of abuse from my classmates, primarily emotional and verbal abuse albeit sometimes it did get pretty physical. Let me just say from my experience that kids nowadays are more crafty in their bullying.
    I remember when I first came to the Junior High School and immediately from the start there were a few people who didn’t like the fact that I didn’t try to conform to their “standards” and was intellectually curious. So they began verbally harassing me and I thought “it’s only a few people, what could they possibly do?”, believing that I could still interact with and befriend the other students.
    I was wrong. Within a few months, the kids who did not like me started a campaign basically to harass and demean me. Of course I reported it to my teachers who held them off for a while. I thought that was the end of it, but they decided to persuade the other classmates into making me into a social pariah by working cohesively to destroy my credibility. I realized this the next time I reported harassment to my teacher, she wouldn’t believe me because 20 students apparently told her I was always lying and I was the person harassing them… Eventually she would even stop believing me when I reported physical harassment.
    At this point I went to my parents who either didn’t believe me or told me to fight back which never worked because my classmates would accuse me of their crime before I could say anything, and I would be at the receiving end of the disciplinary code. I went to the guidance counselor which was a joke because he expected everything to be solved with a handshake but at least he seemed to believe me, or so I thought.
    Meanwhile, my tormentors began a vicious rumor and verbal abuse campaign that spread to the other classes too so I had to stay at the school library during lunch without facing a barrage of insults that made me question my self-worth. And then the “pranks” came in: having chocolate milk “accidentally” poured into my bookbag, chewed gum stuck to my hair and pants on a frequent basis, even compacted snowballs with a pebble inside aimed at the head.
    Towards the end of my junior high school stay I was becoming increasingly suicidal and existentially frustrated. During this time I was horrified when I learned one day that a great deal of students were trying to get me expelled by falsely accusing of something I don’t want to mention. I was called to the guidance counselor and apparently many students came to his office to “complain” about my “behavior” and without a trial or an investigation because they said “majority rules” I was going to be suspended or expelled.
    Fortunately, at that point my parents came in and argued with the school board and guidance counselor and mitigated the terms of my “punishment” to mandatory sessions with a school approved psychologist to resolve my “antisocial behavior” and my “emotional instability”. I had to go to these sessions for months and I needed to be “approved” by the therapist otherwise I wouldn’t be able to graduate junior high school.
    I don’t know how I survived those years but I’m now glad I did but it took a lot of time to recover emotionally and psychologically. I think being accepted to a Specialized High School was the thing that helped the most. I finally found people who I could relate to on a personal and intellectual level but most importantly, the decency of these peers, teachers, and mentors helped me restore my faith in humanity.
    I still don’t understand how school authority figures could be so blind, how could you think of bruise marks and cuts always as “accidents” and only base your judgment on “testimony” of 10-20 students that didn’t even always match?
    It still makes me sick when I try to think back to childhood times.
    I wonder if there are any outreach/mentoring programs for the bullied in existence. Something like Big Brothers or Big Sisters but specifically for kids and teens who are bullied on an active basis. When teachers, guidance counselors, and even parents are unresponsive a person might find nowhere to go. A mentor or a friend providing advice, companionship, or even an intellectual challenge could help them survive just long enough to reach an entirely different world. If there is I’d like to join and help out. If there isn’t, I think it would be a pretty good idea and I hope someone could start such an organization… I would if I knew how to.

  212. yet another geek

    Hi Seth,
    When I was saying about the BJJ, it wasn’t specifically at your post. I was actually referring to the fact that I had heard this argument *many* times over many years. I suppose that didn’t come out clearly in my post. Sorry about that – it wasn’t an attack at you specifically.
    With the specific anecdote of you and your brother, there are a few things that come to mind (not knowing the details here):
    – maybe your brother doesn’t actually want to hurt you. When I first started learning judo and jujitsu, I actually had to scale back my karate training in matches since karate elbows, head and hands are very deadly, even on the ground, and I had to make sure I was limiting my maneuvers to simply holds and arm bars and such. Most of my karate training would leave my opponent with blood and very hurt stuff that doesn’t translate properly into a position where you just tap out.
    – maybe your brother hasn’t really analyzed the kata yet. By the time I just got my 1st degree black bet, I still had a broad but shallow knowledge of kata (in my opinion). It wasn’t for another 5 – 10 more years that I really started to understand all the nasty stuff that goes on inside the kata. Your mileage may vary. This isn’t intended as a slam against your brother.
    – maybe your brother’s teachers aren’t aware of how effective karate can be in positions other than standing up on a wood floor with no traction issues with your opponent 3 to 10 feet away, and so haven’t been effectively teaching him. Again, I don’t know, your mileage may vary. My teachers were aware, and they certainly passed that information on to me, which I also pass on to my students.
    All that aside, in my post I said very specifically that there is no best MA, and both learning other styles (yes I have taken many different MA, and enjoy learning many things) and developing your own style is probably the best approach.
    I am sorry that you misinterpreted what I said. I hope you continue to enjoy your BJJ lessons, but don’t automatically discount any one style based on what you see on tv or youtube or even looking in a few dojos 🙂
    Out of the martial arts that I have taken, my favorites are karate (shotokan, not goju ryu), judo and krav maga. I’m still looking to find decent silat and systema schools, since I’m intrigued by both of them, but hey, you can’t have everything.

  213. Afsnj

    Not that anyone here doubted Mark but, I was there and his recount is absolutely accurate. I liked Mark but, becuase of my own difficulties, did not have the “courage” to be a true friend.

  214. BrnFx

    Hey blogger dude, you should cut your hair. It looks pretty grody in your picture, especially with the bald spot forming. Not trying to be a dick, it’s a small change that would make you look way better. Long hair is gross on men, unless you’re in a Norwegian Black Metal band. And only sometimes, then.

  215. trrll

    I remember receiving a lot of well-meaning advice from adults about how to deal with people trying to pick on you, along the lines of “ignore it” or “tell an adult.” That never worked, and usually made the situation worse. Ignoring it generally made it worse. And if you told an adult, it was your word against the other kid’s. Once I had a teacher accuse me of lying and slap me in the face. And even if the adult did intervene, they couldn’t protect you at all times. I always had the best results with immediate retaliation, even if it meant taking a beating or getting into trouble–verbal retaliation for a verbal attack, physical retaliation for a physical attack.
    There was one time I put it off retaliating. They guy was a weight lifter, impressively muscular, and liked to harass me in the locker room, and I was more than a bit afraid of him. So I let it go for a while, and it got worse. Finally, he happened to catch me in the locker room alone, and I thought, “Now’s the time,” and I grabbed him. I was intending to throw him, but I didn’t have to. Just being yanked off balance panicked him and I felt the fight go out of him. I just shoved him away, said “You aren’t worth the trouble, ” turned my back on him and walked off (covertly watching the shadows so I’d see if he’d came at me from behind). After that, he would still insult me–from the other side of the room. He never came within arm’s reach of me again. I couldn’t believe that I’d let it go on for so long.

  216. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #221:
    Thank you. I appreciate your coming forward. Feel free to get in touch directly if you want. My address is listed in the contact tab at the top of the blog.

  217. Jake

    To those who believe Mark’s tormentors have changed and he should give them another chance, this is what I have to say:
    I was bullied in highschool. The school itself was quite small, with a heavy emphasis on social justice in the curriculum, so that limited how bad it got, but I was nonetheless mocked and tormented by my classmates for years, for the high crimes of not caring about things like clothes, makeup, and boys.
    Because I really believed in the school itself, its mission and how it’s going about it, I stayed involved and am now on the board of trustees. While I never went to any reunion-style events, my position does make it impossible for me to completely avoid my fellow alumnae. About a month ago, at the retirement party for a teacher, I ran into one of my old tormentors. “Hey!” she said, “remember when you were in grade 9 and you couldn’t come into the senior common room because it was for grade 10 and up, and then when you were in grade 10 we tried to keep you out by telling you it was grade 11 and up? Wasn’t that funny?!?”
    Amazingly, no. I didn’t find being ostracized by my peers to be quite that funny. She clearly still does, ten years later, and not only that, but expects me to laugh along with her. Why you people think Mark should take the risk of running into assholes who probably have not changed, just on the off chance that some of them might have, is baffling to me. Seriously, what would going accomplish other than bringing up a bunch of traumatic stuff from his past that he’s clearly moved beyond?

  218. Anna

    In some schools I attended, it wasn’t a set of physical attributes that set me apart. I had a mind. In other schools, my physical attributes of being a minority set me apart. However, in both types of schools, the treatment was the same: intense psychological abuse/isolation.
    So in my experience, it’s about daring to have and use one’s mind, not necessarily a smarter mind. It’s about wondering how to use the mind, and having a sense of wonder, and all that shows, and shows the rest of the herd you have a soul-spark, you “are” and you dare to be different.
    It doesn’t go away when you grow up. It follows you throughout college, throughout your career, throughout your online life, your offline life.
    Is it jealousy? It’s beyond jealousy, it’s hostile. I think most people are missing parts of a whole soul.
    Curiously, these many decades later, I find the equivalent in impersonal arenas such as the Internet. I subscribe to many online forums in topics of interest to me, and write what’s on my mind.
    Many have expressed favor reading what I write: but, I am a private person, and rarely allow access to personal information, or direct personal communication.
    I prefer it that way, as I know how small minded, how dangerous people can be, even when they admire something you’ve done. So the many people who love reading my articles want to have personal access to me, and when this is not given, they get nasty.
    ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ ‘I am the person whose articles you all like to read’… is never enough. It is now my unyielding privacy policy which triggers all sorts of trailer trash puerile gang behavior. Just like in that hallway in High School.
    “Who are you” they scream online. I am the person you can’t personally get to, though you can amongst yourself slam, slander, backstab, gossip about because you have no way to get to me personally, just my stories and articles, and a name: Anna.
    Child or adult, you are never going to satiate the mob’s need for blood, their need to crucify, their need to take something good and and admirable by their own standards, and tear it apart.
    Welcome to the Age of Destruction.

  219. Vlad Patryshev

    I understand it so much. No, it would not happen to me in my school (I’m afraid I was able to kill an offender, although I was one of the smallest and the weakest geek in the class). Memory is a tricky thing, though. Recently another former little geek reminded me something I don’t remember at all: that I was abusing one of the girls in our class. My feeling always was that she was so nice, and that I definitely never touched her, or anybody else (throughout my life I hit a person probably not more than three times).
    But there’s one more thing. After 3.5 years at Google I feel like THAT was my worst social experience. The people whom I expected to be open, creative, funny geeks… well, it turned out things are very different.
    Probably what you wrote is some kind of explanation, why it was so. Thank you.

  220. trrll

    So in my experience, it’s about daring to have and use one’s mind, not necessarily a smarter mind. It’s about wondering how to use the mind, and having a sense of wonder, and all that shows, and shows the rest of the herd you have a soul-spark, you “are” and you dare to be different.

    It’s not about jealousy, much those of us who have been fortunate/unfortunate enough to be targeted because of special talents or abilities might like to think so. I think it is just about being different. The Japanese say “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” I suspect there is some sort of instinctive drive; something to do with kin selection, perhaps. Tolerance is a learned behavior, although there is probably a genetic component, as well. Some people are nasty and stay that way, but at the high school level, a fair number are just immature. These are the ones who might treat you well one-on-one, but who can get caught up in participating in group cruelty.
    I think that US society accepts diversity more than many, and has come quite a long way, but tolerance for difference is still fairly superficial and limited–it is OK to be different, but only in one of the familiar ways.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      It’s a lot simpler than that too. Ultimately, they’re just pathetic, petty weaklings who dont have balls. It doesn’t take a lot of inner fortitude to break the wave of social pressure to not terrorize a child LOL. It just doesn’t.

      Capitalism makes them greedy for power. And early.

  221. Chas

    Very well said Mark. I experienced my share of bullying in middle school and have no desire to see old classmates 30 years later. My high school friends that I still see weren’t even in my class so they wouldn’t be there even if I went. Stick to your guns: stay away from those a**holes and keep parenting your son the way you are doing.

  222. 'Tis Himself, OM

    Being a non-jock, intelligent geek I was bullied in high school. After I graduated, I went into the Navy for six years as a submarine nuke Machinist’s Mate. Going to sea for months on end with 120 other guys really forces you to practice social skills.
    Shortly after I was discharged, I was visiting my parents and ran into the meanest bully I went to school with. Did he ask for my forgiveness? No. Did he claim that we were bestest buddies back in school? No. What he did do was try to bully me some more. I warned him I wasn’t the same guy he knew six years earlier, but he didn’t pay attention. He grabbed me by the shirt and tried to punch me in the face. I punched him in the solar plexus, then grabbed his forehead and smashed the back of his skull into a cinderblock wall. As he lay bleeding on the ground I asked him if he still wanted to play bully. He decided he’d rather not. No, it was not nice of me, but damn, did it feel good.
    I graduated from high school in 1966. I still get invitations to class reunions. I haven’t gone to a single one. I’m in contact with the four or five friends I had in high school. The rest of my graduating class can go their own ways and I’ll go mine.

  223. brhswgrad

    Hey Mark,
    Any chance of you dropping the names of the fingerbreaker and the swastika maker here? It could be a precautionary measure for those who did not bully you and are bringing their families to the reunion.

  224. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #231:
    No, no chance.
    There’s a chance that they’ve changed in the last 25 years.
    It wouldn’t be right for me to go refresh anyone’s memory
    about things they’ve forgotten in the last 25 years. I don’t
    want to see them, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve got the right to ruin the reunion for them.

  225. Jamie

    I was the short-fat geek… till I went from 5’6″ to 6’1″.
    It was a like Piggy (Lord of the Flies) suddenly turning into Adam Baldwin (My Bodyguard)…
    And I loved it.

  226. bluefoot

    CJ@219: Outreach or some group like Big Brothers/Big Sisters is an excellent idea. I’ve never heard of an organization like that, but I’d join if there was one. My sister is a schoolteacher and I’ll ask if she knows of anything.

  227. Tim W.

    In high school (class of 1976), I was popular enough to be elected student council president. I had some popular friends but also lots of friends who were the geeks of our school. I made good grades, totally loved chemistry, physics, and geometry (taking over those classes when the teachers didn’t know the answers), ran track, and befriended the nerds in the band (having been put in their homeroom by some scheduling glitch in ninth grade). All in all, I’d say I had a pretty good run with good friends on both sides of the nerdly divide.
    I became a much more thorough-going nerd in college and grad school, embracing my inner geek. I’ve always been a defender of the nerdly-class, sometimes literally having to step in and intercede in fights on the side of the unter-mensch.
    Still, I WOULD NOT want to go back and do it over. I have never been to any of our reunions, turning down several opportunities to attend. I just don’t see the point. I’ve never kept up with those people, and even though I had an overall good experience, it was not a time of my life I want to dwell on or revisit (aside from this message!).
    I guess what I’m saying is that even for people who had it pretty good in high school, there’s an element of resistance to reliving that time of life. It doesn’t take having a bad high-school experience not to want to attend reunions! I think the people who go to those things are those with bad memory-retention. They recall things as being better than they actually were (probably because they were in a daze anyway). I wouldn’t put all of the ‘causal weight’ on having a bad experience–some of it is a healthy desire to move on.

  228. Olga

    To: the few former bullies who had the courage to apologize in this thread
    From: a skinny geeky girl who was almost pushed down the stairs at age eight (among other things)
    Thank you. I am not being sarcastic.
    Reading this thread has stirred up so much anger and humiliation and various other painful emotions…
    I am nineteen now. My junior high school experience was wonderful and high school was, well, it was Stuyvesant. So I haven’t thought about this stuff for years, but by the fiftieth comment or so I was ready to go find some of my former teachers (who watched and knew and even laughed at me) and let them know exactly what kind of scars they had left on my psyche…
    In my case I think the teachers were far more at fault than the bullies, because an eight-year-old bully is a very different thing from a fifteen-year-old who understands EXACTLY what s/he is doing. My teachers sometimes laughed along with my classmates’ cruel comments, and I still remember my shock at the principal’s uncaring reaction when my furious mother detailed every single incident that had happened under the direct supervision of an adult.
    And I’m never going to forget what happened with the pushing-down-the-stairs incident.
    Me, sobbing: She said I wasn’t going fast enough, I was gonna make her late, so they both pushed and pushed and tried to pull my hand off the railing and hit me on the neck and said they wanted me to fall and break my neck!
    The teacher, sighing in exasperation: Look, Olga, everyone knows how slowly you go on the stairs and hold everyone up! Why are you making such a scene?
    (Her exact words.)
    So, to the people who apologized: thank you, seriously. It lightened my anger considerably. Normally I’d never wish any kind of mental anguish on someone, much less be happy about it, but it gives me quite a bit of satisfaction to know that you understand how badly you wrecked other people’s childhoods and that you will always be ashamed about it. The best thing you can do, I think, is to teach your children never to do such things to other people, and most importantly– to never stand idly by when they see it happening to their classmates or to younger children.
    Now a question for the rest of you: I don’t have much experience hating people (I mean real hate). Like I said, until seeing this thread I’d pushed it to the back of my mind years ago. Obviously there’s no way I’ll ever get an apology from the adults who were complicit in this. So how can I clear this from my mind? I don’t want to become one of those people who stew in their own hatred, but I can’t just tell myself to forgive them. Honestly it was child abuse just as much as if they’d hit and taunted me themselves.

  229. Bas

    Hi Mark C.,
    I can fully understand your disrespect towards them as I also got bullied at school. It went that extreme that just after a few weeks at my new school (secondary modern school, “Hauptschule”) I cracked up quite often, I thought about running away from home, daily I thought about to commit suicide. I even thought about to run amok, or getting a grenade to blow myself and the guy who I think was the worst of those bastards up.
    I carried for some time a knife with me, in my backpack, but I didn’t used it all (maybe I should have done…at least for defense) – I even had deodorant spray and a lighter with me to use it as a flame thrower (deo spray is highly flammable). it was mostly at the mental level, but even this can hurt more than anything else – I remember a school trip in a bus where it got such extreme in verbal during the bus ride that I was REALLY thinking about jumping through the glas to get out of the bus and away from the bastards – You do strange considerings during despear.
    I had no real friends during this time, and futhermore not even internet, so I was really alone (except of course of my family, but I was to shy to talk about it – And I was ashamed as well)
    Best Regards,

  230. slpage

    Like Mark, I graduated in 1984. I did, however, just attend my 25th reunion. I lived sort of a double or triple life in high school – I was a shy ‘smart kid’, but I was also on the football and wrestling team and I got along with pretty much every group – the rich kids, the nerds, the jocks, the pot heads, etc. I was lucky to be in a class that did not have any major bullies (at least not among the boys – the girls are another story…), but when I was younger (7th-8th grade) there was this one dude…
    He was 3 or 4 years older than me, but a tiny kid, maybe 5’0″. He smoked cigarettes, had long hair, and hung out with a bunch of older tough kids (including one guy who was like 30 years old and a former Marine – how pathetic was that guy?). He would hang out by the younger kids’ lockers and harrass them before and after school. I hated him and his friends, but him most of all because he was actually a wimp, he just had his big buddies to protect him. He used to knock my books out of my hands, call me names and such. Nothing very physical, but it was humiliating. He was even worse to some of my friends. I used to stick up for people getting picked on, but with him and his cabal of tough guys, it would have been suicide.
    And I still hate him. In fact, every time I go home, I keep an eye out for him. I’m 6’4″, 275, former paratrooper, and my wife always tells me that I don’t know my own strength, but I would use it – still – on that little bastard.
    I can only imagine how hard it is/was for someone not in my position then or now. Even though my experience was very mild, I am very aware of the things my kids say about school.
    Peace all.

  231. Jonathan Vos Post

    I sympathize with the first generation of Women at what was an all-male high school for a century, Stuyvesant. Even this famous New York City “academic magnet” is all geeks and nerds, they have their share of bullies and sexists, it seems.
    My abuse there was mild — pounds of onions thrown hard at me in an outside demonstration/counterdemonstration clash; insults to me as not being quite good enough as first-string competitor with Math team, having all my poems rejected by the student literary magazine (I’m a professional poet now and the editors aren’t); traditional hazing such as telling Freshman to go the the top-floor swimming pool, with a floor number that doesn’t exist and there being no pool. I’m talking the old site, in Stuyvesant Town near Union Square, not the new campus so close to Ground Zero that survivors were carried there on 9/11 and many of my alumni who weren’t killed in the Trade Center (some were) are sick from respiratory effects of the dust.
    In the same way, Caltech went co-ed after a century of all-male, and I was there, and saw how the first 30 female undergrads were harassed, to put it mildly. That no greater percentage of them went nuts, killed themselves, or dropped out showed how tough they were. Some have gone of to great things (tenure, MacArthur grants…) but the sexism and cruelty of geeks can be sickening, as they should know better. Just as black-on-black violence and racism is exposed in Spike Lee’s films.
    I go to monthly Alumni luncheons of Caltech grads, which include many good young women, though my wife finds the group boring (and she “outranks” them, as a Physics professor).
    This weekend I’m going to a Southern California alumni BBQ for Stuyvesant alumni and significant others. Had I been more abused, or been a girl, things might be different.
    Thank you again for this thread.

  232. anna

    @241 jonathon vos
    A couple of things… as a female, geek, minority but who was something to look at, I am happy to find someone (male) who knows what it was like for females. Geeks can bully too, even though in adulthood it presents more as ostracism, which actually can be quite career killing. I can’t begin to relate how uncomfortable it always was to be the only female (“the nail that stands out”) in a tech convention of mostly hundreds of male geeks, who had at last found a place to be, successfully, and be the one ostracized … “what is she doing here” kind of thing. The nail that stood out, yep, a challenge for some of them on that note. A sense of humor, a strong mind and refusal to come that far and be left out, aalso some knowledge most might just need a helping hand “socially getting along” did go a ways. Nowadays I suppose the percentage is a bit different. I was one of the early “females”.
    The main reason I am responding is to perhaps help – I was also at GZ. For those who still are suffering respiratory distress…it’s real. You are always bullied that it’s in your mind. No, it’s real. I have the early data, and talked the ONLY environmental team (UC Davis) that came there to take measurements. We all have it, it’s mostly called RAD Reactive Airway Disease. The good nurses in the 2003 vintage 9/11 clinic at Bellevue said “Bullshit it is Adult Onset Asthma, but for WTC relief fund payout (i.e. insurance reasons) if they called it RAD they got to pay out less. Either way, your lungs and body feels like pure hell. Co-present with this is thyroid disease. They knew we were going to get the latter, ha ha, how’s that again? So some who filed for, and were compensated for WTC lung damage (e.g., residents, rescue workers) were compensated for thyroid damage as well. So check thyroids also. BTW, the “people” who adminstered giving out moneys to damaged residents were the worst bullies I have ever encountered. It’s one thing to be hit with a terrorist attack, another to be bullied by the Administration that nothing was wrong with the GZ air. I finally thew a chair at a CDC meeting, people who came not to help, but just study those of us who had been stricken. They could have done something early on to save many, but they didn’t – what to call that? As with criminal bullying in High School it IS THE ADMINISTRATIVE BETRAYAL THAT DAMAGES FAR FAR FAR WORSE THAN THE ATTACKS THEMSELVES.
    Some of us finally found relief by going to an unlikely source, a controversially funded process, (around for hundreds of years, according to a FDNY MD), that detoxes your system. If you want to know what it is, talk to FDNY firefighters who have done a detox process. It worked for a quite a few people I knew. Help is out there. Go for it.

  233. Thomas

    Thanks for the original post, Mark. Mainly for preserving your sense of anger and justice despite being well-socialized, trained, and successful.
    What really touched me about it is that I pretty much had the same experience, but a completely different reaction. No one else cared about my torment (nb: “my” not their behavior), and I ignored it. I still wanted and want people to like me, even the complete assholes. I see myself getting stepped on every day in subtle ways, and instead of responding in kind (like the successful tit-for-tat strategies), I think maybe they’ll change their mind. I see it 20 years ago and 2 hours ago.
    Strangely, the assholes at work who take the time to attack end up occupying me the most, as I try to win their affections. My work is such that my reputation and livelihood depends entirely on being liked; there is no work-product that is independently assessed or consumed. I don’t have the resources to quit or retrain.
    I have to go vomit.

  234. Maria Droujkova

    PARENTS have to take care of their kids and be responsible for protecting them from toxic situations. Karate is good, but pulling the kid out may be better in the long run. Bullying is brought on by kids’ inability to escape the system. It happens in any environment where people are either kept against their will (prisons, some armies) or where moving around is hard (tenured faculty). Have you seen Becker’s work on mobbing in academia?
    For my own kid, I try to avoid places where a lot of people are kept against their will. You can model the resulting interpersonal dynamics mathematically. Currently, this rule excludes schools from our options.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      Brilliant comment. The core element of bullying and mobbing situations definitely is the forced captivity. It’s the most dysfunctional kind of environment there is- a captive one, except you are surrounded by others who are not captive there. Usually because parents are neglectful/abusive and simply do not care. THAT is the child who is forced to stay there no matter what happens, no matter how desperate they are to get the hell out.

      That is what makes me furious after all these years. That was I literally, in every sense of the worse- a captive, yet I didn’t even know it, or was gaslighted over it.

  235. Janice Green

    You need to forgive. Until you do, your bitterness will eat you alive. You are also setting you kids up to resolve issues with physical strength.
    I am in no way justifying the students who were cruel to you in high school. You may never be able to correct their behavior. You only have yourself to live with the damage they did. The way to truly get over it is to forgive them from the heart. Jesus can help you do this, as you probably can’t do it on your own.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      Hey Janice, you old lady, why do you have the audacity to believe yourself intelligent enough to know the solution to her problem? I got news for you honey, you’re clearly not.

  236. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Re #245:
    Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.
    Sorry, but I despise the idiotic christian idea of forgiveness. Like I’ve said plenty of
    times on this blog – I’m a religious Jew. I’m not interested in what Christianity has to say; I’m not interested in any help from Jesus.
    My understanding of forgiveness is a Jewish one. Forgiveness is a process that involves two parties, not one. Forgiveness happens when the party that did the wrong makes a sincere apology, and the wronged party accepts it. If no one has admitted doing anything wrong, then forgiveness is meaningless.
    As for “setting my kids up to resolve issues with physical strength”, you obviously haven’t read my repeated responses to people who’ve said things like that. My kids are studying karate with teachers who constantly reinforce the message that you never start a fight. The only way my kids are going to resolve anything by fighting is if someone attacks them. And then they’re going to be prepared to defend themselves. If that’s resolving issues with strength, then so be it – in that case, it’s a good thing.
    Now, take your proselytizing bullshit and go away.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      I love the way you think. The Catholics are the absolute worst bunch of psychopaths I’ve ever met- they start these kids early on their pettiness and violent hypocrisy. The Protestant Christian school in the south I went to was like floating on a cloud compared to every one of the Catholic cesspools I attended.

  237. Rob Adcox

    I wasn’t bullied by anyone outside of 8th grade -when a gang of rich little dickheads got away with it because their mommies and daddies held sway over the school- but in high school I was was rejected by every clique and put down by most. My response was to consider the source, recognize that they were assholes, and make friends with the few who actually meant something to me.
    I’m sure they thought they had “gotten one over” on me or some such bullshit, but again I considered the source and in the end I laughed at them for being so smallminded and stupid.
    As for the few whose thoughts and feelings mattered to me, I made some very good friends and my memories of hanging with them have made me infinitely richer than if I had never met them. I’m going to me 30th reunion and I hope to meet a couiple of them, but if I don’t see them there and it’s back to clique bullshit as usual, I’ll say hi to a couple of people, grab a drink, and slip out and away to freedom.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      ” -when a gang of rich little dickheads got away with it because their mommies and daddies held sway over the school”

      This was my junior high on Long Island.

  238. Rosalind Lord

    Thank you for sharing this. I think you’re right to write off those assholes that hated you so much in high school, and not go to the reunion. I have never been to any school reunions myself and have no interest in ever going. I didn’t fit in at school either. At one point I tried, but then gave up because no matter what I did, nothing worked.
    Bullies, besides being cowards, are petty, banal, and infantile. They basically have no life outside of bad-mouthing people. Without people to diss, bullies would be nothing. That is why they need us much more than we’ll ever need them.
    Now, whenever I come across people with this mentality (and as we all know, many adults NEVER outgrow it), I just see them as the pathetic losers they really are, and take their disapproval of me as a huge compliment.
    Perhaps this is one of the few valuable lessons high school taught me.

    1. Arianna Higgins

      “Bullies, besides being cowards, are petty, banal, and infantile. They basically have no life outside of bad-mouthing people. Without people to diss, bullies would be nothing. That is why they need us much more than we’ll ever need them.”

      You really get it! That was the most bewildering part of it- they were supposedly so cool and popular or whatever, yet they spent all day abusing me. Liiiike, Dang you really seem obsessed with me for all the unpopular I supposedly was LOL

  239. Jasmine Nell

    My sister and I are finding ways to end this abuse in the school systems or atleast make it less worse. I agree with everything you had to say and wanted to let you know there are people in this world that know you didn’t deserve what happened… Great idea with the karate 🙂
    However, I do think you would have an EVEN better life if you let go of your past completely, meaning no need to even think about those people or incidents any longer. Instead of taking time to comment on ignorant negative comments you could be doing something better! Helping end this abuse or even just sitting back and doing what makes you happy. I enjoy helping people, even if it is helping them to a beach chair. If you’de like, email me!

  240. David

    Mark –
    I was one of the people who was there – everything you said was true and accurate.
    I was your neighbor and tried in my limited way to stop some of the bullshit that was happening to you… But it was difficult… I tried behind the scenes. Social pressures of high school often kept me from further intervention. But I was weak… I should have been strong, but I wasn’t. For that I am truly sorry.
    I remember the burning of your front lawn and realized that this shit had gone too far… It was my neighborhood, too, after all.
    I hope that my action, or, inaction can be forgiven.
    You have become a decent man – one that I hope that my kid can someday emulate. Educated, thoughtful, and well spoken.
    Good luck to you and your family.
    Best Regards,

  241. Rosalind Lord

    One thing I forgot to say:
    I’m no expert on martial arts, but I think it’s great that your kids are learning them. Whatever it takes.

  242. Sarah

    Mark, you originally asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you people? Why would you think that I would want to have anything to do with you?” Sorry, Mark, but you’re viewing this from the wrong perspective. Even though you attended or graduated from this high school, the reunion isn’t really about you. The event is intended to allow the former high school power players to validate their high school experience and feel good about themselves. The more people who attend, the better the power players can feel about themselves. They aren’t really interested in you at all. A reunion gives them an opportunity to literally return to their little cliques where they can sit around a table and criticize classmates who have gained weight, lost hair, or (gasp!) gotten older! They invite you because they just know you will jump at the opportunity to be photographed with them in the obligatory group photo. By declining to participate, you diminish their self-worth. Such a loss cannot be tolerated by the high school elite! They are forced to use Facebook to try to persuade you to participate since your abdication is now public knowledge and could lead others to also ask why they should attend. And remember, it’s not about you; it’s about how many worshipful sheeple they can reunite.

  243. John Vogel

    I’m very late to this discussion but I just want to say I can identify. I was fat and geeky, and I got it pretty bad. But people in this situation, please don’t give up. That was 25 years ago for me, and things couldn’t have turned out better. I met some friends later in college who’ve become lifelong, close, and I couldn’t have asked for better friends. I thank God for them every day. And my wife, and family. Things are awesome now. I’m blessed.
    People at that age do not understand the good things in one’s character.

  244. Patch

    So… any feedback from your classmates on your response? I’m rather curious to know what responses you received. Any former tormenters make contact? Any apologies?