Everything I write here is based off my own observations and is by no means indicative of trends or facts. These are occurrences I have noticed during my own time in school and beyond.
I come from a small town in New Hampshire, so small in fact that the local public high school is a joint school between my town and the next town over. Even then the high school was small. My graduating class was considered “large” for the school with somewhere around 120 students. No school, despite the most rigid discipline and professional environments, is not free of bullying. I believe this occurs far less often in small schools by virtue of the fact that smaller schools tend to have less well defined social groups due to their size not supporting them.
In my senior year I wrote an article for our school paper making the argument that a “popular” clique of students couldn’t exist in my high school, not in the way portrayed by teen movies and television shows anyways. This wasn’t well taken by those who believed they belonged to such a group. My article was based around the fact by definition popular means well liked or admired by many people. I stated that since my high school was so small no one could be far and away “the most popular” people in the school since everyone knew everyone. Since graduating the fact that I have met plenty of people who didn’t know almost in their high school, let alone their own class, is mind boggling to me. It’s an alien experience.
On the same token I think the small size prevents bullying on such a large scale. Yes people will always be bullied, but in my school I think it was far less rampant than headlines present. This was for the same reason popular cliques weren’t as dominant, everyone knew everyone. Very few people were “outcasts” from the school body.
One of the most common ways someone can be mocked and ridiculed in high school has to do with body image. Often someone who is overweight and “strange” or “weird” will be the subject of bullying, or at least some form of torment or the butt of jokes. Others who are overweight but have a bubbly, friendly personality or can make people laugh with their jokes and antics are able to overcome the stigma often associated with their weight.
I was never teased in any form of school, from kindergarten to high school. People may have thought I was odd because I’m a huge nerd (which is the in thing these days it seems) but even then I wasn’t mocked or bullied. I don’t have a weight problem either. For all my life I have been thin, but never underweight. I am not anorexic nor do I have some other eating disorder. The fact of the matter is I am an active person despite being a great fan of indoor activities, I eat only when I am hungry without having the compulsion to “clean my plate”. The last and largest contributor to my weight is my high metabolism that borders on ridiculous.
All my life I have never thought anything of myself being skinny. My brothers are very much the same way and many of my friends growing up were just as thin if not skinnier than I was. I joined the United States Navy in December of 2007, when I was eighteen. Twice a year the Navy conducts their Physical Fitness Assessment, which consists of two parts: the Physical Readiness Test (PRT), meaning the push-ups, sit-ups running etc, and the Body Composition Assessment (BCA) which is a measurement of body weight vs height and body fat percentage. I have never once come close to failing the BCA, which I consider a good thing. But the nature of the BCA makes my actual weight, not just the perception of it, public knowledge.
Now almost six years later, and still thin as ever, I have noticed that on an almost weekly basis comments are made about my weight. This is probably something to do with the fact that I am 24 years old but still weigh almost the same I did my freshman year of high school. I never noticed it until it started becoming a common discussion, and now is becoming something of a joke within my command. When I was younger I probably would have snapped on someone by now, since I had a severe temper when growing up, because I often am subjected to comments along the lines of: “Eat something.” or “You need some bacon.” (I won’t argue the bacon part, since it’s delicious) or offers of cake and other “fattening” foods.
I tend to laugh these comments off, but at the end of the day they’re just as annoying as mocking someone for being overweight or wear glasses or because they’re clumsy or have their less than stellar common sense moments. Not once did I ever think I would become the subject of someone’s ridicule regarding my weight but here I am, ten years removed from “prime bullying years” and the polar opposite of the most common trigger for bullying and still being mocked over something trivial.
Since I am severe cynic (I was told in my high school yearbook not to give up on the human race) I tend to just attribute this to humanity being assholes. But sometimes it’s worth a shot to remind people that everyone else is the star of their own story. All those people in the subway, in their cars, on the job site or in their cubicles at work are the leading men and women in their own lives. As a bully, or someone making jokes at someone else’s expense, you become an antagonist in their story. It takes a compelling antagonist to be well liked.
Don’t become the antagonist in someone else’s story over something petty.