But let me start at the very beginning...
Several weeks ago I was approached by a friend to do some modelling for the fashion parade at the local show. Anyone who lives in a small town knows that this is not a big deal. You don't have to be a supermodel. Loads of local girls of all shapes and sizes parade around in clothes that you can buy from a local outlet, as a way of promoting local business. And I happen to really like this local business owner, so I was happy to help her out. A big part of me wanted to say no. I was scared shitless about getting up in front of a crowd of people to model clothes. I'm not a supermodel, but you know what? I like myself. Warts and all.
When I was a kid, I was picked on for having red hair and freckles. I was picked on for being short or skinny, and once (after I got back from a 4 month youth exchange to NZ) I was picked on for being fat. When you're a kid, stuff like that hurts, and I was lucky to have a really loving and supportive family, who always made me feel like I was perfect the way I was. So even when I hated myself and felt bad and sad about ME, I knew my family still loved me and somehow this saw me through.
I'm in my 30s now, and I still have freckles, and cellulite and a too big nose, and a bunch of other stuff I could list for pages and pages, but the bottom line is that I don't care anymore. There are people who love me regardless, and to those people who don't, well, that's okay too. You do your thing, I'll do mine. I'm also a school teacher. I spend a certain part of my life dealing with kids who have the same angst I once had, and I spend a lot of time trying to make those kids feel loved and valuable and special too. I deal with bullies who have nothing better to do with their time than to pull others down to make themselves feel better. And I hate that part of my job, but the reality is that bullying is a such a big part of our society now that it's just how it goes. I'm stamping out the bullying, day after mind numbing day.
Back to today...
So today I was petrified. The very mention of the words 'fashion parade' sent me into a dither. But there was a big group of us, and once we were all out behind the stage getting ready, things felt better. I was nervous, but it was all okay. We were all in our first outfits. Here is my outfit here.
|Totally rocking it. Please note my open toed, and obscenely high shoes!|
All the girls doing the show were so lovely. We were pumping each other up and telling each other how great we all were (and we WERE), and I felt good. Eventually it came time for me to go up on the stage. I walked up the first steps, and saw my children, who were waving furiously at the front, and were so proud of me. I smiled and waved, and headed up to the left. People were cheering and I thought for a minute that this would be alright. I headed up to the right of the catwalk, and still there were people who were waving and shouting and whistling. And then I heard it. It came from the centre of the stage, but up the back, near the bar. I knew who he was. There he was leaning back against the wall, a beer in one hand, resting up in front of his enormous beer gut. He was sweating and laughing with a small group of friends, and I heard it clear as day.
"Look at that second toe! It's enormous!"
It was loud enough for me to hear on stage, so it was loud enough for everyone between the bar and me to hear as well. My heart sank. My confidence ran out behind the stage and I slunk back behind the stage with my head down.
So anyone who knows me or has read this blog a bit is aware of my freakishly large second toe (I call it my ET toe). In fact, I mentioned it in my last blog about 'New Shoes.' I used to hate it (and I still don't LOVE LOVE it), but it's a part of who I am. I can't change it and it doesn't bother me anywhere near what it used to. So if it doesn't bother me, it sure as hell shouldn't have bothered him.
I was too busy to give it much thought over the next 20 minutes, but my confidence was shot. I was nervous about going back on stage again and it put a dampener on the whole experience for me. It wasn't WHAT he said that bothered me (I mean, I do have a freakishly large second toes, but who gives a shit?), but it was the 'WHY' he said it that got me - and still gets me. There was nothing to gain from saying it at all. He did it to get a laugh, and I hope he did get a laugh, because he certainly wasn't prepared for my reaction.
A bully who uses words to hurt people often doesn't even think that what they're saying will hurt someone. Or they don't care. Or they do care, but will say it anyway for a bunch of crazy reasons. This jerk said it for a laugh. And it just made me more and more angry. I spend so much time making sure my kids don't let stuff like this hurt them. I teach them to love others for their differences. I tell them about acceptance and the fact that people have feelings. I want them to know about empathy. I try to do the right freaking thing so often that when I see an ADULT acting no better than a school yard bully, in front of MY kids, then it gets me really angry.
When the fashion parade was done, I went to find the bully at the bar. He was standing with a group of his friends, and I wanted to shame him in front of them. I was so scared, but the other fact about my childhood is that my parents raised me to be confident. So I summoned every little morsel of confidence I possess, and I walked over to where he was at the bar. I should add that this is the polite version on here. I was filthy angry by this point, and perhaps a few naughty words came out which I have omitted here.
"Hi Jess." He smiled and nodded politely.
"Hey. Ummm, actually, while I have you here, I just wanted to tell you that when I was up there on stage before, you know doing my bit for the community, which is pretty hard by the way, I overheard what you said about my crazy long second toe. It was totally uncalled for and especially when you are no oil painting yourself, that sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Especially when your gut and your head are both bigger than my toes could ever hope to be! I'm pretty pissed off."
His mouth dropped open. He didn't know what to say. His friends were my captive audience.
"I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, Jess."
"Nope. No freaking wrong end of the stick where I was standing." And I turned around and walked away.
I couldn't go back and tell him that the only thing worse than a child bully is an adult bully. I couldn't tell him that I hope he treats his wife and kids with more respect than what he showed me today. I couldn't say any of it because I was too angry. And so I write it here to make myself feel better. I want him to know that he is a bully. And that I won't tolerate it. And that I love my freakishly long toes even more now. And that maybe he will read this and know that he needs to model the right behaviour for those children around him. And that he should know better. And that I expect more of him. And that today he disappointed me, and his family. And that I certainly won't ever accept that behaviour from him.
Not now and not ever.
PS. What was he doing looking at my toes anyway??? I was smoking hot in that dress! LOL
PPS> I look forward to being able to tell you about how fantastic the show actually was this year, and how proud I am of the people who slugged their guts out to make it such an awesome day! x