The Bully That Is All in Your Head

“Intellectual – The intellectual bully specializes in condescension. Their insecurities are masked in large words and aloof, arrogant sentences. Their offense consists of a belief that they are smarter than the competition. They enjoy making others feel inferior.”

~ Joe Bouchard

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Statistics, multi-syllabic words, one arched eyebrow, historical references, identifier of logical fallacies in others, Einstein, Jung, or Hawkings quotes…..

These are the “sticks and stones” of intellectual bullies.  And make no mistake, they are smart enough to know exactly what they are doing.  It isn’t that they are devoid of passion or emotion.  it is just that they are able to switch gears in an instant if passion and emotion are not getting the job done.

There is nothing wrong with intellect.  On the contrary, intellect has brought us literature, the light bulb, the Internet, and, or course, puns 🙂  I myself am the proud owner of some substantial intellect, though I typically do not go about whipping out my IQ scores.  However, when push comes to figurative shove, that is exactly what the intellectual bully does.  If your viewpoint either makes no sense to them, makes them uncomfortable, or makes them apt to look in a mirror….out comes the pontificatory pronouncement.  Or the statistical syllabication.  If it fits into the conversation at all, the word “matriculate’ is likely to be used.

In other words: Cue the condescension.

The ironic (or is it paradoxical) thing about intellectual bullies is that they are usually quick to defend those whom they see as victims of other types of bullies. They will, with great verbiage  condemn those who hit or name-call or attempt to intimidate using the more prosaic methods.  This tends to make them, in my opinion, the worst kind of bully – the hypocrite.

So if you are in a passionate debate or disagreement, and someone’s impassioned plea suddenly become a demand to cite research or a “how many letters are in the words I use” competition…..it is highly likely that you have just encountered someone who attacks with acumen as his or her primary ammunition.

Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me……and I Am Going to Make Sure it Stays That Way

October is Anti-Bullying Month (among other things), and so I have been thinking some about the topic.  As most kids were, I was at times the target of bullying, particularly during a period of time in 6th grade.  As a teacher, I have had to discipline and deal with my share of bullies, including instinctively stepping into a fight between two 7th graders when I was 8 months pregnant.  Not smart, I realize, but like I said, it was instinct.

At the beginning of each school year, I give my “teacher speech,” as do most teachers.  I spent ten years teaching elementary school after having spent several years with other grades, and every year I told them that one way to earn immediate reprisal and “time out” from Ms. Literally was to intentionally hurt or bully another student.  And I meant it.  I do not like to see students harm or intimidate each other.  However, as I observed closely throughout my teaching career, I noticed a curious trend.

Now, there are those bullies who are just…mean.  They seem to revel in knocking over books, calling names, pushing past other students, and they don’t much care who the target is.  They just enjoy aggression, or seem to do so.  There was also, however, a type of sembiotic relationship that I sometimes observed between the “bully” and the “victim.”

I will use the story of Em as an example.  Em was in one of my fifth grade classes.  She was intelligent, creative, and sensitive.  She was also…..unique.  Now, I understand unique.  I was reading at age two, wrote plays and directed them in fourth grade, read the dictionary for fun, and was the worst kickball player in the history of my elementary school….I was also the tallest person in my class and had very prominent 1970’s glasses.  Yeah, I know unique.  But back to Em.  She was very upset because some of the students kept calling her Rover. She was always complaining, crying, and asking various teachers to tell them to stop.  Sometimes they even barked at her.

Now, the idea of students calling a girl Rover, barking at her, is appalling.  It is cruel.  It is understandable that she would be hurt.  BUT…..here is the rest of the story.  Em had a habit of crawling instead of walking sometimes.  At times she would crawl under a table or chair and pant.  And while she was there, if a student tried to talk to her….she was apt to bark at them if she didn’t feel like being social.

After one such incident, I asked her to stay behind and speak with me after class.  I tried to explain to her that while I did not approve of the other children hurting her feelings…she might, perhaps, want to consider NOT crawling, hiding under furniture, and barking at her classmates.  She looked at me blankly, not really comprehending.  She seemed unable to see the connection between her acting like a dog and the other students calling her one.  I finally gave up, and though I still asked the students not to call her Rover or bark at her in my room, I have to say, I felt empathy for them as well.  And i wondered what life would be like for Em when she left the cocoon of elementary school and went to middle school the following year.  No one was doing her any favors ignoring and encouraging her to continue to act like a dog.

I also think of a classmate of mine name Jane.  I remember when one of the girls in our class had a sleepover, and Jane was not invited.  She made a big to do.  I was her friend, and she told me if I really liked her I wouldn’t go.  She even told the teacher about being excluded, and the teacher called some of us girls in and asked why Jane had not been invited.  Here was the story:  Jane had a conflict with someone EVERY time she attended a sleepover.  She would get mad about something, and it usually ended with parents being awakened to call Jane’s parents to take her home.  If she was angry at a particular student or students, she would try to influence the host of the party not to invite them.  “If you want me to come and if you are my friend, you won’t invite Sue.”  Of course, she would come even if you did invite Sue, and she would spend the entire night looking for reasons to be upset.

When I think about bullying and I think of these kinds of victims, I always feel somewhat torn.  Yes, people should not have to be subjected to ridicule and hurtful words.  But do we do victims such as Em or Jane any favors when we only shield them rather than try to help them develop the emotional intelligence and understanding of social cues necessary to interact successfully with others?  I am afraid the answer is no.  The Jane’s and Em’s in our lives to need compassion, but they also need honesty, and they need to be willing to look at their own modes of interacting with others because even though they may leave their childhood bullies behind, if they do not learn to operate according to the mainstream social mores, they will simply encounter more conflict elsewhere.  SHOULD the world be that way? Perhaps not…but the reality is that the world IS that way, and we must learn to operate in the world as it is in order to be successful.

The Tightrope of perfectionsim

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I have always liked this song and have posted it as encouragement in emails to people or on their facebook statuses (or is it stati???).  But I thought about it differently this morning.  mainly because of this line:

“Pretty pretty please don’t you ever ever think you are less than, less than perfect……you are perfect to me.”

That sounds very sweet.  It really does……unless one is a perfectionist.

Now, to most people, I do not seem like a perfectionist.  My house is not obsessively sanitized.  The cans in my pantry do not all face the front.  Do not even try to make sense of the books on my bookshelves.  A quick read through all of my blog entries will reveal several (okay many) typographical errors.  Right now there are several Hardees cups in my car, along with a myriad of receipts in the pocket on my car door.

My perfectionism manifests in its own ways, however.  I admit to being rather all or nothing in my estimation of myself.  The phrase from The Empire Strikes Back: “Do or do not… there is no try.” is very compelling, but for an all or nothing perfectionist it can be like a death Star (lol…see what I did there?)  We are always walking a tightrope, we are always precarious, we are always a bit on guard, knowing it is just a matter of time before, you guessed it, humanity steps in.  because as far as I know I am not an android (yes, I am mixing Star Wars and Star Trek metaphors here, I know).  So it is not a matter of IF I will slip off the rope, but when.  And taking it further, the rope itself is a myth.  No matter how well I may seem to be doing, I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be perfect.

So…in reflecting upon a song I do still enjoy, I have to say I see those quoted lyrics, “You are perfect to me,” a bit differently now.  because truly, I do not want anyone in my life who believes I am perfect…….I want people in my life who are well acquainted with my imperfections…..and yet they stick around.

The Middle Aged Swirly King as a Tragic Figure

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We all know him.  In high school and perhaps college he scored the touchdown, got the girl, and made us swoon.  He flashed those pearly whites, he made cover of the local sports page, and he had scouts coming to see him every Friday night.  he ruled the field, the prom……and the bathroom.

Yes, it wasn’t very kind of him to take someone who had not been given his particular genetic code and dunk that poor specimen head first into the toilet and flush.  For girls with heart, it took a little of the shine off his dazzling smile to hear that he had taken the underwear of those who didn’t inherit passing and kicking prowess and pull it up over the back of their heads.  No, it is not something we would say we condone.  But…the guy was 17, hormonal, and drunk with small town gridiron power.  One day he will grow up and shake his head with a bit of shame over how he treated those who didn’t shine in the weight room.

Except……sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes at 30, 40, or 50 he is still puffing out his chest and measuring his worth by reminiscing over the number of skinny math geniuses he caused to quake, how many science nerds had to go home to wash and dry their hair after encountering him in the bathroom.  They will, in mid age, when their 6 pack is replaced with an abdomen striving for three and the hairline has receded farther back than their defense pushed the visiting team, still look at the math nerd or the mild mannered geek with disdain.  Perhaps the fact that the mild mannered Geek owns microsoft while he is still telling stories about the big championship game in ‘82 makes this somewhat pitiable man-boy insecure. Who knows…..I have not experienced what it feels like to peak in high school, so I couldn’t really say.

I look at my own school experience, beginning with childhood.  I see incidents where I was bullied, and I see incidents where I was the bully.  however, I am no longer 9…. or 12…or 16…..I am a 44 year old woman.  I would be hard pressed to even find one of my school yearbooks.  In short, I have grown over the last 27 years.  Thank God.  Most of us do.

But what of the thin haired man who dresses too young and still takes pot shots at any guy who is not consistently in touch with how much he can bench press?  I don’t know.  It would be hypocritical of me to find him amusing……so I mostly find him sad.  I wonder if his letter jacket keeps him warm at night……..

So if you are reading this, you are over 40, and it has been less than a year since you extolled your wedgie prowess or head flushing skills…….think about it.  Is this something an intelligent middle aged male should still be bragging about?  Maybe it’s time to graduate.