This post is Part 3 of an apparently continuing saga of a bully that I am dealing with. See previous posts for Parts 1 & 2...
I'll tell you, sometimes things happen and I truly would not believe them if I wasn't there to witness it with my own eyes and ears. Remember when I said that I was so thankful my daughter's marching band season was over so I no longer had to deal with the horrible bully I've nicknamed "Nellie Oleson?" Well, she's back.
Last week I attended my son's jazz band concert. It was actually a school wide concert with all of the music groups participating so the concert band was performing too. (Nellie's son is in that.) My son told me specifically where to sit so I could have the best vantage point of seeing him, since the stage would be filled with more students than usual. I arrived early, found the perfect seat, and waited for the concert to begin.
A little while later, some people sat behind me and asked if the 2 seats next to me were taken. I politely replied "no," to which they replied, "Oh good, we'll save them for Nellie and her husband."
I groaned inwardly. Ugh! Now I would have to spend the night sitting right next to Nellie. I glanced around for other available seats with the same view but I couldn't find any. "Oh well," I thought to myself, "I won't let this ruin my evening. This will be a good lesson in dealing with uncomfortable, bothersome things. I'll just enjoy the concert in spite of this little misfortune."
So I sat there for a bit longer, silently congratulating myself on how mature and evolved I had become. I felt so proud to be in this place - the old me would have gotten upset and stressed and angry, but the new me just took it all in stride.
About 3 minutes before the concert, in blustered Nellie. She found the people behind me (whom I presume were her parents) who pointed happily to the seats next to me and said, "Here, we saved you seats!" I got out of my seat on the aisle to graciously let them in. As I did I smiled and said, "Hello..." I was about to follow up with "Nice to see you," but she interrupted to ask her parents, "Is there a seat for Laura?" "They said, "We saved seats for you and Mark." She then looked directly at me and said,
"I need 3."
I paused for a moment...took a breath...kept my composure and said very calmly, "I'm sitting here specifically because it's the best place I can see my son."
She looked at me and said firmly, again,
"But. I. Need. Three."
Now, I suppose I had two choices here: 1. Make a scene in front of an auditorium full of people and insist that I keep my seat (that I had already been sitting in for nearly 30 minutes), or 2. Give up my seat and find another one, about a minute before the concert started.
What did I do?
Exactly what the bully would have me do. I said slowly, "I guess I'll find another seat." I turned and started walking slowly down the aisle checking for a single seat somewhere.
She called after me, "If you can't find one, let me know."
I honestly couldn't believe what had just happened. It was like I was walking in slow motion as I was saying to myself, "I can't believe what just happened! I just got kicked out of my seat at a school band concert!"
That's Nellie for you.
Luckily, I caught the eye of a friend of mine whom I had texted minutes earlier lamenting the fact that I was going to be stuck sitting next to Nellie. I gestured behind me, gave her a look, she understood, and immediately asked the person in front of her if there was an available seat. She waved me over, I climbed over several people (who would not stand up to let me through by the way) and landed in a new seat, just as the lights were going down. I whispered a quick thanks to my friend and I couldn't tell you what songs the choir opened the concert with because my mind was trying to process what had just transpired.
Definition of a bully: a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. Synonyms: persecutor, tyrant, tormentor.
Nellie definitely fits those synonyms. I would argue she would have given Pol Pot, Hitler, and Mao Zedong a run for their collective monies. But I take umbrage with the part of the definition that calls me "weaker." I don't see me as frail or feeble here. I see it more as me taking the high road, being the bigger person, having enough strength in myself to not let the bully make me feel bad.
But when it comes to bullying, that might be a mistake. When it comes to real bullying, when the object of the bullying gives in, it gives the bully more power. It allows them to add another victory to their tally and helps fortify them to bully again. If no one ever stops them, quite simply, they are never going to stop.
Now in this particular case, taking the moment to teach Nellie that lesson wasn't worth it in the overall scenario. But looking back, I should have stood up to her at those other times last Fall, and then maybe she wouldn't have felt so comfortable kicking me out of my seat at my own kid's concert. She would have seen me, known that I wasn't someone to mess with, and would have figured something else out for her third party.
I realized, me being passive to a bully makes me as much at fault as the bully. I took the abuse! I didn't stand up for myself! Isn't this what we teach our kids to do? I WAS being weak, I WAS allowing someone to treat me in a way that I did not deserve, I did not do ANYTHING to deter the bully's actions, which meant of course she felt free to bully me again.
Tough thing to realize. Which I did not realize that night.
Luckily, in the moment, I took the opportunity to realize that while I did give up my seat, I did not have to give up my enjoyment of the evening. I took the situation as a lesson in not letting someone else steal my joy and reveled in the fact that my new seat was in fact much better than my other one. It turned out that because of the way things were configured, in my old seat I wouldn't have been able to even catch a glimpse of my son while he was on stage. So everything worked out for the best.
Or did it?
Yes, logistically I came out on top. And I would argue that me taking the high road was the right choice because I came out looking better (to anyone who might be looking) and feeling like I was the better person.
But things don't always turn out that way. She could have kicked me out and I could have been left standing in the back somewhere. Nellie winning this "battle of seats" only left her triumphant once again, with more fodder to bully me, or the next person, next time. Which doesn't sit well with me.
People will say things like "Happiness is the best revenge." Which I agree with to a certain degree. Is Nellie unhappy in her life? Incredibly much so. She is hated by most people, by the looks of things she has a very troubled marriage and her kids so far have come to no good end. She seemingly goes out of her way to make the world a more miserable place rather than a better one and she gives off vibes of blackness and cruelty wherever she goes. Truthfully I think she's only happy when she's being mean.
But me being happy in spite of her meanness does nothing to curb her bullying instincts. There has to be more than a bully's objects not letting the bully affect them. That's not enough. Bullies need to be called on what they do and need to be made to realize the negative impacts they have on the people they bully. I believe that every person deep in their hearts wants to be loved and the same goes for the bullies in the world, maybe even more so. No one is born a bully, bullies are made by the events and treatment they have received in their lives.
I know another bully who people constantly make excuses for: She's in pain, she's tired, she's not well.
To which I respond, "I don't care."
I realize that makes me sound unsympathetic and hard-hearted toward people in distress. Not at all. BUT, I have been in constant excruciating pain. I have been so exhausted I couldn't see straight. I have been worried, stressed, preoccupied, sleep-deprived, upset, sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, broken-hearted, frayed, worn out, irritated, etc. and have never bullied anyone. I believe that none of those reasons are EVER an excuse to be mean or rude to someone. None are an excuse to treat a person as less than they are. I don't care what has happened to someone in their life or what they may be going through now - there is never a reason to be a bully.
I looked up what happened to the real Nellie Oleson. It turns out she was a conglomeration of 3 nasty girls that Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up with. Not much is known about their fates since Laura did not keep in touch with any of them, but I feel somewhat vindicated on Laura's behalf that each one got their comeuppance by legions of people all over the world witnessing their bullying and disliking them accordingly.
Interestingly, the actress who played Nellie Oleson on tv has spoken publicly about not being able to get subsequent acting work because she was so vehemently hated by everyone. In fact, more than 30 years after the show went off the air, she was ranked as the #1 worst tv villain of all time. And that's after Game of Thrones started!
That's the tremendous power of a true bully. Their vitriol stays with us, cutting deeply into our well being far longer than they are actually in our lives. It's phenomenally difficult to fight against the forces of a determined bully.
But we have to. As hard as it is, we can never, ever let the bullies win.
How do we do this if we can't stop them? We can be happy in spite of their wanting us not to be. We can not let their horribleness affect our daily lives. We can treat them with respect, the way we'd want them to treat us because we are better people. And we can write about them, much like Laura Ingalls Wilder did, and like I am right now. Because knowledge is power, and even if they think they are getting away with bullying, they're not.
And they never will.