There was bullying, but nobody called it that.

When I was a kid, of course there was bullying, but nobody called it that. I mean, there were bullies, but I don’t think “bullying” was a thing like it is now. Are kids meaner now than they were when I was growing up? I don’t think so–it’s just in this day and age with the Internet, we hear about these things all the time now.

I grew up in a neighborhood which had the usual group of kids. Everybody went to the same school and we all knew each other and everybody was pretty much friends with each other. Most of the kids were regular kids, a couple of them (they were brothers) were kind of “bad,” and then there was this one kid that everybody always picked on. I’ll call him Freddy.

Freddy was fat and he had bucked teeth and he was also kind of goofy and annoying. So he became a natural target. Looking back on that whole period as an adult though–you think, “So what?” So what if he was goofy? That’s no reason to pick on him and be mean to him. What is the purpose of that?

I don’t think I ever directly picked on him, but I stood around and silently watched it happen. At the time, it was kind of funny, but afterwards, I did kind of feel bad for him. Like I said, there’s no reason to treat people like that.

But I wasn’t going to say or do anything. When you’re a kid, the last thing you want to do is to stick out like a sore thumb, so I wasn’t about to stick up for someone who was being picked on, because that would mean that you yourself would become a target. I liked being invisible when I was growing up. I never went looking for trouble. I was a small kid, so that’s just survival mode.

I remember one time, a group of us were playing outside, including Freddy, and I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, but we were sitting down on the ground. I have a feeling we were playing with army men or something. Then, for no reason at all–just on a whim, one of the “bad” kids scooped up a huge pile of dirt and dumped it on Freddy’s head. Freddy started crying–screaming, actually, and I can still see that image of him with his head and face covered with dirt with these tears leaving their muddy trails down his face.

The “bad” kid was laughing, and I think the rest of us were just kind of stunned. I mean, who does something like that? Sometimes a kid will do something to another kid, and the other kid will retaliate, but this was just totally out of the blue. I’ll never forget that scene. We were sitting on the ground, playing, having fun, and the “bad kid” just stops what he was doing, gets this dopey look on his face like some lightbulb just when off over his head, bends down and scoops up that huge pile of dirt.

I swear, I wonder if those two “bad kid” brothers ended up in jail, because something was seriously wrong with them. I don’t know if they were sociopaths or psychotic or what, but they weren’t right in the head.

Another time, Freddy was outside his house riding his Big Wheel, and the two “bad kid” brothers were walking down the street, and when they saw Freddy, they took his Big Wheel and stuck it up in a tree. Freddy, again, was crying and screaming for his mother. He was standing there, looking at his Big Wheel stuck up in that tree, and periodically turn around towards his house and scream, “Mommmmm!” Nobody came out of his house. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever saw his father. Maybe that was the problem. If he had a father around–someone who would have walked over to the two “bad kids” brothers’ house and burned it to the ground, I bet that would have stopped the bullying. I’m just joking about the burning the house to the ground. Sort of.

Years later, and I mean many years later–I moved back temporarily into my old home in the neighborhood. My uncle’s family, who had lived there when we moved out, had moved into his own place, so it was unoccupied, and I was in between apartments, so I figured why not?

I looked across the street and there was Freddy, mowing his lawn. He turned into a huge guy. He was like 6 feet 4 inches, 250 lbs or something. He still had kind of a goofball demeanor, so I’m not sure if he would have been the kind of person who would have wanted to beat those two brothers into the ground or not. But I’m pretty sure that after a certain point, at least nobody would have bullied him anymore.