I grew up fat. So fat, in fact, that when I was starting my freshman year as a new student at an all-girls Catholic high school, the seamstress told me and my mother that they didn’t have the school uniform in my size. I remember sitting in the fitting room and feeling the blood drain from my face as they told us our options: We could order a skirt in a similar plaid (that wouldn’t match the rest of the girls’ skirts), or we could order two skirts that could be sewn into one.
I died. All I could think of is how the other girls at school would react if they found out. I had been made fun of in middle school for being fat. I overcompensated with my sense of humor and over-the-top personality, but deep down being funny was my way of dealing with the hurt. I would shirk off cruel remarks and swat them with jokes. Eventually I was able to lose weight and get in shape, but I’ll never forget how it felt to be isolated and criticized by my peers. And now I have a super soft spot for anyone who feels like an outsider. I’m not a fan of mean kids, and I’m really not a fan of adults who stand by and tolerate them.
Bullying is no joke. For a kid who’s different from his peers in any way: fat, skinny, tall, short, black, red, green, yellow – life can be a living hell. And often bullying can follow you into adulthood. Adults can be cruel, too.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Here are four ways you can fight the good fight.
1. Circulate This Video
To my earlier point, sometimes adults act like children.
Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor in La Crosse, Wisconson, was so shocked by the cruelty of a letter she received from a viewer who criticized her weight that she called him out on air. Her words are heartfelt, motivating and inspired. She wisely and thoughtfully articulates why bullying is so harmful at any age. You go girl!
2. Read This New Book
Assholes, A Theory, by Aaron James. Why do people resort to jerky behavior? Who knows! And try as we may to steer clear of assholes, sometimes they seem to be everywhere. This book helps us understand why assholes get under our skin so much. James gives us a better sense of when the asshole is best resisted, and when best ignored—a better sense of what is, and what is not, worth fighting for.
3. Sign This Pledge
Choose Kind is an anti-bullying campaign inspired by R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder. Wonder stars a fifth-grade boy with a severe facial deformity who is about to start mainstream school for the first time. In an effort to shed light on the bullying epidemic in America and bring attention to this beautiful story, Random House Children’s Books has started this pledge and invites you to sign, share your story and “choose kind” every day. Share it with kids and teens in your life.
4. Stop It When You See It
Perhaps the most important item on our to-do list should be: Do the right thing! When you see someone being bullied, young or old, be the bigger person. Stop things that you know are wrong in your gut. Step in when you know you should.