A teacher in a story I read as a child was approached by one of his students who was being bullied, looking for guidance. The teacher told him a story about a similar situation from when he was a kid, where a bully picked on the same kid repeatedly until one day he stood up to him. His student presumed the teacher was the bullied child from the story until he said, “No. I was the bully.” Gimme a break, teach.

Seeded in the perpetrator’s insecurities and, counter-intuitively, intense desire for social acceptance, the goal of being a bully is to inflict either physical or emotional harm on the victim, and oftentimes both. While of course many of these pranks can be hilarious, in general they are mean and are probably a big reason why the kids are all shooting each other. Either way, to defeat your enemy, you must come to know him, as Sun Tzu or someone probably said. Here are the bullying tactics we had growing up. Please do not try at home.

  • There’s the unfailingly popular wedgie, a true classic, used on playgrounds around the world, in which a sneaky person sneaks up behind you and pulls your underwear up until it gets wedged into your butt.
  • Pantsing, an opposing variant, is where the goal of the game in the name of the game as well. You “pants” someone to embarrass them, potentially getting them to fall over from the twisted fabric. Terrific.
  • The noberto, where the victim’s bag is emptied out onto the floor, and the embarrassed kid has to pick everything up, is a common trope and sets the stage for an eventual cold-served comeback.
  • Chinese sunburns involve the “abuser firmly grasping the victim’s forearm with both hands, then twisting in opposite directions, stretching tender skin and making it red and sore”. Wait a millisecond. There’s no way this isn’t offensive to Chinese people, is it? How did nobody ever tell us that? I bet there’s a ton of things you learn as a child that you don’t realize are racist until years later. Remember Chinese whisper, the game that might have been about not being able to understand Chinese people? Was changing the name to Chinese telephone the teacher’s attempt at negating these biases? Because there’s no way that could have worked, really. And the game is communist too – it has no real winner, if you think about it – but that’s probably good.

Bullying must be so much worse now, with the advancing technology and constant recording of lives and such. For sure they’re always messing with each other’s phones, use text-replace on the keyboard to turn “like” into “boob”, and maybe even worse ones! I’d say photoshopping pictures of the victims onto ugly people’s bodies is common too. Albeit, these are probably the tamest of the neo-bully’s ways, but I don’t want to give them any real ideas. Anyway, kids are much more clever than me when it comes to being little jerk pies.

May 23 – H. Jon Benjamin gets a bullying lesson
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