“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”
“You must be careful about the words that you use or the words that you allow to be used in your house. Words are things, you must be careful.”
I was in the fourth grade the first time I was bullied. One of my classmates made it her daily job to ensure my misery. She was such a little terror, she scared boys and girls alike. In most instances, both sexes either lined up to fight her, or joined in on bullying whomever was on her hit list. Physically, she never laid a hand on me. Honestly, she never had to. Her words cut worse than any punch she could throw. This one girl was one of the main reasons it took years of failed relationships, self-abuse and, ultimately, a few suicide attempts before I finally realized I was worth anything. I still get small twinges of anger thinking about how someone’s words had that much power over my thoughts of whether I lived or died.
A few weeks ago, I – and the rest of her many readers – read the sad story of Dooce a.k.a. Heather Armstrong’s announcement of a trial separation from her husband, Jon Armstrong. Days and posts later, Dooce briefly mentioned dedicating a song to her haters and their comments. I hadn’t seen any nasty comments on her site. What had I missed? It wasn’t until she mentioned it that I Googled “dooce divorce” just to see what she was talking about.
Internet. That bully from the fourth grade? Amateur, that girl.
Those who blog are open targets for trolls. Same goes for entertainers. It is the number one rule they teach you when you walk/trip/fall into fame. Critics who bully through cyberspace run as plentiful as roaches with the lights on. But to what end? Has the Internet – a tool initially thought to bring people together over a bunch of wires and beeps and whirs – become The Ultimate Bully?
My bully fed on fear. She kept coming after me because she knew the power of her words rendered me speechless and helpless. Two years after I’d had Booger, I saw that bully again. Fate had us sharing an appointment at my local hair salon. Age had been kind to us both, damn the luck. She recognized me immediately. Called me by name, caught me up on her life, invited me to the graduation ceremony for her associate degree, and called me fat. All in a matter of five minutes. Time may have passed, but nothing had changed. She was still that same big-nosed, ugly girl from the fourth grade. I shook off the brief shock of her intended gut punch, looked her right in her eye… and laughed. Loudly.
For a minute, I couldn’t place the bizarre reaction on her face. Finally, I realized what it was. Shock. I laughed harder. My stylist, watching everything from the sidelines, stepped in. “Didn’t you just have a baby?” A question she followed with a hard stare right into the eyes of my bully. Yep. Two years ago I had had a baby. And I was still fat. But I knew what my stylist was doing. And if her words didn’t clarify it, the eyebrow in her hairline and the threatening way she held that flatiron did.
Translation: Back up, tramp!
I laughed harder. I couldn’t believe how long I laughed. I couldn’t believe how long it took me to learn to laugh.
I know I don’t have to tell Heather B. Armstrong of Blurbodoocery, Inc. LLC ™ ® how to handle her haters. She’s been in this business long enough (a business she gets paid for, BOO-FRICKIN’-HOO, you big pansies), and this isn’t her first dance at the Rodeo. Or something. I also want to take this moment to clarify that I am not a Heather-Armstrong-Dooce-nut hugger. I am, however, the nut hugger of common decency. And the same way I feel about her haters, and the fact that it still amazes me when people hide anonymously behind comments, can be applied to every nasty thing said about Whitney Houston during her struggles and after her death. It must really be hurting her feelings hearing people talk about her since, oh, I don’t know, SHE’S DEAD. You just made her so sad. IN HER AFTERLIFE.
That bully taught me something I’m glad I lived long enough to understand: Haters are dumb. Laugh at them.