Children can be terribly cruel.
I am not going to go so far as to say I never did or said anything ill towards another child while growing up. We all have said things we regret. Or that we should regret and don’t.
But I generally liked everyone. Until they made it clear they didn’t like me.
Then I still tried to like them, hoping that maybe they’d snap out of whatever their issue was.
Sometimes that worked, sometimes it didn’t. Some people are just prone to being nasty, and while I am stubborn, I am not a miracle worker.
But I think that I always, to a point, have had the attitude of ‘everyone is cool until they prove otherwise’.
I used to stand there as a little girl with the invisible ‘cartoon question mark’ over my head when another kid in my neighborhood was nasty to me – when I was PRETTY DARN SURE I had either never seen that kid before in my life, or most definitely hadn’t done anything mean to them first. Shoot, I had never spoken to them before that day, but there was this amazing mystery animosity, and I was thoroughly baffled by it.
I’m not pretending to be an angel, mind you.
One time, I kicked my boyfriend, David Kallio, in the balls. To this day, I don’t know why. We were 7 or 8 at the time.
I kicked him in the balls, and he dropped to the ground – like boys do when someone kicks them in the balls.
When he could speak, he looked at me from the ground with these huge watery blue eyes, and he asked me, “Why did you do that??”
I had no reasonable explanation.
I still feel bad, to this day, for kicking David Kallio in the balls.
Sorry, David. Wherever you are.
Some kids just act shitty. That’s a fact of life, and I’ve tried to shield my own children from that to a point while sharing the wisdom that, “Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say or do, some people are just not going to like you, and you can’t lose sleep over it.”
I remember some of the venom I saw spewed out from other children – hateful words for no particular reason other than just to be mean. Followed by laughter when their taunts caused pain and tears. Followed by more venom. Cause and effect.
Is it in our basic general make-up to be sadistic? Is it environmental or genetic? Are we primarily evil creatures but we’re taught otherwise?
Or are we born decent and good and are trained to be the opposite?
What’s interesting is most of the children who were cruel to others as children grew up to be pretty decent folk.
I ran into a girl who had picked on me back in junior high and high school, mostly because she thought (with good reason) that I was weird, in the restroom of a nightclub in Portland, Oregon – hours away from where we grew up, and lifetimes away from who we were as children.
I saw her in a bathroom, recognized her – though I have to say she carried herself more….relaxed? I think that’s the right word. She looked a lot more at peace than she had when she was shoving me me around in P.E. class. And while she looked pretty much the same, there was a difference in the vibe she put off. She seemed approachable as she dried her hands next to the sink.
“Hey, I know you,” I said with a laugh. “And if I remember right, you weren’t very nice to me,” I said with a smile, clearly just poking fun, as there had been a good decade of space between us at that point.
Her face paled. She looked mortified.
“Lisa…Lisa, right? Oh..my god, I remember you. I am SOOO sorry. So sorry. Oh my god…wow. I am really sorry.”
I immediately felt terrible. Jesus fuck, we were in a dance club for godssakes, and here she was nearly in tears.
I told her that I hardly carried a grudge, and that it was so totally ok.
Hell, the girl hadn’t killed my dog, she was just generally unpleasant, pushed me around a few times, and threatened to kick my ass, one time, because the tone of my voice pissed her off. Her words, not mine.
“NO, no it’s not okay. I wasn’t very nice to you – to anyone, really – and if I ever made you feel bad, I just want you to know that I was very unhappy back then. Astoria was NOT a good place for me.”
Nothing about that statement surprised me, and really explained a lot. She is now an openly out lesbian, and the place we grew up was less than tolerant – to put it very mildly. Getting the hell out of there had done wonders for her psyche, I believe, as it had done for a few other formerly closeted friends of mine.
We chatted for a bit, trying not to block the way to the toilet, and before she left, she gave me a big hug and apologized again.
For the rest of the night, I felt bad for initiating a conversation that brought this woman back to a time where she was pretty miserable.
And you know, since growing up, and prior to that bathroom encounter with a more relaxed former bully, I’ve taken into consideration that everyone behaves a certain way for a reason. Children are cruel because they see cruelty at home, and by being cruel to other children, maybe they can take some kind of control of their little lives. It sucks, but I truly believe in ’cause and effect’ when it comes to that.
I’ve run into some genuinely unpleasant people in my adulthood, too.
Shocking, I know, but, kids – there are some adults that just aren’t very nice people.
I’ve been accused of being not very nice at times.
But I’m talking about cruel for the sake of being cruel – not on a pathological, criminally psychotic level, mind you. Serial killers and baby filleters are in a whole different category.
Wait, did I just imply that I fillet babies?
I’m speaking of people that even though you haven’t done a goddamn thing to them, they have taken it upon themselves to say vile things, to you, about you – completely unwarranted. Attacks on your character that aren’t even accurate.
Goddamn it, if you’re going to try to insult me, please – at least be good at it. Verbal attacks that have a shred of truth to them impress me. At least the cranky fucker has done their homework. There is plenty to hate about me – like I’ve said before, I’m unlikeable on my own merit. Making shit up is a waste of time. How about the tone of my voice? That’s an oldie but a goody. Use that one.
Oh, and could you run a spell and grammar check if you’re going to put it into print? There’s little more frustrating to me to be told ‘your a uneducated fat lair’. The irony alone makes my teeth ache. I mean beyond the obvious…wait, no, there’s nothing I can add to that to make it better than it already is.
And really – calling me fat?
I know I’m a chubby gal. Broad in the arse even.
Cheeseburgers and dark beer are tasty. Sue me. It says little of my character.
About a year ago, I had a 55 year old woman who touts herself as a Peacful Hippy – signing all of her emails with “Peace and Love” – tell me that I was not chubby, but that I was a fat slob, yucky to look at, and that I “should go make another sandwich” – this was after I questioned her on some ‘questionable business practices’ that were affecting me and a few others.
That was her response. The aging hippychick who promotes peace and love called me a ‘fat lair’ (I’m pretty sure she meant liar, but I can’t be certain) and told me to go make another sandwich.
At 55 years of age, this is what she had to hurl at me.
Welcome back to grade school!
I told her I felt sorry for her and that if she ever wanted to talk, I would lend an ear.
She responded by blocking my email address.
I think she needs a hug.
And the only thing that keeps me sane when trying to figure people who have that kind of personality out is simply: There must be some logical reason to explain their behavior. They must be extremely unhappy with themselves, treated poorly at home, I remind them of someone who was unkind…SOMETHING. Drugs? An alien presence? DEMONIC POSSESSION, yes, that’s a theory.
Because otherwise, they wouldn’t be like that.
Of course I’ve also met the parents of some shitty kids – who developed into pretty shitty adults – and, barring severe mental illness, I just don’t see what went wrong. Maybe there was secret horror that went on behind closed doors that would never be obvious to an outsider. Or, as I mentioned, possible demonic possession.
Nurture vs. Nature – which is the stronger opponent I wonder?
Maybe some of us are just born shitty.
I’m probably not qualified to do anything beyond continue to speculate and not be satisfied with the answer.