Bullying #2: Tony F

by 12:48 AM 0 comments
I'm not sure when this whole thing occurred, but I know it was some time when I was literate enough to write a fake book and that it was before we moved in third grade, so I must have been 6-8 years old. Here's my school photo from around that time:

Evil has many faces. 


There was a boy in my class, Tony F, whose name has been changed for this story to protect his identity. Tony F was bad. He was always doing bad things, like throwing crayons or yelling. I didn't like Tony F at all. I was good, and as far as I knew, he was enjoying his bad life in school as much as I enjoyed my good one. He seemed pretty unreasonable to me. Why throw crayons when you could color with them?

When we were asked to write a story about anything of our choice, I chose to write a non-fiction account of the time that Tony ran away from CARE, our after-school program, and hid in the dumpster.

The teacher was prodding me, "Are you sure that's what you want to write your story about?" I answered, "Yes." I didn't get the sub-text of that question.

Teacher: "How do you think Tony F will feel about this story?"
Me: "Probably he'll think it's funny."
Teacher: "I think his feelings might be hurt."
Me: "It's not mean, it's just true. (To Tony, yelling) 'You hid in the dumpster, right?' Yes, it's true."
Teacher: (Giving up on the subtle Socratic method, reverting to standard disciplinarian form) "You can't write your story about that. Change your topic."

This whole exchange is really clear in my memory only because I was so baffled by it. I really didn't understand why I was being censured this way. Also, I wasn't used to hearing 'no' from teachers.

Fast-forward a few months. I'm in the Bear Canyon Library in the children's section, and Tony F is nearby with his mom. I can hear them talking. This is not the crazy, out-of-control Tony I usually dealt with. He was being polite and asking his mom questions about which books he could check out. Instead of saying 'hello', I kind of hid a few rows over from them to eavesdrop.

Tony F was telling his mom that he had an idea to do extra work in his homework journal for our teacher. Did his mom think that would make the teacher proud of him?

And here's where I become evil. Because what goes through my mind isn't 'oh, he must be a nice boy after all! I guess he is trying. I shouldn't be so judgmental.'  No, what I think instead is: 'oh, so now he's trying to be a nice boy, huh? And do some extra homework so the teacher will like him? The teacher can't like him that easily! The teacher has to like ME the most!' And I even resolved to go to the teacher and ask to do extra work for MY homework journal, too, so that the pecking order might remain the same. My dislike of Tony F went from an ignorant one to a fear-based hatred, that he had to stay in his place. That sounds like an allegory for so many things that I can't even begin to write about now!

Call it selection bias, insecurity, whatever. This is the first time in my life that I remember realizing I had mis-understood someone, and also the first time I remember hardening my heart to my own actions. I didn't feel bad about the book I had tried to write. I didn't feel bad for Tony F. I realized I had been a bully, and I didn't care.


Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.

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