My first brush with being bullied came at the age of 2.
Why was I bullied?
I was pretty big, and am still pretty big. Not particularly pretty, but big enough to attract peer bullying.
It was almost a daily affair of being called “fatty bom bom, stupid dum dum” by female pre-school classmates.
How was I bullied?
Every day before lunch, all of the girls in the class would strip butt naked, and line up in order of height (shortest going first) for the staff helper to shower us while she sat on a stool in the female shower area.
I always stood at the back, being the tallest and hence the biggest. Without much activity to do, other girls in front of me would turn and stare at my healthy, round belly, saying “fatty bom bom”.
When I grew taller, I had to bend over while being rinsed because the staff helper would complain I was too tall, and would hit me gently (I think) with the showerhead if I forgot to bend over in time.
And because I was always last in the queue to be rinsed, inevitably I would have the shortest amount of time to towel myself and get dressed.
Most of the time, I was the last one out of the bathroom and back in class, dishevelled and looking stupid. Hence “stupid dum dum”.
It became my nickname, at play time, outdoor time, and always at bath time. I would look down at my naked body and wonder what was wrong with it, other than the belly staring back at me.
Was the bullying justified?
I suppose it didn’t matter I was half-decent in class and didn’t cry for my mother beyond the few days of starting preschool, unlike one of the bullies who cried for a whole month.
I was fatter than average, looked stupid, and therefore judged to be uncool.
I didn’t really have friends who always wanted to be close. But I knew who didn’t like me.
There was a particular girl, Winnie, who was much smaller than me, prettier than me, and for some reason I remember her as one of my most ardent bullies.
Yet she insisted on sitting next to me when we celebrated my birthday with a cake at school, pretending to be my best friend until the event was over.
When did the bullying stop?
I think the only time I was popular (and hence not bullied) was when my birthday came, because everyone wanted to sit next to the birthday girl and be close to the candle.
And everything would go back to what it was. It was 4 years of bullying before I graduated to primary school.
Did I understand why I was bullied?
At K2, I tried to rationalise why other girls would say much mean things about me. Did I hurt them? Did I make them feel bad about their small size? Were they jealous of something I had?
I could only conclude that they said it because someone started it and they thought it was funny and cool to make fun of me. And they didn’t stop or tire of it because well, it made them feel good, that they were on the side of not being a fatty bom bom or a stupid dum dum.
Did I lash back?
Yes I did. But the taunts just got louder, and I had other things to worry about like getting my clothes on the right way and scrambling back to class.
Was I fat? Yes I was, so well the girls weren’t exactly lying. Was I stupid? My grades didn’t think so. But it didn’t matter to them.
On the bright side, we went to different primary schools, so that particular bullying stopped. Another type of bullying began, but that’s another story for another day.
What did I learn at age 6 after rationalising why I was bullied?
I learnt bullying doesn’t necessarily mean the bullied fits the descriptions.
Just because I’m called stupid, doesn’t mean I am.
Bullies cannot tolerate diversity and hence they use hurtful words and actions to hide their inability to open up their hearts to be more accepting.
Bullying isn’t caused by the victim’s weakness; the weakness of the bully causes victimising.
Also published on Medium.