Flaxen Haired Darling

“I’m the blonde! get to be the princess!” the words echo in my mind 25 years later. The year was 1989. The location, Hillsborough, California. I lived across the tracks in the less ostentatious suburb of Burlingame. Preschool was cancelled that day due to the rain and we’d just finished watching the biggest blockbuster since E.T., The Princess Bride. When the movie commenced, we decided to play the characters. “Well, I’m the prettier one! I should be the princess!” I stomped my foot indignantly. The girl’s mother frowned and picked up the phone. I’d insulted her flaxen haired darling. Play time was over.

I don’t remember her name now, but the point is moot. Blondes learn from a young age that they are special. Now that I’m an adult, the argument is less over who’s the princess and more over who gets the guy. Instead of, “I’m the blonde! should be the princess!,” they know they already are. It’s more like, “I’m the blonde! should get the d*ck!,” and they do.

Fast forward to 2011. After just 3 months of lessons, I’m dating the hottest guy in the studio. It’s against the rules, but we are barely discreet about it. A sideways glance across the Ballroom, a giggle at an inappropriate time, a hickey in a visible spot make it glaringly obvious. All the Orange County Stepford Wives at the place change their demeanor toward me. Instead of hello, now I’m paying $900 a month to be snarled at by spoiled brats on the sidelines and disgruntled divorcees. 

The whirlwind ends and another gets him. She gets him the same way I did. She’s older; crow’s feet show the wear of her ravaged mind. She’s like them. A golden haired mold of homogeny and silicone. She broke the rules but they don’t care. They flock to the golden one. Instead of hello, they get to know her name, inquire about the kids, invite her out for drinks. She broke the rules but it’s OK because she’s sameness and I’m different. He, too, adores the golden one, and not just because of her gold. He speaks to her in soft tones. He strokes her arm like the mane of a timid puppy. He stays with her for years, buys her petty things. He becomes a live in lover, masseuse, and nanny. He does all this because the light of this golden trophy enshrouds him in the glow. Society approves of this match!

Like the raven black of my hair, I fade like a shadow on the wall, a shadow in his mind, and then I’m not at all.


Developing Self Worth

Everyone will face a bully at some point in their life. I believe it’s how we are raised that determines our reaction to bullying behavior, however. Depending on whether we were nurtured or neglected as a child, perceived bullying can be taken by the “victim” in two ways. The child who is raised in a supportive household might interpret it as lighthearted joking around. Or, at the very least, while the nurtured child might not like the experience, he or she will not take it personally because that child knows they are inherently good and loved.

When a child grows up in an unstable environment, they are vulnerable to abuse and will be much more defensive to a bully’s advances. Because this child is laden with self doubt, they will believe the bully’s words about them to be true. A child who hears negative things at home will believe what their peers say because hostility is their reality. 

As important as it is for parents to speak positively to their children, it is equally important for parents to protect their children from bullies. If a child tells you about an experience with a classmate, investigate it. Speak with that child’s parent or talk to a school administrator about nipping it in the bud. If the problem isn’t resolved, consider transferring your child to another school or homeschooling them. Your reaction to the bully will give your child a sense of their worth, good or bad. If you take the issue seriously, the child will know that they don’t have to put up with harassment and will not allow people to treat them badly as an adult. If you ignore the issue, the child will accept the bully’s behavior as the norm and will experience a life of mistreatment from others.

How many scenarios have we seen of broken adults who are continually berated by co-workers in each job setting no matter where they transfer? These are the same people who attract romantic partners who verbally abuse and abandon them. These people are prone to a life of victimhood because they’re constantly reliving the unresolved realities of their childhood. What they learned to tolerate as children was abuse, so they experience a tortured reality as adults because that’s what they’ve learned to accept from others.

Nobody’s childhood can be perfect, but life can become a lot more productive and navigable with a supportive guardian from childhood.


Speak Up About It!

I’ve always wondered why people turn a blind eye to injustice. I’ve rejected the theory that it’s because most people are too self involved to care. I think everyone is capable of empathy and I like to give others the benefit of the doubt. But all too often, as I’ve seen throughout my own life and from the perspective of a bystander, people will witness a cruelty and simply say or do nothing to the perpetrator. This is a problem because it reinforces the bully’s behavior. Are people operating out of fear when they ignore such things? Like, they’re worried they could become the next target if they were to speak up? Or is it the overtly hopeful yet unrealistic “ignore it and it will stop” syndrome?

Sadly, bullying is overlooked from the time kids begin shoving dirt in each other’s face in the sandbox and because of this, it eventually works its way up to boardrooms and corporate settings. And while bullies on the school yard may break hearts, adult bullies can ruin lives, which is why this epidemic must be nipped in the bud ASAP through better discipline of our children and legislation in schools and workplaces.

Workplace bullying, or mobbing, as it is often referred to, can bring emotional and financial ruin on someone. It can cause financial hardship and in extreme cases, bankruptcy, causing a person to lose their home and other valuable assets. Bullying also contributes to severe emotional distress and can leave a lasting impression when someone who has been mobbed out of a former position is looking for new employment, resulting in performance anxiety and PTSD.

The sad thing is, the person who is bullied at work is often fired for speaking up or is forced to resign because management does nothing to stop the bully, when in fact the opposite should take place. Are we really so masochistic of a society that we allow this to continually happen? Are we so desensitized from the onslaught of violent movies and TV programs that we garner some kind of sadistic joy at seeing someone tortured in their place of work where they’re trying to do the best they can and make an honest living?

I say it’s time to start speaking up and documenting instances of workplace bullying, even if we are merely a witness to it. Let’s make it a goal in 2014 to put an end to this unneeded emotional torture and help each other rise to be our best selves.