Just once in my life I wanted to be the bully.

I’ve been thinking about bullies and bullying this past week. I’ll let you guess why.

I “accelerated” (Zoom Zoom) around Grade 3 in school.

A few others kids and I, over a period of three years, accelerated our learning pace and ended up in Grade 7 instead of Grade 6 (I guess you could call this skipping a grade).

I’m pretty sure the reason they pushed me forward was because I was the last remnant of 5 Green family kids… all previous 4 of my siblings were academically bright and skipped ahead (my oldest brother, the REALLY smart one, skipped 2 grades… CRAZY!).

They probably got lazy and didn’t even test me figuring there must have been a few intelligence genes lingering at the end of the blood line. Fooled them…

Because I was younger than most of my peers, I was smaller and less physically developed throughout my school career.

This occasionally led to bullying activities where I was the victim. Not serious stuff, but I ran home scared on more than one occasion, watching in my rearview mirror for the big kid with the big fists (and the wee little dick) who wanted to take me down.

Bullying wasn’t ever discussed in school.

Bully fighting.jpg

A fight would break out in the schoolyard… excited kids formed a tight circle around the gladiator bully and his weak victim as the ugly pummelling took place.

A few minutes later one of the reluctant teachers would wander out into the playground or field and break through the circle of kids enjoying the blood fest, too late to prevent the broken nose or lip dripping crimson blood, sending both the bully and his quarry to visit the principal.

The punishment for the bully couldn’t have been very severe because it always seemed to be the same few that were repeat offenders.

I wasn’t afraid of the beating part (not true, who likes pain? and blood?).

I was more afraid of the humiliation and what the cute girls in their pigtails, white tights and plaid skirts would think of me once I’d bled all over the place… or worse still…. cried. “Oh God, please don’t let me cry“. I couldn’t handle that gruesome shame, that embarrassment.

I enjoyed and was pretty good at sports and most days you’d find me and my friends playing road hockey or baseball or football in the field across from my house in front of Glen Echo School. I may have been small but I held my own with a ball or a puck.

One day, after years of being intermittently picked on and bullied I was feeling frustrated and wanted to know the amazing feeling that surely existed on the other side of the fence.

I hungered to feel the power of superiority and strength the bully stroked and caressed like a tender lover.

That day, on that football field, Paul Robinson was my poor chosen victim.

tiger rage.jpg

Before we even started the game of touch football, I knew I’d take him on. I had a plan.

Paul was a year younger than me and smaller than me and weaker than me.

He was perfect bully material. I figured this all out because I was so smart and had “accelerated”.

I would wait for him to do something – anything really – that might be interpreted as remotely dirty or offensive in his play against me.

Me and the boys threw the ball and ran up and down the field and huddled like pro players and were having a great time until… until… Paul was guarding me once as I ran out to catch the ball thrown by the quarterback.

I dug in and felt solid traction in the thick grass underneath my feet.

I knew my assigned pattern and veered right to make myself clear for the catch.

Paul bumped me. A gentle bump but clearly a bump. I decided it was a “dirty” bump.

My lucky moment had arrived, my plan could be enacted, and I pounced like a raging tiger. The feeling of young boy aggression hormones flooded my system.

I acted offended, angry about the transgression, and pushed him.

Fairly feebly, Paul responded angrily back.

It was now patently obvious in my little mind that moral justification for a “fight” was present.

The scrap was on.

Honestly, I made/make a terrible bully.

I had seen enough schoolyard skirmishes to know that boxer-style full knuckle punches bring on blood and excitement for the surrounding group. Blood is key. The fight is as much for the spectators as it is for the combatants. Maybe more so.

Nope, the best I could muster in my trumped-up anger was to slap him on the face. No pugnacious knuckles, no spewing blood.

Over and over I moved in and slapped him. His cheeks and face grew redder and redder, akin to the silly “pink bellies” we would playfully inflict on our friends as a measure of our manhood.

The blood match probably only lasted a minute at most but I felt a momentary sense of glorious triumph, control, domination… and then… frankly, some personal humiliation as Paul finally came to cherry-faced tears.

This wasn’t what I expected.

The wonderfully brawny feelings of manly power and victory I had anticipated surging mightily, melted away like April snows.

Disgust replaced triumph. Self loathing replaced elation. Revulsion replaced satisfaction.

I’d crossed over to the other side and had my bully moment.

It felt harsh inside, as cruel as the moment I killed a sparrow with my pellet rifle and the sensation was more heartbroken than heart-lifting.

I quickly learned a lesson that lives on for me.

Sometimes it’s important for the oppressor to live in the shoes of the oppressed, and vice versa.

This past week of cross-border politicking has left me confused, vexed, and worried but hesitantly… cautiously… hopeful that somehow the current “bully of the moment” will find his AHA moment. Even at this late stage of life.

That somehow the enormous, heady power bestowed on him will be tempered by reason and respect and concern for the weaker opponent.

That somehow the mini life-lesson I learned on the football field at the age of 12 or 13 years of age will be understood and willed to the surface like it was for George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life.

It’s never too late to shed the bully inside. I hope.