Several weeks ago, in a bid to numb the agony of working during the festive season, my colleagues and I exchanged high school anecdotes – the subject was impelled by those animated back-to-school advertisements which tend to invade our screens this time of year.
My one co-worker recalled how she was often labelled a “coconut”, a term I’m all too familiar with myself, and how one classmate poked fun at her name. Another colleague also gave her account, which seemed just as memorable enough to put a smile on her face.
This prompted me to page back to my high school days, which were mainly characterised by anxiety along with a sense of will which I suppose culminated in my character and life today. I also pondered on whether this was the perfect subject to focus on, but eventually figured that most people reading this have been to high school and that there would at least be a minimal degree of relation to it, regardless of how high or low you sat on the school popularity chart.
His name was Victor and he often swaggered around the corridors with his backpack sluggishly hanging over his broad shoulders and his sagging grey pants, while the rest of us would flash to our respective classes. He made the occasional trip to the principal’s office over disruption and several other violations which were added to his charge sheet.
“I’m not sure if that guy is gay or just has a screw loose”, he said once to someone he was standing with by the Math class, referring to me, which was followed by an ear-piercing burst of laughter which I could hear from a distance. Still – I made the few steps to Miss Fourie, our English teacher’s class.
From then on, I made it a point never to bat an eyelid whenever he opened his mouth, in the hopes that he would eventually retire his hostility badge and find someone else to subject to his slurs – my was I wrong. If anything, he became more aggressive and his comments only became viler, almost as If he wanted me to respond. Victor had gained a reputation of being a savage street fighter, which no doubt fuelled his arrogance and feeling of invincibility and didn’t exactly make me fear him any less. While he didn’t have silky blonde hair and drive a sports car, he certainly was my Regina George.
While I countenanced his antagonism on a daily basis, I gradually became numb to it and it eventually filtered down to all other bullying tactics my other classmates had imposed on me. I came to realise that self-verbalising the foul rhetoric of my detractors would be playing right into their hands, an in one form or another, adding weight to an otherwise weightless remark – silence is golden – that has always been my motto. This is not to suggest that bullying victims must purely accept defeat and allow themselves to be the ridiculed, if anything, it’s to say we have more control than we give ourselves credit.
If I saw Victor today, more than 8 years later, I’d most probably buy him a beer to thank him for indirectly bestowing upon me, the ability to forge ahead and continue with my daily on goings regardless of encounters which may attempt to hamper them.