Holding Up the Universe, bullies, and allies

I mentioned in my review of Holding Up the Universe that I would make some time to write about one of the major themes of the book; bullying. I didn’t want to bring it up in the review because I want to keep those thoughts and these thoughts separate. Also, I could probably write forever about bullies and allies.

With the recent elections and living in New York, the fight against bullying has heightened to a level I’ve never seen before. Constant discussion chatters on about being an ally and a friend to those who may be persecuted by the alt-right. It’s been a tough few weeks and there’s no knowing what the next four years will bring. We all need to be there for each other and weed out the bullies of our world and snuff them out (metaphorically, of course).

A friend of mine recently went out to drinks with a few of her coworkers saying farewell to someone who was leaving. At the party, a conversation about the bubble we all live in ensued. My friend put in her two cents on the topic only to be met with a hand in her face and “it’d be better if you weren’t a part of this conversation.”

As you can see, bullying doesn’t necessarily mean a physical blow. It sometimes can be as cruel as the words shaped by your mouth.

Stunned, my friend walked away from the conversation only to come back a few minutes later when she had her bearings. She simply laid out her feelings and how the comment and the gesture made her feel. She was being real with this person and he defended himself saying that this was just something he, his wife, and daughter do to each other. Sometimes people just get too comfortable with the people around them even if they don’t know them very well.

The shocking part was the people around her. She expressed how she felt like she was by herself, alone. She was surrounded by people who call her “friend,” but no one stood up for her or mentioned how rude the gesture was. Just shrugged it off as something silly.

It doesn’t take much to make someone feel less isolated in a situation. All you have to do is speak up.

I’ve been bullied a lot when I was a kid. I’ve been called freak, stoner, loser, chink, gook, and dike (I’m not a lesbian, but apparently I dressed like one? Please explain how one dresses like a dike). What is it about kids who seem to dole out the punishments for being different a lot? I couldn’t wait to get out of the little suburban town I grew up in and moved to New York, where the entire city understands who I am and can nurture me.

Luckily for me, I had a lot of friends who understood and provided a shelter and safety I needed from the cruelty of young people. They made me feel like I belonged and they showed me that you don’t need to be popular to feel wanted. Even when the president of Student Council was calling us freaks out loud, I didn’t feel the blow because we were in this together. It’s what got me through high school. And that’s what we need to remember otherwise we’ll see much more kids in the news.

I don’t want to get political because this is a book blog, but one thing that needs to be said is that we all need to be allies. Friend or foe, we need to be looking out for each other. If there’s a bully and someone needs help, we can help them. I’m not asking that you puff out your chest and show them who’s boss, but I’m saying that if someone needs our help and we’re able-bodied human beings we should help them.

My friend could have used someone who could have simply said that what he did wasn’t cool. Libby could have used someone against her bullies and maybe she wouldn’t feel like she’s in this world all alone. Every person who witnesses someone being messed around with can help that person out. We just need to be alert.

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