I’ve tried never to be a bully. I’ve also never taken bullying and have always stood up for myself or ignored it.
I had to; I was always “the new kid”, “the nerd”, “that religious kid” that no one invites out.
Moving all over the place when we were children…Let me see: Canada, Oregon, Canada, Joseph Oregon, Mt. Vernon Washington, Sublimity Oregon, Dilley Oregon, Canada, Laurel Oregon, Beaverton Oregon, Oceanside Oregon, Hailey Idaho, Seattle Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Idaho, Canada, Seattle, Canada, Yakima.
There. I’m sure I missed some along the way or got some out-of-order but still, point being, we moved a lot.
Along the way I picked up a nickname. I believe it was in Dilley Oregon. We didn’t have much money and my father refused to put us on a government-funded lunch program. Something about model Americans needing to pull themselves up by the boot straps. At the age of 6, the metaphor was completely lost on me. I just knew that I really loved chocolate milk at school and no matter how much I examined my boots, they had no straps.
So every day I took the same items for lunch to school. Some fruit, apple or orange, and a Bologna sandwich stuffed in a brown paper bag. On Fridays, when lucky, I would get a Bologna sandwich with cheese! When I asked about a beverage, I was told to drink water from the drinking fountain.
Yum, takes like aluminum.
So there I was, in the lunch room, skinny and alone with my Bologna sandwich.
“Hey new kid, why do you always bring a sack lunch? You poor?”
“No, I’m hungry. I eat the sack too.”
“Ha! What is that? Bologna sandwich? You like Bologna?”
I sigh and look down at my crumbling food, “Sure, it’s great.”
“What’s your name, new kid?”
“Cool, what if we call you Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony? Ha, ha! That’s a good one.”
He starts to sing, “Tony Bologna, All Fat and Phony, Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony. You like that?” He slaps my shoulder. “Funny, huh?”
I take another bite and give a shrug that involves my upturned palm, eyebrows and shoulders, “Sure, it’s great.”
So that was me for the rest of first grade, ‘Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony.” I went with it. I somehow instinctively knew that fighting back would garner worse results.
We moved at the end of the school year and the nickname stayed behind, until recently.
A kid was getting picked on at my job so he punched the kid making fun of him.
I pulled him aside and got down on his level, “Hey man, you can’t simply punch everyone that makes fun of you. Do you know how many people I would have punched by now if I had slugged everyone that called me names? Even today I have people that don’t like me, talking trash behind my back and tellling lies and saying all kinds of things that aren’t true. I can’t punch them. You have to let that stuff go and just walk away, otherwise they know they can get to you.”
He frowns unconvinced, so in an effort to cheer him up I say, “Hey, when I was a kid do you know what they called me?”
He shakes his head, still frowning.
“They called me, ‘Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony.'”
A glimmer of a smile twists his countenance, “Really, they called you that?”
“Yeah of course! If you smile and let it roll off your back you become the leader of the joke and not the butt of it.”
He grins and walks away, nodding and saying something under his breath.
And that’s why, for the last six months, wherever I go anywhere at work, kids yell at me with big smiles on their faces,
“What’s up Tony Bologna All Fat and Phony?”
And I smile, point back at them and say, “That’s right! I’m doing great!” And with no emotional response, the joke is getting old on their own lips without me ever having to call it out.
No one can bully you unless you let them and there are innumerable ways of fighting back, the last resort being physical confrontation.
Blessed are the Peacemakers.