Never Too Old to Be Bullied

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Bullying hurts. It drives some to suicide, and some to a killing frenzy. It is commonly understood as a teenage problem. We all have heard many heart wrenching stories about bullying. I had understood these with my head, not with my heart.

After I retired, my husband and I went on a guided tour to the Baltic Sea, part by coach and part by cruise ship. In the 10-day land segment, two men decided to take pleasure in comments about my being short, such as "Kay, why don't you stand up for the photo? Oh, you already are." They kept it up relentlessly, perhaps because they thought they were being funny. But no one was laughing, and being the butt of their jokes was not pleasant. It actually brought me to tears. My husband empathized, but being practical, thought it would be best to ignore them; no sense in confronting them. I went along with his rational suggestion. The teasing continued.

Though I had decided to ignore their comments, surprisingly, I started to have an emotional reaction. Feelings of being powerless, self conscious and even a sense of shame. What? Feeling ashamed of being short? Yes, because these are typical feelings victims have no matter who they are and what their station in life.

And that is when I could identify with my heart, the pain those teenagers must feel. They are young and insecure. Sense of social belonging is of paramount importance. They are teased where they feel most vulnerable, like being gay, short, tall or something else they cannot change. When you feel victimized, you feel ashamed of being who you are.

Just counseling the bullied victims is not the answer. We, as a civilized society, must socialize out such cruel behavior. But we are failing. How many tears must fall before we will end this madness? How many lives must end before we conquer it?


With a Perspective, I'm Kay Brown.

Kay Brown is a retired founder and CEO of an international molecular biology software development company. She lives in Palo Alto.