North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

August 2, 2013

Danielle Cater: Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Whoever said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a liar.

Words hurt, actions hurt and even sometimes, a sideways look hurts. The old song “Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say” isn’t just for kids; it’s a concept that would work well for all walks of life.

I read a story today about some teenage girls who stood up to a bully at a fast-food restaurant. The one who was bullying was a middle-aged woman, and she was picking on another woman about the same age. Bullying knows no age boundaries. So just because you are not in school anymore doesn’t mean that your rude gestures and hateful words aren’t cutting the recipient to the bone.

Often, we say things out of jest that hurt much deeper than we may know. It’s never OK to pick on someone, even if you feel like it’s just for a good laugh. I have a bad habit of picking on myself and others in order to get a chuckle, but the damage can be pretty severe. Some people find it amusing to make fun of those who are different from them, but who’s to say that the way you look and act is the right way?

A big target of bullying across the board is peoples’ weight. This is a touchy subject, and I know that many readers just tensed up reading over that sentence. I heard a waitress say the other day that she was upset that we could tell a smoker to quit smoking because it might kill them, but she would get in trouble for telling a fat person to quit eating so much.

Weight, smoking, drinking and many other things have more to do with self-control than with any other issue. If everyone drank one glass of wine a month, there would be no alcoholics or sobriety tests on the roads. If we all ate three healthy meals a day with a reasonable amount of calories paired with an exercise routine, we probably wouldn’t have very many obese people in the world.

But alas, we have over-indulgers in our society and when the system starts getting abused, it gets out of hand. Even when this happens, please remember that no one made you the calorie queen or king to tell people what they should and shouldn’t be allowing themselves to do.

I feel like I can talk freely about weight issues because I have been on both sides of that fence. I’ve straddled that fence and waltzed with it and buried it. Weight is something I have struggled with my whole life, and the fight isn’t getting any easier in my later years. Through my self-image battles I have fought with anorexia and bulimia — two topics that not many people want to talk about, but topics that most parents need to discuss with their kids. It’s a physical problem for sure, but it also has devastating effects on the mental side of its victims. Although I have overcome my battles there, I still fight with the afterthoughts of it.

When someone bullies a person who is fighting with these issues, it’s like pouring gasoline onto a fire. It’s hard enough to stop bad habits, but when society is pushing you that way, it can be almost impossible.

All bodies are not created equal and just because your aunt is a size three, that doesn’t mean that God created you to be the same. We have different personalities, difference preferences and different body builds. Love the skin that you are in. Watch what you eat so that you aren’t just being a glutton (which is my sin of choice), but don’t let your weight and figure consume you.

Some people are always going to find a reason to judge you. When I was skinny, everyone tried to get me to gain weight. Now that I’m on the bigger end of the scales, I can tell by the glances and speech that people think I need to head back in the other direction. But really, as long as I’m happy with the way I am, then I’m not going to let it get under my skin.

Be careful of how you treat people because of their weight. I find myself being nicer to the petite, well-put-together lady at the grocery store and being a snob to the overweight cashier at the gas station. Disrespect and bullying have such a negative impact on people. Take note of how you feel when people disrespect you. Then take note of how often you, perhaps even if you’re unaware, bully others around you.

If we would treat others the way we want to be treated, bullying would end and perhaps there would be less eating disorders and depressed people running around. Just a friendly smile or nod can really make someone’s day, but a snappy word or a harsh look can also ruin it. You’re responsible for the way you treat people, so treat them well.

It never hurts to be nice.