Sunday, September 11, 2011

Laughing at Bullies

My bully Lisa stepped out onto the sidewalk just a few doors down from my house.  She had been bullying me since elementary school.  But now at 11,  I was taller and she was nastier.  I never knew what I did to make her want to bully me.  The first time it happened we were both in the first grade and I got a Partridge Family lunch box and apparently she hated the show (okay - in hindsight I understand why).  I had my cherry juice in the matching thermos and she grabbed it and smashed it right on Danny Bonaduce's face.   The red juice spattered everywhere like a bloody scene right out of the movie Scarface.  I told my Mom, but Lisa's family was the one house on the block with the lawn that was never mowed and the dad with the notoriously bad temper - so the whole neighborhood stayed clear.  They were never invited to the Friday night dinner parties.   I tried to avoid her, but she'd pick up my scent and track me down.   I didn't have to track her scent, it was pretty bad and the sight of her made my eyes water.   My stomach became an instant gas chamber. 
She stood there in her popsicle splattered t-shirt.  The juice had run down her arm which was stained red and mixed with a light dusting of dirt, her hair filled with sticks and leaves.  Apparently she had to wrestle that popsicle to the ground to eat it.   I should have taken the long way home, but it was starting to thunder and I needed to get home quickly.   Rain storms come in fast in Miami around 4:00 p.m.   I had about 5 minutes before it would pour.  Lisa wouldn’t budge and was making it a point to tell me how fat and stupid I was, even through I had lost weight and was an honor student.   But each word made me doubt my weight and my intelligence - that's how bullies wear you down. 
I tried to walk around her but she kept getting closer.  Sensing that I might be cold cocked in the stomach once again with her sticky juice stained hand – I decided to try a different tactic.   I put out my butt, started to walk funny and taking my cue from a Carol Burnett sketch, said “Mr. Tudball – I have pencils to sharpen!”  Lisa stepped back and looked at me with eyes as big as golf balls.  "What did you say?" she asked.   "I have pencils to sharpen!!" I replied, sticking my butt our even further.  I heard a boy laughing behind me and turned to see her older brother Michael watching the whole thing unfold.   He was the one nice person in the family who got along with the rest of the kids on the block.  "Carol Burnett - Mrs. Wiggins, I love that sketch."  He then turned to Lisa, "Good God, haven't you ever heard of a napkin? C'mon Mom wants you home before the storm hits."  Lisa turned still looking at me with my butt sticking out.  They both started to laugh and I ran home just as the first drops were beginning to splat. 
Making people laugh has always been a refuge for me whether I was that chunky little girl with the David Cassidy Tiger Beat magazine or the girl in Junior High who had lost a ton of weight over the summer vacation.   Just like a runner who gets that endorphin high after a run or a heroin addict that needs that rush from their next fix, comedy is my drug.  It just makes me happy.   I get a heady feeling and a blast of energy after a show with my partners at the OTC Comedy Troupe.  Whether it's doing improv for an audience of 300 or a show for 10 people in a coffee shop - just bringing laughter into someone's life is something that I take very seriously.  I've seen it heal me.  I've seen it heal others.  
I've seen the parents of children with developmental disabilities hire my comedy troupe for a show and then ask us to do some really blue comedy that was totally politically incorrect because they just needed to escape for a few hours.  One night, we performed for two hours straight - not stopping for our usual intermission because the comedy and the healing needed to keep on going.  The energy of the room was transformed and their faces were brighter -- ready go back home and deal with a child that they loved dearly but who was not emotionally equipped to communicate that love back.  
I've seen my actors who had a piss poor day at work revive at workshop and feel renewed after a "play-date" with the other company members.   I've pulled my self out of painful funks and crying jags by dragging myself to the web show and getting a rush of energy from our audience.   
I'd like to say that once you leave school, you leave the bullies behind.  But as any women whose been at the mercy of the Mean Girls can tell you, it doesn't always happen.   It still pervades at our colleges, social circles and workplaces, but I've found that doing comedy is a good escape for that.   Ironically, I am considered a dead ringer for one of the biggest bullies out there- Ann Coulter.  My various video jabs at the conservative cougar have brought accolades and condemnation from both sides of the political aisle.  Sometimes it's pretty vicious and obscene.   It's very clear that those cyber bullies really need to get a life which is what I tell them right before they are blocked forever from my YouTube channel.  If only it was that easy in real life.   
As far as dealing with bullies goes, you get better at handling it as you get older, but there are times when those mean girls or guys can make you feel as small as that little girl with the broken thermos.   You can either go back there and believe all those bad things about yourself, or move forward, learn to laugh and feel some compassion for those bullies.   Lisa didn't have a great home life, felt ashamed and took that anger out on me.  After the Mrs. Wiggins episode, she bullied me less and less until it stopped - she just wasn't that scary anymore.   
The cyber bullies don't have a real way of communicating with real people so they grind their angst anonymously on any internet venue they can.   The mean folks confuse passivity for weakness which is a mistake because sometimes you just have to pick your fights.  The quiet ones can strike out with terrific and focused strength when they are pushed too far.   My tongue can be a real dagger when it needs to defend me - when the nice Kelley has to be protected by the sardonic Kelley.  It's not something I like to use very often, but it's nice to know that I have it in me when it's needed.  
For me, laughter is the best medicine and comedy is my drug of choice.  It helps me keep a stiff upper lip and gives me the courage to stick my butt out.  After all, I've got pencils to sharpen. 


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