Bullying & the PB&J

20140608-172735-62855829.jpg Just because my last few posts have been about my goal to become more healthy this summer (specifically focusing on getting to a reasonable body-fat percentage) doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally write about some of my other interests and topics of importance.  This post’s topic: bullying & the PB&J sandwich.

I’ve mentioned before that I was on the receiving end of some rather severe bullying growing up.  The early stuff started around 5th grade and tapered off by 11th, the worst of which happened throughout the 7th & 8th grade years.  While from an intellectual and professional standpoint I appreciate the research done on the lingering effects that bullying has on its victims into adulthood, the part of me that remembers the name-calling, social exclusion, and physical assaults in great detail cringes every time a new headline pops up that reads something along the lines of “New research shows that bully victims still have ___________ problems into adulthood.”  Too often it hits close to home, being correct that I have had more challenges related to problem __________ than the typical non-bullied individual.

At the same time though, I am a pretty healthy and well adjusted adult now that I’ve hit my mid-30’s, so for me it comes down to acknowledging my history, but not letting it define who I am now or who I want to become.  I know that I am in a slightly higher risk-group for certain things like depression and anxiety, and I respond accordingly when there are any signs that attention is needed. Sometimes I want to pretend that I’m not in those risk pools, but every so often something happens that reminds me. And that brings me to the PB&J sandwich… I believe that I ate PB&J nearly every day in my lunch from kindergarden through 8th grade (I was *kind of a picky eater and my mom knew I’d eat it).  Well, during those very difficult 7th & 8th grade years the lunch room was one of the worst places for me to be.  I was relentlessly mocked by some of my peers, a couple times I was thrust into fights, and rarely a lunch passed without something bad happening or being said.  Those rare lunches where nothing happened weren’t much of a break because I was filled with anxiety that something bad could happen at any moment. It was a long two years.

When I got high school we had an open campus for lunch.  Since my house was 1/4 mile from the school I went home every single day.  It was great, I could make whatever I wanted, my mom or dad could check in on me (mostly my dad, he had a home office), and I’d watch Wishbone on PBS (we didn’t have cable, it was that or half a soap opera).  Also, the ability to invite peers over who wanted to escape the school for 45 minutes allowed me to forge new friendships and helped me move past the previous challenging years. The freedom and flexibility to come home, with or without friends, and cook whatever I wanted meant that I rarely ever made myself a PB&J sandwich for lunch.  As my high school years passed by I got to the point that I didn’t like PB&J anymore and would actively avoid them, and that habit continued into college and the years since.

I’d always explained this change to myself and the occasional questioner by saying that my tastes must have changed because my lunches had been so overrepresented by PB&Js in my early school years that I’d just grown tired of the flavor.  It wasn’t really a big deal, rarely was I presented with PB&J as a lunch option, so I never really thought about it much. Last week though, on one of these crazy summer mornings as we were trying to get 4 kids ready for 4 different activities my wife packed me a lunch that included a PB&J sandwich.  I didn’t notice it until I was at work and opened by lunchbox, and noticed when I opened the container and smelled it that I was hit by a strong taste aversion, similar to what happens when you eat a favorite dish right before getting a stomach bug and can’t ever eat it again (I still miss you dearly adobo calamari).  I thought to myself, “this is ridiculous, I’ve never thrown-up  after eating a PB&J, I just stopped eating them.”  So, in that moment I finally explored this within my thoughts and emotions, and intentionally smelled the sandwich and let my mind connect that smell to the first thing that popped up, and immediately the first image in my mind was my middle school cafeteria.  That physiological taste aversion wasn’t connected to a memory of being sick, but the memories and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness that accompanied me to every lunch, five days a week, for two long years.

As I pondered that, I realized that for the most part, I always prefer a warm lunch. I keep a microwave in my office for that, and if I do eat a cold lunch PB&J is never on the menu. The freedom from lunchtime anxiety that had formed during my high school years had also left me with a taste aversion towards the traditional brown-bag lunch items that for so long had been directly tied to anxiety and bullying. So, now that I know that my taste aversion towards PB&J has more to do with emotional memories and not related to becoming sick after eating one (again, oh how I miss you adobo calamari, one of my favorite meals from my two year mission in the Philippines) I could probably overcome it.  I don’t like to hold myself as a victim of past events that were outside of my control. I guess I just need to force myself to eat it and see what becomes of these anti-PB&J tastes that I inadvertently fostered over 20 years ago.

 

*majorly a picky eater

Bullying Christians?

English: Samantha Bee at a Hudson Union Societ...

So, I was doing my daily news review today, and came across an interesting contradiction.  When I have a chance I try to catch what was said on The Daily Show to see what they’re laughing at.  Well, last night in one clip (I shortcut it back there) Samantha Bee interviewed a anti-gay Christian minister who has been complaining about Christian bashing and bullying of Christians.  As you can guess, this being The Daily Show, they went out of their way to make this guy look like a wack-a-doodle and did a compare/contrast with the bullying and bashing that LGBT people have endured.  She went on to imply that bullying of Christians is basically non existent and that anyone who argues that it exists just has an ax to grind because they are losing a power position in society.

Now it is always fun to poke fun at a holier-than-thou type that has been caught in a hypocritical stance, but what I was bothered by was the contention by Samantha Bee that there is no Christian bashing or bullying happening.  You see, a few minutes after watching The Daily Show clip, I was looking through headlines on Real Clear Politic’s religion section, and came across a headline “When They Tried to Stump My Black Mormon” which was written by Julie Boye for the Deseret News about how her husband Alex Boye was treated by some members of the press during his European tour.  In short, he was bullied and bashed for being a Mormon and agreeing to allow his face to be used in an advertisement campaign that is the perfect example of “turning the other cheek” in response to the opening of the Book of Mormon musical in London.  So without even trying, and using a major news resource I was able to prove Ms. Bee’s “there is no bullying of Christians” argument wrong.

Now here is the problem: bullying is wrong.  It is always wrong.  Yet, when it comes to the bullying of Christians it is often dismissed as some kind of karmic balancing rite, or it is dismissed completely as an urban legend, or as a hissy-fit on the part of the victim.  I can attest that bullying someone because of their religion is totally real, because I was a victim of it.  This was while I was in middle school and some in high school.  It didn’t necessarily stop there, one time I even had a professor who had shown interest in mentoring me until he found out I was Mormon.  (I’ll discuss my own person experiences as a bully victim in more detail in the future, because I have number of points I’d like to share about that.)

So my point is this: just because bullying of Christians or Mormons or whoever else not as prevalent and perhaps not as intense as the bullying of LGBT youths or socially dysfunctional individuals does not mean that it deserves to be ignored or made fun of.  Bullying is bad in all its forms and towards all its victims.  Sure, we can all laugh when you trot out a hypocritical radio personality who does bully a group of people while decrying bullying of a different group of people, but why don’t we trot out Dan Savage when he does the same thing?  Bullying is always wrong, and just because The Daily Show thinks it’s funny to mock this guy does not give them the right to dismiss the harm that has been done to many for no other reason than being the less popular religion in the place that they grew up.