Bully for you!

No bullies allowed

Everybody knows what a bully is. If you have never experienced bullying of some kind on a personal level, then you are probably pretty lucky. But you have possibly witnessed, or were at least aware of, bullying at school, in the community, or in the workplace, maybe even at home.

Bullies feature strongly in traditional fairy tales such as the stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella and the mean Rumpelstiltskin in the story of the same name. Roald Dahl also introduced us to bullies through Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mr and Mrs Twit in The Twits.

The first picture books I think of when the topic of bullying is raised are Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp and Willy and Hugh. They are great to read and use to stimulate discussion of bullying with young children. In this video author Anthony Browne explains that most children recognize a little of themselves in Willy. The transformation from timidity to self-confidence appears achievable and encouraging to all.

The opposite of being a bully is being kind. This article by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis, Raising a Kind Daughter tells a heart-warming story of selfless kindness shown by a daughter and her mother. As was commented on in many posts about compassion, including this one, modelling is the best way of teaching children attitudes and behaviours we wish them to learn.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action.

Over the past year while I have been engaging with Charli’s flash fiction challenges, I have been developing a character, Marnie, who is definitely no stranger to bullying. Each of Charli’s prompts encourages me to think a little more about Marnie, what may have occurred in her life, and what her responses would be. While I sometimes write about other things, I could not ignore Marnie with this prompt.

This is what we already know about Marnie,

as a child:

  • she has a dysfunctional family
  • she suffers physical and emotional abuse, including neglect, from both parents
  • she has a toy unicorn as a comforter
  • she finds the expectations of school challenging
  • she feels alone and excluded at school with few friends
  • she gains the support of one teacher who helps her to develop more self-confidence

as a teenager:

  • the teacher continues to support her
  • she leaves home and breaks contact with her family

as an adult:

  • when both her parents have passed she is contacted and returns to the family home, which she sells, relieved that there is no longer any chance of abuse such as occurred in her childhood

There are still many gaps and unknowns which I am hoping to explore in more detail in the future. In a recent discussion with Charli, I commented that each time I write about Marnie she reveals a little more, in much the same way as she would reveal herself to a new friend or a therapist. I’m thinking she may need to talk to a therapist at some stage. I might need to see who, and what, Anne Goodwin would recommend!

I hope that somewhere in her life, Marnie has a friend like Annie, described in the article by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis. Maybe it is Jasmine who we have already met in a previous episode, which also touched on a situation which may have involved bullying. Please let me know what you think.

 

Not funny at all!

Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.

“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”

The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,

As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.

“Shame on you,” she mouthed.

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

74 thoughts on “Bully for you!

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    That was such a powerful flash Norah. Marnie is developing into a wonderful character and as you say we are meeting her like friends and finding out bits at a time. She certainly is starting to feel very real. Great post on bulllying. I’ve never read Charli and the Chocolate Factory but I think it is time I did. I loved his memoirs.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your encouragement, Irene.
      I love Roald Dahl’s writing. The BFG is my favourite! I also enjoy his adult short stories, but they are very dark. I don’t think I have read his memoir. Maybe I should give it a go. I think I would enjoy it too. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. Pingback: Stop bullying now! | Norah Colvin

  3. Bec

    Even though it’s only 99 words, the FF brought tears to my eyes. I think it was the mental image of Marine – who we are still only getting to know, but know is so fragile and in need of kindness – reaching for her unicorn. Poor Marine. Thanks for discussing such an important and pervasive issue. I’m a bit too sad about our poor Marine, knowing that her experience reflects that of any number of people at any time. I’m glad Jasmine was there to look after Marnie!

    Sorry I’m late to the space and haven’t engaged with what must be a very rich discussion here (51 comments!) – I’m a bit short on time so I’ll have to catch up properly when I’m back home!

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment Bec. There has been some wonderful discussion on this post and a lot of encouragement for me to continue telling Marnie’s story. When you have time it would be ‘nice’ if you could check out some of the other comments. You were mentioned in one or two! I’ll await your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Sherri

    Echoing Charli, I would say too Norah, thanks for summarising Marnie’s story, I feel that I better understand her now. I hadn’t realised you had been developing her character for so long. Love your flash, poor Marnie, I felt so sad for her, but I adore Jasmine for what she did, fantastic! Love stories like that. I will never get bullying, not in a million years.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Sherri. I hadn’t realised just how much I had written about Marnie either. I’m quite enjoying developing her story and really appreciate all the encouraging comments. I guess that’s what keeps me going!
      I’m with you. I’ll never get bullying either. I hope I have never bullied anyone unintentionally. Sometimes people’s insecurities can make them “feel” threatened and bullied when there is no intention of causing that.
      Having said that, I don’t think I’d be a threat to anyone, but we never know! 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Circling the Bullies « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Christy Birmingham

    Hi Norah, it sounds like your character Marnie is becoming more developed, and I like that she has had a teacher to support her! Even just one person understanding the pain (emotion and possibly physical) of bullying is helpful xo

    Liked by 3 people

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  7. Charli Mills

    Wow, Norah, what a powerful flash. It captures so many of those subtle nuances of bullying — the boys giving each other high 5s, no adults around observing or intervening (bullies know when to strike) and the lone student brave enough to step in. That’s a life-changer. A fabulous post with links, too. Have you read Anne’s post on fictional therapists? She has good ideas how fictional therapists can move a story along. Maybe that will fill in some gaps. But truly, you have a gem of a story unfolding. Thank you for listing out Marnie’s story thus far. You are good at honing in on the vital points.

    Liked by 4 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Charlie. I appreciate your positive and encouraging feedback. I was quite pleased with this one and hoped that it would portray some different responses to the bullying: those outwardly supporting the action with their high-5s, and others by their silence and inaction. I’m hoping a bit of Anne’s knowledge of therapy will migrate telepathically to me!!!!

      Liked by 2 people

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  8. Sacha Black

    Oh poor Marnie, when I read the word ‘sobbing’ I thought I might actually cry myself. How heart wrenching. Bullying like so many others is a topic so close to my own heart. Why is it we humans feel the need to crush others? Why does it take so long for us to figure out we are stronger together? Why is THAT not wired into our brains, as opposed to this vicious need to trample each other on the way to the top. Jasmine is clearly a very clever and brave girl who will go far in life. What a wonderful piece of flash Norah. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind words Sacha. I love your recommendation to work together and pull each other up, rather than rush to knock each other down. In Australia we have what is called the “tall poppy” syndrome. I think there is plenty of room at the top for everyone. We just have to make it happen. Thanks also for your encouraging words re my flash and the characters. I think I’m starting to get them sorted out! 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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  9. Sherrill S. Cannon

    A reminder that Manner-Man is a Superhero who helps children cope with bullying, and is the superhero for imbullyfree.org… All of my children’s books (age 3-8) are available at sbpra.com/imbullyfree.com where 50% of the cost of the books goes to the imbullyfree organization…

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Sherrill, Thank you for stopping by and sharing that information about your books and imbullyfree.org. There looks to be a lot of good resources on the site. I’ll have to spend some time checking it out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  10. TanGental

    Poor Marnie but with some support at last. What I enjoyed here is the strength of character shown by Jasmine to join the potentially weak Marnie against the stronger group. It is exceptional to see that support but when it happens it is very powerful. I can recall incidents from my own youth where, as I was picked on, I was left alone, but support come when the bully was elsewhere. The supporters didn’t dare side with me in case they were picked on. They weren’t as strong as Jasmine. I wonder who is.

    Liked by 6 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment re Marnie and Jasmine. I have seen children stick up for the underdog. It is an amazing thing. Georgie, from the story, didn’t support Jasmine. She hung back in the crowd, as you say most would for fear of being picked on themselves. I have seen my daughter stand up for others and speak her mind. I guess I encouraged her to do so, but I certainly never modeled it very well. I would have been more like Georgie or the children you mention who were all talk when the bullies weren’t there but no action when they were! I’m sorry you were bullied at school, but am very happy that you have survived it okay. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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      1. Annecdotist

        I also would have been more like Georgie, but I love that you’ve been able to encourage a jasmine-type response in your own daughter. That takes some doing when you’re a bit anxious about speaking out yourself.

        Liked by 2 people

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        1. Norah Post author

          I’m not really sure how much of the credit I can take. It will be interesting to hear what she says when she has time to read and respond. She’s a bit busy with her research at the moment. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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  11. writersideup

    Bullying has always been and continues to be one of the most evil attributes of human nature. It is in helping those who are bullied learn how to cope with it that is the most important. Of course, trying to help bullies themselves change their behavior would be the best thing, but so hard to achieve : / I’ve written a book about it and years ago, wrote a poem about it. It also ruined my boyfriend’s life, and not just through the playground/school bullies. Bullying comes in all forms, whether family members, neighbors, bosses, co-workers, car drivers…you name it 😦 Great post, Norah.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Donna. What a great way of expressing it: one of the most evil attributes of human nature. I guess that just about nails it! If only we could get those bullies to change their behaviour. Is your book published and still available? I’d love to have a read. Also your poem?
      I hope your boyfriend has managed to live a life more positive now that he has your support. I’m sure he had not continued the negative behaviour that was shown to him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. writersideup

        You’re so sweet, Norah 😀 Actually, the book’s not published…yet! (Keep trying to think positive on that front.) And the poem’s not up. Not sure about what to do with that one. May wait ’til I hopefully get a contract on the book, then post the poem during that time period. Don’t know!

        And I continuously try to positively affect his life, but he’s a tough case. Because he was never taught how to cope, his way of handling all of it was definitely on the negative side and it’s still strong now. He tries to change, but it’s very difficult. Bullying literally ruins lives in so many ways 😦

        Liked by 2 people

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        1. Norah Post author

          I wish you success with your book and your poem, Donna. I’m sure you have a lot of worthwhile ideas to share.
          Your boyfriend is very lucky to have found someone as understanding as you. Change is very difficult to achieve, but I’m sure with your support he is making progress. I’m really sorry to hear it has ruined his life in many ways. I hope things continue to improve – for both of you! 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

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  12. macjam47

    Marnie needs to be written into a book for children. Bullying is such a difficult issue to deal with, and it sometimes comes from unexpected sources. A young boy who, in junior high is very small for his age, bullies kids verbally in extremely gross terminology, attacking not only other children but their parents. He has 250 other students afraid to stand up to him, because they are afraid it will be directed toward them and their families. Why does this go unnoticed by school officials? Because the parents are bullies, too! And just as the students are afraid to stand up to the boy, the officials in the school are afraid to stand up to the parents. I know of another incident where the school bully is the son of the principal. What parent is going to go up against the principal? These events are current. When my children were young they, like most children at one time or another, were subjects of bullying. My husband was bullied as a child and we worked very hard to teach our children not to bully, and I hope they never did. However,realistically, they grew up at a time when bullying was looked upon as a part of growing up, and little was done about it at school. More needs to be done to prevent bullying. I really believe that there should be more intensive courses for teachers and administrators to learn to deal with the bully issue. We will never eradicate bullying completely. It is a tactic used by despots and terrorists, and sadly, they seem to thrive.

    Liked by 4 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh Michelle, Your comment shows very clearly just what a difficult issue this bullying is. I’m sure your children were never bullies because they had wonderful parents who modeled non-aggressive or bullying behaviour. I’m not surprised that the young boy you mentioned is a bully since his parents are bullies. He is probably so bullied that how to bully is all he knows. It’s dreadful that being bullied is considered a normal part of growing up. I like to think that we live in more civilized times, and I actually believe we do, but there is still a long way to go. As you say, eradicating bullying is a high ideal but it is definitely something worth working towards. If school administrators and teachers are bullied by parents I don’t know where they can turn for support.
      Your final sentence is heart-stopping. We definitely need bullying, at all levels, to stop!

      Liked by 3 people

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    2. Norah Post author

      Hi again, Michelle.
      I forgot to respond to your comment re Marnie. I don’t think her story at the moment is suited to a book for children. It would need some reworking, but thanks for the suggestion. I’ll certainly think about it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. Annecdotist

        Oh, but I’m quite excited by that suggestion of Michelle’s. Of course, you haven’t written her so far as a story for children but, as you get to know her better, perhaps you COULD adapt her that way.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Desley,
      Thank you for your persistence in popping back.
      Your first comment was recieved but since it was your first on my site it was waiting for my approval.
      I apologise. This is the first chance I have had to look since you posted. All future comments should now appear immediately since this first one has been approved.
      I will make that page for Marnie – so keep an eye out for it, and thank you so much for giving me the idea. 🙂 And for the shout out on Twitter! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Desley. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.
      Marnie’s stories are scattered throughout the posts so would be a bit difficult to find. Perhaps I should make a page with them all together to make reading easier? Perhaps the easiest way of reading them at the moment is to visit my Flash Fiction page, which has just my flash fiction stories on it. Marnie’s stories are scattered throughout, but easier than looking through posts. I have begun (from the end) linking the stories back to the posts that supported them, but haven’t finished yet. Here is a link to the Flash Fiction page: https://norahcolvin.com/flash-fiction/ or you could simply click on the menu above my banner picture.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

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  13. Annecdotist

    As I’m struggling to think up adult novels that feature bullying, interesting to be reminded that children’s fiction is rife with it – in a way that must be so useful for bullies and the bullied alike.
    Nice to hear a little more about Marnie and now I’m curious about Jasmine too, as I think this little girl has come to the rescue before. Now I’m wondering where she ended up as an adult.
    Thanks for the mention, and I do think Marnie would benefit from a bit of therapy – might be quite a challenge to conjure up a therapist when I’m looking over your shoulder (no, I don’t think I’m really scary).

    Liked by 3 people

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      1. Norah Post author

        Thanks for commenting on this, Anne. I must admit I hadn’t noticed the spelling of the sign when I downloaded it from openclipart.org, just the wording if you like. Read aloud they are the same. It was only when I was about to hit publish that I noticed and wondered about whether it should read, as you say “No bullies allowed”. I was about to remove it and make a sign myself, which perhaps I should have done in the first place, when I thought this was probably correct anyway: “No bully is allowed”. If it reads glaringly incorrect at first reading, maybe I should change it. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Annecdotist

          Well, I was surprised this has got past your radar as you usually pretty hot on these things. I suppose “No bully is allowed” DOES work, but that’s not a reading that comes easily to mind. Whether you change or not I’d say depends upon your time and inclination. It IS clear from the reference that the words aren’t yours so there’s a certain distancing there already.

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          1. Norah Post author

            Okay. Thanks for that Anne. If it doesn’t work readily then I should change it. I appreciate your pointing it out to me. It’s good when we look after each other. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your comment. I guess the type of bullying that is written about in adult novels may be given different labels such as domestic abuse or overbearing bosses for example. I did “pull” Jasmine from an earlier piece and decided to place her in the role of rescuer again. I haven’t thought any more about her yet, but obviously there must be strong supportive people in Marnie’s life to help her become a survivor, if not directly then at least by modelling and providing inspiration.
      I might have to undergo a bit of therapy myself to know what it’s like – or at least read some of your recommended books. I dread to think of the poor job I’d do making it all up!! And no, you are not the least bit scary, but I would strive for authenticity.
      Thank you for you help and support. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. Annecdotist

        You’re right that adults have a much wider repertoire of bullying behaviours than children. On the subject of therapy, I think you could probably have a bash at the fictional therapist based on what you’ve gleaned from – your hero and mine – Steven Grosz.

        Liked by 2 people

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        1. Norah Post author

          Great suggestion, Anne! Thanks for that. I’ll have another listen to Grosz and see how I go! You have a little more confidence in me than I have though. Maybe I’ll have to send Charli some thought messages about prompts that I can respond to with therapy sessions. That sentence makes me feel like I’m in need myself! But it’s late. I’m tired. Is that enough excuses for now? 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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          1. Annecdotist

            No excuses needed, your reflections are always interesting. And hey, in my book (I mean metaphorically, not the book I’ve written, although perhaps it does apply there too), we can all do with a bit of therapy if it takes our fancy – post on that coming sometime soon!

            Liked by 2 people

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            1. Norah Post author

              Thanks Anne. I look forward to your post on why we all need therapy from time to time. I find the thought of therapy scary. Maybe that means I need it more than most! I’ll await your post and further elaboration! 🙂

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