Just got a phone call from Bearer to let me know that another of our aunts has passed away, this time in England. Sadly I'm not torn up about this one, since I never spoke to her and haven't seen her since we visited when I was 5. I feel bad for my cousins, though, since it was unexpected... but since they're overseas how I feel doesn't mean dick to them. So some other family members will go and represent us in the U.K., and for once I get to miss out on a funeral with a woman weeping over a casket clutching a set of rosary beads like a lifeline while wailing over the corpse. By the way, we call those the "professional mourners". It's like the only occupation available to Italian women after retirement. The health plan is amazing, except maybe for the dental.
Bearer tells me that recently she had another relative commit suicide, and she said "Suicide is just a selfish act." Which I agree with, but in a world where everyone is out for themselves, to get whatever they can with no regard for anyone else, what can we expect of people who are desperate and sad? That these people will be the ones to scoff in the face of selfishness and consider the consequences?
We've all been talking lately about the young people who have committed suicide because they've been bullied. Tyler Clementi and Phoebe Prince could not have been more different than one another, and yet met pretty much the same end. It proves to me that kids just don't understand consequences, that what you say or do to someone has a repurcussion. That taking your own life will bring so much pain to others. That it lets the bullies win. That's right -- in the game of life, when you bow out, you forfeit. You lose. They win. If nothing else, that should be your reason to live. IT WAS FOR ME.
I've been there. I've been teased and bullied, both at school and at home. My classmates called me Miss Piggy, my father's nickname of choice was Bubble Butt. Plus, I was smart and that didn't help me in any way to escape ridicule from my peers. Once I had skipped a grade, even the other smart kids teased me, called me a baby. I did have friends here and there, but for the most part I was a pariah -- and like so many other kids, the only way for me to feel powerful was to find other kids to pick on. There weren't many beneath me, but you only need one. I wish I could say I rose above it. I didn't. We are all flawed creatures.
But you can learn. You can find strength. You can look at yourself in the mirror and decide that you will not give any of these people the fucking satisfaction of knowing that they beat you. That was my fire. That's what kept me going. I remember seeing Pretty in Pink as a teenager and hearing Andie say "I just want them to know they didn't break me." I remember saying that to myself so many times, like when a boy said "Do you want to dance?" and I said "Yes" only to hear "How's it feel to want?" I lay in bed at night and thought of every horrible thing anyone might say to me, and thought about how I would respond to them. I started to jump the gun for people who wanted to tease me. I would laugh in the face of their taunts. It made me funny. That earned me respect. My life changed. It wasn't easy, I don't want to make it seem that way; but it was possible, and it happened, and I'm living proof that IT GETS BETTER. That the portion of your life that will suck is a small percentage of all that you can do. That no one -- not your peers, not your parents -- will be making your life hell forever. I used to think I couldn't go through with suicide because I was a coward. I WAS WRONG. Dying is easy. Anybody can do easy. Just ask Staples.
There's not enough selflessness in the world anymore; people have to know what's in it for them before they'll do something. If you read my previous post about my other aunt who passed, you'll know that small things can have such a huge impact. A gesture, a word, a gift. I know in my life I've had the opportunity to give those things to people and didn't take it; I don't do that anymore.
There was a girl in my Women's Studies class one year. She was pretty, but a little strange. I would see her around the campus sometimes, but I never made the effort to get to know her. She, however, made an attempt to befriend me one day in the student center. I blew her off, and I wasn't shy about it. I felt kind of bad about it, too, but I couldn't think of a reason not to be rude. Why should I be nice to her? She was nobody to me.
She committed suicide not long after that. We found out in class. I didn't want to know her when she was alive, and now I can't forget her. Her name was Shoshanna. I wish I had a live friend, instead of a sad memory of a dead girl. Maybe all she needed was kindness. Now I'll never know.
Instead I smile at everyone I meet. I say hello. I'm free with compliments and praise, and if I tease people I make sure they know I'm not serious. I listen and try to give advice. I love people, and I tell them so. This is what Shoshanna taught me. What life taught me is that it is never OK for people to treat you as less. To smother you with disrespect. That there comes a point when you can put those people behind you and live your life as yourself -- but do it kindly. Lead by example. Show kindness and love, and if you can't bow out and move on. Don't turn into a bully. Don't turn into a statistic. Live.
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