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B E E N  T H E R E:  D O I N G   I T   M Y   W A Y


Vicky Mersereau

"Being Different, How to Cope."

An interview with four friends by
A
Teen Editorial Board member.

August 1999

Being an Insider vs. being an Outsider is an emotional challenge for lots of teens. When you don't feel you are accepted by the "popular" people, you can get into a low self-esteem rut. I talked with four of my friends, Andrew, Holly, Fred and Leslie, all total individuals, about their views and attitudes about being different and what they do to cope.

The InSite: I'd like to find out about what happens when kids are targeted by other kids. In your case, what kind of things were/are you being teased about?

Fred: Many things, too many to name really. The list goes from [the fact that I like] playing role-playing games, to getting the best marks in school, to having very few friends, to not dressing like everyone else, to not liking the same music as every one else. And more!

Leslie: [For me, it was] ...mostly the clothes I wore. The black, baggy things.

Holly: I mostly get teased about my weight, [which] is not even THAT bad. And my acne. I've been made fun of for that stuff as long as I can remember. I'm also teased about being "smart."

I've been made fun of... for as long as I can remember.

Andrew: Generally, my way of dress was a big issue. At first, it meant just big, bright colors. [Wearing] baggy pants, and not tight-rolling them, as was the style at the time, things like that. I wore my hair differently. I always wanted attention, and did things which most of the time were meant to get under people's skin. I recited rap lyrics in the hall at the top of my lungs; I used ghetto slang. It was crazy. I don't even think anyone noticed the first time I wore black nail polish. I wore eyeliner. I think I was the first guy from my generation to wear makeup to that school. The makeup got more flamboyant, and so did the taunts. Everything from "faggot" to "demon worshipper" to "retard."

The InSite: How did the teasing make you feel, inside?

Fred: I felt worthless and unwanted if I was ever around people other than the few friends I had.

Leslie: It bothered me to see how ignorant people were. I learned to ignore the taunts and just be myself, after a while it just got annoying.

Holly: [It made me feel] really horrible. Who likes to be made fun of? I wanted to kill them all.

Andy: At first, when I was younger, it always tore me down. I didn't realize the full extent of what I was doing—that with being different comes a LOT of responsibility. Most people who tend to stray from the status quo don't realize that they're not all-powerful. Their feelings will be targeted. And ultimately, they will get hurt. Once they started expecting all that from me, it became welcoming, since everyone knows I'm a pretty nice guy. It's really neat how many people use me as a model to base decisions on.

I didn't realize the full extent of what I was doing—
that with being different comes a LOT of responsibility.

The InSite: How did you handle the teasing publicly?

Fred: I didn't really care. My opinion was "What do they know about me?" It affected me a lot, I think, but I tried to not let it get to me and developed this "F*** the world" attitude. I generally ignored it, but on a few occasions I lost my temper and put a few people into the hospital.

The InSite: Fred, do you have an anger problem?

Fred: I think I have my problem mostly under control now. Thanks to a messed up childhood, I had a really, REALLY bad problem controlling my temper. I would blow up at the slightest thing and put [the person who was giving me a hard time] in the hospital if 6 [other] people couldn't hold me back without getting messed up as well.

The InSite: How did the rest of you publicly handle the teasing?

Leslie: I just ignored them and acted like they weren't there. It didn't really bother me, so in a way I handled it well. It did not bother me enough to be upset about it privately. I guess at the beginning of the year I got upset about it. I realized they were not going to stop, so I learned quickly to live with it.

I just ignored them and acted like they weren't there.

Holly: I didn't [handle it publicly]. I never said anything to anyone. I'm really shy. I just take it. I always take it. I never really cared. If I cried it was because of my family, not school. I could get through it. Sometimes I get pissy, but I'm so used to it now.

Andrew: Well, always being a showman, I just lived it up. People would mock me, and I'd mock them back. No big deal, really. They always have a knack of thinking they're better off than you are, though that's SO totally not true. It still kind of hurts when people I knew as a kid, as friends, pick on me, thinking they know what I'm all about. I used to cry at night about this all, wondering if it was all worth it.

The InSite: What did you think about the people who teased/tease you, were you bitter towards them?

Holly: I don't like them at all, but I don't say anything.

Andrew: [I was] extremely bitter. But I think that I take more pride and get more happiness from the fact that by simply existing, and going about my days as I normally would, the people who dislike me and tease me are driven completely insane. I drive them completely nuts simply by living, through no effort of my own. I think that's one of the biggest rewards possible.

[I was] extremely bitter.

The InSite: Most of you are talking about the teasing in the past tense. Like it's a thing of the past. If that's true for you, what did you do to make it stop?

Holly: It never really stopped. It's not as bad as it was in middle school, but [high school] is not "fun" either.

Leslie: [In my case] it stopped on its own. Mostly the freshmen teased me but after they saw more and more of the other "freaks" they didn't say as much to me.

Andrew: Absolutely nothing. I know for me, it just kind of faded away. People in my city are easily distracted—they've got drugs to do or drinking or something somewhere. So they can't spend all their time picking on me, you know? The teasing sort of faded off, and the ones who dug what I was into kept talking to me, and the rest just leave me alone.

Fred: I ended up dropping out of high school because I couldn't learn anything with people making fun of me and fooling around in class all the time. Now I still get bugged and insulted about the way I dress, but PVC, fishnet and spiked leather collars are a far cry from my ancient attempts at social conformity by wearing baggy rapper jeans and the like.

The InSite: Fred, did you ever finish your education?

Fred: I'm currently trying to with Adult Ed. It's easier to learn there than in high school itself because people are actually trying to learn and realizing that they shouldn't have spent all their time joking and fooling around. There's a lot more maturity from 16 year olds here, than there is from most 17 year old high school students.

The InSite: Did any of you ever try to talk to the people who were teasing you and get them to see your point of view?

Leslie: The kids at my school... don't care about [others'] points of view and what not. They [tease others] cause... it attracts attention to themselves. Like "Hey look at me, I can be mean and immature, watch me make fun of this 'freak'!" They think that you [have to] dress the way they do or you're "out."

The kids at my school...don't care about [others'] points of view...
They [tease others] cause...it attracts attention to themselves.

The InSite: What support did you get from friends, family, teachers?

Fred: My friends got the same treatment as me, so we generally just stuck together. Teachers did nothing and family was also trying to get me to do things their way. It was a losing battle from most angles.

Leslie: I got no support whatsoever from my family. My little brother would call me freak and other names, while my dad would yell at me day and night to stop wearing the black. My teachers don't care about their students and my friends were being teased a little too so we just hung out and ignored people together. One of my closest friends got teased also, she handled it differently but we both worked off each other and we were just like "forget them!" and got over it.

Holly: Everyone gets made fun of at sometime in their life. Me and my friends just laugh it off, really. They got teased also, so we just ignored it together, really, but we never talked about it.

Andrew: My family helped me out a lot. Sometimes my mom picks out a new hair color, or nail polish for me, and my aunt, who just moved out, will pick me up some new jewelry or makeup, or something—it's nice to know that your family loves you for who you are, and for what you're like.

The InSite: Andrew, has being different made you a better person?

Andrew: I don't know if it made me a better person as far as anyone else is concerned. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It takes a lot for someone to learn this, because it's always in a situation where you want to be accepted—but these people, these degrading people that just live for making people miserable, and making them feel shameful? They're not worth it. Once you can realize and accept that, you're home free...

The InSite: What advice would you give to others in this situation?

Fred: Be true to yourself. Don't conform to what others want you to, EVER. If you are a guy and want to wear women's clothing, it's your choice. If you're gay or bisexual, it affects no one but yourself. Don't be afraid of who or what you truly are or you'll go nowhere in life and fail at all you do.

Be true to yourself. Don't conform to what others want you to, EVER.

Leslie: Just ignore them. I mean if they have nothing better to do with their time than tease someone, ignoring them just shows that you're the better person [who's not going to go there].

Holly: Don't let it bother you. Find something good about yourself. Everyone is special. Now if I could just listen to that one...

Andrew: I'm a lucky one—the teasing and taunting faded off for me. But for a lot of 'freaks' like me, it won't. Some come from such small towns that they're the town's entertainment. They might never be left alone. It's a hard fact to face, but it's true. I guess you just always have to realize that there is life beyond the taunts.

I'm a lucky one—the teasing and taunting faded off for me. But for a lot of 'freaks' like me, it won't... I guess you just always have to realize that there is life beyond the taunts.

 

If you've learned something from teasing others or being teased, please write to us and we'll post it at The InSite. Send an e-mail to .

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