Bully for Me, Part 2

13 Jan

Even all bad things must come to an end sometime, and after an excruciating eternity, The Evil Santa finally retired. I had outlasted him. The swelling on my tongue subsided after a while and I looked forward to my new-found emancipation. Such liberty was cut short, oddly enough, by what seemed an amazing opportunity to move to Hawaii. A friend and colleague who was retiring from DoDDS needed a partner to buy a house on the Big Island. Though I was not ready for retirement, after six years in the cold, overcast Eifel, I was ready for the promised good weather; I agreed. What could go wrong?
To this day, I really can’t say what went wrong, but wrong it went, and it wasn’t long before I was back to chewing my tongue. My colleague, seemingly a stable person prior to the move, became a raving harpy, railing about first one thing and then another in her new environment, our supposed Paradise. Nothing was good enough, whether it was the noisy neighbors, the lazy lifestyle, my own audacious presence (it was half my property…), or even the aforementioned balmy breezes. If I ever had the temerity to respond in any way but the affirmative, her ill-temper erupted like Mt. Kilauea just ten miles from the house. New friends asked if she was crazy; old ones confided she’d always been a bully. I could just shake my head at her baffling change of character—and bite my tongue. It was easier to return to my self-destructive behavior than threaten her black moods. In the end, and to make this long story somewhat shorter, I was forced to leave the islands entirely, though she expected me to continue making equal payments on the property she would enjoy alone.
The inequity of the situation began to grow in my consciousness until I could no longer hold back my incredulity. After months of “mumness,” my sense of justice refused to continue taking it on the chin—or the tongue, as it were—any longer, and I erupted back. Daring to tell her what I thought, of course, resulted in the largest eruption the islands have probably witnessed, and the ramifications were not pretty. The ashes from her seismic explosion are still raining down, even so far inland as Oklahoma.
But it is an ill wind indeed that blows only volcanic ash. After releasing my pent-up grievances, an air of relief settled around me, and to my grateful surprise, my teeth finally released my tongue from where it had been imprisoned for many, many months. I had found my tongue and stood up for myself and my rights, and my justified defiance had set me free.
I have come to realize bullies come in all shapes and ages and mark their territory anywhere in the world they are allowed to take over. Don’t let outward appearances bamboozle; bullies are not just the bigger boys or meaner girls: anyone from debutantes to old ladies can push their advantage to the detriment of others. And those “others” aren’t just cowering wall flowers: even well-educated, middle-aged, plucky women like me can be victims of their abuse—if we let them. We can’t let them, no matter how cowardly but effectively they crouch behind their ill-earned barricades. It’s their being placated and appeased that has allowed them their reigns of terror into the workplace and community, even beyond the age of retirement.
Bullying—classroom, cyber, corporate, congressional—wherever it rears its ugly head, it must be addressed head-on. Not only are children and teenagers scarred for life, many of them suicidal (the ubiquitous reports are rampant), ordinary undeserving adults are restricted from their inalienable rights by these self-appointed tyrants who have not been stopped early on. Better late than never. In the rational words of the inimitable Sugar Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” And now that my tongue is free, I can quote the even more inimitable Dr. King: “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last!”
Seems like an appropriate thing to say this close to MLK Day. It’s my Emancipation Proclamation, and I am glad I have the tongue to proclaim it.

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