Hope everyone’s having a good weekend! It’s half past 5 in the morning here this Sunday and I’m still struggling with sleep so I thought why not write a post that I’ve been thinking about?
Let me share a secret with you.
I used to be bullied in school. Yes, really, ME. I was picked on because I wasn’t Chinese and also because I wasn’t Southern Indian. The majority of the early Indian immigrants to Singapore were from the South, I come from the North. The North is well, where Bollywood is..to help you understand. I didn’t speak Tamil, the native language of the South..nor was I Chinese – the majority population of the island – so I was looked at with suspicion and some anger. Why anger? It’s a long story that I will not bore you with. Let’s just say that the Northerners and Southerners regard each other warily. Hindi is India’s national language, which is what I speak. Fortunately for me, my Malay counterparts adore everything Bollywood so we got on just fine. But yeah, I was a ‘misfit’ even though I was born here. A few Indian kids would throw sharp stones at me and I would run home to mom, who urged me to stand up for myself. But standing up for myself was not in my nature then. I was a quiet, self-sufficient, peace loving daydreamer.
Fortunately, those bullies tired of me.
Unfortunately, I had a bigger bully to deal with. A school teacher.
Now I really don’t know what my awkward, perennially dazed 7 year old self could have done to cause such a stir of anger from her, but she really had it in for me. I would be brought to the front of the class and be beaten with metal rulers and there was a wooden cane once too. I remember being very confused over why my bad penmanship made her so angry. Soon enough, my mother noticed dark bruises on my hands that did not seem to get lighter with time. She asked me if someone had been rough with me in school. I sheepishly denied it and attributed it to my clumsiness. She was suspicious of course, because I never fibbed. I decided to tell her the truth a short while later and I remember this whole hoop la in school..with my parents, the teacher and the school principal. Basically, the teacher called me a liar and the principal was trying to save his ass so he backed her up. Fortunately, I had naively honest classmates who confided in my mom that the teacher had in fact been beating me. It was all quite scary. The teacher took me aside one day and said “I’ll be watching you”, and I didn’t know what that meant! I made excuses not to attend school but after getting assigned to a new class, my mind moved on to present happenings.
As I grew older, I developed myopia and was required to wear glasses. Then the appetite inducing pills happened so I gained a fair bit of weight. This time I was bullied by my peers for being a ‘specky’ who was not quite tardy with school work (that was because of the ADHD), I was picked on for excelling well in English (go figure), I was picked on for being bulky. But..something was changing in me. I was beginning to tire of the bullying, and I felt anger percolating it’s way up. I was a total tomboy and hung out with the boys then. I think I learnt a thing or two from them about being gutsy. I met my fellow gutsy girls later on as a teen. It is so true, how people can make such impact in our lives without them realising it. I have these boys and girls to thank for wisening me up.
Puberty struck, I turned 12 and it was time to enter a new phase of my life – Secondary school. Oh my goodness, I will never forget how I looked on my first day – hair pinned to the side neatly with god knows how many bobby pins, huge plastic glasses, blouse buttoned til the very top with the school tie strangling me. But then again, almost everyone starting out looked like a fool..look how far we have come..ahem, I think.
In secondary school, it was about popularity and boys boys boys. I had a crush on a new guy every other week.
I changed my appearance. Plastic glasses gone, cool metal glasses in. Hair no longer tucked away, but waving about freely. School socks shortened, skirt shortened, blouse tightened etc etc. I didn’t work my way into the popular girls club. I just remained true to who I was and the girls liked my honesty, sense of humor.
Race came into play once again.
I was regarded as competition by my Southern counterparts. I wasn’t Chinese. So I hung out with my Malay friends and Eurasian friends (fellow misfits). I didn’t care for the race politics. Unfortunately my size was picked on again..and again. I was too short, too jiggly and bouncy when running (seriously?), too forward with boys (ummm I just wasn’t scared of them that’s all, wasn’t looking to date every single guy), too smiley blablabla.
And of course I was still tardy in class, a total class chatterbox and comedienne. Ask anyone from my secondary school and that’s exactly how they’ll describe me.
Unfortunately with the troubles brewing at home, it spilled over in school. Bad juju methinks. The weight gain started at 16, and you know my weight battles so that’s that.
I remember the very day I snapped and stopped getting bullied by a girl in my class. She was hollering at me while I was playing basketball. I don’t know what possessed me but I saw RED and just smacked the basketball in her face. I also remember having to be pulled away by classmates during another altercation because I almost kicked a guy in the nuts. Then there was the time I slapped a guy so hard across his face due to his rudeness to me that he averted his gaze and avoided my way when he saw me. I’ve been told I have a very mean slap and an even meaner punch/kick.
I’m not proud of how I learnt to stand up to my bullies. I just wasn’t sure how else to handle them. And of course there was the day my father stopped hitting me. When he punched me in the face and my glasses lodged in my cheek, I was quiet until a drop of blood reflected on my disc player. Same thing again, I saw red. I literally saw red, like those bulls..I kid you not. I screeched some horrible vulgarities before taking the very chair I was sitting on (that was Really heavy by the way) and smashed it over his back. Followed by running to the kitchen, getting the largest knife I could find and chasing him across the flat. I can’t help but chuckle at that sight now. I was TIRED of the bullying.
I used my anger for years.
I would get physical with people that drove me mad because they were bullies. I punched, kicked, bit, spat. Rage is not pretty on anyone. I tried to diffuse all that anger within me. Running for miles, kickboxing and boxing for hours, practise yoga..but I would keep hearing insults hurled at me in my head.
On one hand, I thank anger for fuelling my passions. On the other, using reason to rein in those passions was really tough because that amount of anger was like a fire that was hard to contain. I kept my head down, stayed focused and dedicated to the goals at hand…but I was fighting a huge battle inside, kicking and screaming.
It took a very long time to learn to channel and compartmentalise that rage into useful ways for me to expel energy. I stopped reacting explosively at taunts. I started to think clearer and rationalise the anger.
Today, when I get insulted or fat shamed..I take it with a pinch of salt. Why? Because it isn’t worth it. Letting the bully know that you’re angry just goads them on. So I charm my way out of these uncomfortable situations with witty repartees, one liner comebacks, veiled mirth. The result – I have peace of mind. We need to learn to pick our battles wisely.
Some of you follow me on other social media sites – Instagram, my Facebook Page, Tumblr, and you have seen firsthand how I respond to fat shamers. I normally ignore them but occasionally I make an example out of the shamer. Firstly, I call the person out for shaming. I then post their insult with my subsequent comment. Why do I make an example of some of these ludicrous comments? Because women my age are STILL getting bullied and crying from it. Because the person at the other end of the screen doesn’t even think twice about saying something hurtful let alone feel bad about it, she/he might not have even put much thought into it. The people to whom this is addressed to..some of them take it hard. I have gotten flack for giving these bullies my time and words. I completely understand my friends’ or followers’ rationale. I appreciate their concern and I feel the love behind that concern.
My personal experiences have made me the way that I am today – quick to cut off a bully, blunt with people when I see wrong being done to another person/animal. I simply cannot tolerate seeing anyone being picked on. When I make an example out of a bully, I don’t pinpoint weaknesses or appearances because that is just stooping to the bully’s level.
Neither do I take a moral higher ground and look down on that person.
I regard it in a matter of fact manner, make my point and move on.
I’m sharing this because taking insults is something I am well acquainted with and I know that there are people out there who don’t know how to deal with such blind hate. So take it from me, a pinch of salt is as much attention these bullies need from you. Actually even a grain of salt will do!
This is a whole different ball game lol!
I have always been so lousy at receiving compliments. Whether it’s being said in person, via text message or blog comments. I get tongue tied, my ears feel hot and my face gets flushed.
We learn to deal with insults so much better than getting paid a compliment! There is something really wrong with this situation!
I normally reply to my instagram family with effusive thank you’s and hide behind happy looking emojis (thank you emojis, phew). If it was said in person, I’d be burying my head into the ground like an ostrich.
I am getting better with it though!
For the longest time, I just got so tongue tied that I would read a comment and silently mouth Thank You and give flying kisses instead of reply because I didn’t know what to say. I have since learnt that a simple Thank You is good enough. When I do not reply I worry if the other person assumes that I am stuck up! I always say thank people from the heart, and with a need to hug the other person from across the screen hahaha! I get misty-eyed at times, some comments are so touching. It feels to get these sort of comments. I am but a tiny ripple in this wide ocean of talent among the plus size fashionistas and body positive warriors. To be noticed at all, feels like a Huge deal. Everyday.
And I thank my dad for teaching me humility (Dad and I are on good terms now).
So I am learning to receive love.
Which essentially is what a compliment feels to me. I urge you to feel the same way too. There is nothing for you to be bashful or embarrassed. You special deserve that love. Accept it with grace.
Honestly, I want to hold so many of you and tell you now much beauty, intellect, talent, love I see within you. Consider my blog posts a means of doing just that.
Of course there are the snarky complimenters. Like “you’re pretty for a fat girl”. Giving compliment with an insult? Like, Hello? I am pretty. period. Just smile at the sheer ignorance of the person, say a silent curse and move on. Works like a charm for me.
I really wanted to do this post because I see the stark differences between girls when they get an insult thrown at them versus getting paid a compliment. It’s easy to focus on the negatives on work on correcting them. But we must not forget the goodness that life has to offer. It isn’t all anger, doom and gloom.
Chat soon my loveys
all my love, Aarti Olivia xxxo