Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaps & Bounds: The Truth About Bullies (from a Non-Parent)

Happy Leap Year Kiddos. Hope you enjoy this fantastic extra day of 2012!

This year bullying has continued to be a focal point among parents, media outlets, schools and general population folks like myself, and therefore I believe it is virtually impossible not to have an opinion on the matter. It is everywhere- we are told of the dangers of bullying constantly during news programs and popular television shows, in fact, I don't think anyone can say that they do not know someone who is being or has been bullied or is or has been a bully. It is an ongoing, common problem which has been brought to the forefront of public concern recently. Thus, of course, I have an opinion. Several in fact, and I look at this in a variety of ways.

1. Being Bullied.   As a young girl I was bullied, regularly. This became worse when I moved (in fifth grade) to a new school district. I was smaller in stature than most of my classmates, was (VERY) late in maturing and was slightly younger than most of my age group. Moving to a new school was hard. I was constantly harassed in the neighborhood by "popular" boys who tormented me on a daily basis with unrealistically mean comments, inappropriate contact and horrible nicknames. And, teenage girls are even worse. Those I called my friends would suddenly turn their backs on me, ridicule me in groups and force me to spend many "breaks" crying in the girls restroom. And, the abuse I had to endure on the school bus was unbearable. I distinctly remember one instance when a girl who regularly bullied me shoved me against the window and screamed in my face. I still have no idea what that was about. Being a child in this situations is very difficult. Having to deal with this on a constant basis, the fear, the rejection and the self-hating that results from this is far too much for a young developing mind to handle. It is horrible and as a young teenager, I felt alienated, "no one understood me" and I hated my existence.

But as an adult I have realized that all of that was a part of my growing up. Almost everyone I know now has had a similar experience. And, I highly doubt that my "bullies" even really knew (or remember) that they were my bullies. In fact, the two I mentioned above, are both my Facebook friends whose postings I review regularly and who I greatly respect for becoming successful, talented adults. Having long since "forgiven" them of any wrong doing as a result of the fact that bullying is just a part of life.

....Ah, but the Television chimes in-- Teenage Suicide has increased, Bullying is a larger problem now than when you were a child....

2. Teenage Suicide. Here's the thing that no one wants to hear about, Teenage Suicide has been happening since the history of teenagers. As a 30-something adult, I guarantee when you were in high school, you heard about someone committing suicide, or you threatened to do so. Teenagers are dealing with a vast amount of new emotions that they cannot control yet-- as a result some reach this terrible point. I dont believe bullying itself has led to an increase in suicides. The problem is not teens, its technology.

3. The Technology "Advantage" The difference between when I was bullied and now, is that once I got off the bus, it was over for that day. My nicknames would spread around the school slowly- where as now, with the advent of technology such as Facebook, Twitter and texting, our technology allows our bullies to CONSTANTLY attack, and in a public forum no less. While I am all for the advance of technology- maybe we should consider the results of our actions here. It's not the bullies that have changed, it's the format in which they operate. As we become a society more and more focused on pretend relationships, in which we convince ourselves that we are more connected when in reality we are more separated, (don't believe me? right now, we are "connected" as you read this, but in reality, you are alone on your computer just as I was alone when I typed this) our children will become more advanced in this form of communication-- inevitably some bad things will come with it, like pornography and general meanness.

4. The School is Responsible Seriously? In speaking with my mother, a public school teacher in the state of Ohio, she mentioned that recently it has been declared that the school district is responsible for any bullying that takes place OUTSIDE of school to one of their students. I cannot wrap my mind around this one. How can the school be responsible? What can they do? While I agree that the school should be aware of bullying that is taking place inside the school during school hours, I do not grasp how they can possibly be aware of every instance of bullying outside of school and what they could possibly do about it. It is not the School who should be responsible. (I feel like I say this about a lot of things) IT'S THE PARENTS!

And let me tell you, parents-- those of you who are actually DOING SOMETHING for your child regarding bullying, I stand behind you and respect your ability to make the best decisions for your child, his or her life and well-being. The problem is not with those who are standing up and doing something, the problem (as usual) is the massive amounts of parents who do nothing. They don't teach their children how to properly deal with being bullied, or how to treat others so that they do not become the bully. As a former school administrator, I have to say, the number one problem is the parents, either they do not listen, do not care or do not take any action- insisting that the school should be responsible. -- give me a break.

5. Prime Time Television Please give me back my Glee and my New Girl free of bullying episodes. I get that it is a hot topic right now, but for the love of everything holy, continually making episodes about the topic further perpetuates the problem. Either kids prone to be bullies see the "bad" kids on television and think it's cool to do so, and end up involved in some school shooting, or they over analyze themselves, begin to think of themselves as monsters and end up in some school shooting, or the bullied kids believe their lives are so horrible that they end up in some school shooting or suicide. Enough is enough- plus my selfish side misses watching hilarious and fun television. This bully topic is getting old and depressing.

I just think that we ALL should be focused on promoting positive self awareness in our children. There is enough out there in the world to screw them up in a plethora of ways. Let's back off this bullying craze, focus on teaching our children how to communicate with others, have a positive self image and be strong enough in the face of adversity to stand up for themselves. -- basically, I think it's the responsibility of the ADULTS in this scenario to get it together, stop being so sensitive, stop shifting the blame and give our children the tools to survive this crazy world.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Midnight in Paris

I finally got around to watching Midnight in Paris. Why I didn't do it sooner, I don't know. It was fantastic-- but this could be my personal bias towards: Owen Wilson, Paris, the concept of living in an earlier time period and well known authors/artists.

So let's start with the first, Owen Wilson. Why do I have a personal bias towards him-- simple. Bottle Rocket. The 1996 Wes Anderson film starring Owen as Dignon. Dignon's character is perfect. Wilson's brother Luke is also in this film, and as a result I also have a strong bias towards him as well. But my love of the Wilson brothers has continued for many years-- largely in part to my corresponding love of Wes Anderson. (meanwhile, if you have somehow been living completely unconnected with reality for several years and have missed ANY of the Wes Anderson films-- please remedy that very serious problem immediately). As my love for Owen's characters has grown, it is no real surprise that Midnight in Paris is high on the list of likes.

Secondly, let's review this situation with Paris. I went there once-- a long time ago. There are two places in the world that I have visited thus far in which I was left with such a distinct, lasting impression that I will forever hold these places in my heart. One was Paris, the other Chicago-- where I now live. There is something about both of these cities that captured my heart immediately. The architecture, the history and the abundance of art, and the artistic, intellectual lifestyle wooed me from the moment I set foot in either city. Paris- the home of the Louvre- arguably the most famous and most impressive collection of art in the world. How could I not love Paris-- historically the epicenter of literature, art and political intellectual free-thinkers for decades. Each time I think of Paris I see myself in an earlier time, short hair, black turtleneck (yes, I realize that could be today) with a cigarette in one hand (it's the 40's-50's smoking isn't dangerous yet), at a coffee shop debating the finer points of some underground group or novel. Of course I don't live in these times, but rather consider them a moment in which life held a certain validity that we just don't have (especially in America) any longer-- but that brings me to the point of Midnight in Paris.

Throughout the film, Wilson's character is struck by the concept of living in Paris in the 1920's, the romantic view that life in another, past time period is somehow better. He is transported through time to the 1920's and beyond, finally living in a time he identifies with. Of course the moral of the story is that every intellectual artist of any time feels this way and as such we must all realize that each time in which we live is precious, it's just difficult to recognize it, especially when as artists we are all caught up in the past, reading and studying the past writers, and artists.

Thus, the final bias. Well known authors and artists. Look, you throw F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso in a film-- I'm probably going to like it, if for nothing other than the mention of their names. But also manage to throw in their personalities and quotes AND add Dali, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker and Matisse-- and you've got my attention.

Overall, it's a great one. Loved it. And, check out what others have to say:

NY Times-- a historical view

 The Atlantic-- a cultural cheat sheet

Let's face it, this film had everything I would fall for going for it. Plus, the added bonus of figuring out that even though I am a literature masters candidate at the prestigious Northwestern University, I am not overly pedantic. --Whew!
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