Learning to conform

I noted last week that it’s really quite all right to be different. Then again, I am sixty-four years old. It’s harder to reach that conclusion if you’re fifty years younger than that:

One form of bullying — one form I experienced a lot as a kid — is for people to find something about you that is DIFFERENT, and to harp on that difference. And it gets to the point where even if you liked being different in that way at the outset, you come to hate it, because the fact that you don’t fit in, that this other person sees you as weird, is being shoved in your face day in and day out. Few adults are strong enough to stand up to that, and even fewer kids.

(I will present as an exhibit: how in 7th grade I forced myself to listen to “top 40 radio” even though I hated it, because I felt like I needed to know what songs and artists were popular, and I knew that the kids thought I was weird because I listened to WCLV instead, and that I liked classical music. Yeah, I did something I hated in the name of seeming more “normal.” Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.)

I had my own issues in seventh grade, one of which was still being nine years old at the beginning of the first semester. I did not take it well. And being so far chronologically offset from the rest of the class, I didn’t quite fit in with the Scarifyingly Heterosexual school activities, which led some to murmur that I might be happier with the boys. Not them, of course. It is a measure of how bad off I was socially that I didn’t realize what they were saying until several years later.

Plato probably didn’t actually say “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” but the statement is still a good and a true one. And it seems that as the world becomes harder and colder (or appears to have), more and more people are forgetting to be kind — or are deciding not to, in the interest of getting ahead/getting someone to notice them/throwing a punch before someone throws it at THEM … and, it just doesn’t HELP.

This latter paragraph is about fifty-five percent of Twitter, and about eighty-five percent of political Twitter.


  1. McGehee »

    13 December 2017 · 3:01 pm

    Well, I got through it without my individuality being puréed, but I’m well aware that any advice I might offer based on my own experience isn’t going to apply to anybody else.

    I didn’t get pushed ahead in school, other than temporarily in certain subjects, and I didn’t like it and I let my parents know it. For some reason I can’t explain, they heeded. I think I just wasn’t going to fit in regardless, so letting me prefer the less aggravating routine made more sense to them.

  2. Lorna »

    13 December 2017 · 4:22 pm

    So happy I can read your blog again, Charles! It’s been a blank white screen for me for weeks. Now it loads! Sorry you were bullied as a child. Being different is what makes us unique and I think that’s a good thing. I’m very different and even though people make fun of my knees or other parts of my body, but I’m ok with it as it’s not something I can change. It would be so boring if we all were the same wouldn’t it?

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  3. CGHill »

    13 December 2017 · 5:37 pm

    I really didn’t see it as bullying in the classic sense, merely annoying. Then again, I was young and unlearned in these matters, and I prided myself on being to take care of myself. Fortunately, no one threw a punch at me.

    Also fortunately, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had not yet concocted “Punchbag,” the definitive song about being bullied in school.


    (It’s from their 1978 album L, which was not a hit.)

  4. ETat »

    15 December 2017 · 7:03 am

    In other news you were nine when all your classmates were 14. How did you manage that? Or is that a metaphor [again]?
    See how I am not fitting in in this here circle of the Mutually Understanding?

  5. CGHill »

    15 December 2017 · 7:52 am

    Actually, more of them were 12 and 13 at the time. And ten would arrive for me, though not soon enough.

  6. ETat »

    16 December 2017 · 7:27 am

    Rolling back years: so old were you at 1st grade – 2? or you’re one of those unfortunate kids whose parents believed in prodigies and made you hop three years in one? Why then, they stopped at your 10yo?

    It is seriously funny for an immigrant to observe all the wailing of the so called “misfits”…when they are native to this land and culture.

  7. CGHill »

    17 December 2017 · 3:18 pm

    I was six years and ten months at the start of first grade, and nine years and ten months at the start of seventh.

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