Posted by: laughs4dads | June 25, 2010

Ode to Biff Tannen

There’s a lot being written these days about bullying, as if it’s a new phenomenon. Do a quick search, and you’ll find tons of articles that will tell you how to know if your kid is being bullied, or how to know if your kid is a bully, or how to cook a chicken with a beer can up its ass. The last one may seem unrelated, but a kid being bullied can imagine all sorts of horrible fates; getting a Bud butt may be one of them.

When I was around 10, I was terrorized by a kid named Marc Kravitz. He was about eight feet tall and had just one gleaming red eye in the center of his forehead. At least that’s how it seemed to me. I can’t remember if he ever actually did anything to me, but I do remember taking very circuitous routes home from school, just to avoid him. I may have once gone home via New Jersey.

Of course, back then, we had classic bullies like Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. They were not likely to be armed with anything more serious than a well-developed sneer and the willingness to deliver wedgies at the slightest provocation. Now they have knives and guns and probably waterboarding set-ups in their basements.

Back then, the cure for being bullied was Charles Atlas. If you’re of a certain age, you remember his ads in comic books, with the skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face by the bully, who would then abscond with the skinny guy’s pretty girlfriend. The headlines were along the lines of “How an insult made a man out of Mac.” I was always more interested in knowing how Mac got the pretty girlfriend in the first place, but the point was that Mr. Atlas would make a new man out of you in just 15 minutes a day if you just sent in the coupon.

Now there are more sophisticated ways to deal with bullies. For instance, studies have shown that bullies will leave you alone if you look them right in the eyes. The studies, however, neglect to tell us how to do this if you’re 3′ 8″ and the bully’s five feet tall. The only time you can look that bully in the eyes is when you’re on your back and the bully is sitting on your chest.

Here’s a better idea: if you think your kid is being bullied, get him one of those GPS locator chips. It’s not for your child; it’s for the bully. Next time your child is accosted, while he’s being pummeled, have him slip the chip onto the bully’s person where it won’t be detected. Thereafter, your child will know where the bully is at all times, so he can take the least round-about routes to avoid him. Now that would be helpful.

I’ve been talking about boys, but thanks to the movie Mean Girls, we now know that bullying applies to girls, too, especially ones that go to school with Lindsay Lohan. With girls, though, bullying more closely resembles psychological warfare. It even has a psychological name: relational aggression. This is when the victim is terrorized not by physical violence, but by rumor, gossip and innuendo, as if the victim is a Democrat and the bullies are Fox News. Whereas boys use their fists, girls use Facebook. Girl bullies also make fun of their victims’ clothing whereas all boys at that age will wear the same clothing seven days in a row so it’s less of an object of ridicule.

My daughter, Casey, went through a tough period in fourth and fifth grades. This one girl kept bullying her until she confronted her tormentor by bringing Sylvester Stallone to school with her. Sly really told the other girl off. No one understood what he said, but they were laughing so hard, they became good friends.

No wait…that didn’t happen. Casey actually confronted her bully in a much simpler, and more articulate way. She just asked the girl why she was picking on her. It turned out that the bully felt that Casey had slighted her a year earlier. I’m pretty sure that kind of misunderstanding is what’s causing all the trouble in the Middle East, too.

Anyway, recently I received an invitation to my 40th high school reunion. Maybe I’ll go. If Marc Kravitz isn’t going to be there.

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