Vampires get bullied too.
(An honestly serious blog post by Erica Kiefer.)
In seventh grade, there was a boy (who I will call Drew) with a locker positioned just above mine. Anytime we approached our lockers at the same time, Drew would step aside with a dramatic bow and a wave of one arm to signify, “Please, after you!” For reasons unknown, Drew seemed to enjoy speaking with 19th century British formality, using an artificial accent and vocabulary that most thirteen-year-olds couldn’t connect with. Drew was also the kind of kid who dressed like a vampire to the Halloween dance and held out his cape as he danced in a circle. In short, Drew wasn’t the kind of kid winning the coveted popularity points in middle school. Kids teased him but he almost seemed to enjoy the attention, perhaps because at least people were talking to him.
Our polite interactions escalated the night of the aforementioned Halloween dance. “Vampire Drew” attempted to slow dance with me a couple of times but, too embarrassed and prideful, I dodged him with excuses. His persistence continued, and I eventually conceded, finding myself on the dance floor next to the stage where the big eighth graders convened. Half-way into the song, two girls jumped down from the stage and pushed us together, mocking with, “Come on, you guys should be closer together!” Mortified and angry, I ran out of the dance. Eventually, feeling embarrassed but also like a jerk for running off, I went back inside. Drew immediately found me and asked me to dance again, but this time, I politely declined and he apologized and walked off. I was still feeling horrible inside when in the next minute, I heard over the speakers, “This next song is dedicated to Drew and Erica!”
My jaw dropped, and then Drew, the dedicating culprit, returned to my side with a huge grin on his face. Mortified, and with a confused and shocked audience of adolescents staring at me, I stepped onto the dance floor and gingerly placed my hands on Drew’s shoulders. I stared at the floor. Sympathetic hands patted me on the back, while others whispered, “Are you guys together??”
That was the last time I danced with Drew or even spoke to him. Any quiet compassion I’d felt for him for being the school nerd went out the window once my own reputation became at stake. I have never felt proud of my feelings from that Halloween dance and the resentment that followed. While I never actively participated in the bullying Drew received throughout the school year, I also never stepped in to stop it either. I let my own fear of vulnerability prevent me from doing what I knew was right.
When we, as kids or adults, stand by and allow bullying to happen, we empower bullies to continue their cruelty. If no one steps in, that is a passive act of acceptance, even if we do not agree with it. I wish I could step back and talk to my seventh-grade self, who was in the throes of seeking popularity and figuring out my identity. I would tell myself to have confidence in kindness and not to underestimate the influence that a compassionate person can have on others. It might take more than one person to make a change, but that change can develop from the actions and attitude of just one.
About ERICA KIEFER:
Erica Kiefer was born on Christmas Eve in Southern California to an American father whose ancestors arrived from Europe during colonial times and a Thai mother who moved to the US during high school. Adding to her rich and varied heritage, Erica grew up living abroad in Asia, including Taiwan, Fiji, Thailand and Indonesia. She gained a great respect for the beautiful mosaic of cultures found in various parts of the world. After graduating from International School Bangkok, she attended Brigham Young University in Utah, where she earned a degree in Recreation Therapy. Her career as a Recreation Therapist has allowed her to work with at-risk youth since 2007.
Erica made the best decision of her life by marrying her husband in 2005 and is currently a mother of three, one of whom awaits her in heaven. Erica also loves singing, reading, writing and satisfying her sweet-tooth with chocolate-chip cookies. Playing collegiate rugby was one of the most memorable experiences of her life, thus far.
Erica’s first book, Lingering Echoes, was signed by Clean Teen Publishing in 2013.
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