Dallas, TX –
While the subject's now a major issue, bullying has been a longtime problem. Commentator Rawlins Gilliland looks back at how he learned to cope with bullying over the years.
Hearing today's stories about young targets of ruthless bullies, we encourage the abused to believe,"it gets better." Although there's little gain without pain combating those more powerful than we who seek to do us harm, as a childhood survivalist, I imagined alternative ways to fight malicious fire with inventive ire.
About the time I suffered sinister assaults for not being a prototype heterosexual jock, my artist parents were celebrating the pithy quotes of Dorothy Parker, an author famous for sardonic salvos. Meanwhile, my favorite book was Rudyard Kipling's story about the fearless mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Somehow I connected those disparate literary dots and, in doing so, vowed: rather than be the predictable victim of venomous classmate cobras, I should emulate both the caustic writer and the cunning mongoose; combining quick-wits with a killer instinct. And that brawn vs. brain trust fund has paid a lifetime of dividends.
Inspired by Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, I became patient and clever outwitting those happy to reduce me to suicidal submission. Going out for cheerleader, I was tipped off that, when I yelled, "Give me the orange" (our school colors), the mouth-breathers were planning to pelt me with fruit. So, screaming, "Give me the orange", instead of being splattered, I did a Russian spread-eagle jump, touching my toes in mid air above any hurled produce and won handsomely. "First and ten, do it again!"
Side stepping school-age sociopaths was handy training for the workplace after a co-worker stole my winning contest entries for new business ideas. Twice she looted the five thousand dollar prize to become my manager. So when this northern transplant commanded I select the ultimate gift' for the christening of her Texan boss's newborn, how could I not send our beloved Lone Star "tradition": a massive beef brisket wrapped in a Texas flag to remain frozen until barbecued for the child's first communion. It was refreshing that she credited me in her exit interview for what was described as that "slab of beef incident."
Bullies or bores can become indistinguishable to an aging mongoose. An uninvited guest at my backyard party expressed drunken concern over "monster mosquitoes" in my "putrid ponds." After I graciously spritzed his vulnerable limbs with what I billed as "an organic repellant" otherwise called pure garlic juice, Pepe Le Pew bid Adieu.
Yes, Dorothy Parker and Rudyard Kipling showed me how a mongoose tongue is mightier than any cobra's sword. Yet ignorance remains the endangered bigot's bliss. Witness a recent incident where a big game homophobe sought to put me in his trophy case at a caf society safari. When he inexplicably flipped a mocking wrist, slurring to the crowd: "Rawlins' kind bores easily if something's not pretty", I politely smiled, "Oh sir, your kind just makes it easy for it to look that way."
Now, kids, that's how the verbal mongoose says, "Touche."
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.
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