This is the first in a series about my son’s recent experience with bullying at school.
Sam has always been different, but this year he’s different in a new way. After being a skinny kid all his life, about a year ago Sam started gaining weight. So now, in addition to being the boy with long hair who doesn’t play sports, the third grader who loves opera and medieval architecture, the kid with celiac disease and sensory integration dysfunction and a sleep disorder, he’s also the fat kid. And this week, his peers let him know exactly how bad he should feel about himself.
Monday: Kyla, never an unkind word before, starts calling Sam “fat.”
Tuesday: Adam, until-now oblivious to Sam, says, “You’re fat,” and “You’re a girl.”
Wednesday: Jonah, who has never bothered Sam in the past, tells Sam he has “big boobs.” Jonah explains: “When you look in the mirror and see long hair, your brain gets confused and thinks you’re a girl, so you grew boobs.”
And there has always been Janette, mocking Sam’s gender expression since the first day of kindergarten. Last year she was joined by Joe; together they have taunted Sam about his long hair and weight for all of third grade. This week, their meanness escalated in intensity as the two of them snickered at Sam whenever they saw him.
But Sam’s been fat all year. He’s been gender-nonconforming since kindergarten. And most of these kids have never paid attention to him before. So what happened this week in the collective third grade consciousness?
Does it matter?