Power and the powerless
At first Oronde liked how adolescence was changing him. He liked getting taller and hearing his voice deepen. "I felt like I was truly getting older and more responsible," he says.
But by age 14, he had gained a lot of weight. His bigger size gave his classmates something to pick on. They called him "fatty" and "two ton" and other nasty names. "For the first time in my life it was like no one liked me," Oronde says. "I was angry and lonely. I didn't want to go to school."
He tried to ignore the teasing. "I was the object of constant ridicule," Oronde says. Eventually, he lashed out, trying to take the spotlight off himself.
Oronde's reaction is typical of bullied kids. "They don't know what to do," says Dr. Eli Newberger a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston and author of The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character. "It's confusing. It's frightening. Protective hormones in the body cause you either to run or to get aggressive. Your first response is to not make things worse, but to shrink into yourself."
When Oronde couldn't make the bullying stop, he "ran" to new friends. They were "unsavory types," he says, but, with them, he felt safe. "They weren't teasing me, as long as I was doing the same things they were - running the streets, cutting school, drinking, smoking, whatever. They made me feel like an equal."
Oronde is an example of how a bullied kid can turn into the bully. "Guys, especially when they are becoming teens," says Dr. Newberger, "are tremendously sensitive to their standing among other kids. One way they advance is by intimidating others."
"Boys aren't told that it's not right to bully other kids," Dr. Newberger says.
Oronde's parents had tried to talk with him, but Oronde wouldn't listen. "They looked like the enemy trying to get me to the place I didn't want to be," he says.
He had to learn the hard way. His escape into the wrong crowd eventually made things worse. "It was causing nothing but stress and headaches at the house," he says. "Eventually I opened up to my mom. That was when things started to turn around."
With his parent's support, Oronde started to make better choices. He worked hard in school and found new real friends who supported his goals.
"I wish I'd opened up to my parents earlier. It would have saved them and me a lot of heartache," he says, "And I doubt I would have made some of the mistakes I made."
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