Withering Glance: Don't be cruel

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2012 - 1:41 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

CP: Bullying is said to be an epidemic. But is it really much worse than when we were young and effeminate?

RN: You mean, worse than you are being to me at this very moment?

CP: Hey, I said "we," not "you." Although I recall that even by seventh grade you were something of a musical-theater nut.

RN: I have the well-worn "Funny Girl" album to prove it. Which probably explains why, when I asked a jock named Mike to sign my yearbook, he wrote, "To a real fag." Which, of course, meant that I couldn't show my copy of the "Nicollet Nova" to another soul.

CP: Heartless. At least, he didn't whack you with it. Or you him.

RN: That's bright-siding it. But still, I wonder why someone like Mike -- I won't mention his very distinctive last name, but, of course, it is seared into my memory, 39 years later -- went out of his way to be so cruel.

CP: Don't get me wrong, bullying is wrong. Schools should kick and punch it into oblivion. But I must say that while I was a classic bully's target, I also had it in me to be a real meanie to those few classmates below me on the social ladder.

RN: Ask my very sweet younger brother about what a jerk I was to him, only because I was older, and I could.

CP: My sister's kids often ask me, "Uncle Claude, why were you so mean to our mom?" I don't have a good answer -- not "she deserved it," not "I'm a terrible person."

RN: Knowing Emily as I do, I'd have to go with "You're a terrible person." My magnificent partner was taunted every day of high school. As an adult, he's outpaced his loser tormentors on every measurable scale, by a mile. For him, it truly did get better, especially the whole living-well-is-the-best-revenge part.

CP: Is there any truth to the notion, voiced by some parents of bullies, and even the odd school principal, that bullying toughens us up for life's injustices?

RN: That's their pathetic justification, certainly. I suppose in some cases it might build resolve, yes. But it sure doesn't explain the suicides. Are there any particularly dreadful junior-high episodes that made you the out and proud man you are today?

CP: My front tooth was chipped when someone brought it into sudden contact with a drinking fountain. And when I showed up one day in a chic pair of wide-hemmed plaid bellbottoms, some poorly dressed knucklehead body-slammed me into a locker. I consider the latter indignity the price one pays for being fashionable. Once elected student body vice president, I was able to order beheadings for all my tormentors.

RN: Ah, the benefits of political power. On that note -- and not to sound too much like "Merry Christmas!" -- here's wishing you and yours a Happy Pride!

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