A writer spends forty years looking for his bully. Why?



The question for some of us isn’t “Why spend all that time tracking down a bully?” The question when it was happening was, “Why am I target?” The question now, for me at least, is, Will my bullies show any remorse? I admit, though, that it’s not a question I’m interested in getting answered. In the case of my worst tormentor it’s not even one that could be answered: he was killed in a motorcycle accident a few days before the end of the school year.

I do intermittently search for a kid from my Scout troop. He never bullied me—I was too big, and besides he preferred torturing small animals. He’d been abused, and was deeply disturbed. I search for him because I wonder if he ever got the help he needed, if he ever managed to avert the tragedy that seemed to be his destiny. I’d like to know that he, and those like him, are not beyond


I looked up my bully once. Happily married, gainfully employed, a pillar of the community. GODDAMMIT SO MUCH!


I wasn’t ever really bullied excessively at school (I was picked on a bit, but none of it was really bad) but there was one kid in my year who was obviously trouble (he’d have been top of everyone’s ‘most likely to end up in jail’ lists from a young age).

Last I heard of him was about 10 years ago when he got captured after 6 months on the run following escaping from prison in the middle of a sentence for armed robbery.

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I was bullied all through elementary school by one kid and his occasional cronies. It was stereotypical bullying: stealing my lunch, destroying my homework, tripping me in the halls, pushing me off things on the playground, punching me in the gut when nobody was looking. Teachers refused to intervene and scolded me for “being a tattletale”. It went on every day for years.

I looked him up recently and discovered that he’d been arrested repeatedly for theft, and had recently been sent to jail for ten years for aggravated bank robbery. It didn’t surprise me one bit.


Frasier: You know the expression, “Living well is the best revenge”?
Niles: It’s a wonderful expression. I just don’t know how true it is. You don’t see it turning up in a lot of opera plots. “Ludwig, maddened by the poisoning of his entire family, wreaks vengeance on Gunther in the third act by living well.”


While its not necessarily revenge for being bullied, and it was written by libertarian/objectivist nutbag Ayn Rand, I’ve always enjoyed the character Hank Rearden’s destruction of the shopkeeper who refuses to help Rearden after he’s been assaulted. It goes way, WAY beyond mean spirited, but for some reason that little piece really resonated with me. The rest of the story, not so much.

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Well, you know that’s what they always say about those mass murderers (until they find a backyard full of dead bodies…)

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Wait… wait… Wasn’t the shop keeper just being a good libertarian by not looking out for Rearden? Shouldn’t Rearden have gone back and thanked him for making him a stronger person instead of helping him and making him weak?


I’m curious to read this book when it comes out, partially to see if the author actually spent 40 years obsessively looking for a boy whose crime was squirting people with fountain pen ink.


Step 1: Make some kid’s life a living hell for no remotely good reason.

Step 2: Sleep like a goddamn baby.

Step 3: Act like your target is some kind of deviant freak for seeking some sort of closure or reasoning behind the incident.

I don’t actually believe in the special hell; but bullies would be first in line for tickets.


Schoolyard bullies grow up to be workplace bullies.


One of the guys who picked on me a lot in junior high school (almost 30 years ago) killed himself last year. I don’t know anything about what had been going on with him recently, and I can hardly take satisfaction in this tragedy that befell someone who had, by all accounts, grown into a perfectly decent person.

Still, it has me thinking about the idea of bullying as some kind of backwards-ordered revenge or class warfare. Now that I’m a grown-up, I realize that I have (and, even at age 12, had) every advantage in life. Were my bullies more perceptive than I was and recognized how this privilege would play out? Were they exacting some kind of advanced payback for the more-or-less-fantastic life that I’ve gone on to lead?


I feel the same way. The bullying I endured was a very limited interval in an otherwise wonderful and lucky life, whereas the track the bullies were on probably ensured that that very same interval (and maybe a few years after) was the peak for them.

At least I hope so. But I wouldn’t look up any bullies from my past for the fear that they would be living happy lives. Maybe I’m petty but I much prefer not knowing and assuming they’re miserable, or in jail, or dead. Makes me sleep better.


The bullies I knew as a kid were often more well off than I was or from the same neighborhood, with no advantage in class or privilege (at least, as far as I could tell in 4th grade). But inevitably, they were bigger, stronger, and louder than me, and as a skinny wimpy kid with bifocals and sticky-out ears, I was almost comically ideally targeted for bullying.


Not necessarily. Some (possibly many) of us were bullied by those with every advantage in life at the time and had to go back to our cold and leaky homes in the hand-me-down clothes that marked us out to the ‘haves’ in the first place …


I know, right? Imagine confronting your haters!


I can’t speak for yours of course; but I met most of my ‘best’ (in the sense of ‘most skilled at what they did’, they had few other virtues) among the suit-jacketed upper middle class and above students at a private middle school.

This does not disprove the existence of bullying-as-class-warfare; but I can definitely attest that those with nothing to fear from their social position are more than happy to participate; and my observation has also been that any flavor of weakness, deviance, or insecurity is like blood in the water for them. They can smell it, and a soft target invites even more intense attack.

Bullies are opportunistic, sadistic, animals. Maybe some of them are sad cases of traumatic home life and yadda yadda sob story, in which case they are sadistic animals who we perhaps owe a merciful euthenasia; but that’s the best case and there is a very, very, long way down from there.


My grandpa used to bully me, or so I felt. Turns out, he was trying to toughen me up. Turns out, I needed it.

I miss you, you old prick bastard.


Or, the other option now that they do not interact with you at all in your life is to leave them in the past where they belong, and do not think of them at all. Doing well or doing poorly, they have no influence on you currently.

Reminds me of a story…

Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current,
she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other
quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put
her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.

As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable
to hold his silence, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to
avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried

“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are
still carrying her.”