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Why I won't be at my high school reunion (scienceblogs.com)
271 points by saurabh 2898 days ago | hide | past | web | 262 comments | favorite

He puts way too much faith in karate to help his kids learn how to fight back. Karate does not teach you that.

I was in karate for years as a kid and got a black belt. I took karate for the same reasons he's putting his kids through it. I was tired of being picked on and I wanted to make myself more intimidating. It did not work. You do not learn how to fight in karate. You learn how to perform choreographed moves and routines (like katas and lots of shorter ones that we called 'techniques') and you kick and punch a lot of pads. Sparring is more like a game than a real fight, where you get points by making contact at the right places. Karate gives you good exercise (which is why it can be great for some people), but I did not get out of it what I wanted. I never learned how to fight simply because we never did any real fighting. I had a black belt, yet when it came down to it and someone was physically threatening me, the silly routines that worked against invisible attackers in karate did not work in real life. If you want your kids to learn how to fight and defend themselves, take them to a place where they actually have the kids fight each other. There are no shortcuts.

The self-esteem boost that I desperately wanted from karate I was finally able to get in high school by becoming really good at percussion. People finally started respecting me for what I could do. Drumline was where I belonged.

I joined the wrestling team my freshman year of high school, and it did wonders. All of your practice is against real people, so when you try to do a particular move, you really know how to perform it.

The best part of it is that it is generally non-violent. The last real fight I had was the month before I started wrestling. Every other "fight" after that consisted of them throwing a punch and then me getting them into a headlock until they cooled off and backed down. No bloody noses.

I'd consider it perfect for anyone seeking real, effective methods of self defense- especially in school, where even if you fight back and end up breaking a nose you can be punished.

As a wrestler, it's great for diffusing simple high-school fights. I fondly remember someone throwing a sucker punch at me in the locker room, and I used his momentum and a Greco-Roman throw to put him hard head-first into the ground.

That said, in real life, wrestling sucks for fights, because you never know when the other guy has a knife. Weapons change everything. Run away.

Disciplines which place an emphasis on live sparring make an enormous difference. See boxing, Muay-Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the emerging amalgamation of various sparring disciplines, Mixed Martial Arts.

Absolutely agree. I would also add wrestling. Any kid who did wrestling easily had me on the ground screaming before I could get any fancy blocks, punches, or kicks out (it is always a bad idea to try to kick a good wrestler). Basically, any discipline which involves you having to physically overpower another human being will make a difference if you stick with it.

You're right, I should have included wrestling. Some of the habits wrestling instills don't work in a fight (like going to your stomach instead of your back), but overall it's an enormous advantage. The speed at which a good wrestler learns BJJ or MMA is startling.

Hint: if you're doing BJJ and you go against a wrestler (a number of guys here are former wrestlers) start on the ground. You basically will not get the take down. On the other hand, once both of you are on the ground, its a fair fight ;)

I've rolled with many wrestlers - including Division I wrestlers and those who were competitive at the state level. In my experience, their advantages are mental toughness, grappling strength and a relentless top game.

Well, yeah. I wasn't really talking about that level. I'm just an amateur :)


Krav Maga for the +1. They teach you straight from the get go that it's about survival and nothing more. It's brutal, but the education is worth it.

You also don't learn anything other then going berserk.

That's going to work most of the time, unless someone expects it or has a gun/taser, then you're fucked.

Krav Maga is not a combat art, it's the Israeli army's psychological training for soldiers in urban warfare.

I had a friend who was in to that sort of thing. It seemed pretty dangerous. I was interested, but was concerned that being repeatedly hit in the head or put in a chokehold might cause brain damage.

I recall this one incident where my friend had a guy in a headlock and the guy lost consciousness so he couldn't tap out. When he finally let him go the other dude had a seizure there on the spot.

The same friend ended up permanently injuring his back by being slammed into the ground while attempting to perform a flying armbar on his opponent.

Being repeatedly hit in the head at full force is not good. Most sparring is done at considerably less than full strength for that very reason. I think MMA fighters take less of a beating to the head than boxers because the fight is more varied, and seemingly paradoxically, since the gloves are smaller, if a solid punch gets through, you're more likely to get knocked out. Boxers, with the bigger gloves, take more a continual beating to the head.

If you go out from a chokehold, it's either because your training partner is an asshole and didn't let go (unlikely in my experience), or you were stubborn and refused to tap (more likely). The seizing is typical when coming back from a blood choke - not good, of course, but it's what happens.

Going out in a chokehold isn't really that bad. I definitely agree that you refusing to tap happens a lot more than anything else. Note that all BJJ chokes are blood chokes, not air chokes, so they work by cutting off blood to your brain. Since this only happens for about 15 seconds or so, its pretty safe. Also note that the "seizure" is nerve stimulus response after the brain stops control -- its not a grand mal seizure in the medical sense. For the most part, BJJ is pretty safe. The thing that you have to be most careful about is tapping out when someone has the hold. As someone with an abnormally high pain tolerance, I'm always careful about tapping out a little bit quicker, because if you don't a number of the advanced techniques can quickly cause permanent damage. However, this is one of the things that you are trained in for BJJ rolling, just like Judo teaches break falling.

The striking sports are definitely more of a risk than grappling (also less useful in my opinion). Boxing is probably the most likely to cause long term trauma like hematomas.

I remember hearing that the widespread use of boxing gloves actually increased injuries and fatalities as you could punch somebody in the head without having to worry about breaking bones in your hands.

Wikipedia has some mention of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_glove#Impact_of_gloves_o...

> The seizing is typical when coming back from a blood choke - not good, of course, but it's what happens.

LOL at the casual way you say this. Not a criticism, really, it's just waaay outside my experience.

Add Hapkido in there, too. (Karate : Judo as Taekwondo : Hapkido)

With respect, if you have a black belt yet can't put up a fight I'd seriously question the competence of your teacher, both in the quality of the training and the standards by which belts are awarded.

The main teacher definitely knew how to fight (Mike Winkeljohn, look him up), but I'm definitely with you on questioning the type of training and the standards by which belts are rewarded. The problem is that a lot of karate places are not really in the business of teaching kids how to fight.

It's a lot like Boy Scouts. The parents want to see progress, and so the belts are handed out to any kid who checks off all the requirements, which mostly consist of memorization and a minimal standard of physical fitness. It's a business, and doing that works better for the real customers: the parents. It certainly works for the OP even though his kids are obviously not learning how to fight ("His Karate dojo is wonderful, and he loves doing it. It's actually a very gentle dojo..."). A lot of kids love to do it anyway. I was just disappointed that my main purpose for studying karate was mismatched. I'll also grant that there is a small element of "getting out of it what you put into it" as well.

> Karate does not teach you that

That largely depends on your teacher. Some schools teach karate as a sport, others - as a discipline or self-defense. Different people see different ways of karate.

There are many forms of karate and some of them have little to do with fighting. If you want to quickly learn to street fight take Kenpo. If you want to learn how to make your body as lethal as possible take a non sport from of Muay Thai.

Note: I took American Kenpo for a few years and liked it, but I don't think it's really the best art for the average 12 year old.

There are plenty of real karate schools, far more fake ones. The test is pretty simple- you ask the instructor if the students fight each other. If no, it is fake. Very hard to get good at something without ever doing it.

"Nobody in the streets knows that you are a black belt" - Bruce Lee

I am appalled at some of the responses telling the author to "get over it". If it were the case of the kids not inviting him to the prom or verbally mocking him, it would be one thing.

But having a swastika a swastika painted with gasoline on his lawn and having their fingers broken?

I'd say in vast majority of this country, if someone (particularly Jewish, or as in the authors' case mixed-race) saw somebody lighting their property on fire in shape of an unmistakable hate symbol and reached for the family heirloom M1 Garand (that their grandfather used against other fans of this particular "symbol"), that would the very example of a "justifiable homicide"/"castle doctrine".

If someone had their fingers broken by a stranger on the street, the stranger-- if caught and identified-- would face assault charges.

Why is that what would be unambiguously a felony crime when done in the street, treated as something that should be "forgiven" when it's done in a high school environment?

Yes, many of the bullies came from abusive families and suffered many psychological issues themselves. However, I doubt this excuse would work in court on trial for an arson charge with a hate crime enhancement --or in an assault case. These people should be in prison, where they themselves may themselves find out what it's like to be weaker/smaller/less "street smart" than somebody else.

Every bully is in charge of their own body, they make choices every time they go for someone that's weaker (or they will use a couple of buddies if they're real cowards).

Abusive families do not come in to play as an excuse.

Right, as I've stated-- this is not an excuse. There may be explanations for bullying, but when one commits a transgression that has a victim there are real consequence (e.g. the example I gave of those excuses not standing up in court). I'm in full agreement.

What is really sad here is that your average not-so-strong kid doesn't stand a chance in a regular school. There is hardly any oversight that will give all the kids the feeling that they are safe in school.

My son is 15 and is going through a very hard time in school.

Where do you live? Have you considered a private school or (if you're in the United States) home schooling?

Some public school districts also offer the ability to take the last two years at a local community college: this option would also be great in terms of preparation for going on to a university.

Here's a program many of my friends attended (and have ended up earning their Bachelors degrees at universities like Berkeley and UCLA):


Perhaps your high school district offers something like this, or could create a similar ad-hoc arrangement?

What do you think he should do that wouldn't benefit from getting over it? Having his kids take karate, for example, would probably be an even better idea if he wasn't still full of anger. It seems like the only benefit of this kind of anger is collective: it might motivate him to take some kind of action to improve the situation for everybody — but he doesn't seem to be doing that.

Oh, and the swastika was on the street, not on the lawn.

On the street in a very dry environment. Even if done on the street, in most every place in the US it would be treated as arson with a hate crime enhancement.

What good would going to the reunion do to him? Speaking out about this, would on the other hand do him-- and others-- very well. Writing can heal old wounds.

yes, when the choice is between "get over it" and "cry about it" the latter is clearly the superior option

I went to my 10-yr high school reunion. I had conversations with former jocks, geeks (the smartest guy IQ of 164 was now working for the government), some of the prettiest girls, others. Talked about their life now. It didn't really matter what we were in high school. The biggest surprise was a geeky girl I had known was now beautiful and helping produce records. Some of the jocks were very successful salesmen. Other than that, it was oddly reassuring to revisit old paths once tread. It was nice to talk to people at the reunion who I pretty much never talked to in high school.

It's not like we all became friends and traded numbers. In fact, we sarcastically said 'See you at the next one'.

We all grow up and change. And sometimes we don't but high school as someone wiser than me once said - high school is a geographic coincidence. Not because you want to be there.

Too much generalization. Were all of you really abused and friendless in high school?

I was(and still am) a huge geek in high school, and I pretty much loved it throughout. I made great friends I still keep in touch with(some of them from when I was captain of math team and quiz bowl), I was never physically abused or ostracized, and even managed to date a couple girls who were way out of my league.

Sure, I wasn't invited to any of the big parties and I wasn't good friends with the popular kids- I was firmly entrenched within the geek clique. But I wasn't ignored or anything, everyone was pretty much friendly or at least cordial.

By the way, just like the author, I was a skinny 120-lb kid, so if anyone wanted to bully me they easily could have. I think it's the bitter the-world-hates-me victim mentality that contributes to bullying, not being a geek.

This article is rife with stereotype, are these really true? Is this story #1 because all of your high school experiences were similar?

Yes. The generalization is generally -- by no means always -- true. That's why pg's essay about geeks in high school is such a rallying point: pg says "oh, don't worry guys, you aren't unpopular because there's something wrong with you, you're unpopular because you're too wise to play all their little games, which of course you could master instantly if you were willing to lower yourself." It's a very comforting lens through which to view a generally traumatic experience.

Social skills are skills -- and they can be taught. I firmly believe this because I went from being a barely social-able geek to having "decent" people skills.

The first step was working at a college radio station -- being a D.J., interacting with other D.J.'s in and out of the station taught me a lot about interaction/communication.

Afterwards, I joined a frat. Right or wrong (I later left because I realize it wasn't for me) they taught me how to interact with "non-geeks". Just how to be outgoing, friendly, etc. How to start a conversation. What NOT to talk about. How to pick up cues.

I couldn't have done it in high school. Nobody was teaching me, nor did I understand the value of the skill. Looking back on high school, my entire senior year girls were throwing themselves at me. I honestly thought they just wanted homework help and rides home. Completely oblivious.

I love that essay, and wish that my junior high self could have read it. It would have given me a much better perspective on what was about to happen to me.

Not in high school, but in middle school. I was reasonably popular in high school - had a decent group of friends, even if I wasn't in the "popular kids" crowd, and I was on good terms with most of the kids who were in the "popular kids" crowd. Occasionally see some of them, even.

In middle school, I was beaten up on a daily basis.

I think that a lot of this is an information cascade based on who the dominant kids are in your year. In my elementary/middle school district, the most dominant personality was a kid who I swear was a sociopath. He started tormenting everyone else in first grade. When we were 8 years old, we went on a field trip to an old historical house, and upon being shown the herb garden, his comment was "Is this where they keep the heroin?" My 3rd grade teacher mentioned privately that he thought this kid was mostly likely to end up in prison in 10 years. And sure enough, the last I heard of him, when I was about 17 years old and had long since moved to another school, was a notice in the paper that he had been arrested for assault and battery with a caribeaner.

My sister had no such problems, coming one year behind me, because there was no such person in her year. For her grade, the "cool" kids were all smart, diligent students, and so the culture of the class followed them. In mine, everybody kowtowed to this one sociopath because we were all afraid of what he'd do to us after school if we didn't.

The unfortunate thing is that it's all too easy for one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch, and school administration will all too often look the other way. If just one person with authority stands up and says "Look, this is not acceptable, quit threatening the other kids or don't come back to school," it stops. But a lot of teachers and administrators are so afraid of lawsuits that that rarely happens.

> The biggest surprise was a geeky girl I had known was now beautiful

Is ugliness a prerequisite for admission into geekhood?

I think so. It wasn't always, but geekiness has gotten ridiculously commercialized. In the early 70s geekiness may have been more authentic, but now it's more about companies convincing homely looking girls and guys with BMIs below 20 or over 27 to buy Star Wars t-shirts and WoW subscriptions. Basically geekiness today is about buying products designed to make you feel smart, even if you're not.

Agreed, when I was growing up there was a clear and obvious distinction between geek and non-geek. I'd learnt computers with DOS, I remember getting a bonded modem (two 56k) was the best thing in the world and made the internet lightning fast. I remember having a science kit with glassware, a burner, fuel and even a pack of matches to light the thing, I saw one recently that didn't have a single piece of glass in it.

Geek is now the kid who can get 100% on a song on Rock Band and fail a literacy test. It's no longer the kids getting A's who play board games and video games with all their free time.

The difference I think is that geekiness is now socially acceptable, even popular. See the glut of TV shows featuring geeks in endearing, funny roles instead of their normal "loser" position.

Even in my social circles, we now have a bunch of wannabe geeks. People who buy iPhones, read reddit, use "FAIL" a lot, but never played D&D, wrote code, nor done anything genuinely geeky, ever.

That's a disturbing idea.

That's just marketing, I believe Bill Hicks has some good advice for people in that profession.

And Bill Hicks was wrong. Saying you hate people who make their living marketing is like saying you hate people who make their living using telephones.

Marketing is basically what separates humans from animals. It's the reason why we have language. Think about it, why do we have a word 'fire' that represents some underlying idea? It's to make that underlying idea possible to talk about with others; in other words the reason we have language is so we can market ideas.

Furthermore, all of the world's most intractable problems are basically marketing problems. For global warming, world hunger, malaria, water shortages, fisheries depletion, etc., we already have the solutions. It's just a matter of getting really talented marketers to create buy-in from others. Marketers are the heroes of the future, and without marketing we all die, just like the Easter Islanders or the Mayans.

Marketing is fundamentally different from the normal exchange of ideas. Using language to explain to your fellow tribesmen where the herd you're tracking is located is not "marketing."

Markets are conversations. Conversations are marketing.

How is trying to sell your friends on where to hunt different from trying to sell them on a new pair of sneakers?

If you don't want to go hungry, you won't try to "sell your friends" on where to hunt. You'll tell them what you know, you'll listen to what they know, and if their idea of where to hunt is better than yours, you say so, and then you go hunt there instead of where you originally thought you should hunt. You get just as much meat regardless of who initially suggested the hunt location. This is a situation that calls for honest debate, not marketing.

Contrast this with marketing. If you're marketing Nike, you don't get just as much meat regardless of whether people buy Reeboks, Nikes, or Birkenstocks. Your incentive structure is totally different. If you're really good at winning in the incentive structure of a marketing director, Nike's sales will go up, regardless of whether they're better or worse for the customers.

It's probably futile trying to argue with you since you started the conversation by, essentially, saying that you don't believe in honest debate. Marketing is the opposite of honest debate.

One of the more annoying traits of marketing is that it gives new meanings to words that already have a perfectly good and accepted meaning.

Your example of the word 'sell' is one of those.

It takes the word and stretches it to a plausible but wrong new meaning. You're putting it somewhere between 'convince' and 'argue' whereas to sell means to exchange some item in return for some currency.

"One of the more annoying traits of marketing is that it gives new meanings to words that already have a perfectly good and accepted meaning. Sell means to exchange some item in return for some currency."

According to merriam-websters: "sell: to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something <sell children on reading>"

When I did the same thing with "marketing," it was clear to me you were abusing the term. You tried to redefine all human communication as marketing, which strips the word of its intended meaning.

Because you need to eat. You don't need a new pair of sneakers.

"Marketing is basically what separates humans from animals."

Sorry ? I really don't quite follow that, would you care to elaborate ?

Furthermore, all of the world's most intractable problems are basically marketing problems. For global warming, world hunger, malaria, water shortages, fisheries depletion, etc., we already have the solutions.

I agree, those are basically marketing problems — they are created by marketing. The problem is that marketing, which is where you try to persuade someone of something because it will benefit you personally, regardless of its truth, is fundamentally corrosive to the kind of disinterested investigation of the truth that we need in order to collectively solve these problems.

You could as easily say that these are violence problems: it's just a matter of getting really talented soldiers to kill the people who are opposing the solutions. The trouble is that there's no correlation between the correctness of a person's point of view on how to solve world hunger and their skill at violence, so generally speaking, increasing the level of violence doesn't improve the level of competence in social, economic, and agricultural policy. (I guess it might solve the water shortage problem in a different way, though, sort of like you can lower the rate of heart disease by administering carcinogens.)

Similarly, there's no positive correlation between the correctness of one's opinion and one's skill at marketing. I think you can make the argument that there's a negative correlation: people whose opinions are tentative and based on evidence are not nearly as confident as a good marketer needs to be.

> Marketing is basically what separates humans from animals.

Are you a marketer?

I don't know who downvoted you - you're absolutely right regarding the human ability to influence others. You didn't word it well, but the core of what you're saying is completely correct.

I've never been able to watch any Bill Hicks routine because that's the first one I saw, and it shocked me with how needlessly ugly it was. I can't find that stuff funny. Suggesting people kill themselves for their profession... That's fucked up.

I think that you should take a comedians word with a grain of salt.

What Bill Hicks was literally getting at was that to use your talent as a wordsmith to create wants where there are none and to pursue money without any consideration for ethics by trying to translate each and every human emotion into the dollar equivalent and a 'hook' by which to gain acess to peoples wallets is a very wrong thing.

Comedians will exaggerate grossly in order to make their point. See Carlin, Connolly and many others for more examples of such behaviour.

It's up to us to separate out the core facts from the poetic license.

The kind of marketing that the great-grandfather post of this comment referred to is exactly the wrong way to use marketing.

There is a book by some guy called 'how to win friends and influence people', it is a great example of how not to use skills with words, it is simple manipulations and there is a world of a difference between manipulation and reasonable discourse between consenting parties.

The latter is what sets us - amongst many other things - apart from the animals, not our ability to 'market' or to 'sell' where no need exists.

Marketeers now routinely employ psychologists in order to learn better which of our buttons they should push in order to get access to our innermost feelings so that we go and do what they want, consume their product.

For a nice example have a look at this:


And tell me what you think of that.

A more appropriate book would be:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion = Robert B Cialdini

I agree with Mr Hicks, using your intelligence to find ways to psycologically manipulate people is pretty low.

Comedians will exaggerate grossly in order to make their point.

In other words, they improve their marketing. How ironic.

> all of the world's most intractable problems are basically marketing problems


Now I would like to see the statistics of sizes of Star Wars T-Shirts sold. In fact statistics broken down for all geek themes, please (are Linux users fatter than OS X users? and so on...).

Right on.

Addendum: this marketing is facilitated by the fact that the culture is coming to appreciate that geekiness can equal power.

Isn't the definition for geek basically a nerd without the high intelligence.


That definition more accurately fits the typical usage of the term 'dork'. The word 'geek' is usually used to indicate someone with a great deal of specialized knowledge (such as a computer geek, or a math geek, but also sometimes less technical topics, like a literature geek or a band geek), and typically a lack of social prowess. A 'nerd', on the other hand, is more typically one who displays heightened scholastic ability in all (or at least most) areas, but a significant lack of social skill.

I'm not trying to say that any other use of these (or any other) words is, in any sense, wrong. But these are their current, common, usage.

EDIT (since the urban dictionary link wasn't there when I wrote the above): Remember that different people use words differently. An urban dictionary definition is just what the people who use and vote on urban dictionary definitions (in particular, the urban dictionary definition in question) agree that a word means. This is why lexicography isn't trivial; there is significant sample bias in, for example, the set of people who care enough about how urban dictionary defines 'geek' in order to change it.

dork also means whale penis

The More You Know™

That's an urban legend.

Wikipedia disagrees:


Interestingly enough it considers the penis definition more important than the nerd definition

Yes, but nothing about whales.

This is a linguistic tar pit from which there is no escape. Run away while you still can!

It's usually a consequence of not caring much about one's appearance due to your lack of social skills ans poor self image.

Beauty comes in part from your attitude, too.

It was for me. In high school and most of college, I refused to make myself pretty. It was a symbolic rejection of that whole social strategy, and I did think it was a dichotomy. I was going to be smart, and that was all.

It wasn't until I had been a professional for a few years that I changed my mind. I noticed that the women who I really respected as programmers were also all stunningly beautiful. I read up on it a bit and realized that it's just another skill, and not a particularly difficult one. Overnight I blossomed and became pretty.

But it didn't happen until I was twenty-six. And it's one thing to look beautiful for yourself and your husband; I'm not sure I'd have put in the time to compete with sixteen-year-olds.

I imagine he means that she was geeky, in the sense that she wasn't popular (and not in the sense that we all consider ourselves geeks). Girls who are beautiful in high school don't usually have this problem.

Bullying seems to be the only form of cruel violence in which the victims are told to "forgive and forget" and stop being "whiny." Would the same "get over it" sentiment exist if this article was about having been sexually assaulted by high school teachers?

Either way, the writer is committing the usual geek-fallacy in his plans for his son -- the hacker notion that a person can just learn a few skills to solve a problem.

The idea that learning karate in childhood will equip a person to beat up bullies in high school is ridiculous. The only way his son could use martial arts as legitimate self defense would be to train for hours a day in a tough mixed martial arts or street fighting gym right up until (and past) his teens. But then, wait a minute -- kids who do that are rarely considered geeks. They're called jocks.

Please don't compare standard bullying to sexual assault. The two experiences are not comparable.

That being said, often the best thing for a person to do is to "forgive and forget", since letting go of anger is the only way to properly conquer it. Even families of murder victims move on after 25 years. As a human, you have to.

Agreed about the Martial Arts though.

> Please don't compare standard bullying to sexual assault. The two experiences are not comparable.

They're not the same, but, yes, they're comparable.

Only if you equate bullying to be only its most extreme forms.

Breaking someone's fingers for the hell of it sounds pretty extreme to me.

There are plenty of sexual assaults that are less traumatic than having your fingers broken.

Wow, this was me. 5'1" in 9th grade, 5'10" in 11th grade, 120 lbs., total geek into math, science, and I even published my own magazine. If I complained about the bullying, I was called a whiner, even by my own family. (Either my father didn't care, or he was smart enough to know that I better figure out how to toughen up. I hope it was the latter.)

But that's where the similarities end. Even though I was socially ackward (and still am a little), I got an after school job and made friends. Good enough (and tough enough) friends that nobody fucked with me any more. I went to college, learned to program, and built a career and life.

Now I go to every reunion and have a ball. I've finally reached the point in my life where I really don't care what others think (for the most part). If I did, then I'd still be a victim of virtual bullying.

Last reunion, I was drinking and laughing and acting geeky when the captain of the basketball team came over and told me to shut up. I told him that he may have been hot shit 20 years ago, but he wasn't anymore and should just go away. I was surprised how good that felt.

I sympathize with OP and understand his reasoning. I'm glad I ended up going down a different path, although I don't really know why. I hope he finds a way to release the hurt and anger and move on. I know that I have.

"... I sympathize with OP and understand his reasoning. I'm glad I ended up going down a different path, although I don't really know why. I hope he finds a way to release the hurt and anger and move on. I know that I have. ..."

Hey ed, I haven't been back to hackernews for a while but I want to chime in on this topic.

Each person is going to respond in a different way. Also reading the article Mark has had a pretty rough time. Physical injury is one thing, psychological injury by people you know is worse. The dilemma is caused because the fact the person being abused (bullied, call it what you like) knows the attacker and has no control over the situation. There is no use trying to explain this to people who have not been in a similar situation.

As for me I entered school at 5'8", okay at sports and took the math/sci stream, same ineptness as most. I had a foot in 2 camps: sports & science. I think I managed to slip under the radar till the last couple of years. But unlike the experiences I've read here most have the crap for me didn't begin till the last couple of years at HS. The last year especially. A year bookmarked by tragic circumstances on top of all the crap in-between. I still don't know why people I'd known for years gave me the crap they did? I brushed it off at the time only wondering later why? But it wasn't all bad. I actually had someone come up to me late in the year telling me they'd under-rated me. Gee I wasn't as if I was a different person before I organised the emvac. Then there was the school leaders more worried about publicity and their hides than students welfare. Yeah I learnt a lot more than I bargained for that year.

So while I've graduated, moved on and had a good run since, I sure as hell make sure I pick my friends carefully and assert myself online. I don't take any crap. And as for attending HS reunions, No.

Besides the school has been torn down ~ http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootload/sets/72157620934091013...

The best revenge, as always, is to live well.

All of his "friends" will gather at a fake party and try to convince each other that their "careers" are huge successes. Kind of like what would really happen if you were to say, get a PhD and a sweet job at Google.

The rise of nerd culture has brought us the delightful spectacle of a thousand tiny Shawshank redemptions. See you in Mexico.

Please. Many of the people he went to highschool have great careers and will actually enjoy the reunion. They've moved on, he's still holding onto anger from the 1980s. That's not revenge, it's just sad.

They've moved on, he's still holding onto anger from the 1980s.

From my purely biased perspective to be sure: Of course they've moved on. They had very little to more on from. The inflicted pain was purely asymmetrical. Tormenting him was just part of their day, like riding the bus, at worst or just the background noise of highschool at best.

It would be nice for them if he participated in their reunion to aid the perception that they were all just kids being kids, each playing their part, and now that we're all grown, no hard feelings, right?

King's to you, Fernand.

Of course they've moved on. They had very little to more on from

All of them? Do you think he was the only one bullied? Do you think only bullied kids grow to succeed? Do you think all bullied kids hold on to their anger as adults?

There are people I didn't care for in HS, who maybe treated me badly at some point... didn't invite me to a party or something. That's easy to move beyond, but breaking someone's fingers? Sorry, some stuff leaves memories that don't fade with time.

And yet he has it in for everyone at his high school, not just people who broke his fingers. My point is most people likely remember him as the shy kid they never talked to, but since they have grown up aren't afraid to invite to the party now.

Shrug... like I said elsewhere, this isn't particularly interesting, but I guess he just feels bitter enough about the whole experience that he doesn't want anything to do with the whole lot of them.

I actually wouldn't mind meeting some of the people I knew then to catch up, but I can also live quite happily without ever seeing them again, and I didn't have a terrible time in HS. Perhaps he's mostly moved on, and all these people "intruding" in his modern life brings back a lot of bad memories, that he doesn't want to dredge up. Sometimes it's best to leave stuff in the past.

I don't think he has been holding anger on his classmates for 20 years. But you see, it's rather disturbing when people who were making you miserable for years suddenly act towards you like if you're old friends. You were never friends with them in the first place, rather the contrary.

Zihuatanejo, here I come!

(Cue Thomas Newman soundtrack here)

I understand how this guy feels, and I've been there. Clearly, his emotions are still very raw from this. But I can't say I agree with his reaction.

I was in his shoes in high school, and now, I've been to the top school in the country, work at a cool web 2.0 startup and, most importantly, am engaged to the most wonderful woman I could possibly imagine. I am, quite literally, living my childhood dream, and I'm incredibly lucky.

So today, these f-ckers mean nothing to me. I don't feel the rawness that the author evidently still feels.

A year ago I ran into one of the a-holes from my high school days. Not the worst, but a bad one. And you know what? He apologized. It turns out he's a decent guy now, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with him. Is he going to be the best man at my wedding? Hell no. But am I glad I ran into him that day? Yes.

So I would go. Partly to have some closure. Partly out of curiosity. But mostly because I'm a relentless optimist. We've all done incredibly stupid things as teenagers, and people can change. I'm sure there'd be at least one person I'd be happy I'd met.

And if not, it'd still be fun to rub their faces in my success. ;)

I don't quite understand what he has to gain from going, nor why your language shows you have moved past it more than he has. If he wasn't friends with anyone in high school, what's the difference between going there and going to some other event and meeting people? Some of them might be nice, and so might some other people he could meet--people nearby that he might actually stay in contact with. It just sounds like a waste of money to me. I don't think he's holding onto anything: I think his point is 25 years after being abused people who didn't apologize are pretending nothing happened, and asking him to spend a decent amount of time and money on reminiscing. What's the point?

"Today, these fuckers mean nothing to me."

Evidently, they still cause some sort of reaction within you. While you've probably progressed past the author in terms of dealing with it, you still have a bit to before you reach total forgiveness.

I find this, and comments in the thread here extremely depressing, for a few reasons.

First, it's sad how evil kids can be. Clearly Lord of the Flies isn't a apocalyptic fantasy but a realistic description of the social order of our youth.

That said, what I find truly disturbing is seeing bright, intelligent, logical adults wallow in disgust and outright anger over things that were perpetrated on them by children.

Look at your average kid from highschool. They are unfinished. They think in ridiculous patterns and do nonsensical things. You were them once. You thought like they did. The point here is that you are likely nothing like that person by the time you hit 25. Neither are they.

I was never a geek outcast so perhaps I just can't relate to some of the extreme behaviour that others have experienced. That said, I was never a "cool kid" either, and felt all the social stigma of being the outcast. I so wanted to be one of the cool guys with the hot chicks smoking in the parking lot. Alas, I wasn't well off and had peculiar interests coupled with less than stellar social skills; a bit of a late bloomer you could say.

I look back now however, at 34, and realize that it was me that survived the teenage years without incident. I realize the pretty girls weren't all that hot then, and certainly aren't now. I realize that spending all day skipping class translated into not getting a job worth much. I've got a wife and 2 kids, wonderful experiences of a 1/3 of a life. What am I supposed to be mad about?

The author is mad because people from a school he admits he had no friends at are contacting him 25 years later! They not only remember him, but want to see him. They remember that they were children once, but they aren't the same kids from 25 years ago any more.

The only one that is affected at all is the author. It's time to let go, move on, and be proud of who you are and what you've achieved. Harbouring such resentment isn't healthy, regardless of whether it's understandable.

"That said, what I find truly disturbing is seeing bright, intelligent, logical adults wallow in disgust and outright anger over things that were perpetrated on them by children."

You should try talking to people who were abused by their parents, or rape survivors. I think having your fingers broken is closer to that than "the social stigma of being the outcast".

"The author is mad because people from a school he admits he had no friends at are contacting him 25 years later! They not only remember him, but want to see him. They remember that they were children once, but they aren't the same kids from 25 years ago any more."

It's telling that not a single one of these invitations contained an apology.

"The only one that is affected at all is the author."

Victims of abuse are usually more affected by it than perpetrators.

>You should try talking to people who were abused by their parents, or rape survivors.

Don't compare bullying to rape. They are not in the same class. That's not to say that bullying isn't bad, just that rape is on a different level entirely.

>It's telling that not a single one of these invitations contained an apology.

Is it? True apologies are usually given in person.

>Victims of abuse are usually more affected by it than perpetrators.

Ergo, the victim is best advised to take steps to cure themselves, regardless of what happens to the perpetrators.

He's the angry one, not me. I'm only pointing out that it is better for him if he isn't angry. I care little about the feelings of his bullies, to be honest.

There's a huge variance to both classes of crime, and there's overlap.

The central issue in torture is the complete and utter lack of control by the victim. That's what's truly violating. Knowing (or believing sufficiently strongly) that there's nothing you can do to stop this outrage. This can occur in many contexts, of which sexual assault is only one.

I would classify someone breaking another person's fingers methodically while telling the victim that he wants to "hear the sound" as torture. There's a level of malice and pre-meditation that's not present in a quick breaking.

I sometimes think that part of what makes rape worse for the victim is all of our societal hang-ups and power-mongering about sex.

In part they're a throw-back to the macho idea of protecting women's purity, and that women who have been "taken" are somehow impure. Talk about screwing the victim twice.

Yes, rape is very bad. But, society makes it worse by telling women that it's the worst thing that can happen to them (rather, than other torture or death, say).

"Don't compare bullying to rape. They are not in the same class. That's not to say that bullying isn't bad, just that rape is on a different level entirely."

I'm saying that different types of trauma provide similar reactions. I don't find it productive to compare different types of abuse and decide which is worst.

"Ergo, the victim is best advised to take steps to cure themselves, regardless of what happens to the perpetrators."

Avoiding the perpetrators of abuse is normally part of healing, though, which is all this guy's trying to do.

Sounds like my middle school.

...which had much in common with another government run institution: prison.

* Violent and angry inmates.

* Unionized, apathetic officials.

* A shocking level of brutality.

* An institution run almost solely for the economic benefit of the employees.

I won't say that government never taught me anything, though.

It did teach me how to kick the ass of someone who started a fight.

It's interesting that a lot of the things kids to do each other in high school, would if they tried them as an adult land them in prison.

So the debate is: what's wrong with high-schools?

Is it the kids? is it the (lack of) discipline? is it because of social reasons?

I went to public schools in different ditricts in France, and it changes a lot... It's not surprising that a school in a more urban and "bourgeois" place has more emphasis on scolar success which makes it a little easier for geeky types, but there certainly are other kinds of bullying (sometimes more on social aspects).

Of course kids at this age are very "mimetic": they want to be in the mass and do like popular ones, they suffer to be different. But they are building their personnalities: maybe they not only need better models, but also better structures to make them more mature. We're hearing about current "let-it go" public schools or about old-style strict schools, but what about making schools really more participatively democratic places to live in (I'm thinking of taking some good points from experiences like SummerHill [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerhill_School]: I wonder what good/bad lessons we can get from that)?

I'm just thinking of this two simplistic things as I read people saying things like "lookily i was in a private school...", but school is the manufacture of future society: we should care!

As a kid in France I found that starting high-school the bullying mostly stopped with most bullies going over to the technical high school... (and it never was as bad as what I've heard from american friends)

Now I'm not so sure if the particular district the school was in (the middle school was a small countryside middle school whereas the high school was in a bigger town.) had any influence... How out of curiosity where did you study?

Thanks for the link on Summerhill very interesting idea... I 'm always interested in education experiments, I thinks there is a lot of research to be done on how to best educate kids and make sure they don't suffer from moral damage from bullying (although as someone said in another thread I'm also grateful for some of the bullying I've received it made me much more resistant to what people think about me)

I think the problem is due to age-segregation of years, we shouldn't do that. It encourages Lord of the Flies-esqe social structures.

That's a very good point. The kids I meet from homeschool co-ops learn in groups with age ranges.

There are twenty or so kids per co-op, yet bullying is virtually non-existant. The other thing that happens is the ten year olds talk to the older children and adults as though they are peers. They don't connect age with wisdom or authority.

Of course we should care! http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html

I had my fingers broken in high school too, because someone wanted to see what would happen if they jumped off the bleachers and landed on my hand while I was stretching. The school nurse wouldn't even entertain the possibility that they were broken, so she just sent me back to class even though my fingers were twisted and I was throwing up everywhere. So as a result my fingers are still kind of messed up to this day, because they never got properly set.

Wow. Its been 25 years, its time to let go of that anger.

To fair, he's not saying he wants to go to the reunion with a baseball bat. Why should he make an effort to meet them when they were all callous jerks? Furthermore, a perceptive ex-classmate might have thought of the fact that the author had a really tough time, and said something to the effect of an apology. Given that that clearly wasn't the case, I'm 100% with the author: fuck 'em. There's plenty of friendly people in the world. Why try re-making friends with a bunch of jerks? Life is too short...

I totally agree. Life is too short to waste time with people who've treated you badly.

It's likely that some of the same high-school administrators are now failing to protect geeks in the same or a different high school today. Maybe he should make an effort to generate some accountability for administrators for allowing bullying.

I got over my anger about high school, but there is no way I would buy a plane ticket to visit those jerks.

I moved on from my hellish HS life and also would rather not re-visit that past.

I had a similar experience, though not as bad. And Junior High was worse than High School, but it was for the most part the same group of kids.

You don't forget it, ever.

Have you ever had your fingers broken by someone? Unless you're a Buddhist monk, I think you'd be hard pressed to forgive that and multiple similar transgressions.

I remember a bully that nearly tore my head off during one of his "roid rage" incidents in high school. In his high school yearbook, he said his goal was to become a state trooper.

Reading it, I literally shuddered at the thought of being pulled over in the middle of nowhere, PA, by this bully I had locked horns with. They would never find my body.

Guy friended me on facebook last year. Being an Air Force MP has apparently mellowed him. Also, me being a defense contractor doesn't seem so geeky to him. The fact that I also did 8 months of 5 days/week body building and went from the FTA's description to "normal looking" didn't hurt either.

I don't know what the psychology of picking on someone different that you is all about, but once everyone grows up, its time to get past it. I don't have any fears of the state trooper (former bully) killing me anymore. He probably doesn't even remember why I pissed him off so much.

Granted, it never came to blows, because his friends kept stopping him from pounding my face into the concrete at school, and I never went out anywhere where I'd run into "cool kids".

My point is that while this guy was definitely persecuted in high school, its likely the people aren't toxic anymore. Its been 25 years for them, too.

Not that it is important to this thread, but I had a few broken noses during my childhood.

I used to be fairly angry. But there came a time in my life when I was about 16 where I was happy, and it didn't really matter. Let it go and live well.

As a small side note, it troubles me seeing him push his kid so hard into Karate. It is still influencing his decisions and impacting his child's life now too. (not that Karate is bad, but the reasons are)

His reasons for the Karate seem perfectly acceptable to me, as long as his kids enjoy the activity. At that age, the activities kids participate in are almost totally driven by parental influence. He's making choices that are guided by the lessons in his own life. How could he act differently? Would you object if he made a point to teach his kids how to be social and interact positively with others just because he learned the lesson the hard way?

The anger, though, he should release if possible. If not, however, it seems pretty clear that he'll be able to go back to just avoiding the stimuli for another five or ten years.

Karate teaches a lot more than self defense, it also teaches self control and a whole bunch of social skills.

Chances are that his son is less likely to get into a fight because of going to karate classes than he would have otherwise been.

I'll second this. I studied karate as a child and it is one of my most cherished memories. In addition to the concepts of self defense and self control, it teaches respect. Respect for yourself and respect for others. I believe respect to be one thing most people in our current society are lacking.

How does the saying go? "Anger is punishing yourself for other people's mistakes".

The point being however that the only person that it affects is you.

You need to get over the anger to affect yourself. To hell with the fool that offended you.

I'm not sure if only Buddhist monks are enlightened enough for this. But I am sure all that anger is not good for him.

When I was in grade 4 (Jamaica) some kids picked on me. I remember going home and making some concrete balls, about the size of a large grapefruit each. I put four in my bag and went to school the next day. I don't remember why I didn't harm anybody.

Similarly, in grade 10, a 'jock' slapped me across the face, sending my glasses careening. It was after school, so I went home and made me a little circuit: a transformer rigged to step up the voltage, connected to a small battery, with two needles on the end, all assembled on a piece of board. I fully intended to kill the motherfucker. But cooler heads prevailed, and I didn't return to school with my little apparatus.

Unfortunately, I took all of that anger out on my little brother.

Reading this sure brought back a lot of memories. I remember the first time I read PGs "Why Nerds are Unpopular Essay." To say it was like divine revelation would be an understatement.

Now, at 22, 6'1" and getting built. I would happily beat the fuck out of anyone who 'violated', as we say in Jamaica. Enough with that 'violence solves nothing' bullshit. Violence is what stopped WWII.

It's easy for some to say he should get over it, but I understand where he's coming from. And I didn't have it as half as bad as he did.

"Violated," eh? What does that mean, exactly? If it's someone starting a fight, sure, beat 'em up. But you seem a bit overenthusiastic to beat the shit out of people. You may want to take a look at calming down; you might do the exact same thing you did to your brother again, to someone else.

I don't see why anybody would go to a high school reunion. I've only been out of high school for six or seven years and I can't remember a single person from those four years, unless I stayed friends with them afterwards. The entire experience strikes me as an errand, and not even one that provides me with groceries.

Ouch. Reading about such traumatic experiences makes me wonder if this is more common in US schools (especially public schools; don't know if the author was at one). Growing up geeky in India didn't have any such downsides, but that might have been peculiar to the small school went to,but I don't think it fully explains it. Developing nations with a favorable regard for the sciences and engineering seem to inculcate a favorable outlook towards geekiness. How is it for people who grew up elsewhere?

The early and constant negative emotional feedback definitely shape one's view of people and nature, skewing it because of sampling (Most kids do grow up into reasonable adults, eventually, one hopes).

I also wonder if the massive popularity of organized school sports is a factor. Providing developing adolescents with a single hierarchy to place everyone on seems misguided. The world is more multi-faceted with a place for everyone, but that sort of a thing may be hard to impart in the limited aquarium that is school.

Wow, that could be me... I've also not gone to my highschool reunion, and my answer to the request was pretty much the same.

Funny thing though, I did help the people setting it up in tracking down all the other kids from the class, I still remembered each and every one of them, and where they had lived.

But I didn't feel like going there myself, too many (very) bad memories about that period.

I can't disagree with his sentiment. Having been bullied myself and being part of a small racial minority, at least I ultimately had the good fortune of attending a public highschool in Canada that was flooded with geeks (relatively small town with the school next to two universities).

That said, I think experiences - both good and bad make us who we are. In a sort of sadistic way, I'm sort of glad that the bullying built up a certain level of resilience and has helped motivate me. I haven't delved much into the author's personal life but I can't help but imagine that while he may not want to friend these jerks on facebook, in some small part he owes some of the best parts of who he is to these people.

That's a good point, I never looked at it that way. The bullies certainly taught me how to stand up for myself, to the point where - and I'm not proud of this - I put one in hospital and got suspended for three weeks.

What really surprised me though is that the people that invited me to come didn't recall any of all this, whereas for me it was a constant source of real trouble at the time.

Funny how different viewpoints can radically change the perception of reality.

Is this kind of recall common? I ask because I also had a not-fun time at high school, but I remember very little about it. Names get mentioned - especially on Facebook - of people who I apparently went to school with (and it was a small school), but I remember pretty much nothing about the people. I also have only vague memories of the school itself.

Sorry for veering off-topic, but I've been wondering about my memory lately, and just how much worse it is than the average.

I find that memory is strange, not 'bad' or 'good'. In general it will remember stuff for a while unless you concentrate hard. Bad stuff might get 'forgotten' a little quicker than good stuff, or the reverse.

Stuff that you really want to remember sometimes gets lost for no apparent reason.

I used to be able to remember just about everything that I wanted but lately (now almost 45) that is getting noticeably harder.

Traumatic stuff is in a class of its own. Some people will never be able to get away from it, others have it suppressed to the point where it might as well not have happened.

Have to be anonymous for this as it is a little too personal for comfort.

My earliest memories are from probably extremely traumatic situations: Finding my mother's boyfriend dead from a heroin overdose in his bed (both were addicts) and watching an ambulance crew carry him out. Eating raw pasta when our mother had left us alone in the house for days. Being taken from our house by social workers (I remember parts of the drive from there in vivid detail). I was four or five at that time.

The funny thing is I don't remember how I felt at the time, but the scenes are etched in my memory.

Oh well, make of it what you want, it just came back to me when reading your post :)

Oh yeah, I didn't go to my high school re-union either. I liked the people I went to class with at the time, but the memories from the time are painful so I really have no desire to stir them.

At the same time I go to my college re-union every year, which is associated with a time when life became stable.

I don't really know what to say to that other than that I'm really happy to see you on the 'other side' of that and alive and apparently well. I thought I had had it pretty rough at some times in my past, you make me feel like I had a very easy childhood.


My only response to you would be that you should take immense pride in the fact that you beat the odds. (Just by posting here I'm sure you have)

You've faced a challenge in life that would destroy most people, and you overcame it. I can only wish that I have the same determination as you.

Thanks, seriously. I don't know that I am extraordinarily resilient or if the circumstances just sound worse to an outsider than they really were. In either case I don't have to think too hard to come up with somebody who has it worse than me, which is always a sobering thought.

I think you tend to remember the things you think about. I don't think about the past very often myself, or the 'glory days' of high school or whatever, so it's all a blur to me. At least that's how I hope it works because if it doesn't, I have severe brain damage.

I remember very little of school (my experience was meh, not bad). Sometimes (again on Facebook) I’ll see a name that seems familiar, but I can’t remember the person. Some (few) other people I remember clearly.

An addendum:

I can’t even remember college that clearly. More clearly than HS, but I can’t remember the names of most of my instructors. Where by “most” I mean all but one, and I only remember his name because he also became a friend.

I was a fat geek when I started high school. It was an all male school at that. I wouldn't say I was terribly pushed around, but at the start, I was easy prey for bullying. Towards the end of grade 10, I'd had enough. I used some of my savings to buy a $200 weight bench. I worked out 5 times a week. I started eating healthy.

Nobody really noticed my transformation toward the end of grade 10. They probably should have as I usually had to walk the whole damn warm-up run in gym class, and now I was actually finishing it in the middle of the pack.

But between June and August during summer break I made huge progress. I timed my transformation with a growth spurt and now I was a lean, well built geek. I distinctly remember the first week of grade 11 because it was the most peculiar experience of my life. Guys who were literally in gangs and who bullied the shit out of me came up to me with looks of shock and started being my friend. It was as if I was a friend to them before, at least in hindsight in their eyes. Teachers even stopped me in the hall and congratulated me.

And girls... I hadn't caught the eye of any girl until I was 17 and then boom, I had girls coming up to me and asking for my phone number. Since I had no experience with girls, I didn't know how the hell to respond. A part of me felt they were playing a practical joke on me. So I'd let them give me their number and I'd never call. This would drive them nuts but they seemed to enjoy the chase. I was still a geek, but any girl that dated me didn't have to know that at first because they wouldn't be able to attend my school.

I ended up dating my high school sweetheart who was a really popular and gorgeous girl in another school. She was really mischievous and always getting into trouble. When her principal found out that she had a boyfriend, he decided to investigate to see if this boyfriend was causing her behaviour problems (let's just say she was an artist in a math/science oriented school). He tracked down who I was, phoned my principal who never heard of me and had to get out my file. I would have loved to hear how that conversation went but basically my girlfriend was called into the principal's office the next day and told that maybe I'd have a positive influence on her.

In university I started gaining weight back from poor lifestyle choices. I was no longer treated like crap, but rather with indifference. I was clinically obese through my 20s and only now have I gone back to lifting weights and whipped my butt into shape. Again, I'm being treated a lot differently (better).

I'm not sure what the point of this was. But I suppose one take-away from this article and my story is that humans can be treated like crap for the most idiotic reasons one second. The people treating them like crap can change their ways all of a sudden and think nothing of it. This is a total mindfuck to the people being treated harshly. It's enough of a mindfuck that a well-adjusted father and husband can still be affected by experiences 25 years on.

Thank you for a heartfelt story from real life that does not segue into the opening rap of The Fresh Price of Bel-Air. I have been reading too much Reddit and am ashamed to say I got suspicious halfway through.

Agreed, getting into shape is the best thing a person can do for their life. The self confidence it gains you, will open you a lot of doors.

And it's not like its a huge time commitment, an hour a day is all it takes to be in the best shape of your life

Yup, and eating right. What kept tripping me up in my 20s as I tried to get back into shape time and time again was learning that I couldn't eat like a teenager any more. I have to be really careful what I eat. I eat nutritious food now wherever possible. I throw in 3 1-hour visits to the gym during a busy week and 4 if I have the chance.

It does give me self-confidence. It also helps me think more clearly, handle more stress under pressure, and since most of my friends are at the same gym we get time to socialize during the week. It beats spending money on booze to socialize at a bar with friends during the week. Save that experience for the weekend :-)

What I like the most about your story is how you framed the solution to your problem subjectively. You improve yourself instead of destroying them. Everybody wins.

Very interesting experience. Though I have no real comparison, my question is: Was getting in shape an easier solution than cracking down on the bullies?

I ask because of the original post, personal experiences and general thoughts. While bullying should not be tolerated by school administrations, does the individual not have a role to play in developing social skills and physical health to avoid being ostracized? You know, become the change you want to see.

The school administration could offer a 'self-improvement' class to students - targeting bullies with education on why it is bad and offering social and physical development tips to socially inept kids (who are often the brightest).

Perhaps courses such as these would help avoid disasters like school shootings, long term trauma and the jock culture that is so prevalent in the states.

What I think most geeks don't understand is most bullies don't hate you. It's done to show dominance and amuse themselves, but it's got little to do with the target. Granted, there are a few sociopaths out there, but mostly it's unfocused aggression that ends up focusing on people who don't or can't defend themselves.

If you watch young friends you see a lot of put downs and aggression, but with the right feedback it get's defused and everyone laughs. When you lack social skills and strength you are constantly on the wrong side of that aggression and it never let's up. But, change the interaction slightly and you are now part of the gang.

Yes. I was a geek growing up, but thanks to my size I was also an offensive lineman on the football team.

I was perfectly happy to pound on any obnoxious bully picking on a geek during PE class since the football coaches could keep me from getting into trouble. Not once did I get one to stand up to me. They really are cowards.

>Was getting in shape an easier solution than cracking down on the bullies?

I think it solves a different problem in the first place (health, energy, self-confidence, with the possible side effect of stopping bullies, vs. just stopping bullies).

I'm in a verbose state of mind right now so bear with me. You're right in some twisted way, I owe these people for making me who I am. But let me explain.

I've looked at pictures of me when I was a toddler and while I wasn't a scrawny kid, I wasn't fat. Somewhere along the line I started getting labelled the fat kid and teased. Each school photo shows me progressively heavier than the last. Somewhere along the line, I internalized the idea that I was a fat kid and lived up to it by, well, being fat. I've never confused the teasing for being fat as a cause. But it certainly didn't help me get into better shape. The teasing sucked, but it was tolerable. Instead, a couple of incidents that actually had me feeling worried for my physical well-being really sparked the change.

The bullying in high school hit a low point when I was doing a science presentation in a class the teacher could not even control. Two of the guys in the gang I referred to in my first post started tagging my freaking presentation board with gang symbols. It's a hilariously stupid scenario in hindsight. Honestly, I laugh about it now. But at the time I was freaked out, and angry because this meant I couldn't use it for the science fair later. It wasn't them teasing me about my weight that prompted me to lose weight, but rather fear of physical harm from them. I had to sit beside these guys in class and I'd see them come to school with knives and pull them out and pretend to stab people with them. In hindsight, they wouldn't have been dumb enough to hurt me so long as I didn't give them a reason. But not giving them a reason to hurt me felt like such a cowardly thing. It was letting them frame the "debate" and to hell if I would let them do that. It was never about me, it was about them and their issues with their father beating them or something.

So quite honestly, I was partly motivated to start losing weight out of survival instinct. I wanted to be able to defend myself if it ever got to that point, so I started pumping iron so I would be stronger than them should things ever get to that point.

The thing is, I wasn't even really the primary target of these bullies. So as ridiculous as my account above is, other guys had it worse. They really did get beaten up. There's a fine line between being pushed to the brink and being broken. I wasn't France in WWII, I was Britain. I had options available and I responded accordingly.

To your point however, my gym teacher also had a part in motivating me to lose weight. He would never cut me any slack. Jocks would get remedial attention in math courses they were having problems with. There is no special education for gym. In gym, when we had to say do gymnastics on hanging rings or flips on mats, I never got any slack. My teacher would make me get up there and fail, very publicly, and in a humiliating way. He gave me a C for effort.

Bullying issues aside, I think my school did exactly what it needed to help me out. The gym classes included lots of talks by our gym teacher about how we would all gain weight as we got older, got office jobs, and became immobile. And some humility is good. I couldn't even hang off of the gymnastic rings let alone do what was required to get an A. If this were an Algebra course, I wouldn't have been able to count. If anything, they were a bit indifferent about my situation. It's one thing to point out to a kid that he has problems. It's another to give him options about how to solve them. I stumbled upon weight lifting as an option only because my older brother was a wrestler and I'd seen him do it.

As far as the worst bullies go, that's a whole other kettle of fish. The solution to treating those sort of bullies these days is to shuffle them around the school system until they either play out the clock and graduate or drop out. My school was considered a "good school" which had the effect of encouraging principals at troubled schools of sending their worst offenders to our school to discipline them. So 99% of the students were good but had to face 1% of the school population which were probably psychopaths. I don't think schools can treat these bullies. They simply don't have the jurisdiction. For a lot of those kids, you'd have to remove them from broken homes.

For your casual bullying, I'd say the best approach is to play both sides of the coin. Tell the bullies to get over themselves and tell the victims to do the same. If you're that hung up over getting bullied for being 120 lbs at 6'0" tall, maybe it is you that has an issue with your weight. At that point, the bullies are merely amplifying your discontent. You can either learn to accept it and let the comments slide off of you because they no longer hurt, or you can do something about it and gain weight.

One of these days I need to learn how to be more concise :-)

Very nice account, I enjoyed reading it.

You mention that the bullies you had to put up with used to carry knives. Did weight lifting really help against bullies pulling a knife on you? I'd say it takes more specialized training to be able to face a knife wielding opponent.

I wasn't France in WWII, I was Britain.

Off topic: actually France and Britain attacked and declared war on Germany. So probably neither works as a metaphor for a victim of bullying.

To be technically correct, France and Britain had a well-publicized mutual-defense treaty with Poland (among others), and when Germany attacked Poland (knowing full well of the alliance) the signatories had no choice but to declare war. In fact, Britain and France gave Germany an ultimatum to pull out of Poland before initiating hostilities.

Furthermore, Germany actually didn't even bother declaring war on Poland first before launching their first attacks.

In other words, this was not a Pearl Harbor, Germany knew full well what they were getting into. Yeah, Britain and France were not iconic examples of bully victims, but if you're suggesting Germany is, you'd be mistaken.

but if you're suggesting

I'm not.

The analogy is that while the enemy wasn't beating him up and "occupying" him as badly as they did others, he still had to deal with a bit of a blitz and ended up using his ingenuity to break their enigmatic code, develop a radar against future attacks, and ultimately develop a world class force of his own to contend with them.

Of course, the analogy breaks down around there unless he made friends with an even-less-bullied kid and another bully who suddenly became outcast and bullied in his own right, and worked together to defeat the other bullies once and for all.

Somehow this sounds like a pitch for a TV show...

I think you mean the first world war.

"...does the individual not have a role to play in developing social skills and physical health to avoid being ostracized?"

imo, the individual has a role to be who they want to be.

In other words, his working out, eating healthy, etc., should be because he thinks its a good idea; not because others bullied him into it one way or another.

Ideally, you are correct. But every society has their preset view of normal. To skate too far outside of that view will, inherently, cause a reaction.

Right or wrong, this is the way our society works.

Her principal called her into his office to say that you'd have a good influence on her? I'm going to assume that's an egotistical embellishment, and not an indication that the whole story is fabricated. :-)

We both went to religious schools. Unlike public schools, teachers could and would comment on things that probably were none of their business. They'd also encourage and discourage certain types of behaviour outside of the academic domain. In elementary school, a teacher once kept me in at recess to talk about my older sister (she was 19, pregnant, and having the baby). Pissed me off...

How long does it take to get in shape? I know this is a difficult question: what's in shape? So how long does it take until other people start to notice?

In shape is a term you'll have to define for yourself. When I was younger, the definition seemed to revolve around appearance and weight. Nowadays, I also throw in exercise metrics.

For example, this time 6 months ago I was 10 lbs lighter than I am now. But I'm a lot stronger now. I couldn't even do 135 lbs back squats (bar plus 45 lbs plate on each end) back then. Nowadays my routine consists of a few sets of back squats that culminates in a 10 repetition set of 315 lbs (bar plus 6x45 lbs plates). Physically, my weight is 10 lbs heavier now, but I have a lot less fat and so I'm a lot more compact in size.

I'm trying to lose some more fat, but when doing this there is always the real risk of losing muscle along with it. The scale does not tell the whole tale. By keeping tabs on how strong I am with respect to certain exercises, I can get a pretty good back-of-the-napkin kind of estimate of whether I'm losing fat or muscle.

When other people begin to notice changes depends heavily on your approach to "getting in shape". You can go fast and hard (and incorrectly). This might have you drop lots of weight the wrong way (e.g., losing lots of muscle a.k.a. the Oprah 1990s approach). A lot of commercial dieting programs depend on this strategy, because people will notice fairly soon (e.g., 1 month after starting). The early congratulatory praise by colleagues is encouraging and motivating to the dieter, causing them to keep going. If you go for a more gradual approach, people may not begin to notice for many months. That was the case for me this time around. People really didn't begin to notice until I bought some new clothes.

Because I lost weight so rapidly in high school, it was much more difficult for me to keep motivated this time around. Luckily, my friends whom I train with kept me focussed on metrics that could indicate progress such as how much weight I could push in an exercise and for how many repetitions. The goal this time around was to pack on muscle first, even if it meant gaining weight, and then to begin a cutting phase where I'd adopt an extremely strict diet and different exercise routine for a one or two month period.

Let me know if you're interested in some good resources. I didn't adopt any one plan. For example, I enjoyed the Hacker's Diet and while I think it's a good start, I personally felt like absolute shit most days when I treated a "calorie as a calorie". Whether I interpreted this incorrectly, the book says not to worry too much about what you eat so long as you pay attention to your caloric intake. Well, until I started eating nutritiously, I felt like crap, performed like crap at the gym, and while I did lose weight, I just didn't feel very healthy.

I'm not sure if you're personally interested, but if you're trying to get in shape I would allocate a 3 month window in which you think your chances of being stressed out are low and in which you can get lots of sleep and rest. You're going to be forcing your body to make so many changes that it'll really stress your immune system and ability to stay committed. In the first month, cut out stupid habits like excess drinking (or switch to vodka/soda from beer), eating half a pizza on a Friday night, downing tons of non-diet soda, etc.. This will be enough of a shock to your system, but you'll need to plough through 3 weeks of this to kill the bad habits.

In the next month, start increasing your physical activity while refraining from your previously bad eating habits. I'd tell you to get a personal trainer if you can afford one, but honestly the quality varies so much that it's risky. Perhaps you can seek out a friend who has a similar body type to your target, who can show you the ropes. Again, really push through the first 3 weeks until working out becomes as much of a priority as ensuring that you've done your backups or checked your code into the repository :-) Don't feel like you need to join a gym. The activity can be a sport, riding a bike to work, hiking, etc.. It just has to be consistent

In the third month, come back to your diet and begin to adopt healthier eating habits. Count your calories in everything that you eat to figure out where you're going overboard. Then make changes so that you come under your caloric requirements. I'd suggest 2000 calories as a good daily target intake for your average young male trying to lose weight this way. Any less and you probably won't get enough protein. Any more and you're probably eating too well. Increase your protein intake: if your target weight is 160 lbs then try to aim for 160 grams of protein a day (chicken breasts and eggs are your friends). If you're like most westerners, your meals are probably meat/poultry/fish supplemented with carbs and then rounded out with vegetables/fruits. Invert this last allocation so that your meals are supplemented with lots of vegetables/fruits and rounded out with a few carbs. In fact, if you really like vegetables, go to town on them. The more you eat the better you'll feel (it's a subjective thing) and they're generally so calorie-sparse as to be a non-worry.

I'm curious how you went from squatting 1 rep max of 135lb to 10 reps of 315lb in 6 month. It's quite a transformation. According to http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/SquatStandards.htm..., that puts you in the advanced percentile of men who weight 140-160lb which should take roughly, "multi-years of training (more than 2 years)."

How about many rep's per set and set per session did you do? And how pound increment did you add for each week?

My ideal weight is 170 lbs but I'm training to get to 181 by end of summer (buddy and I are using similar charts:-) ). I'm at 195 lbs now, so still stocky. My 1 rep max wasn't 135 at first, but it was the max weight I could do 10 reps of. At my weight now, the advanced percentile is way higher than 315. It's 387 according to that chart. The 315 lbs set takes all my effort. If I don't eat right, sleep well the night before, and am not mentally ready, I might fail after about 4 or 5 reps. I've gone up to 330 lbs but then my form just sucks and I'm not squatting deep enough. I imagine if I want to get up to 365 lbs it'll probably take me another year. All that said I'm happy with my level on squats now. I'm not as strong on dead lifts (flexibility problems still) and I'd rather focus my effort there. I've been stuck doing Romanian dead lifts until I sort out those flexibility issues and can get my form right.

My buddy who is training me happens to be an engineer who loves these charts and reads a lot about training. He immediately identified my natural strength on the squats but pointed out that my flexibility was absolutely atrocious (sitting all day as a programmer, who'da thunk!). So he forbid me from doing back squats at first. I focussed instead on doing lunges, lots of stretching, and then we eased into doing body weight squats and dumb bell squats. He also had me strengthening my core as much as possible so it'd be ready for squatting.

Other than that, I have a nice natural ability to put on muscle. That's never been a problem. My problem is as the muscle packs on, so does the fat. A lot of my progress is attributable to my training buddy though. He really pushes me and on days when I work out alone, I don't nearly get as good of a workout. It also helps that we've both got the same ideal body weight (although his problem is he's naturally underweight). So we don't want to fall too far behind the other in our weak exercises. We're both too lazy to want to keep moving plates back and forth onto bars in between our sets :-)

UPDATE: just saw this part of your post How about many rep's per set and set per session did you do? And how pound increment did you add for each week?

After the first couple of newbie sessions of squatting, I could do 6-8 reps at 185 lbs. We would do 4 sets of squats right at the beginning of our workout. First set involved 6 warmup body weight squats. Set 2: 6-8 135 lbs. Set 3: 6-8 155 lbs. Set 4: 6-8 185 lbs. We'd only do squats once a week. Only in the past month have I increased squats to a once or twice a week exercise. If you aren't hurting (at first) or stiff (later) for the next couple of days after squatting, you're probably not pushing your max weight and you have some sort of mental block. At first the long rest left us completely fresh for the next workout.

The way we train is that we don't move up until we can get a high rep set at our previous max weight. So even though I think I can only do 6-8 going into that last set, if I can push myself to do 12-15, I will. This is where a gym buddy comes in handy. They'll know if you're sandbagging and will tell you to push out two more reps. If I hit this target, we move up a weight class, which at first meant throwing another 30 lbs on there to 215 lbs. I stuck at 215-225 for a while. Then we jumped up to 275 which was shocking after about 2 months at 225. I stuck at 275 for another couple of months and then we started putting on 10 lbs here and there, until I could get to 300. That was a big psychological double-edge sword. It felt like a hell of a lot of weight but it felt good being able to do that. A couple of weeks of 300 was enough for me to get to 315. I've stayed there and really focussed on improving my form and depth.

Right now we're doing 4 sets as described above, and then on the 5th set we drop down to whatever weight we can handle 15-20 reps of. For me right now, that's 225. After that last set I'm about ready to pass out, it's pretty exhausting.

I dunno, sounds pretty chaotic :-) But we like to change it up. We're constantly contradicting ourselves, one week going for low rep high weight and the next going for high rep moderate weight sets.

Thanks. Great reply!

Weight is not really a problem for me yet (according to this BMI index I'm underweight, fwiw), but this year I lost muscle and gained weight (in fat). I'd like to reverse that. My problem is with exercise: when I feel like exercising I do it like I used to be able to. But then the next few days I can't exercise because my muscles are sore and weak. And generally I have a hard time getting into the habit. I used to cycle ~120 km per week to school but now I live closer to school...so I used to burn one day's food by cycling and I'm not eating less now.

I don't care about looks and muscles, but I'd like to get in shape to be able to run & cycle better again and feel fitter. What type of exercise do you recommend? How do you motivate yourself to exercise?

Perhaps getting a buddy who shares your aims can help?

I just sent that link to a group of parents that I am going to be homeschooling with (and to my parents who think it's "a horrible idea"). I didn't get anywhere near the abuse this individual received, but I had my share, too. I have met so many people in IT and science that are still colored in some way by the "socialization" they received in school.

I worked for one of the most miserable human beings I have ever met. Brilliantly smart, but now that he was on the other side, he bullied everyone around him (including his boss, who eventually fired him). I have had many coworkers who had been beat up so often, knocked down so often, that when they have an "out of the box" idea, they simply don't share it.

I want my kids to be brought up in an environment that encourages learning, and peer learning via our co-op. I went to my High School reunion for almost the same reasons MarkCC didn't. I was amazed to learn of the fate of the individuals who gave me so much crap. A few were dead because of their behavior.

From a comment on the post:

"For those who missed John Katz' essay on why high school is designed to suck the first time around:

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=99/04/25/1438249 "

Bad link, get rid of the * at the end.

He lost. He failed to take action when it mattered, which could've been bulking up or learning social skills or whatever.

Then he won. Earned a great life, does great work; different day, different game. Should've moved on.

But then he lost again, by leaving the final laugh to any ex-bully who can google.

To everyone else, I was a geek for the first few years of high school. I was also bullied for a while. Till the day I fought back. Busted the fucker's lip. Nobody bothered me after that, and fewer people thought of me as a geek. I hadn't changed a bit though.


I was picked on, and I learned to fight.

Everything in life is a cost/benefit trade off.

If it's fun to push you around, and the cost is low, people will push your around.

If it's fun to push you around, and you land a few dozen punches before the fight is over, the cost is too high, and the abuse stops.

I don't think I'll ever understand the psyche of the typical American school-goer. From outside at least and from what we see on films, they seem to be leading quite colorful lives!

My own school-life in India was fairly monochromatic. Being a studious type was actually considered a plus, both by your family and your peers. Entering into anything like a romance was blasphemous and took place only in the movies where they had all the time in the world to run around trees in pairs. The overwhelming mad rush was to ace the board exams, state engineering exams, and the JEE and land myself into a decent university. And get the hell out of India if possible.

I am glad I went to a math and science high school. I learned a ton, I was never bullied, and I have lots of friends that I am in regular contact with.

(I went to a regular high school for my first year. While nobody broke my fingers, it was not particularly enjoyable. I also went to a regular high school in Tokyo for a year. Not quite as nice as the math and science school, but for a "normal" school it was pretty nice. I am not sure why the US has such poor schools.)

To exaggerate: How about forgiveness instead of raising a new karate kid generation?

Note that forgiving does NOT mean "it's all right that you beat me up".

Forgiveness means recognizing that "yes, they beat me; it all truly did happen back then but well, I lived" and then letting go of that old ugly shit. Almost anything in life is a better thing to do compared to keeping that stuff in your head.

If he's lucky he learned something from school. Setting his boundaries properly, discarding false beliefs that he's a wimp, or whatever it is for him. I assume that he doesn't get beaten up regularly anymore? If so then he has learned.

His classmates have hopefully learned something too. It's not an easy thing to forget, breaking someone's fingers. The bullies have all had wounded hearts already at the time. There's a lot to go through in that.

There's a saying that we're all victims of victims. I assume it fully applies. It's not so much what happens to you but how you think of and act on it.

The horrible times children are routinely given are seen by many as just a fact of life -- growing pains, as it were. It's high time that we stop accepting it; I'm glad something like this was written which doesn't just accept the events for the sake of "moving on". Others need to see and understand this trauma.

That's an honest and emotional piece.

I don't really have bad high-school memories, mostly indifferent memories. Fortunately our high school system separates the potential construction workers from the potential scientists. I did find it hard to socialize with people whose primary interest in life seemed to be the irrational idolization of musicians, with a surprising lack of musical taste. There I was with my interests in physics, economics, politics, philosophy, classical history, etc.

Isolation is what made me play with computers, become really good at inventing and engineering new systems, and brought me to an incredibly fortunate life.

I didn't go to my first reunion, but as the stories got out I felt sad for how poorly most of them had done. I grew up thinking the world was our playground, and for me it still is. Maybe I'll go to the next one, hoping they did a little better.

I find it kind of naive and disturbing to read some of these responses. To the people who are telling him to "let it go", "get over it" and "move on", I ask can you really be serious? None of the experiences I've read really come close to what he went through all those years ago. It really angers me to no end when people just brush this type of treatment off as "kids being kids" and expect people to just accept it and move on.

To the people who are saying "it's been 25 years, they're not the same people anymore", how can you be so sure? Did you go to his high school? Do you know the people he went to high school with? Why is it that you assume that 25 years has made all the jerks in his high school regretful and apologetic "do-gooders"? If that's the case, where are all of today's criminals coming from? That's a bold statement, I realize and I'm not suggestive that all of today's criminals were high school bullies or that all high school bullies grow up to commit crimes, but they have to come from somewhere right? How do you know that the kid who used to steal your lunch money isn't doing a nickel for a B&E? How do you know that the jock who picked on all the small kids didn't grown up to abuse his own kids? You don't. So please stop pretending like everyone grows out of who they are in high school, because many people don't.

Let's assume tomorrow you're walking down the street and a complete stranger comes up to you, swipes your leg out from under you and stomps on your knee, breaking your leg. You've never done anything to this person, you don't even really know him. Sure you've seen him on your way to work from time to time, but that's it. He's just someone who happens to be in the same areas as you from time to time. But today, he decides to assault you - for no reason than just to satisfy some sick urge he has. He doesn't continue to beat you, he doesn't rape you, he doesn't steal your money or shoot you - he just breaks your leg, laughs it off and goes on his way. The following week he interviews and gets a job where you work. Do you just "get over it?" No? Okay, maybe it wasn't a week later - it's been a month? A year? 5 years? 10? - It doesn't matter, some things are not excusable or forgivable no matter how much time has passed. Some things you just don't get over.

Some things you just don't get over.

You do when you figure out how much pain you're causing yourself by holding on to them. In fact, the moment you see that, it's impossible not to let go - the same way you'd drop a red hot poker when you figured out you were holding one.

I can see why this idea makes you angry if you interpret it as expecting people to "just accept" violence, abuse and so on. And I can see why it would sound like blaming the victim.

Respectfully, though, it's not about accepting such things, it's about the effective way to reject them. The trouble with many of the obvious strategies for rejecting abuse is that they are deceptive: they cause one to unwittingly perpetuate it. You can easily end up inflicting more pain on yourself by reconducting the abuse in your imagination than the original experience entailed. You can also easily end up inflicting pain on people you love.

The cycle of violence is a strange game, the rules of which don't work the way you (I mean anyone) would think they ought to. Just the fact that so many victims turn into victimizers is a pretty big indicator of that. The important question is, when one finds oneself in a game like that, what's the way out?

Setting aside the whole issue of geek abuse, and Mark's story in particular, for a moment:

I have to say that I find the whole Facebook experience very creepy in general. Anyone who can't figure out how to get in touch with me outside of Facebook is definitely not a "friend", so what's the point of pretending that they are?

Don't pretend anything. It's not a matter of figuring out how to get in touch with you otherwise. Someone just decided that would be the most polite and convenient way to contact you. If you find that creepy, that's your loss.

I'm not sure it's a loss, really. Someone "friending" me, who is clearly not my friend seems more like an imposition. My real friends are happy to call me on the telephone, or send me an email. Facebook "friends" are faux friends, and a site dedicated to quasi-communication by faux friends seems, well, creepy.

How is it an imposition?

What does creepy actually mean?

Why are they faux friends and not simply weak social connections that may have potential to grow stronger?

It's an imposition, because it puts me in a position of either having to respond, or having to refuse to respond.

Creepy, according to Webster's, mean "annoyingly unpleasant". That works for me.

In terms of the last question, I think Mark Chu-Carroll, in the original post, explains nicely. He doesn't feel any particular connection to the folks from his school-- even the ones who didn't torture him. If he had, he surely would have been in touch with them in the past 25 years in some other way. If the weak social connection really had potential, why did it take Facebook as a catalyst?

I don't think a facebook-friend request from someone I haven't seen in 15 years annoyingly unpleasant, or an imposition. At the absolute worst, it's a minor distraction to deal with, and frequently they are a welcome diversion. Sometimes those weak connections share interesting articles or crack me up with status updates.

Consider ex-classmates who spent 25 years living on different coasts and working in different fields, and now they both have a similar hobby and find they have a lot to share. The point of socializing is to discover that sort of thing, and the point of Facebook is to connect people, to re-open those social possibilities and leave them open. Even if they go dormant quickly(which doesn't hurt anybody), they're still there.

Suppose I am living in NY City and looking for something to do this summer. Suppose one of my former classmates is looking for a few more people for his softball team. Pre-facebook, I probably don't even realize he lives nearby. Post-facebook, I might join the team and re-establish the lost connection. Maybe it'll work great, and we'll start doing other things together, or maybe it won't work out and we'll go back to doing our own thing. Facebook will have been the catalyst.

You could have that same interest in just about anybody, the fact that they are former classmates means absolutely nothing.

Every random stranger has a story, and some of those are quite interesting.

I disagree. Former classmates often share quite a bit. There's likely a slightly greater level of trust and accountability than with a total stranger, and there's a good chance it'll be easy to find a topic of conversation to start with. I also know that I, personally, would be more likely to do a small favor for a former classmate than a complete stranger. For example, if I knew via facebook that one of my former classmates was an Erlang programmer, and one of my other friends was looking to hire one, I might try and hook them up. I wouldn't bother to go looking for random stranger Erlang programmers.

Being former classmates isn't like being close family, but it doesn't mean absolutely nothing either. It's a minor but significant reason why you might want to connect with someone using facebook. A similar minor but significant reason might be that you just met at a party last week and seemed to get along really well.

And again, the point is that there's usually nothing to get creeped out about. If you'd rather focus on new friends and forget old ones that's fine, but an old connection isn't absolutely nothing.

Incidentally, I consider the word "creepy" to have more of a threatening connotation than simply annoying and unpleasant. An old, dark, abandoned house is creepy, you don't know what's inside and it might be threatening. A guy is creepy when he doesn't know a girl but stares at her for 20 minutes at the bar then follows her home. Reconnecting with old classmates who have fallen out of touch is not creepy, at least not by default.

It's probably best to think of facebook as a giant, self-updating rolodex. For most contacts one has, the term "friend" is a misnomer, and "acquaintance" or "associate" would be a better term. But there's no need to get hung up on the word.

It's more whether they would bother to get in touch with you. I can reel off the school register from ten years ago, but I wouldn't actively seek out and send them all emails; seeing one name on Facebook led me to add most of the class and it's wonderfully voyeuristic (with a nice dollop of schadenfreude) looking at what they're all up to without the overhead of actually being friends.

And yet, in a different blog post, he intellectually beats the sh*t out of an 80-year-old man: http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2007/04/george_shollenberge...


To which the 80-year-old man responds (which by the way I think is incredible, because the guy is 80): http://georgeshollenberger.blogspot.com/2007/04/mark-chu-car...


There's nothing wrong with telling someone that they're wrong.

You're impressed by the fact that this guy wonders whether he can call the FBI to complain that a mathematician claimed he doesn't understand anything about the Theory of Relativity? I've known plenty of 80-year-olds who were a lot more lucid than that.

Interesting. I took a second look and noticed that at the top of his blog he talks about squashing fools.

One of the insidious things about violence is that it goes along with the conviction that one is in the right.

High school is definitely a love/hate experience. Some come out of it on top while others get pulled down or tossed down. It's sad really.

I never had the bullying issue thanks to being a big guy and having played football for high school, but I also tended to be fairly accepted socially. I had friends who were jocks, preps, nerds, rockers, etc. I wasn't really in any of the crowds, but I could wander over at lunch and strike up conversations and chill, and then move on to another group.

They really allowed violence like that? It reminds me of one of those 80's movies where they kids are just a bunch of bad asses...I thought that was just in the movies. I feel bad for him. The only ostracizing I had to deal with was when I was very fat as a kid. I've filled out a bit now, but it sucked.

Wow. Bitter? Party of one? My highschool experience sucked too but we were all just kids. It's been 25 years so maybe it's time to forgve and forget? (rhetorical)

"It doesn't explain the guy who broke my fingers, because he wanted to know what it would sound like."

There are so many great threads here that I don't know where to dump this comment. The original article inspired me to phone up the organizer of my reunion and promptly drive to meet her to deliver the check.

Gets a rise out of one, but not particularly interesting. I do wonder where this school is so that I can avoid the area (although it may well have changed in the meantime).

I think as children we occupy a much more primal social space than that which we occupy as adults. As adults, the spaces of interactions we occupy are highly regulated by internalized models of behavior. (We let loose when we feel free of such bonds, thus extreme online behavior afforded by the mask of anonymity.)

Beyond Karate, the most important tool that one can impart to one's precious little child is that human groups are dynamic systems that require various poles -- the group (I believe) seeks these poles to organize itself. The underdog or gamma wolf is not an individual -- it is a required 'position' in the pack.


Fuck high school reunions. Instead of going, stay home and watch Grosse Point Blanke.

I wasn't a geek, and instead hung out with the delinquent/stoner crowd, so I can relate for entirely different reasons. Everything that's wrong with the world, well, High School is a perfect microcosm of that.

"... Everything that's wrong with the world, well, High School is a perfect microcosm of that ..."

Nice summary.

Maybe times have changed? I just got out of high school about 5 years ago. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin near Milwaukee which at one time was built around a tractor factory, now it sort of lies in limbo trying to find an identity. As an extreme computer geek I wasn't popular, but I never had anything particularly 'Bad' happen to me. I would say the worst thing that would happen on a regular basis is people would take advantage of my OCD like nature and create an absolute mess near me (which would drive me nuts... only encouraging them) The rest of the time I noticed people would try to get on my good side for group projects etc. Classes at my school (and I think its pretty common now) were centered around computers, so kids who normally wouldn't talk to me suddenly wanted to be "partners" with me.

Part of growing up is understanding that people develop - People can change.

Yeah, but... so what?

My experiences weren't the same, because I was geeky, uncoordinated... and six foot four, thank God. I've dealt with it and don't hold on to anger like it sounds like Mark has... but I didn't bother going to my 10th, because, frankly, why? I didn't like the majority of them, the ones I did like I'm still in contact with (or for one particularly notable exception, married to), and otherwise, they're just people, the majority of whom I still won't like, just for different reasons, and even if I'm wrong I could just step out, walk downtown, strike up a conversation at a coffee shop, and have odds just as good for finding a friend, if not better.

I think a lot of posters here are losing the thread here. All arguing about how wonderful people may be in theory after 25 years gets you back up to is "neutral" on the reunion... gosh, it might not suck as much as I expected? Sign me right up! cracki in a sibling comment says that they get a chance to show they've changed; I say no, not really. Who cares if they've changed or not?

If you don't have happy memories, if you aren't nostalgic for a time period where you had no rights and were stuck in a boring room seven hours a day, five days a week, there's no reason to care about the coincidence of who you lived near, so why bother?

(Every year of my life since I was about five or six has been better than the last, and I can't go beyond that simply because I don't remember. Some through circumstances, some because of health issues, some because I'm getting better at living well, which is itself a skill. I'm not much for nostalgia.)

Incidentally, my wife, who isn't particularly a geek and didn't have a bad time of it the way I did, pretty much feels the same. Her friends were mostly in the grade above anyhow, and we've kept in touch. (We'll be seeing all those again literally next week, at my son's first birthday party which has turned into quite the shindig.) Facebook has really eaten into the positive reasons for reunions, even for nongeeks.

You do NOT need to be best friends with your old classmates, but they might actually now be real individuals who have real values and aren't all for that petty HighSchool BS. From a business standpoint and a life standpoint and a HACKER standpoint - the most important thing in my world is my network. Maybe you never got along with your old High School Crew, but now that they are older, they might be able to help you in numerous places in your personal and professional life. But simply ignoring them all together seems to be immature.

Your high school crew may be worth networking with. Mine really wouldn't be.

"but they might actually now be real individuals who have real values"

I disagree... with the word "might". I'm sure they are. My real point is, so what? Are real people so hard to find for you or something? I don't seem to have so much trouble. They're just people and I can find much richer sources of "people" for any given purpose than a high school reunion.

You're rationalizing an emotional belief. Love your high school all you want, I don't care, but don't fool yourself into thinking this is some sort of rational position. Mere coincidental colocation ten years ago is not even remotely the best way to choose anything.

It's an Ice Breaker. It's social. It's Human Interaction at it's finest. It's not what did u just say... a "Mere coincidental colocation ten years ago"??? Really?

You continue to speak as if "human interaction === high school reunion". No. You're either rationalizing or thinking fuzzily, though I'm beginning to trend towards the latter.

There are so many people in the world - why pick the ones you have to work hard, or suffer through, to get the same effect you could get with an easier connection? Just because they are "there"?

but they don't get a clean slate for not being around the last 10 years.

they only get a chance to show that they changed.

Oh, it is so common. Sublimation and suffering are required for a success in creative activities, like going-through-pain is required for success in a professional sports.

You go through pain in professional sports because your muscles must be broken down in order to build up and your brain has to master the skill and precision required to play the game. You are also typically coached or trained by someone with more experience than you until you are more experienced than them.

How does spending most of the important years of emotional development experiencing only abuse assist in making one creative? Maybe by having extra time on your hands, but other than that it doesn't seem like it would be something valuable or even connected in any way, let alone _required_.

I think it's correlation vs. causation. People who are creative are non-conformist. Non-conformists tend to get bullied in High School.

Some of the most creative and interesting people I have ever met were homeschooled. They had _some_ negative social experiences growing up, but nothing that would have amounted in their lifetimes what some kids at my school experienced in a day.

i flagged this post without comment when it was younger, expecting many people to do the same. now i see it has been upvoted 100+ times and it is still here. i am curious why many people seem to hold it to be within the scope of this site. the connection to anything scientific or technical is tenuous, and the post is wholly lacking in insight wrt the sociological phenomenon it rails against.

Apparently his social skills still haven't improved much. What a whiny nerd.

Yeah. Folks who are punched, have their fingers broken, and are mocked in the hallways shouldn't harbor resentments.

99.99% of kids are mocked and punched. Broken finger are extreme, but still. The fact is almost everybody is bullied and people grow up and things change. And most people get over their bulling.

Harboring resentments all your life just messes with your mind. Stop messing yourself up. You can blame that on the fact that you were abused, and that may be true, but you should still try to get passed it.

Quite possibly he doesn't much think about it from day to day, but it isn't as if you can't be reminded. I know that I hardly ever think about my teenage years, which were fairly terrible, but when it comes up, as in this thread, I'm filled with rage and it all comes rushing back. Doesn't mean I'm not past it ordinarily.

I'm afraid this is turning into armchair psychoanalysis, so I better stop.

But suffice it to say, when I was still a kid and thought about the other kid who almost broke my arm, I was filled with rage as well. I almost never thought about, but when I was reminded I was very angry over it.

But as I got older I got past it. It doesn't make me at all emotional now. The guy and I are not fiends, I still don't even like him, but we're civil and he doesn't push any buttons for me, there are no buttons to be pushed.

That's what I think is growing up and dealing, not simply forgetting.

Your experiences sound about right. Most people end up in a fight, get punched, mocked, and kicked in real life.

I respectfully disagree with "most people get over their bullying".

You are emotionally developing throughout your teen years. If most of that emotional development is stunted as a result of consistent bullying, you are going to be affected by that the rest of your life. You'll "get over it" in the way one heals from a serious burn, but there will be scars.

Working in IT, I have met more than a few people with these scars. One individual, when elevated to Manager, turned from being a reasonable person to work with (socially awkward at times), to being one of the most horrible people I have ever known.

There's getting passed it, and then there's pretending to be friends with the people who did it. It's the pretending he's not interested in.

The OP wasn't talking about not pretending to be friends. The OP specifically said that you can't blame him for harbouring resentment.

In a case where "harboring resentment" concretely means "not going to his high school reunion with people who committed violence against him".

Most children of abusive parents still harbor resentment, even if they become healthy enough to move past it in their everyday life. You're expecting someone who was surrounded by an abusive peer group (and an utterly apathetic group of adult "supervisors", who are all but guilty of criminal neglect) not to have negative feelings about his experiences when his former tormenters invite him to a reunion?

There's not going to the reunion, and then there's posting fuck you's on the internet in a sad rant.

I'm not commenting on his decision to not going to the reunion, I'm commenting on the fact that he's still very upset by these events. It's in his interest to let it go, but I don't expect him to be best friends with all his bullies.

A victim of abuse--who has gotten over it and had a successful career--is upset at being reminded of his abuse. I'm not sure exactly why you're blaming him.

In fact, don't ever speak this way to an actual victim of abuse in person, ever. All you'd accomplish is encouraging them to repress their pain and feel guilty over it. People heal in their own time.

I didn't confront him over his issues, he posted them on the internet.

Once you do that, I'll give you my opinion. I'm as entitled to do that as anyone.

I didn't accuse you of confronting him, I'm just warning you not to confront anyone. Criticizing someone for being vocal about unpleasant events in their past and not healing fast enough doesn't help them heal, it just makes things worse (and makes it harder to heal by pushing the person into repression and denial). Frankly I think he seems to be doing just fine.

Its easy to preach when you are not the victim.

It rains pretty frequently out here, I'm not sure why people make such a big deal out of hurricanes.

Not for 20 years they shouldn't.

Gotta love the down mods... Seriously... as a person you can't harbour this type of resentment for that long... it defeats you.

It's true there's nothing funnier that the sound of a geek's finger breaking, but the down side is that 25 years later they won't be at the class reunion, and that hurts.

I don't fully identify with this dude - I had friends, although I was picked on, and I still talk to a number of people from High School.

That said, I did like this read. Potentially it was the emotional reaction I had on his behalf, but I like to think that it was the realism of his scenario: "I don't think I had it particularly worse than a lot of others" and "here are the things that are entirely my problem that accelerated this treatment". While 'the system' is sometimes to blame, it's also the person. And he understands that. But since he works for Google, it's clear that he got it together in later life, and distancing himself from those who used to drag him down is probably a good choice. School reunions are often just people gloating about how awesome they think they are at life anyways, so why should he put himself in a position to potentially arouse jealousy?

"Got it together" ?

What the !@#$%^ ?

He was a smart productive kid, and he got picked on by imbeciles.

Now he's a smart productive adult.

He hasn't gotten shit together - he had it together.

The difference is that now he's in a free market, with other competent adults, instead of in a government-run Lord of the Flies style child warehousing make-work program.

To say that he "got it together" is to blame the victim.

He didn't have it together, he didn't know how to manage social contact. He readily admits being awkward and unable to communicate. Being smart is not exclusive to having it together. It doesn't excuse what happened to him, but there are plenty of adults that get walked all over too.

He probably knew "how to manage social contact" just fine. I did, too, in high school and before -- I had no problems at all communicating with adults. The problem is that the situation in school isn't social contact in the way that it will occur in the real world, it's prison.

In real life, we don't shake our heads at people who've been assaulted or had a swastika or cross burned in front of their house and say that they should try to manage social contact with others better. Instead, we treat the oppressors as the criminals they are.

Prison and school are in fact natural, it's civilized society that's takes effort and breaks down under stress.

And I think coping in a Lord of the Flies like environment is part of being human. We can not easily extend the adult civilized structure into childhood. Only in extremely tightly controlled environments does that sort of work.

> Prison and school are in fact natural, it's civilized society that's takes effort

Civilized society is spontaneous, and pops into existence whenever two people meet in the wilderness.

Both prisons and schools only come into existence when governments create them.

Civilized society is spontaneous, and pops into existence whenever two people meet in the wilderness.

Are you sure? I am pretty sure there have been extensive studies on tribal groups all over the world that would disagree with you.

Also I think part of the success of Lord of the Flies was because it struck people as a realistic account of what would happen in that situation.

It might be realistic for kids, because kids aren't socialized as adults. In fact, we've deliberately delayed socializing them as adults more and more, and I think that's a grave error, which we've only been able to afford because we're so wealthy as a society. I think there are enormous costs, not only in the "educational" system that delays education more and more, but in the costs of that delay on the productive lifespan of people once they're finally accept as "adult", some 5-10 years after they were physiologically adult.

I'm reminded of a story Diamond(?) tells of two Polynesian(?) strangers meeting in the road. They start talking about common family or friends they might have. They are looking for an excuse not to kill each other.

I found Diamond's _Guns, Germs, and Steel_ very informative, but in light of this year's lawsuit ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond#Controversy ), I'm not sure how much of it was just made up.

Diamond is far from the only one to write about tribal killings in Papua New Guinea. That doesn't mean he didn't make it up, but if he did make something up it probably wouldn't be something easily proven wrong.

And yet there were many peers who knew how to communicate with each other and adults. Being able to adapt to your environment isn't a skill everyone has. He admits he was socially inept, that's not a rare thing in school.

Being socially inept is not a good reason for people to break your fingers or burn symbols in front of your house.

Is. Not.

I don't understand why this is so difficult. :(

It's not and I have never said it was. I just said he didn't have it all together. Sounds like he still has social problems--instead of facing people who used to not talk to him he'd rather tell them to fuck off on the internet. Works for him I guess, but that's the whole reason why he was targeted in the first place. It's sad that happened to him, but I bet everyone who messaged him has no idea of what his memories of highschool are like. They never got to know him but assume he had a good time like they did.

"used to not talk to him"

That's not the behavior he was upset about. Speaking personally, I'd have been ecstatic if people not talking to me were the worst I had to put up with in high school, and I had it a lot easier than he did, from his description.

"He didn't know how to manage social contact."

Correct. During the time when he was learning social skills, he was taught that all social contact was negative.

It's clear from the essay that this bothers him 25 years later and it should.

That does not give others license to abuse you though.

Of course not and as I said it doesn't excuse what happened, but the odds are 95% of the kids didn't do anything but not talk to him (and why would they, he was socially inept). They don't remember anything bad that happened to him. He has been holding in an impressive amount of anger and thinks everyone else has too. They haven't been. I bet even the bullies don't remember him.

Seems like he's still got some social problems--people trying to reach out and he says stay the fuck away from me.

Well, then I have some 'social problems' as well, because I'd rather not interact with those that have already bitten me in the past.

New people, that I have not yet interacted with have the benefit of the doubt, but the bullies from yesteryear did not magically grow into upstanding and respectable citizens.

I'm still in contact with some people from my highschool but they're definitely very much in the minority.

And when somebody gets bullied and you are 'doing nothing but not talk to him' you are also letting the bullying happening.

Neutrality is not always an option.

This is a meta-comment about what belongs on HN, so if you don't like those kinds of comments, just down vote it and stop reading now.

If you're not interested in completely off-topic personal rambling, stop reading now.

While I know a lot of people have had similar experiences, I doubt group therapy of this kind is healthy for anyone.

Even some of the people who used to beat the crap out of me on a regular basis are getting in touch as if we're old friends.

My reaction to them... What the fuck is wrong with you people?

They grew up. Everyone knows kids are evil. And a few of them grow up to be evil adults and eventually go to jail.

But most people do grow up. They stop being what they were as kids, and most nerdy kids grow up to be much more sociable.

Now I don't think this person is missing much by not going to the reunion, but I do think it's a shame he still has not gotten over his childhood.

Obviously his childhood was worse then average, but that's life, life is not fair, deal with it.

Some people get over things by eliminating those things from their lives. He probably spends the vast majority of the days of his life over that whole experience. His rant was prompted by elements of that old world trying to intrude on the world he lives in now, which dredged up that negative energy.

Also, adolescents turn into adults, but they don't forget what passed before. So if you were evil to someone in high school, the adult thing to do would be to apologize if you're going to contact that person.

That's exactly what happened to me (and a lot sooner than 25 years after high school). On graduation from Gymnasium (would be 12th grade here), my friend and I happened to run into this guy who would pester us in 7-9th grade. Worse for my friend than me, and nothing like broken fingers, but just random physical violence every now and then. We hadn't seen him for a couple of years, so we said hi and started talking and he says "I'm sorry I was such an asshole back then." It increased my respect for the guy immensely.

So yeah, you grow up and as part of that you realize you did some shitty things. So if you decide you really want to communicate with the people you were mean to, the first thing you do is straight up apologize. If they don't, I think his incredulousness is justified.

Also, adolescents turn into adults, but they don't forget what passed before. So if you were evil to someone in high school, the adult thing to do would be to apologize if you're going to contact that person.

Agreed. But I don't think that trying to forget something is dealing with it. It may be a way of coping, but it's no resolution.

Personally, I agree. I myself take a more inner-zen approach to this sort of thing. I've developed a certain empathy though, as during my life I've been intimate with some people for whom the inner-peace approach just doesn't seem attainable. For those people, avoiding the negative stimuli goes a long way to improving their lives.

Your tough-love approach "...that's life, life is not fair, deal with it" is completely misguided and naive. I certainly hope that if you ever have children you don't use that mindset on them when they come home bullied, frustrated or upset.

I wouldn't use that on children, but he's not a child anymore.

Exactly. He's got enough pity for himself, I'm glad you aren't giving him more.

This guy totally missed the social bandwagon. Thinks that his kid is 'less of a loser' when he knows karate and 'totally kicks the crap out' of people who bully him. Dreaming the 'I will kick your ass' dream isolated from real friends. I wouldn't call that geekery but just a social loss.

> Thinks that his kid is 'less of a loser' when he knows karate

What he said was that the kid was going to be able to physically defend himself from assault.

Can you disagree with that assertion?

I am a supporter of avoiding assault.

I spent much of my childhood avoiding assault (and never had it as bad from other kids, at least, as the blogger), but I think it was a mistake to do so. I think if I'd snapped just once or twice, it would have made others think twice about the nonsense they pulled on me. I was more afraid of the external consequences (police and other authority figures) than worried about getting beat up, though, so I just sat and took it.

In any case, the blogger in question didn't manage to avoid assault. I don't imagine he went to the bullies and said, "Here, break my fingers".

Then I don't understand your position. In my experience, learning to fight has been one of the most effective ways of avoiding assault. You just start signaling to people in various subtle unconscious ways that you're able to defend yourself.

It's a pity my parents didn't understand that when I was in school, and gave me the usual idiotic lines like "don't stoop to the bullies' level". I only realized this when it was almost too late to change, went and took some boxing lessons, and whaddaya think - it's improved my "social skills" quite a bit. :-) See, "social skills" are mostly about how others perceive you, and people are pretty damn perceptive when it comes to pecking order.

So am I. But this quote from the post is pretty self-explanatory:

"One of the mantras that his karate school follows is: Never start a fight, but if a fight starts, always be the one to finish it. And that's what he'll be able to do."

I have yet to see taekwondo or karate training that isn't a total joke. Maybe good schools exists somewhere in the US, but anyone at these schools from the yellow pages is just going to get their ass kicked by the first guy who is stronger.

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