Bully Busters

They decided to be part of the solution.

I stumbled upon a Washington Post article entitled, “Classmates wouldn’t sign his yearbook. So older students stepped in.” And it brought me right back to my public school nightmare of being bullied and ignored and made to feel inadequate. Pressure to be popular permeated the very walls of my schools, and I never made it to that summit. Instead, I collected all the misfits, and we meshed and occasionally glanced upward to a place where we knew we’d never be.

As much as I loved reading and learning and getting straight A’s on my report card, I viewed school as something that must be endured for 12 years until I could break free of all the judgment and hostility. Mostly, I kept my head down and tried not to be noticed/beat up/humiliated. And when you add braces, glasses, severe acne, poverty, a complex home life, a heaping helping of pompous intelligence combined with an extreme deficit of self-esteem, and clothes that were way out of style, and you stir all of that up into an already toxic social stew, is it any wonder that I was chronically depressed?

I did get to confront my worst bully decades later, and wrote about it here. She didn’t remember any of it. Even so, rereading that post is cleansing for me. I’m proud of everything I said to her, and I feel like I got it out of my system. It kind of felt like bursting an abscess: briefly painful and unpleasant, but oh, the blessed release of pressure, and the knowledge that healing can begin!

So reading that article about a 12-year-old boy who had been constantly bulled and felt so alone that everyone refused to sign his yearbook, I wanted to hug him and cry, and tell him that things will get better, even if that’s hard to believe at the moment.

But what I love most about this story is the older students who stepped in. Apparently the kid’s mother was talking about the situation in a closed Facebook group for parents of children at that school, and those parents then told their kids, and several different sets of kids independently decided to be part of the solution. They gathered a bunch of friends, and they all went and introduced themselves and signed his yearbook and talked about bullies, and sent a message that bullying isn’t to be tolerated. Many of these students remain his friends and keep in touch with him.

I’m sure that did wonders for that young man’s self-esteem. And maybe, just maybe, it made it possible for him to someday become an 18-year-old boy who is comfortable in his own skin, and who isn’t bitter, impulsive, and potentially a harm to himself or someone else. Just like that, some teens became aware of an injustice, and came together to make the world a better place. Bravo!

I wish all public schools would create a Bully Busters Club. These kids could do talks about bullying, and they could form an alliance of children that vowed not to be bullies, but instead be caring, compassionate and civic-minded. They could spread the word that if you don’t feel like you fit in, come join this group! Everyone is welcome. Strength in numbers. This group would need constant promoting and support so as to avoid becoming the club that no one wants to be a part of, but I think it could be done.

It would have been so nice to have a safe place to land when I was in school. If done right, a group like that would quickly outpace the popular clique and the sports clique, and pretty much every other grouping, and make it clear that inclusivity and kindness are the real things to care about, not popularity.

We need more of this, please.

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Aloha Shirts in Depth

They are not called Hawaiian shirts. They take that seriously in Hawaii.

To recap, Dear Husband and I got to go to Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii for two amazing weeks in late April, early May. We brought back 15 pounds of souvenirs, per the weight difference in our luggage. I must confess that we went a little overboard buying aloha shirts. He got seven for himself, and, not to be outdone, I got eight for me. Oh, and our two dogs each got one as well. (I mean, who could resist?)

And here’s my first lesson of this post. They’re called aloha shirts, not Hawaiian shirts. They take that surprisingly seriously in laid-back Hawaii. Apparently, they have been called aloha shirts since at least the early 1930’s. This was news to me. I stand corrected.

I was hoping to write a post about the history of Hawaiian Aloha shirts, but it turns out there’s quite a bit of dispute regarding their origins. Entire books have been written on the subject. After my lazy Google research, I decided that this was a can of worms I didn’t want to open. For some interesting reading, check out this article and this one.

But here are some facts. Kind of. Sort of.

Aloha shirts came on the scene somewhere around the 1920’s or 1930’s. And yes, they originate in Hawaii, but there’s debate about the exact location. Originally, they were tailor made from printed cloth that was used for kimonos.

The popularity of these shirts has waxed and waned over the years. They were really popular around World War II, as US sailors brought them home. These colorful shirts also grabbed our focus when Hawaii became a state in 1959. And in the 1960’s California surfers made them cool again. (Oddly enough, The Beach Boys wore striped or plaid shirts during that era. Now you see them in aloha shirts all the time. But why, in my head, do I picture them young, wearing these tropical prints? Beats me.)

It was also in the 1960s that reverse print aloha shirts came into fashion. The vibrant color faces inward, and therefore the shirt has a more subdued coloring. We got a few of these. I wish they were reversible, though. Sometimes you want your colors to shine!

Celebrities made aloha shirts popular, too. Think Elvis in Blue Hawaii; Borgnine, Sinatra and Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity; The Brady Bunch Hawaii episodes; and Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.

Naturally, tourism to the Aloha State has kept this industry grinding out the shirts even in the less popular years. How do you visit Hawaii and not come back with a splashy, colorful, tropical acquisition? It’s practically a requirement. And wearing one of these shirts in Hackensack says, “Hey, I can afford to live a life of leisure on a Pacific island. Sorry. Not sorry.”

Here are the shirts we came back with.

When choosing aloha shirts, if you want to be authentic, go for cotton, and make sure the label says “Made in Hawaii”. Otherwise, you might be getting a cheap knock off from Thailand or China, made of a synthetic material that does not breathe at all, which is kind of the most important freakin’ thing when choosing summer wear, isn’t it?  (Lesson learned.)

I’m not going to lie, though. These shirts, if bought retail, can be ridiculously expensive. If you want to avoid the sticker shock, do what we did. First, hit up some thrift stores while you’re in Hawaii. Next, go to a Hawaiian Costco. They have a huge collection of these shirts at reasonable prices. Then, and only then, consider splurging on a really nice one from a boutique.

But attempting to do the latter nearly gave me a heart attack. I saw the aloha shirt of my dreams in a delightful little shop. I mean, it was love at first sight. The print was really unique, and would forever remind me of our snorkeling experiences. But then I was told that it was $120. Here’s a picture of it.

Never in my entire life have I worn a shirt that cost $120. I’d be afraid to move in it. I’d worry about staining it with soy sauce or sweat, or I’d snag it on a door handle or something. As much as I loved this shirt, I could not bring myself to pay that kind of money. I’m glad I was able to find a picture of it on the boutique’s website. At least I can gaze at it fondly. Two ships that pass in the night…

Oh, and another great way to get aloha shirts on the cheap is to have a husband who has lost disgusting amounts of weight. His recent acquisitions are in a smaller size, so I got some of his larger-sized hand-me-downs when we got home. Woo hoo!

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A Brief Ego Blip

Fame is fleeting, but what a rush!

Last month I wrote a post about the Little Free Library that we built for our front yard, and my blog got 670 views that day. Clearly the subject resonated with people. I was really, really proud, because I’m currently averaging 107 views a day.

Throughout the day, I kept visiting my statistics page to watch the numbers go up and up and up, and it was such a rush. I didn’t want the feeling to ever end. But I knew it would, because this isn’t the first time this has happened on this blog.

One time I wrote a post that got 762 views in one day at a time when I was averaging 45 views a day. Ironically, it was called “Holy Screamin’ Cats! I’m Trending!!!” and it was about yet another viewing blip of 376 views. So the post about the trend exceeded the post itself. It will be awfully hard to break that record. Fame, however, is fleeting, as you can see by my statistics below.

I think that how someone deals with that says a great deal about that person. I could have mourned the loss of all that attention. I could have gotten bitter about the return to the status quo. I could have suffered ego withdrawal. But instead I’m choosing to look back at it and smile.

I’ve learned over the years that it’s impossible to foresee which of my posts are going to be popular. And in a way, that makes it fun. Roller coasters that are predictable are not nearly as exciting.

Thanks to all of you who have been along for the ride!

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