Do You Have a (Bull)dog in this Fight?

At some point in my career, one boss decided my nickname was “Bulldog.” As in “C’mon Wolfgram, where’s your fight? Be tough! Be a bulldog.” Being shorter, having a stocky build and a wrinkly brow with brown eyes — not to mention a lifetime love of bully dog breeds — it seemed to make sense, and I kind of liked it at first.

But no one wants to be considered a bully. Or do they? 

As we head back to school this fall, I am hearing and seeing more and more discussion on the topic. There are full-on marketing campaigns to sniff out and snuff out the wedgie wagering, lunch-money-stealing sorts wherever they may be lurking. Like “A Christmas Story’s” Scut Farkus, the “yellow-eyed” menace, just waiting to pounce on poor Ralphie at every turn. The “mean girls” are pretty easy to spot, too; just look for a gaggle of girl clones branded with the latest labels. They find power in numbers and, luckily, can only seem to function as one annoying unit.

But bullies are sneaky; they are not always obvious. It may have been 35 years ago, but I will never forget Cindy Black. She was my Scut Farkus. She had auburn hair, black eyes, well, they were probably dark brown, but they looked black and empty, like horrible black holes. 

I was the new girl at Carl F. Schuler Junior High, as was often the case being raised in a military family, and she was not happy about it. I made friends easily, and for some reason that bugged her. I was 14 years old and beginning to draw some attention from boys, and, apparently, she was really not happy about that. Other than that I am not sure why she decided to bother me, call me names and terrorize me with terrible threats etched on my desk in homeroom. All I can think of is … she was just a bully. 

I had nightmares about Cindy Black. The walk to school was about three miles. To save a little time, I would cut through a field. Though she didn’t live near me, Cindy Black decided to make this her route, too. Everywhere I turned, there she was staring me down with those horrible black holes in her face like a spooky specter.

There was never any big showdown. (Well, not in real life. I certainly put Cindy Black in her place a thousand different ways in my mind.) We didn’t run in the same circles. Let’s just say Cindy Black wasn’t in any AP or honors classes. Eventually, I got more involved in activities, my group of friends grew and so did my confidence. Ironically, the more successful I became, the more she diminished. Eventually, she faded away, found someone else to pick on or maybe she dropped out of school. Part of me hopes she got her comeuppance somewhere along the line.

But today I need to thank Cindy Black. 

I’m certainly no Girl Scout, but her deficiencies magnified my way to do-what’s-right-ville like a neon sign. She helped me realize what kindness looks like, what it can mean to cross the room to say hello to the new person in the group and how to be a friend. And her biggest gift to me? Showing me exactly the person I didn’t want to become. 

Thanks, Cindy Black. Thanks, in part, to you I did grow up to be a “bulldog” — okay, maybe slightly stubborn, short and stocky but also strong, courageous and loyal. I have a pretty good idea of what became of you, because in the end, the only bullies worth rescuing are the four-legged kind. 

Categories: Opinion