I did something tonight that I’d been meaning to do for a while—I watched a few “It Gets Better” videos. I have two reactions to this project—no I lied—I have three.
The first reaction is that all of these grown-ups have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. How well does logic work when you’re sure that the world is out to get you*? More importantly—don’t they remember all the PSAs by baseball stars, Mr T and Webster telling them not to do drugs and to talk to an adult if someone ever touched them in a way that felt icky? How did they react as children to these well-meaning videos?
My second reaction is the complete opposite of the first. It’s not just that Barack Obama made a youtube video telling kids to talk to their parents if they’re bullied—it’s that Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Zachary Quinto and everyone else with a web-cam and a heart made a video attempting to explain that it gets better. While individual videos may not be compelling, perhaps the sheer volume of them may be.
My third, and ultimately kind of depressing reaction is “does it really get better?” People are ass-hats. A good friend of mine once said that real life is more like high school than college. I find that statement depressing, but accurate. It’s not what you know it’s who you know (and sometimes how you dress.) And while no one’s threatened to beat me up in about a quarter of a century, I have still encountered bullies since then.
The bullies you meet in your professional life won’t harm you physically. On the other hand, they may be people you have no choice but to deal with (and on their terms.) Dealing with them is always going to be unpleasant.
However, you can bitch about the bullies you encounter to your best friends (while applying alcohol and guacamole to your lacerated nerve endings) and they will be sympathetic. They’ll say “I want to punch him in the nose!” And then you’ll feel better.
Perhaps that’s the point of the project—to tell kids who are isolated by bullying and by being different that they are not alone—they just haven’t found their co-conspirators yet.
*No, I was not a particularly troubled teenager. I went to a geek high school, so no one bullied me. But we should all admit that it’s not fun being an adolescent—even before you add bullies.