MSM, Listen Up. Pete and My Mom Have Some Advice For You.

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(L-R) My sister Suzy, brothers Daniel and David and me with Mom, circa 1965.

To members of the mainstream media,

There’s a great lesson for you in what you will read here. So please pay close attention.

When I was in 8th grade, there was a bully in my class who, for whatever reason, made me a target of her raging mean spiritedness. She’d taunt me in front of friends and classmates. She took the greatest delight in ridiculing my clothing, my hair, the things I said, the friends I had, the way I walked, the lunches I took to school, my handwriting, my face pimples, my teeth braces…pretty much everything about me.

As hard as I tried, I could not help but dissolve into tears and embarrass myself even further when the taunts were particularly vicious. The more others cheered for her as she lobbed insult after insult my way, the more vicious her mean girl words became.

When I could stand it no longer, I came home to my mother, cried bitterly on her lap as she held me and stroked my hair, and told her I was not returning to school. Several minutes later, when I became a bit calmer, she said the following to me in her characteristically warm and loving voice:

“Joycie, I am going to tell you now how to make this stop once and for all. It will take three days, and you’re going to have to be brave. But if you do what I am going to tell you to do, then not only will the bullying stop, but she’ll be kind to you from then on.”

She’ll be kind to me? I couldn’t even imagine that happening. I felt like my mother was about to reveal some kind of powerful magical spell that would suddenly make my daily nightmare come to an end. In a way, she did. She went on.

“Joycie, what you need to know about human nature is this: Anything that gets a response gets repeated. So by responding to her, you’re giving her exactly what she wants. It just makes her want to bully you more. The secret then is to stop responding to her. Don’t look at her. When she says mean things, smile and then immediately look away from her. When she tries to say something mean again, do the same thing. Ignore her completely. After the first day, she’ll probably try to bully you a bit the next day. So do the same thing. Walk away. Pretend like she said nothing. Ignore her. Smile and turn the other way. Pay her no attention whatsoever. By the third day, the bullying will stop.”

I asked my mother how she knew this would work. “Because that was the best advice I ever got from my mother, your grandma, when I became a mother. If you kids would act up or throw a temper tantrum, I would ignore that behavior. If you did something good, I would praise you. The good behavior got a response, never the bad. Just remember…anything that gets a response gets repeated.”

I told my mother I would try to do it. On the first day, it took every ounce of willpower I had not to cry when the mean girl began belittling me in the cafeteria. But I held strong, even though my throat felt like it was closing as I tried to push back the tears.

On the second day, in French class, she tried again to berate me. By then, it was a bit easier to smile and turn away.

On the third day, in English class, we were asked to read our writing assignments aloud at the front of the class. When each student finished reading, he/she would call on another student to come forward to read their essay. The bully finished reading her essay, then called on me to come up and read mine.

I did not look at her when I walked past her on my way up to the front of the class. I read my work, called on another student, and went back to my seat. When I got there, I saw a note on my desk that the bully had placed there. It read, “Are you mad at me or something? Don’t be. Let’s sit together at lunch tomorrow. xoxo”

The reason I am telling you this story, mainstream media, is because you need to employ my mother’s advice when it comes to 45. Anything that gets a response by you is going to be repeated by him. Stop responding to and covering ad nauseam his bullying, his nastiness, his bad behavior, his obvious hatred of others, and whatever else he tweets. He is the classroom bully and the more you reward him by responding to his negative behavior, the more he will ratchet up his hateful rhetoric. OK?

The updated version of my mother’s advice was given recently by Pete Buttigieg when he was asked by a reporter about his response to 45’s mean tweets. “I don’t care,” he said. “I don’t care.” That meant he wasn’t going to respond to 45’s infantile behaviors and fits of temper. Instead, he would ignore them and just keep on being the brilliant, kind, compassionate, brave, humble, upstanding presidential candidate he is…and demonstrating why he is the man to erase and right the myriad wrongs executed at the hands of the White House bully.

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The mean girl and I eventually made peace with each other. Though she eventually tried to befriend me, all I could muster was civility towards her — not friendship. And I used my mother’s sage advice when raising my own kids. What golden wisdom that was. Thanks, Mom. I miss and love you so. #20PETE20

Written by

Cincinnati, Ohio-based writer, visual storyteller, PR Specialist and Telly and Emmy Award winning video and documentary producer.

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