Image via Wikipedia
It was a usual hustle and bustle after the morning bell at Leihoku Elementary. As I made my way towards my second grade homeroom class, I noticed the other kids suddenly clinging to the walls. Not fully understanding what was going on, I followed suit to this parting of the Red Sea type of movement. “Frances Pinaro,” someone shouted. Suddenly the situation became clear. Frances Pinaro was the school’s shishi girl. Before I knew it, she came running barefoot through the hallway with her arms extended. Had she physically touched anyone, they would temporarily be infected with her shishi girl cooties. He/she would therefore have to pass it on in a tag-like game to regain social acceptance. Idiotic rules but rules, nonetheless.
During my time at Leihoku Elemtary, I witnessed a hierarchy of doodoo boys and shishi girls. Frances was the school shishi girl, therefore her jurisdiction affected all grade levels. She was at the top. Below her, existed sub-genres ranging from being the doodoo boy or shishi girl within their grade level and for some, just within their classroom.
Having my mother teaching at the school I attended pretty much kept me immune to any type of doodoo boy status. But who then were eligible for the title? I’m starting to ask myself this question as my daughter is beginning to socialize with other toddlers at the playground. Is there anything I can do to keep the shishi girl title away from her? I reflected on those days of playground politics and also asked for the opinions of friends of mine who admit to being bullied at one time or another.
My school was in a lower income community. What seemed to drive the doodoo boy and shishi girl status was income, which seemed to directly affect hygiene. Frances always had clumpy hair and always seemed barefoot. Her siblings, who were grade level status doodoo boys and shishi girls, also didn’t dress so well. I remember her brother wearing bellbottomed jeans to school, which must’ve been a hand-me-down because we were already well into the 1980s.
My school was predominantly Polynesian and Filipino and so being outside of the ethnic scene also easily made one a candidate of being bullied with the aforementioned titles. African Americans, Caucasians, and Laotians all had it pretty hard in my school. The race card falls into place with the experiences of my friends Kehaulani and Jonathan.
Kehaulani went to a private school for Hawaiian students. However with red hair and freckles, being Hawaiian wasn’t enough to save her from being bullied. Jonathan is also part Hawaiian but having fair skin and being chubby set himself up for bullying as well.
I asked them both how/if the bullying in their youth has affected their adult life. Like myself, Kehaulani is a concerned parent and tries to focus more on the current state of bullying. She realizes that the name-calling that she endured as a child is minor in comparison to what some others had/are going through. Jonathan believes that the bullying has made him more of a shut-in, a loner and extremely sensitive. However he says that his experiences have made him a more tolerant and open-minded person as well.
So where does that leave us for the kids of today? Personally I think ethnicities are considerably more mixed now than before so hopefully the race card or a fair complexion is no longer a red flag for bullying. I’ll be keeping my daughter well groomed and supply her with an endless amount of love and support so that her confidence level will be off the charts.
As far as former bully victims, Jonathan advises today’s youth to find their strength in themselves and simply be yourself, even if it has to be through solitude. Kehaulani admits that learning to laugh at yourself is a temporary fix, however verbal abuse will eventually sink in. She advises to confide in someone they trust for help.