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What I Learned As A 5th Grader By Punching A Bully In The Face

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What controversial advice have people given to their children?

I used to get beat up by this kid in 5th grade on a fairly regular basis. He was very large for our grade. On the playground he would frequently get in my face, be super angry about nothing and punch me in the stomach, or throw me on the ground and choke me depending on his mood. I am not the violent type. So I never fought back.

I remember feeling embarrassed that I was getting hit in front of people and was afraid to fight back. He even bullied me in front of the girl I liked — which was doubly embarrassing. I didn’t like fighting. I’ve never been a fighter.

I complained about it to my mom, thinking she would tell the teacher for me. (I would have told them myself but I didn’t want to be labeled a “tattle tale”). She said “Stand up for yourself! Be a man! Punch the jerk in the face, he’ll never learn otherwise.”

I stared in silence, surprised. This wasn’t the response I was expecting.

boy sitting on a bench in a park
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“Okay,” I thought.

For the record, I had no intention of using her advice as a free pass to go pick a fight or hit anyone. Heck I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to begin with.

He was bigger and stronger than me, but I was determined.

The next day during recess, I got one of the large play balls out of the bin and was bouncing it around on the outside basketball court. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the large bully tormenting some other kid, grabbing the kid by the hair saying something in his ear threateningly. (In hindsight, where the heck were our teachers? Were they completely blind?)

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Anyways, he turns, sees that I have the coveted big ball, starts walking across the court towards me and points, yelling “Hey, stupid!”

I cringed, realizing this might actually go down. I had rehearsed what I might do in my mind, but I was afraid. This would probably just be another episode of schoolyard beat-down starring yours truly. And as luck would have it, the girl I liked (Annie) was standing right next to me, oblivious to my tormentor’s imminent arrival.

He gets to me, stands with his face about 2 inches from mine, and repeats, “Hey stupid. Did you hear me? I was talking to you”.

I stared. Unsure what to do.

He repeats “Hey stupid? I said … DID. YOU. HEAR-”

He grabbed me by the hair, like he did to the other kid, except with me, I actually resisted, and it was a blur after that. We started wrestling. He was bigger and stronger than me, but I was determined. I didn’t want to let him get on top of me so that he could choke or hit me. I remember hearing Annie yell something to the effect of “Stop! Leave him alone!” We scrambled to our feet, I somehow broke free, and without thinking, pulled my arm back and hit him in the mouth as best as I knew how.

I am not the violent type. So I never fought back.

He stared in stunned silence, let out a scream and ran off crying. I remember turning, seeing Annie with her hands over her mouth smiling.

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I felt like the coolest kid in the world.

Somehow the teachers miraculously appeared for once and I got detention. But it was totally worth it. He never bothered me again.

Sean Kernan is passionate, analytical, and creative. Read more from Quora below: