Bullying. It’s a popular topic these days … sometimes leading to tragic consequences.
I came across a book recently that deals first-hand with bullying, although set back in the 1970s. I Don’t Want To Be Like You by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta chronicles her struggle with bullying from age nine through high school. It was written hopefully to show young girls — or anyone who is being bullied — that it’s not the “end all”.
While the pain and angst was real, I took something entirely different the book — Maryanne’s resilience. She learned to live with her “YOUniqueness”, steadily building her own confidence to pursue her dreams despite the put downs. Attending seven different schools in two counties over a 10 year span and living through both her parents and grandparents divorces contributed to the bullying since she was constantly the new kid. It was during these times, she decided not to follow the herd mentality.
Maryanne was “punk” before punk became popular, and she tended to migrate toward gothic/alternative rock. That penchant for Queen, Freddie Mercury, The Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Clash and PIL led to a number of confrontations. Her first recollections of verbal bullying included being called “dog”, “scumbag”, “space cadet” and “whore”, but she was more fearful when someone threatened her with words like they were going “to beat the shit out you” or “ruin your pretty face.” When you’re the smallest and skinniest kid in the classroom, it’s more terrifying because of the state of anticipation you’re always in. No kid should live like that — back in Maryanne’s day nor today.
Ironically, it was her love of music that grounded her and gave her confidence. While others were going to dances and football games, she was off at clubs in Greenwich Village, NY. She was able to parlay music and writing into a career where she interviewed almost every musician she ever wanted to meet and was on the guest list countless times. She has written three books and edited or ghost wrote 15 others. Why? She may have been embarrassed and hurt by the bullying, but she never played the victim.
Her message to those being bullied is simple. “You are not the embarrassment. The bullies are. There is nothing embarrassing about being singled out for being different … Just keep being yourself. I always say be YOUnique!”
She also cautions the bullies, “Hating someone for being different is shameful and disgusting.”
And she lived happily ever after!
I give the book five stars for tackling an age old question that still has relevance today — perhaps more so. Her message is letting bullied kids of all generations know life isn’t always that way. It is an inspiration and invitation to those feeling down and depressed to make their own “beautiful way in this world.” Make a difference!
I Don’t Want To Be Like You, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta. Paperback, 82 pages. Published Sept. 7, 2018 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1726273261 (ISBN13: 9781726273268)
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: We cannot start over, but we can begin now and make a new ending. — Zig Ziglar