In spite of the several kind, supportive friends I had in school, my relationship with other students in general throughout elementary, middle, and high school was… well… withdrawn at best. Being the kind of person that I was, widespread social acceptance and approval was hardly possible among most kids, as they obviously found it difficult to tolerate my “awkwardness” and “weirdness.”
Now, I would be lying if I said that being in school was a constant nightmare, or that I was regularly bullied by students left and right. It’s honestly difficult to consider myself a “victim of bullying,” as I did not experience the same kind of harassment and intimidation that some children in the autism spectrum are sadly faced with. From what I remember, the way in which many students treated me mostly involved distancing themselves from me, while silently suggesting that they considered me unpleasant and irritating. It may not have been the nicest way to behave towards me, and it certainly hurt my feelings, but I believe they could have been a lot nastier if they wanted to.
However that does not mean that none of the kids at school were ever mean or offensive to me at all. Far from it, I was picked on by students on many occasions, typically in the form of “playful” mimicking, manipulative teasing, hurtful jokes, and most notably, continuous taunting. One of the most widely used of these taunts, something that will stick with me to the day I die, involved provokingly repeating the expression, “TIMMAH!!!”
What they were referring to, I later found out, is a character named “Timmy” on the adult animated series South Park. Timmy is, shamefully enough, a mentally and physically handicapped boy who goes to school with the other children on the show. He uses a motorized wheelchair, appears to have some form of palsy, and is well-known for only being able to shout out his own name. The way in which he continuously shouts it out, “TIM-MAAAH,” is apparently what makes him an incredibly humorous character, although probably not intended to insult or mock children with mental disorders. Nonetheless, the fact that this character and I share a similar name, and that we both have some form of autism, or “mental retardation,” can hardly be a coincidence.
I was not aware of the connection at first, but I still found it extremely aggravating whenever I heard the other kids at school shout, whisper, or murmur “TIMMAH” near me. For a while, as I didn’t understand the proper way to react, I would yell at people who did this to me and demand them to stop it. Naturally, middle and high school students don’t usually comply with these sorts of demands, so this only caused their mocking to intensify and thus get me even angrier. I tried everything in my power to make them stop, including telling a whole a bunch of teachers at school, politely letting the kids know that it really upset me, and of course, threatening them with violence if they kept it up (I never actually went through on my threats). None of this effectively ended the taunting for good.
My teachers and parents eventually had to tell me that the only way these kids were going to stop was to ignore them completely. They explained that once I no longer gave them the angry reaction that apparently entertained them, those students would soon leave me alone and go both someone else. When I first heard this advice, I was all like, “What?! Ignore them? I shouldn’t HAVE to put up with it! Just force them to stop!” It took some time for me to eventually understand that there was little to nothing that the adults could do to convince these students that they couldn’t do it anymore.
So at one point I did try not responding to it at all, hoping that my parents and teachers were correct in that it would slowly get them to stop. Unfortunately, this was not easy at first. For quite a while, it was sooo hard to fight the urge to fight back by yelling at them or threatening them – showing them that I “wasn’t someone to be messed with.” After all, I still felt it was completely unfair that I had to deal with this infuriating behavior in the first place. Plus, the strategy didn’t seem to be working initially. A lot of those kids were fairly persistent in their efforts to get some “hilarious outburst” out of me, and I could only put up with it for so long. God, I just wanted to smack people in the face whenever they used the “Timmah” thing against me.
Fortunately, I continued to ignore them and, over time, it was happening to me less and less at school. I suppose this was because the students simply got tired of this routine and were no longer getting the reaction they desired. Perhaps they just grew up and realized that it made them look stupid. Of course I would still hear one or two obnoxious guys whisper it behind my back every once in a while, often when walking down the hallway or when I did something to “upset” them. Now that I’m graduated from high school and far away from all of those people, I haven’t had to hear this maddening sound for several years. For the sake of my own emotional stability, I have tried to avoid any South Park episodes that feature the Timmy character. Hearing him shout his name may just spark some really unpleasant memories, causing me to become deeply agitated and restless.
Looking back on it now, I actually feel slightly more offended by what those classmates did to me than I did back then. As I pointed out, they were clearly making fun of me due to my disorder, comparing me to a fictional “retard” and intentionally trying to make me feel distressed. Quite frankly, this might be a perfect example of bullying, because these kids were essentially harassing me because I had Aspergers Syndrome. It’s only now that I realize that it could be considered such, and it helps me to relate with many other people on the autism spectrum who have experienced bullying at school. Well, maybe it isn’t nearly as bad as many of the stories I have heard from other Aspies, but I can safely say that I know what it’s like to be a target of harassment simply for being different and “weird.” It certainly is upsetting, and it can really make you want to just not talk to anyone.