When I was young, I suffered from chronic ear infections almost every week. In the quest to cure these, my ears, nose and throat specialist prescribed tetracycline antibiotics. Tetracycline has a nasty side effect of stained teeth in children. Not baby teeth, mind you, but permanent teeth are stained yellow, grey, or brown. I drew the lucky yellow card.
My parents didn’t know this until my permanent teeth began to come in. I had dark yellow stains on my two front teeth. Very obvious and noticeable. I would cover my mouth when I laughed and smiled and talked so no one could see the stains. This was years before at-home bleach kits. People would stare, ask questions. My grandma would buy me Pearl Whites smoker’s toothpaste, thinking that would rid my teeth of these stains.
Then, came middle school. Kids teased me. Made fun of me. Called me Old Yeller and Smoker Teeth. One year for Christmas, the kids all bought me toothbrushes and put them on my desk in civics class. I complained to the teacher, but nothing was done or said to these students. I would cry myself to sleep at night, not wanting to go to school and be made fun of and bullied.
Yes, there was no physical violence, but it was bullying. Bullying can take the form of verbal taunts, physical threats, physical violence… any of these and more. When I was in school, bullies were the “thugs” that hung out by the dumpster during recess. They weren’t the kids in your class. No one talked about it. No one did anything about it.
Years later, my parents spent several hundreds of dollars and drove me to Cincinnati to have my teeth bleached– one of the few dentists in Ohio that even had the capabilities to do this. It took two sessions and the yellow was faded enough that I felt confident enough to smile and laugh without holding my hand in front of my mouth.
But, do you know what?
I am 34 years old and every time I look in the mirror, I can see those stains on my teeth. I can still hear those kids (and, I know their names!) that called me Old Yeller and Smoker’s Teeth. I remember the feeling when I walked into the classroom and saw 20 toothbrushes on my desk. I remember the teacher who refused to punish these children.
These days, there are more outlets for children and teens (and even adults!) to be bullied. Social media and the internet has opened up a whole new venue for bullying.
It must stop.
Bullying has become an epidemic in the United States. Please, help put an end to bullying.
Please, take a stand against bullying. Sign the petition below.
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