radios, 12 volt electronics, translators, electrical exam prep, spy gadgets
Bookmark and Share
Amazon Store eBay Store Walmart Store Articles  Brainpower Newsletter Contact Us     Home  Search

Request to be put on our jokelist, one joke daily and a lot of original stuff you won't get anywhere else

 

This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

Book Reviews Home   Free Audio Books

Book Review of: Please Stop Laughing At Me

One Woman's Inspirational Story

Price: $9.32
List Price: $12.95
You save: $3.63 (28%)

Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours
Click on the image to order or find more books like this.

Review of Please Stop Laughing At Me, by Jodee Blanco (Softcover, 2010, 2003)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This book is a Godsend for children whose self-esteem is suffering because of how other kids treat them. The story is about one woman's tortured experiences attending school. She got wrong advice from her parents (see my personal note below this review for what I think the right advice is).

I'm not sure how accurate the author's recounting is, but she tells a vivid story of a long history of abuse during her entire school career. She's only slightly younger than I am and we both grew up in Illinois. What she says resonates with the time and place that I remember. Today, the problems are worse due to the "unintended consequences" of bad public policies, cultural degradation, television-addiction, and the systematic poisoning of children by purveyors of high fructose corn syrup. That last item causes all kinds of behavioral and health problems. Even though (being so toxic) it is obviously illegal, it's still sold. Amazingly enough, parents still feed it to their kids (this is incomprehensible to me--what are they thinking?)

So we have the underlying problem of abuse magnified many times over by these external factors, today. No wonder kids go Postal.

The story Ms. Bianco tells is, at times, heart-breaking. While reading her accounts, I kept wishing she'd put a stop to the abuse. But her response, as she acknowledged, made it worse. Psychologists call this "enabling behavior."

It's true that this book does not provide solutions to the victims of bullies. The book was not about how the author solved bullying problems (she didn't). It was about her experience of being bullied. I think the book succeeds in painting a good picture of how the bullied feel. Those who are/were victims probably won't find much help in this book, other than commiseration. However, those who bully (and that seems to be the intended audience) will understand something about themselves and others unless they are truly dense.

Something Ms. Blanco's recollections reveal is that the world is not strictly divided into bullies and bullied. Many people are in both camps. It's a self-reinforcing loop. It's driven by insecurity, something teens are noted for. The "need" to "belong" to a self-selecting group of kids by engaging in approval-seeking behavior is widespread. It's irrational and self-defeating, but it's the reality most kids live with. Few outgrow that problem in adulthood, though the manifestations are more subtle.

Ms. Bianco now has a lecture series aimed at reprogramming much of this non-thinking. She has video clips on her Website, and I think her approach gets at one big root of the problem. When kids "act out" their insecurities through omission of kind acts and commission of unkind acts, they set up a positive feedback loop of abuse. Ms. Bianco seeks to get kids to think about this and to take control of their behavior. Working at this meta-level is effective, because it changes the culture. I've seen the same approach for industrial safety training; you go from a culture of mindless bad choices to one of thinking about consequences.

Ms. Bianco also correctly identifies some "reasons" some kids exclude or torture other kids. It goes back to insecurity. A kid who has a large vocabulary or in other ways appears intellectually superior to other kids can easily inflame the insecurities of those kids. One solution is for the gifted child to be more empathetic and make specific efforts to soothe those insecurities by complimenting other kids on their own gifts. This is "normally" an adult skill, but there are bright kids who possess it. In Mensa, we have a keen awareness of the problems faced by kids with genius-level IQs. They really do pay a social price for that, if they are not careful. And if they are careful, they reap a social dividend from it.

For most kids, growing up is a matter of taking and giving lumps. It's a social learning thing. Some of the bullying is outsized, but it's usually conducted by a small percentage of kids. Usually, it's the new kid or the poor kid or the kid who is an outlier in some other way who takes the extreme abuse.

Very few kids who are ostracized by everyone or nearly everyone. In the case of the Columbine kids, we know the two boys who cracked had a long history of self-exclusion. Other kids may have made them feel unwanted, but their response was to magnify that by retreating into the world of the weird and becoming even more unwantable.

I've read about all kinds of solutions that could have prevented those Columbine boys from coming to school with pipe bombs and an intent to kill. While watching Ms. Bianco's video clips, the right solution became fairly obvious. Kids need to understand that failing to extend a kindness when it's easy to do so is a bullying act. Another kid is eating lunch alone, what are you doing about that? If other kids had been taught to reach out, those two boys would not have retreated increasingly into their psychotic little world.

The long-term solution is a campaign such as the one Ms. Bianco now brings to schools. However, there are interim needs that the bullied must meet. And some kids will be mean, regardless of the surrounding culture. I address the interim needs in my personal comments after this review.

Beyond Ms. Bianco's window into school year abuse and the pain it causes, let's consider adulthood. How many of you readers work in a place loaded up with passive-aggressive people? Have you had an abusive boss, dealt with at-work cliques, or had to play little kid games in the office? Schools may not teach reading, writing, and arithmetic very well anymore, but they are excellent training grounds for producing dysfunctional adults. I believe Ms. Bianco's program can help solve that problem.

This book consists of 14 chapters in 270 pages, plus a letter to the reader, the author's note, a Reader's Guide, the author's professional bio, a list of resources, and a short piece about Ms. Bianco's anti-bullying program for schools.

In this book, the author brings up many ideas that need discussion. The discussions should be among peers, and between kids and their parents. It seems clear that the kids who properly face these issues will be better adults.

Different experiences, a personal viewpoint

My take on physical bullying differs markedly from the author's. I had a zero tolerance policy for it as a kid, and that served me quite well. We do agree mostly on the other remedies for abusive behavior. So, what about that physical bullying?

I was very sick for my first few years of life, and this held up my physical growth until the summer after my junior year in high school (I started high school at 5'2" and 87 lbs). By graduation, however, I was 6 feet tall and very muscular. I watched the Rocky movie and adopted his raw egg regimen and a few other things.

But up until my senior year, I was the little kid that others thought they could pick on. At least, they thought that until they actually picked on me. In second grade, a fourth grader knocked me down. I reached my finger into his nostril and pulled. Blood gushed everywhere. I then proceeded to beat on him until other kids pulled me off. Nobody messed with me at that school, ever again.

I had been wearing a football jersey with the number 32, which was OJ Simpson's number. I had been chastised for dishonoring a great American hero. How ironic that would prove many years later.

Our school boundaries were redrawn, and I went to a new school for fifth grade. There, I almost got into a fight about midyear. A much older kid (who had flunked several times) pushed me down in the snow. The next thing I knew, my best friend had stuck that kid upside down head first in the snow bank.

There was a fight attempt that spring. The tough kids formed a circle and another kid and I were supposed to fight. I refused to fight, and the crowd dispersed when my mom, alerted by a neighbor kid, drove up in her car. I was happy to tell the Principal who these kids were. They all got into trouble.

As with Ms. Bianco, this "tattling" marked me for further abuse. Later, the toughest kid in the school came after me. Of course, I ran. And, of course, he ran after me. But I stopped suddenly and threw myself on all fours. He tumbled over the top of me. Before he could get up, I kicked him hard in the face and the blood gushed everywhere. Nobody bothered me after that.

In middle school, the biggest kids protected me. I'm not sure why. One day, four punks tried to steal my lunch money. A big kid named Lonnie beat them up. Another day, I was going home for lunch when three kids attacked me (using a jumprope to keep me from getting away). A football player named Lance whipped their butts right there.

In high school, I managed to avoid fights until my sophomore year. I had joined the Navy Junior ROTC program, which was unpopular at the time. And I was very tiny. Another kid 10 inches taller and more than 100 lbs heavier knocked my books out of my hands. Instead of picking up my books, I rushed him and took him down at his knees (I had been on the wrestling team in 7th grade and wasn't very good, but I did have some moves). I poked him in the eye, got behind him, then grabbed his hair with one hand and his genitals with the other and proceeded to grind my chin into his spine. He cried for mercy and I gave none. Only after other kids began to pull me off did I let him up. Nobody bulled me after that. Ever.

This bully had an epiphany. He gave it up. It was just too dangerous. He stopped by my house a couple of weeks later and offered to be my friend. I took him up on that.

Verbal abuse is different. It's a test. My advice is to ignore the first instance. Don't rise to the bait. The second instance from the same abuser is different. It's beginning a pattern. My advice is to break that pattern, immediately. Unlike wine and cheese, it won't get better with age. Say something like, "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" or "What planet are you from, you idiot?" Slam back with a put down.

When the bully seeks to humiliate you in front of others, turn the tables. One day, a bully surrounded by his crowd of sycophants abused me verbally. I looked at him and said, "If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you. Why don't you go take a bath to get rid of your body odor instead of bothering us normal people?" That kid never abused me again.

The author's retort "Screw you" does not do the job. It merely shows you are annoyed. The retort has to show you can make pain for the other person. This isn't being mean. It's self-defense. The other kid chose to pick a fight. You must choose to end it, decisively.

My advice to anyone being beaten up by a bully is to send a message to all bullies. Take on the first physical bully and be brutal. That person will not bully you again. Everyone, no matter how large, has nostrils that can be ripped open. I don't advise poking anyone in the eye, as that can lead to permanent injury. What you want is visual impact and for the other kids to remember that you made a big, mean, tough guy cry and beg for mercy. You aren't stooping to their level. You are teaching them that it's painful to hurt you.

But you also must have a kind side, and be totally committed to using it.

In high school, I wasn't in the cool crowd, but I was in sports and on the Student Council. And I was "dorky" in many ways. For example, the stepdad of one of my best friends had diabetes. I did not know the implications of this for such things as skin fungus, until much later in life. It was my friend's job to take off his stepdad's socks. He hated this. So, I volunteered to do it. Anything for a buddy.

When I pulled off that first sock, the stench was horrible. I almost threw up by the time I got the other one off. Later, I asked my friend why his dad's feet smelled so bad. He said his dad wore colored socks all the time. I had worn these, too, but often wore white tube socks to go out and play. The factual issues didn't register with me, here. I immediately codified, "Dark socks make your feet stink." My mind could not accept the overwhelming evidence that this was wrong.

It was not until I was in my early 20s that I finally overcame my phobia of wearing socks that were not white. Not rational, and not observant of the rest of the world, but that's what I did. And it made me look odd.

I had other issues, too. Such as really bad allergies (if you know someone with this problem, you know what's going on there). But I was energetic, involved in all kinds of activities, accepting of others, and able to make kids and teachers laugh. And I was bright; I knew all kinds of stuff that other kids thought was oddly amusing, hilariously useless, or interesting in some other way. I was not like other kids, but they didn't seem to hold that against me.

Some of the jocks were even my friends, though looking back I find this quite generous on their part. One of them made a lasting impression on me. He was the MVP of our basketball team. He showed up at the gym every day to shoot hoops. He noticed I worked out in the little weight room off the gym, and one day he stopped in to encourage me to keep doing that. This was in the summer of 1977. It is September of 2010 as I write this, and I have not missed a workout since that day.

Most kids liked me, though they thought of me as "off." Some kids would even tell me this, meaning no disrespect (none taken). They didn't ostracize me, but few would include me in their inner circle. The tough kids never challenged me, and I got along with them also.

But it wasn't always peaceful. One day, I was eating lunch with one of the "cool kids" when one of the "misfits" sat at our table. The "misfit" was labeled as such because he was socially ungraceful and apparently of lesser intelligence than his peers. This didn't bother me; I liked the kid. But the "cool kid" made some nasty remark and told the other kid to scram. I told the other kid to have a seat. The "cool kid" threatened to leave for another table. I said, "Please do." He did. On my way out of the lunch room, I walked by him and loudly called him a wuss.

It didn't bother me what other kids thought. It said more about them than about me. Unlike my peers, I already had friends at other schools. I didn't need to be controlled by other kids as a condition of their friendship. Maybe this was my secret. I couldn't be ruffled, so why bother?

Later in life, I was married for several years. I had two stepdaughters. I taught martial arts to both of them. They each got picked on exactly once at any school they attended. The younger one, at age 6, was accosted by a fourth grade boy. She broke his collar bone. The older one was spat upon and struck on the way home from school one day, by a bunch of girls who were jealous because a cute boy really went gaga over the new girl. I told her she had my permission to fight back, and her mother said the same. She took down the entire gang of girls the next night, and was never picked on again.

Some people say violence is not the answer, and it's easy for them to say when they aren't the ones being kicked and beaten. Kids who have no fear of punishment grow up to be adults with no fear of punishment. Fighting back stops the physical abuse. It is the only thing that does.

 

 

 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

Articles | Book Reviews | Free eNL | Products

Contact Us | Home

This material, copyright Mindconnection. Don't make all of your communication electronic. Hug somebody!