Bullies. They’re one of those terrifying things that almost everyone has to suffer through at some point in their lives, like visiting the dentist, getting mugged, or listening to the new Katy Perry. Unfortunately, human psychology at large has some pretty bad traits implicit in it. Traits like pride, like insecurity, and like plain old malice, which can express themselves in a feeling of sadistic pleasure in seeing another, usually in some way weaker, human being cop a load of undeserved and unnecessary flack.
But life, although seemingly an endless barrage of misery, pain, and Katy Perry, can sometimes throw up the odd nice thing, and seeing bullying arseholes get their just desserts is definitely one of them.
We spoke to five men who were all bullied at some point when they were younger, but had managed to exact some revenge, to see how they did it, how it made them feel, and whether they have any regrets.
Hi buddy. Tell me about your bully.
The first thing to know about the whole thing is that I was born a giant. I was always the biggest kid in school, my height only beaten by my width. Being a pretty shy kid that meant I spent most of my time hunching to make myself seem smaller, and trying to get out of fights – every would-be hard kid wanted to test their strengths against the giant. This meant I spent most of my time crying in the headmaster's office, either because I'd been beaten up, or I'd gone too far playfighting from not knowing my own strength.
The serious bullying started when I moved up to secondary school. I was still a giant by school standards – I was rapidly approaching 6ft by 12 – but some of these kids were even bigger, and I was a geek. It started off simple enough, a bit of name calling from other fat kids who wanted to be the alpha undesirable, a slap or two from the football lads, but then in the space of two weeks I had a biro shattered into my neck, and was beaten up by a gang of kids outside the rec centre – there's nothing like the sound of all your mates running away as a Neanderthal in Nike poppers pulls your hood over your eyes and gets his mates to kick the shit out of you.
I'm sorry to hear that man. How did you exact your sweet revenge though?
One day, one of the football kids decided to fuck my day all the way up. It was after soccer rec, and I was getting changed. It was then this kid started hiding my clothes, calling me a whale, over and over and over again.
Something in me just snapped. I ran for him, grabbed him by the throat, and threw him into the wooden lockers, raising him up to show what I was made of. I held him there, red, hot, steaming and crying. I said: “Don't ever do that again.” One of his mates put a hand on my shoulder so I let him go and stormed out of the common room.
Why do you think you snapped though?
I'd been bullied in every school since I was eight. I was 15 or 16 at that point so eight years of on-off misery unleashed itself on this kid, who hadn't even been responsible for the worst I'd endured. I guess I'd just had enough, and decided to use my size and strength instead of hiding it or feeling ashamed of it. Not long after that I started focusing on my health and lost something like five stone.
What was the result?
I can't remember ever getting bullied again, but to be honest everyone sort of grew out of it. By sixth form pretty much everyone in the school got on, and actually got to like each other. I ended up friendly with the sports kids, and apologised to the guy I choked. So did he. Crane shot. Fade to black.
Hi Chris, what happened to you with this bully?
So just for context, when I was about 14 to 15 I used to catch a bus 45 minutes to school every day and used to cop shit there and back pretty much every day from year seven through to year nine. I'm a big guy but pretty much a non-violent pacifist and up until that point had never thrown a punch in my life. One day I got up from my spot and three guys sat in front, beside and behind me so they could rip on me from all angles. I didn't really do anything until one of them made a comment about being a family of alcoholics, and mentioned a dead grandparent.
Fuck. What did you do?
I just remember counting to three in my head before closing my eyes and letting the one who said it have it. Next thing I remember one of my friends was holding me back while another random kept me down until I calmed down. I can't specifically remember if my bullying stopped after that but it at least wasn't as bad.
Did it change your attitude towards bullying at all?
Not really, no good comes from stuff like that, I do remember a lot of people giving me props for a week or so and I don't think I was bothered for a little while after that, those guys all left as well which helped.
Is revenge sometimes worth it then?
...I wouldn't really consider that revenge.
What is it?
I kind of snapped after some pretty horrific shit being said, more of a spontaneous reaction I suppose. It's not something I'm particularly proud of nor do I get any satisfaction out of it, I do consider it necessary and I also don't regret it. I should also probably highlight that after year nine things got a lot easier and it wasn't all doom and gloom!
Hi mate, so tell me about this bastard.
I worked for a market research company, so I was calling people on behalf of their banks or energy providers to ask them about their service. A lot of people would assume this was cold sales calling and hang up, tell us to fuck off and stuff. But this bloke just launched into a racist tirade assuming that I was in a call centre in India, telling me that my accent was obviously put on and I should stop stealing jobs from British workers or whatever.
Is that when you snapped?
Yeah it was literally how far this bloke took it, I thought, “Nah mate, you're a proper scumbag, this has riled me up”. But I had to just sit there and take it, we weren't allowed to hang up and if a call that was getting listened to ended in a termination from my side I'd likely lose shifts for the next week or so.
So what did you do?
So I was just sitting not saying anything, waiting for him to hang up and I was like, “I can't let this go, I need to bother this fucker somehow”. And his phone number was just staring at me in the face and thought “there we go”.
Excellent. How did it go down?
I thought, “What would get people calling a bloke out of the blue?” Everyone's always looking at freebies on Gumtree, and I knew his location because I knew the branch of his bank he had visited because it was in my introduction to him to let him know this was a legit call. So I went onto Gumtree for his city and once a week for a couple of months would post an ad for a free shed, or a free PlayStation or a free TV with his number. Just classic ads you always see: 'Shed no longer needed, free if you come collect it', 'Moving house, no space for TV in new place'. I've still got the number, but I decided not to give him a call myself to tell him to fuck off because that's exactly what I didn't like happening to me in the call centre. I got the city of Liverpool to exact my revenge for me.
Drew (name changed)
Hi, so tell us about this bully then.
He was just genuinely one of the worst humans I've ever met. He was a really horrible person. My female friends would come round and he'd make really lewd comments, I once found a note in the fridge on his shelf that said “In most countries if you steal food you'll have your hand chopped off”, I picked it up and saw on the back he'd written the N-word in huge capitals on the back, when one housemate was from Nigeria.
Christ. So what did you do to get revenge?
Basically over the course of six to eight months I kind of set out to either drive him away or make him really question his existence in a way. He'd speak really loud so I'd record his phone calls from outside, put them into my computer and when I went out or I knew he was in studying all day I'll play them back to him through the wall on loop, just getting louder and louder and faster and faster.
Then I'd send him fake interview acceptance letters from made up law firms, as he was studying law, and on a few occasions he would punch the wall after realising the place was fake, but every time he'd receive one he'd go through the same emotions. The thing that he weirdly got the most angry about was when I'd hide his cheeses.
Bloody hell. Seems quite systematic.
Well I must say again this was a horrible, horrible person. His family had historical ties to the slave trade and it was something he'd essentially gloat about. He was an unapologetic right-wing millionaire.
Fair play. What made you go to such lengths?
Yeah, it's not exactly schoolyard bullying I guess… to this day I've probably, genuinely never met someone so horrible. I guess some of the ways to get back at him was less that he bullied me, just how he thought of others.
Ian, tell us of your nemesis.
He was just a bad guy. He would beat up local kids, and me. He was a young teenager, a few years older than us and would just bully kids verbally, start fights, he was at that shit all the time.
So how did you best your nemesis?
One time when I was 10 we invited him into our gaff to play a round of that game 'Atmosfear' and when we turned the lights out, I kicked him as hard as I could in the balls. When the lights came on he no idea who'd done it.
I remember that game!
Yeah, so we invited him to our friend Frank’s who lived next door, it was a Saturday in the evening, we had the whole thing planned out meticulously.
How did you feel getting your sweet revenge?
When I sat down my heart was racing because I was sure he would know it was me. But he just looked so confused. Like that episode of Father Ted when he kicks bishop Brennan up the arse. He got up and left and to this day, I feel like I did it for team. I was buzzing.
Did it stop the bullying?
At least for a few months. I guess when he saw us organising, he got shook.
Did it change your mind about bullying at all?
No, he was still a dick and bullies were always going to just be bullies, but it gave me a great feeling of being able to turn the tables perhaps? That even the toughest will get their comeuppance if they go around being a jerk. Honestly I think he was just a lonely loser, which is a bit sad.
Some of kind of karmic justice?
Yeah, I got to kick him in the dick so that's chill. Live by the sword, get kicked in the balls. That's a saying right?