As if by nature, people go out of their way to fit in. Anyone who has ever been afraid to give an opinion in class for fear of being seen as “different” is acutely aware of this feeling.
Now, instead of speaking in front of 50 or so people, imagine giving your opinion to a group of 10,000 fellow students. These are the circumstances I face every time I publish a column in the Collegiate Times.
My friends, whom I regard as Lee Hall boys (which also include two girls Crystal and Jessie) inspired me to write for the CT as an opinion columnist. Regular friends usually inspire you by saying “Your writing is great,” or “I love the way you organize your thoughts,” but my one-of-a-kind friends inspired me by picking on my grammar mistakes, or more likely, on my accent.
Mike would ask me jokingly, “How do you pronounce ‘stop?’” and Ian would immediately reply, “Esstop!” They would pick on my mispronunciation every time I hung out with them last semester. It had become their way of having fun.
I usually speak fast so I miss out on articles — a, an or the — a lot, or they are not heard sometimes. I also pronounce words with British pronunciation. For example, the worst thing I was picked on for was “chromatids.” While all my friends in biology class pronounced the word in a regular way, I pronounced it as “chro-mya-tids.” My friends thought it was hilarious and couldn’t stop making fun of my pronunciation.
I laughed it off most of the time, but there were times when their jokes went overboard and I could not tolerate their nonsense any more.
There came a point when I really started analyzing my friendships and wondered if they were even my friends. Aren’t friends regarded as the ones who would be there with you to share your happiness as well as sorrows? How can one be your friend if he can’t accept you for who you are?
The same scenario applies to one of my friends and his roommates. My friend Abhi and his roommate Steven pick on their other roommate, Derek, constantly. Derek was home-schooled and Abhi thinks he lacks social skills. By picking on Derek, calling him names such as “awkward” and “retard,” Abhi thinks he is teaching Derek to be social, but his methods are absolutely wrong.
I spent a weekend with them and I was very close to losing my temper at Abhi and Steven. The way they treat Derek is not only “bullying,” but also dehumanizing. I could see they have pushed Derek to the edge.
I might be jeopardizing my friendships, but I had to write about their acts. I kept on reminding him it’s not nice of them to pick on Derek, but they wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. This is the only way I could convey my message.
Regarding my issue, I ended up confronting my friends. I told them they would have to suck it up and accept me for who I am or stop being friends with me. I told them I would rather not have friends than have enemies in the name of friends.
My friends understood how I felt and don’t pick on me as much. They seldom pick on me now and when they do I just laugh it off. It’s not the same in Derek’s case. Abhi and Steven have pushed him to a limit where he won’t be living with them next year.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Derek stops talking to them, because I won’t.