29: El Panza de Burra (The Donkey Belly)

29: El Panza de Burra (The Donkey Belly)

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

El Panza de Burra (The Donkey Belly)

There’s always going to be somebody who’ll try to take your dignity and self-esteem. Just never let them take your voice.

~Eric, 7th Heaven

Being chubby in middle school is not what you want to be. The name-calling and the teasing are particularly perturbing and vicious and get in the way of concentrating on schoolwork. Add to that the fact that I had just migrated to the big city from a small village in the middle of the Mexican Sierra Madre and you have all the ingredients for conflict. True to form, as soon as I stepped into the classroom, the name-calling began: “panza de burra,” they would call me, which means Donkey Belly. Not the prettiest of nicknames. One kid was particularly mean; the others were not so callous. Nonetheless, this one kid made my life miserable.

I would come home from school crying every day on account of the name-calling. After a month of a barrage of personal attacks from this one kid, my father, more frustrated than me, pulled me aside and gave me my first lesson on reverse psychology. He told—no—ordered me what to do. In fact, he was very specific in his instructions.

“As soon as you see this kid tomorrow morning,” he said, “you must go up to him and call him panza de burra. However,” he said, “you must show no anger or emotion. In fact, put a smile on your face and act as normal as possible.”

I was incredulous! This was his solution to my insurmountable problem? This was totally out of character for me. To emphasize his point, my father also told me that if I didn’t do this, I would suffer further consequences from him. That is probably what motivated me the most to follow his advice. Just to make sure that I got the idea, my father made me practice the routine with him several times until he was satisfied.

I could hardly sleep that night. How could I confront this bully? After breakfast, I painstakingly went to school and guess who was right there at the playground gate? The bully! Shaking all over but trying not to show it, I went up to him and before he could say anything, I said to him:

“How are you doing, panza de burra?” I caught him by surprise.

Mumbling, he said, “You are panza de burra.”

I responded, “No! You are!”

This silly exchange went on for a few minutes. In the meantime, a group of kids gathered around us listening to the verbal exchange. They all thought it was funny that I was calling the other kid by that name. In fact, he wasn’t so thin himself. Before I knew it, the rest of the kids were calling him “panza de burra.” To this day, that kid, now a man, has not bugged me.

I learned a great lesson from my father. The rest of my middle school years were no smooth sail, but I was equipped with a wonderful survival tool to deal with name-calling.

~Conrado Gomez

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