ask toni & josh
There is a boy in my class who is always making fun of me. He just comes up to me for no reason and calls me a failure. Two of my other friends suddenly started calling me a failure, too. Then one day he told my two best friends to ignore me.
I've tried everything. I asked him to stop, I ignored him, and I even told the teacher but nothing worked.
It's been really hard recently and I need help. What should I do to end this?
Feeling like a failure
I've called you 'Victim' because this sadly is what you are. You are being bullied. And the first and most important thing to know is that it is not your fault. This moron in your class may not be threatening you or beating you up, but he is making your life miserable, and undermining your position in your peer group.
This is one of the many forms of bullying that sadly exist, even in this age of openness and enlightenment and education. While you may not actually go home with scars, the internal, emotional scars this guy's behaviour could cause are equally damaging.
You need to tell your parents about what's going on. Don't be afraid of how they might react - they love you, and want you to be happy, so I'm sure they will listen carefully to the problem and make a sensible decision as to what to do. They should tell the school principal about the problem, as he or she has more power than a class teacher to do something about it. This needs to happen soon, and the sooner the better.
Victims often worry that bullies will 'retaliate' if you report them. But if you don't report them, they've won. I expect this guy is just treating you this way because he's bored. He could be insecure himself, and thinks by picking on you, he'll feel more confident. By persuading your friends to do what he tells them, he will feel more powerful.
But you've got to show him that he does not control you or your life. You have to be your own person, and live your life the way you want to, free from fear.
If the bullying continues, however, after you've reported it, you need to keep telling the adults in your life. If you feel very uncomfortable seeing him so often in classes, maybe you can be moved to another class.
As for your 'friends', I expect they, too, are afraid of the bully and feel forced into doing it. But if they are really your friends, and you really value their friendship, you need to talk to them, and ask them why they are behaving this way. If they are being bullied as well, you need to persuade them to report it.
But if they're unclear as to why they are treating you in such a disrespectful manner, and actually seem to believe it was just a bit of fun, you need to explain that it's seriously uncool to pick on another person, and then make some new friends.
Don't hide from bullies, but don't hang around them more than you have to. Join a new club or activity. You'll meet cool new people and learn new skills, which will give you more self-confidence and help you avoid similar predicaments in the future.
My friends have been on several trips to the beach this summer. I always get asked, but I'm nervous about going because they all wear bikinis. I really want to wear one, but I don't think I can pull it off since my stomach isn't exactly my best feature. But if I don't wear one, I'll be the odd one out. Help!
Dear Belly Dancer
Going to the beach in Hong Kong is one of the coolest things you can do on a hot summer's day. You can get to a shore within an hour of leaving the city, and combine your beach trip with a hike, exhilarating water sports or fun junk party.
I totally sympathise with the 'bikini belly' dilemma. I'm fairly slim, but have a really big pot belly, which can make me look like a four-year-old if I'm only wearing a few cloth triangles. But I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that it doesn't matter what you look like. You're going to the beach, not a beauty pageant.
However, I do realise that if you feel like you look good, you'll feel more confident. So there are a couple of things you can think about doing to help you appear to have less of a tummy.'
The first trick is proper posture. If you learn to stand properly - shoulders down, head up, pelvis pushed slightly forward - your abdominal muscles will naturally contract and your tummy will look flatter.
If you don't do much exercise, maybe now is the time to start. Quite apart from the fact that it is essential to your overall well-being, it will help you tone up. Ask for advice from a fitness professional as to what will particularly benefit the abdominal region, but start with some basic aerobic exercise. (Your heart, if nothing else, will thank you later.)
If your excess flab is mostly due to bloat, then cut out any foods that cause you to puff up, at least the night before your beach trip. Common culprits can include dairy products, beans and lentils, raw veggies, artificial sweeteners and fizzy drinks.
If these steps don't have much effect, consider not joining the bikini bunch. One-piece swimsuits are really hot this year, and are available everywhere from haute couture designers to high street brands like H&M. Or just accept your shape - nobody can tell you not to wear a bikini!
Toni and Josh are currently on sabbatical, so their responses are intermittent. But keep writing in - they'll replay whenever they can.