Like so many kids past, present and (unfortunately) future, being bullied was a huge part of my school career. I will not say that I was a “victim” even though my experiences lasted years and were definitely on the extreme end of the scale.
To call myself a victim gives the thoughtless actions of others more power than they deserve and looses the perspective that those painful experiences afforded me. It was intense but it made me strong and today those lessons are still with me.
At the end of 8th grade I was in math class I noticed one of my classmates fumbling in my backpack. I asked her was she was doing.
She startled, and pulled out what she had been trying to hide.
“What’s that?” I asked as she looked at me with horror.
“Why were you trying to put ‘nothing’ in my bag?”
I grabbed what seemed to be a bumpy folded paper from her clenched hand.
“Don’t read that, it’s bad. Give it back to me!”
She tried feebly to retrieve the note from my hands but I think she knew it was over. The girl who had been trying to slip it into my bag was a ‘friend’ of many years. She changed tactics; “I didn’t write it. I didn’t really want to give it to you. I’m sorry” and she went back to her desk.
Thinking that those were very odd comments. I flattened the paper on my desk and what I saw was a whole page of letters and pictures cut out of magazines, ransom-note style. The top was adorned with supermodel’s smiling mouth that had been drawn on with green marker to look like it had slime growing in-between the teeth. I can still see it clearly even today.
Below the pieced together text went into many elaborate and wonderful details about exactly how fat, ugly and worthless I was as a ‘human being.’ If I could indeed be called such a thing. Along with other gems like that I “used mayonnaise to clean my hair and that is why it’s so greasy.”
Needless to say halfway through I burst out into histaric sobs and bolted from the room. By the time I got back from the bathroom (a.k.a. the crying cubicles) the note had been confiscated and the school councilor had been brought down to talk to me. Anyone who knew anything was being grilled in the principal’s office-trying to find who had created it.
I remember coming over to where the councilor was sitting outside the classroom. Realizing for the first time that this was worse than normal. I wasn’t going to be going back to math today. She motioned for me to sit down and looked at me with sad understanding eyes.
I still remember that I had been wearing a new outfit that day. You know, that one you get in the middle of the school year.
The special one. The one that is going to make you the prettiest girl in school.
I had been so hopeful that morning when I put it on in the morning that today was going be a good day. I left the house with a hop in my step. Now looking down on my sun flower print rayon pants, all that was gone.
Now my attempt at fashion only made me feel that much more foolish. She said that I looked very nice today, as it WAS pretty obvious that this was ‘that outfit.’
She then gently asked me if I knew who had done this. I responded only that I only saw my classmate who had tried to hide it in my bag and that I didn’t know anything else.
She reassured me that whoever had done this was going to be punished and that even the girl who tried to drop it off would be suspended for a day, longer if my classmate didn’t tell them who had written it.
She went on to say all the things a school councilor says to you when they are trying to console you, let you know it is not your fault, etc. I couldn’t help but feel that these were things she had to say. That it WAS in fact, partly my fault.
After all- I was the one who persisted to exist, had the audacity to attend the same school as the rest of my class and be unapologeticly who I was.
My parents were called and my mom picked me up. A little while after we got home my mom and dad had a conference call with the principal. It turned out that the people who had done it were two girls from my home town. Girls I had been going to school with since kindergarden. They had devised the note at a sleepover the night before.
He informed them that they would be receiving a three day suspension and would be writing me letters of apology and serving community service. He went on to tell my parents that it was the “worst personal attack letter he had ever seen in 25 years of school administration” and then, he read it to them…
By the time they came downstairs to talk with me they were both in tears. I still to this day don’t know what the last half of the letter said but they do. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t nicer than the first.
They hugged me we cried together. None of us knowing really what do to.
They could not protect me from this. They couldn’t help me or influence the situation in the slightest. We all knew that I would have to go back tomorrow and pass my days with these people, who cared nothing for me or my feelings.
I wanted to be suspended!
Why should I have to go back the next day?!
All I wanted to do is stay home away from people who seemed prepared to spend large amounts of their time coming up with elaborate ways to tell me how unwanted I was.
What hurt more is that these were not girls I had just met, people who didn’t know me. We had been around each other almost everyday of our schooling and were often classmates.
There was a large part of me that let that fact validate their efforts and what they had said. I WAS annoying, fat and loud, everyone could see it. They could not find any redeeming quality about me after nine years of knowing me, to mitigate just how terrible I was. That is what hurt most of all.
This happened more than half my life ago and in hindsight I think it is an excellent example of just how f!#ked being a teen is.
I have known the girls who wrote that note our whole lives. I know them to be truly wonderful, caring and loving people.
What they did was just a symptom of teenage-hood, when we all run around franticly, treating everybody including ourselves badly. For the better part of a decade.
We are all made up of good and bad of our past actions at any-given time. The things we do can have differing effects on different people. That is just a fact of life, perception is individual.
Did I really need an elaborate note illustrating the effect I had on others in such a shitty way? No.
Did it shape my awareness of myself? Of course.
Were they right? FU@K NO!
In the end it was just another example of how good and otherwise kind people can get wrapped up in a situation that makes them feel justified in doing horrible things to their peers. I felt in the end that we were all victims of the situation and it is not at all difficult for me to forgive them for the pain that their actions caused me.
There was a lot of healing in that act of forgiveness.
For me and for them.
We should strive to treat people the way we want them to treat us. REGARDLESS of their actions- good, bad and ugly. It is easy to treat our friends with love and care but it is essential for our own happiness to extend that kindness to our enemies, but…
And sometimes you just want to reach over and slap them… Don’t.
Forgive them, move on and thank me later. Probably a lot later. Do it anyway.