I was bullied in high school. I was a really dorky middle school girl, with braces and bad hair and really thick glasses from too many nights being nerdy and sneaking books in when I was supposed to be sleeping. The summer before high school started I thinned way down, got contacts, and got my braces off. Boys suddenly noticed me and I went boy-crazy.
I was so naive about things. I was still the nerdy girl sneaking books, I didn’t know how to handle the attention and more importantly, the unwritten codes that swirl around dating. It was the older boys that liked me, the ones that fought and drank and smoked, and (this is key) had a loyal following of tough girls who did the same.
It turns out that the tough girls don’t like young freshman dating their men. I dated two boys for roughly 3 months and it shaped the next three years of my life.
It was bad. People say bullying is bad now (and it is) but back then there was no awareness, teachers literally would turn their backs. Any given day I was shoved into lockers or pushed down stairs or had my hair pulled. I was beaten up twice. They would have their boy friends cough up loogies and then smear it on my locker dial. They would follow me through the halls with a bottle of water and drip it behind me saying it was my “slug trail”. I couldn’t go to the bathroom without an escort until I was a senior and they were gone. They stole a note I wrote and photocopied it and distributed it on lunch break. They egged my house, my car, my parents car. They chased me in my car, throwing rotten fruit at it. Once, when my whole family went to the movies, one of them shoved me from behind so hard I smashed into the door, right in front of my parents. (My mom chased her down an alley screaming after her and I was BEGGING her to stop, because you know how it is when your parents defend you.)
I think that is the comprehensive list. The irony is that the basis of all of the bullying was that I was a “slut” when in reality I was naive virgin. My mom used to tell me all the time that they were jealous because I was pretty and skinny, she had to say that. Of course looking back now, it was a level of jealousy, it always is. The boys only liked me more because of it, which of course was the problem in the first place.
My parents did everything thing they could. They went to the school, they threatened to get law enforcement involved, they changed our phone number a hundred times. The only thing that stopped it was that group of nasty girls graduating.
I don’t really know why I am sharing this. It has been on my mind a lot lately. Between the news stories of kids committing suicide because of bullying and now being a mother to a girl, I wonder how I can prevent these things happening to her. We want to send her to private school, which is certainly better than public school but still no guarantee.
I wonder now, how did it shape me? Would I be a less anxious person if this hadn’t have happened? I do know that even writing about it has made me feel more vulnerable than I am comfortable with, like it is still a weakness I have. But I also know that I am more compassionate and empathetic because of it, and that I never bullied anyone in my life.
I think of the kids who had it worse than me, the ones who didn’t have friends like I did, a family like I did, and I am so sad for them.
I mean, thank the sweet eight-pound baby Jesus, it really does get better. I hope that message is reaching people.