It Gets Better…..But….

Logging into my email the other day, among the Linked-In Board notifications and job search related emails was a request from a member of my graduating class who wanted me to follow her on Schoolfeed.

This surprised me.  We were not friends.  We were not even friendly.

In fact she had made 7th grade a living hell for me. She was a Queen Bee, and I sadly was not even a Wannabe.  Slightly chubby, with my bad haircut, thick glasses and complete lack of knowledge for trendy fashions for 12-year-old girls, I might as well have had a bullseye on my back.  However, it was usually a kick me sign.

I was a friendly girl, and really naive and this was used against me.  I had my home ec projects mocked, and was pushed off the stool in art class.  I was shoved into lockers, tripped, pushed,  and my backpack was tossed into dumpsters.

Now she never laid a french manicured finger on me.  She did not have to.  She had her friends and the people who wanted to either curry favor or more likely, avoid being her next target do her dirty work for her.

Sometimes I was lucky and she and her friends would ignore me.  And more often I was not.  This girl would explain to me in detail how I was a loser, I was ugly, my friends were losers and that my social standing was so off the chart, that I wasn’t even on the chart.

The worst was when the time they pretended to be nice to me, and grateful for the friendship and the break in the teasing, I returned the friendship, only to have the things I told them used against me.

And this went on for a whole year.  I thought I would get a reprieve, after one of my friends told her mother how I was invited to a slumber party for a friend of mine and how my friend blindfolded me and the girl and her friends fed me dog food.  And then the following Monday in English class, she had written about it in her journal and read it aloud to the class.

My mom tried to help.  My parents offered to take me out and buy me the right clothes and get me the right haircut, but I knew that a pair of Guess Jeans from Lonny’s and a Bennetton rugby were not going to save me, (and I couldn’t imagine spending so much money on a pair of jeans) so I bought a Sweet Valley High Book and desperately imagined myself as a Wakefield Twin, even though I knew that I was really Enid Rollins, just without the substance abuse issue.

I don’t blame my teachers for not stopping things,  since the kids were good at hiding their tracks, and  there was not the hypersensitivity about bullying that there is now.

I just told my parents I was fine, and went about my business and never, ever complained. I knew that however bad they treated me, it would be worse if I said another word.  I immersed myself in drama club and stayed in my room, listened to records and read.

And now I am mostly grateful that the internet and Social Media did not exist back then.  I hate to think what cruelty and technology would have produced.

However 7th grade ended, and I was never in a class with that girl again.  Once I got to 8th grade, tormenting me seemed to have lost its fun, and I was left alone to hanging out with my friends at Hot Skates and listening to Madonna and Duran Duran.

I went through High School, and though I was never elected Class President or Homecoming Queen, I had a great time in the drama club, plenty of good friends to hang out with at lunch and on the weekends and usually had a boyfriend.  I went to college, met a wonderful man who after 20 years, two kids and more than one failed attempt at Weight Watchers, still grabs my ass every time it goes past him,  got a master’s degree and even achieved a decent level of success in my field.

I have friends and family who love me, and by any objective standard, I have a pretty good life.

It did get better and it does get better, but does it ever get better enough that you really, truly forget?

Yet when I see that name, I am transported back to the sad 12-year-old who couldn’t understand why people were so mean to her, when she never did anything mean to anyone else.

Her follow request sits unanswered in my mailbox, and while we had been friends on Facebook, I unfriended her, since I did not want to see her name on my wall. This might have been partially due to the fact that she did not end up as a lonely, bitter person with a miserable life, as I had been told by several well-meaning adults.

I debated writing this, because really what could come of it.  If I told her how mean she was to me, what was she going to do?  Apologize for something that happened nearly 30 years ago that she probably has no memory of?  Possibly tell me the compelling reasons she had for her cruelty?

Which also leads me to wonder, did she know what she was doing was wrong?  Did her parents know what kind of things she did?  Did they care?  So many questions, I do and don’t want the answers to.

To be honest, I’m still actually  kind of embarrassed that she still has any kind of power or influence over me.

I can her saying, “Poor widdle Maryrose, with her hurt feelings from things that happened back when Madonna was still relevant.”

After all, what happens in our middle school years is something we are supposed to get over.   I mean, we were kids and being cruel was just something we outgrew like neon socks and spiral perms.

I should just tell myself what I tell my son, when he complains about teasing, which is; “Sometimes people are just assholes and there is nothing you can do about it.  Just ignore them as best you can, and eventually they will move on.”

And that is what I should do.  I should just delete the request.  Or I could block her, but I feel that I have given her enough attention already.

Although I know she has children in or close to middle school, and I can’t help but wonder if the little bees did not fly far from the hive, and I should tell her how her actions affected me, so if her children are treating others the way she treated me, she might understand better what they are doing.

Or perhaps, she wouldn’t care.

Either way I have probably given the matter way more thought than it deserved, until I saw a post from a middle school friend of mine on Facebook complaining how people who made her life miserable are trying to friend her, and she wants nothing to do with them, and I remember that I was not alone then and I am not alone now.

So, to my fellow dorkarinas who spend their Friday nights in Middle School devouring Anne of Green Gables, what do you do now when a former tormenter tries to friend you.  Do you:

A. Friend them back, but feel kind of bad about doing it?

B. Ignore them

C. Block them

D. Block them, but tell them why 1st

E. Friend them, but only if they have miserable lives

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7 comments

  1. I don’t respond but I don’t block them either. Like you, I feel I wasted enough time on them and yes, my life is wonderful now. But when I hear about my niece being teased or my step-kids, it brings me right back. I love the advice you give your son and am going to use that. Very thoughtful writing too. Thank you.

  2. Wow, I read this and was immediately transported back to Grade 7. I have told so many people that it was the worst year of my life. I would come home every night in tears. My mom, like yours, tried to help but there was nothing she could do. My experience, too, was because of one girl.

    Reading this, I immediately thought of her name, and like you, felt like the inadequate pre-teen girl I was in those days. Like you, it lasted only that year and I went on. But I will never really get over it. And until reading your post, I never equated it with bullying. Although I guess that is what it was. That alone makes me pause, for reflection.

    I read this last night and have been wondering how to answer your questions. In the early years of Facebook, I accepted anyone as a ‘Friend’ who asked, from my school days. Her name never appeared, though as a Friend Request.

    As I’ve gotten a bit more savvy about Social Media, I now regularly ignore Friend Requests, although I often leave them open for awhile. I figure if it takes me a few days to accept a request, then clearly I don’t really want to.

    So that brings me back to M, my 7th grade tormentor. I have no idea where she is. She doesn’t appear to be ‘friends’ with any of the people I know from those days. So, what would I do? I would agonise, the same as you. A bit out of curiousity, but also a bit out of maybe a desire to be finally accepted by her. How messed up is that?

    And now, having reflected on that enough to realise that would be why I would even consider friending her, I would ignore her and maybe block her. And move on. And try to take back some of that power she still has over me.

    (Oh, and did you read all the Anne books? I still love them and read them again, as an adult! You would love PEI)

  3. I have ignored those requests before. But I can’t tell you how much I completely identify with all you’ve written here. I too have been instantly transported back to the days when my face would burn with embarrassment over being bullied.
    Right now I work with teenagers, and I am trying my hardest to tell them how what they do now can and will follow them. And also I tell the kids like you & I were that even if their bully doesn’t end up miserable as an adult that it doesn’t mean they themselves have to stay miserable as an adult.
    Ignore/block her, and walk past your husband a few more times. 🙂

  4. thank you for this. my daughter is having a problem with a girl and it’s killing me. this girl (they are both in 7th grade) is using other people to do her dirty work, as well as bullying her verbally when of course no one else is around. we are keeping a log of every incident in school. i think the bully is getting frustrated and is starting to slip up. hoping to get evidence soon. the more it goes on the more i think of a criminal that keeps getting away with things until they slip up. we are patiently waiting and are determined to put this girl in her place. It’s hard to wait for justice but we will get there. Can’t believe any different. have to stay positive.

  5. I ignore them. I actually had one of these kinds send me this long apology thing, in which it suggested that she didn’t know exactly why I was ignoring her, but that she was sorry and all, and please friend her. I deleted that, too. I see her comment on stuff from my other friends, but I really have no interest in her or her life at all, and certainly have no desire to have her know any real details of mine. If she wants to know, she can dig (we do, after all, share friends). I’ll stick to people and lives that interest me, and I care about, and who care about me.

    But no, I’m not still bitter at all. Nooooooo….. 😉

  6. First of all, I agree with Maresi’s suggestion to walk by Dave a few times. 🙂

    As for the post, I wrote about this subject a few years ago on my blog “The Dogged Pursuit.” I put the links below if you’d like to take a gander. In each case I took a different approach and am happy with my choices. In one case, it had to with a clueless boy in middle school, (http://thedoggedpursuit.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/clowns-to-the-left-jokers-to-the-right/) who I engaged with on FB and ended up with a new appreciation of people. In the other, more directly related to your story about bullying, let’s just say that due to the severity of the abuse and the reason I wrote the post, I took another approach. (http://thedoggedpursuit.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/bullies/).

    Today, my answer to your final poll is to ignore them. Periodically, one particularly mean girl from high school shows up in my friend request list. I always ignore her; and a few months later she will show up again. Sometimes I do want to write back “Bitch, do you realize that the last time you and I spoke to each other you, Cheryl, and Georgia had cornered me in the band room between classes and you were repeatedly slapping my face and calling me ugly? Do you have Alzheimer’s? Delirium Tremons?? Are you just that f*#ing stupid?” But I don’t, because I truly don’t care. Perhaps she has gone on to become the greatest gal ever; perhaps she feeds the homeless, rescues abused animals, volunteers at the local nursing home and feels really bad for the harm she inflicted as a high school bully. If so, good for her. But I doubt it.

    I doubt it because I’ve never met anyone of the truly mean-spirited bullying types who did get better. They just got more adept, more subtle. I can usually spot them a mile off now, in the course of work they show up as smiling back-stabbers and gossips. In social settings they’re the ones who seem to sew discord and general ugliness wherever they go..And that’s the thing, Maryrose, that’s why I think people like you and me ask ourselves the question about what we should do when confronting the past. We are still kindhearted (though no longer naive) people we were in the 7th grade. I think, just like me, you’re still mystified by meanness because it still has no place in your heart. And good for you. And that’s why I recommend “ignore”. To me, the greatest response to the people who hurt me grievously in the past is indifference, not forgiveness or acceptance. And when the old bullies show up in my life in anyway, I click ignore and get on to sharing my wonderful world with the people I love and enjoy. Not one more ounce of energy goes to the bullies of the past.

    XOXO Stasha

  7. I was really moved by this story, your writing ability and your honesty. The fact that you now have a 7th grader, Alex, may have provoked some of the memory. You are an amazing woman, and my son is one very lucky man. Love u, me (AKA mother-in-law, Nancy)

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