I don’t think this is something that is really up for debate, unless of course you were the bully. In which case, I imagine it worked out pretty well for you at the time. But I also don’t much expect you to be the kind of person reading my words.
I got picked on a lot while I was in school. Looking back, the names I got called weren’t terribly clever. Honestly, I think all elementary schoolchildren are given rhyming dictionaries upon enrollment in order to come up with these little bon mots.
“Oh your last name is Keiffer? Ha, ha! That rhymes with ‘queefer’!”
“You’re related to Keifer Sutherland!”
Like I said. Not terribly clever. Also, some of them didn’t have a good grasp on how last names worked. Either that or they just didn’t have a high opinion of Jack Bauer.
None of that mattered to me. I just didn’t understand why they didn’t like me. So I changed my personality to mesh with the other kids. Lay low, don’t stand out, just keep your head down. Once you get to middle school, everything will change. It’ll be a new school. You can reinvent yourself there, half the kids won’t know who you are!
The first day of middle school I trip on my backpack and fall down the stairs, ripping my pants on the way down as we are on our way to lunch.</p><p>Obviously, that plan didn’t work out. But I am a creature of optimism, so I keep trying. I finally think I got it when this really pretty girl asks me to be her boyfriend(!) as we are walking home from the schoolbus.
“Sure.(!)” I tell her, trying to contain my elation.
I raced, home. Told my parents. My mom immediately asks if she’s nice and how long I’ve known her. My dad asks what her bust size is, holding up various fruit and melons as reference points.
The next day, I come to school with some cookies I helped my mom make to give her.
I see her standing next to some boys that tease me a lot, but this isn’t about them. I suck in a breath and approach with my offering to her.
I smile and greet her as ‘sweetie’, like I’ve seen on TV.
She looks at me like a bug she found on the bottom of her shoe and asks what in the hell I’m doing.
I sputter out an answer, looking desperately at the other boys for back-up.
She peals out a laugh and tells me that was a joke.
Not something to be taken seriously.
Why would she date me?
I put my heart back in my throat, smile and chuckle. Of course. A joke. I knew that! I was just wanting to add to it! Isn’t it funny? Look, I made these cookies! Like we’re a couple!
I run to the boys bathroom and hide in a stall, head between knees for an hour.
After that, I learn to be harder. I close myself off from the taunts and teases. The name calling and all. I go back to keeping my head down. Just make it to high school right? High school will be better.
And it is. For the most part. With the exception of the whole, ‘accidentally buying a hooker because my prom date ditched me’ thing, but that happens to everyone right?
What I really want people to take from this is this: it gets better. It gets better because you don’t have to change. And sometimes you get vindication. A friend of mine told me her bully had spent three years after they got out of school just so she could apologize. That’s an amazing thing. For me, mine came a bit differently.
I came into work one day to an email from someone whose address I didn’t recognize.
It turned out to be the girl from middle school who did that shit to me. She never apologized of anything like that. I guess she didn’t think anything of it. She just happened to see me on facebook and wanted to catch up. So I obliged. Asked her how she was doing.
She tells me how she’s a single mother of 3 children from 3 different men and has already been married twice.
I think about how she used to talk about her future goals. All of this, ‘when I grow up…’ stuff. I think about all the after-school specials and things I’ve learned from parents, role models and countless therapists.
“Don’t be petty.”
“Be the bigger man.”
“Take the high road.”
I promptly ignore those suggestions and tell her how I am. Everything I’ve accomplished and how much of who I am today is due to the ridicule of people like her, how bullies pushed me to be the better person. Because that’s what you do when people try to pull you down, you rise above them to get away from it. I tell her how much she hurt me and how I forgive her for that, because we are all stupid kids and some of us just grow into stupid adults.
Then I delete everything I wrote and tell her I’m good, because she doesn’t deserve any of that.
I haven’t heard from her since and I still aren’t terribly sure why she reached out to me like that and honestly I don’t really care.
I hear a lot about people who talk about what they would tell their past selves if they could just go back in time. How they’d tell them to just ‘be strong’, how ‘this’ll be over and you’ll realize it never mattered at all’.
That’s horseshit and we all know it as we say it, deep down.
That stuff mattered. It hurt and because it hurt, it motivated us to either be better or join the ones making fun of us. Anything to get away from it.
I became a better person for everything I was put through.
So does everyone else.