I think all of us have some bullying incident in our past.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s come to be believed that it’s a rite of passage to adulthood. Literature and films focus on bullying as formative events in a youth’s life.
Schools claim a “no tolerance” rule. But the authorities can’t possibly know all the clever bullying tactics that occur. Bullies know when their target is alone and that their victim has no power.
Even though we homeschool, we have encountered bullies at homeschool activities or at public parks.
Children who were bullies grow up to be adults who are bullies.
They might be more clever in their tactics, but they’re still bullies.
Mean girls grow up to be mean women.
In seventh grade, I was terrorized by one popular girl.
My particular bully was named Lauren.
For whatever reason, Lauren targeted me for months.
I remember she was in at least two of my classes – math and chorus. I already hated math, and she made chorus difficult to enjoy.
She publicly ridiculed me.
She criticized my hair and clothes.
She threatened me.
She informed me that I should not wear a particular shirt to school ever again. (I did anyway.)
She made fun of my voice and that I didn’t get a solo for the chorus concert.
She encouraged her gang of girls to make fun of me and laugh at me.
She stole my house key out of my purse during math class.
My classmates and parents and teachers and school administrators?
They did nothing.
Her mother was a State Representative.
I walked home from the bus stop and sat on my front stoop until my parents got home from work for a whole week until she decided to give me back my house key.
It was just a game to her.
So, what did I learn at the age of thirteen from being bullied?
That the authorities would not protect me.
People with money or powerful connections get away with crimes and injustices.
I was all alone.
Lauren eventually found another target and left me alone.
We attended different high schools.
But I never forgot.
I’ve encountered many bullies as an adult.
Parents who didn’t like the grades their children earned in my class.
Principals who changed grades for students whose parents had political power in the district.
Officers’ wives who threw their husband’s rank around like it should strike fear in me if I didn’t acquiesce to their every whim.
Parents and teachers who set arbitrary rules to exclude the kids they don’t want joining the activity.
Moms who won’t parent their child and feel angry that I refuse to let my kids associate with the child. I wrote about a particular mom who guilted my daughter to get to me.
I totally had a junior high moment at the pool today.
I was in the locker room, helping my kids get changed into their clothes after we had been swimming.
This mom came up behind me with her young son.
She told me my stuff was in front of her locker.
I apologized and turned to move my bag.
Apparently, I wasn’t fast enough for her.
She just opened the locker and shoved my stuff onto the floor!
I scrambled to pick up our clothes before they got all wet.
She got their shoes, slammed the locker, turned, and left.
I was just stunned.
I didn’t even look up.
I was thirteen again.
Did I mention I was wearing a towel?
Of course I thought of everything I would have liked to say and do after she left.
I wonder what that woman was like in seventh grade.
I wonder what her son is like to his peers.
I won’t apologize to bullies.
If you were bullied when you were younger, the reason you freeze at genuine compliments is because fake compliments were a prelude to an attack.
I have the right to wear any shirt I want. I have a right to be friends with whomever I please. I can sit wherever I want in a public place. I don’t care what you think and you have no power over me.
Bullies are mean because they are hurting and they lash out.
For 25 years, I have lived with the bitterness of the bullying in seventh grade.
I forgive you, Lauren.