I wasn’t necessarily with the “it crowd” as a result of my looks, Abercrombie clothes, or cute laugh.
Sometimes I snorted when I made a joke, and I had braces for a solid four years. I was not what you may imagine a stereotypical bully to be. But somehow, despite all of this, I was a middle school mean girl.
It all started before we were even mean: Young rug rats meeting at the playground with our hair tied up in pony tails and our jelly shoes squeaking on the asphalt in a southern city in North Carolina. Because of proximity, I became gal pals with my future clique-squad. The seed was planted and the school years began.
Now, I must include that I was terribly awkward looking. My crooked teeth exhibited with my large nose and scrawny body were unbelievably laughable. I was basically walking through the halls begging for someone to take a jab at me — however, no one ever did. Because of my status, who I hung around with, and my incredibly vicious remarks, I was granted immunity. The mean girls fed off of one another, as many bullies do. And if one of us decided to treat an outsider with kindness, a mean girl would turn the other comrades against you/her. Bullying, year after year, had become a defense mechanism in order to save face. If a moment of hesitation occurred in the midst of joking and bullying, five girls were down your throat promising to make your life hell.
Eventually, if you’re a decent human being, you begin to crack.
I can recall one year in social studies where I was seated at the same table as a few kids who were notoriously picked on. My girl friends were clumped together at the same table across the room — an aura of gossip and uninteresting topics that I so desperately missed being a part of were entertaining those in immediate earshot. Remember, I was only in the sixth grade, so my heart strings were being ripped out one at a time with each giggle and hair flip.
For whatever reason, this was a huge deal. By the middle of the year, the kids at my table were making me laugh, and I enjoyed their company. In the past, I had always ignored them, but now they were so interesting, so kind, even to someone like me. This started happening quite a bit, especially in middle school. More “outsiders” were becoming my secretive friends during class and my clique-squad, not surprisingly, found this appalling. In the seventh grade they would begin to pick, probe, and joke about my obvious new companions.
I was being branded: “Today the bully. Tomorrow, the bullied.” The original seed was uprooted and my childhood girl gang was turning their backs against me. For the first time in my life, I was the one being made fun of in the hallways and classrooms, all because I spoke to the far more interesting kids in my social studies class.
In the eighth grade I switched middle schools but before I left, I decided to apologize to many of the students I had bullied throughout my short little life. In actuality, I’m still apologizing. Sometimes, when I fly home from Chicago, I’ll run into someone from my hometown and immediately feel guilty and ashamed. One year, a girl walked straight up to me and said, “You made my life hell,” which resulted in me apologizing profusely and her simply shrugging her shoulders and walking away. The impact that my abusive language and middle school persona had on other individuals is nothing short of repulsive. How many other children did I pick on? I can’t even remember half of their names. How many girls went home crying to their mother because of one of my jokes? The embarrassment of these memories is the only root that I carry with me now.
My writing isn’t a plea for forgiveness. This isn’t a personal story about how the bully is the victim. These written words are to urge parents to create a dialogue for their children who may be the bully. While it may be difficult to imagine that your child could be consciously hurting another child, it’s happening, and in 2016, it’s also happening online. I, by no means, have the answer for the bully or the parents who are living with the bully, but dialogue and discussion should be encouraged and exchanged whatever the circumstances may be.