The girls, four of them to be exact, stand just outside the open bathroom stall door preventing me from moving forward. One of my notebooks is already in the toilet and as I watch my textbook (American History, I think) follow it into the bowl.
“What, you gonna cry now? Look, the sissy bitch is crying!”
I’m confused, as always. I don’t know what I’ve done this time to merit the latest onslaught nor why I was singled out to begin with. It wasn’t too long ago that this group of girls were my friends. I remember all of their names, faces, what fucking clothes they wore, which classes we shared.
My face is red and my nose, which always does this when I cry, has turned beet red and I can feel the snot starting to back up in my face. It’s only a matter of time before both my eyes and my nose is leaking bodily fluid. Fortunately, I’d just pee’d, so I didn’t think I was going to wet my pants, which I had done in the past, much to my embarrassment.
“Why do you do this?” I sob. Big. Fucking. Mistake.
Note to parents — Please teach your kids that if they are being bullied, don’t ever ask the perpetrator “why.” It’s like throwing gas on a sick fire.
“You’re such a baby. Look at the baby!” Shrieks of laughter and general agreement that “the baby” was indeed crying.
Two or three hands reach forward and push me backwards into th stall. “Crying over her ‘homework’ and her fucking ‘history book!’ It it means that much to you, teachers pet, get it out!”
Laughter ensues. Lots and lots of laughter. And one 14-year-old girl crying her eyes out as I bend over and retrieve my now soaking items — weeks of notes, probably some homework, and a textbook that costs at least 20 bucks. I know it’ll be over soon. We only have 6 minutes between classes and soon the warning bell will ring and they’ll need to rush off to their classes. I of course, will be late to class because I have to dry, as best I can, then hide, my sopping wet books in my locker. Demerits add to the embarrassment.
This type of thing was a weekly and, in phases, daily part of my existence from the 4th through the 11th grade. The methods and severity changed with age but helpless feeling it imparted never did. Fortunately, the short attention spans of youth meant that the tormenters would occasionally tire of me and find a new target but always, either they would pick it up again when it suited them or I’d fall across the radar of a new group or individual who would delight at making my life miserable.
Yes, dear readers, I fucking hate bullies. So when I saw this story on the news recently, I may have shocked a person or two with my Facebook post. A couple of people sent me comments saying something to the effect that yes, the 15-year old victim killed herself and that was tragic, but the perpetrators were just “children” who had “low self-esteem” and needed “counseling” not “punishment.” I’ll tell you like I told them, if these kids, who’ve been charged with crimes, were (in the best of all possible worlds) found guilty of this poor girl’s murder, I’d throw the fucking switch myself — with not one regret — so strong is my memory, so great is my lingering rage.
The bathroom and books incidents were problematic. I soon refused to go into a bathroom that wasn’t occupied by someone else. An empty bathroom was terrifying. But it wasn’t always physical confrontations either. My teen tormenters were pretty damn inventive even in the good old days before the internet. I used to hand in homework last if I could and hang out in the class as long as possible after I discovered that “they,” my tormenters, would distract the teacher while one of them would go through the stack of homework on the desk and take mine out. I would then get an “F” on the assignment and when I tried to explain to the teacher that I’d really turned it in, without blaming the girls who did it for fear of additional reprisals, I either wasn’t believed or the teacher felt there was nothing they could or should do. To this day I don’t know which it was.
Note to teachers — if you know of a child being bullied and, for any reason, do nothing about it — fuck you. You are an embarrassment to the profession and a waste of humanity. You’re a fucking adult for fuck’s sake!
They also had a gift for bringing in “the guys.” A real good one was to write a love note — suitably pornographic and promising of course — to some way-out-of-my-league boy, usually a jock or some other popular guy. The horror and insult that the ‘poor guy’ had to suffer by apparently being crushed on by me was simply too much and I was now fodder for the rumor mill and a target of snide, sexual comments and inuendos whispered as I walked past in the hallway. If the particular guy also had a girlfriend, who also had friends, well then, I was now the hallway target for a lot of additional pushing, and my all time favorite, getting my books knocked out of my hands.
Nasty, mean notes would show up in my locker. Pictures with my face crossed off over which someone would usually add the world “slut” or “whore” which was actually quite ironic since I didn’t have any inking of sex and, thanks to the church, was totally ignorant of all things actually romantic.
This game took on an especially scary tone once when a group of one of the girls “boyfriend’s” started calling my house after school. I was a solo latch-key kid so my afternoons, from 2:30 pm to 6pm or 7pm, when my parents and brother got home were spent at home by myself.
“Hey, know what you need? You need to get your cherry popped! Maybe I’ll surprise you and take care of that for you.” I was so ignorant of sex at that age I didn’t know what “cherry popping” actually entailed, but it frightened me none the less.
The crank calls went on for weeks and I became more and more afraid of stairwells as the pushes and gropes in the hall felt even more sinister. And I never told my parents or any other adult. It was the late 70’s and early 80’s; the response would have been, and was for others, “What are you doing to provoke it?”
I know what you’re thinking…. “Damn, Stasha. You were a redneck! A child of fighters! What didn’t you fight back?” Well, twice I did. This first time was in middle school. This time the kid picking on me was a boy and we got into a fight in the hallway. He was bigger, and let’s just say he was winning when the school administrator finally pulled us apart.
Unbeknownst to me, my parents were called and when they got home from work that evening I was asked how was school today? I replied in my usual fashion that it was fine. That evening I got three whippin’s for the same damn fight. I joke about it, as part of my redneck upbringing, but when you think about, it’s not funny at all.
[EDITED for content: to sum up, I got “my tail tore up” at home. In our case that involed a black belt, and no, I don’t mean in karate.]
Needless to say, I never got into another fight at school.
The second fight took place when I was 15, after I got off the school bus. The ringleader of tormentors was my best childhood friend, I’ll call her Rene. From the time we met at age 5 or so, we were inseparable. She was the “pretty blond one” to my “smart best friend” one. We went to school and for a lot of years, church together. We rode horses, motorcycles, had sleepovers. I spent as much time at her house as I did my own.
But for whatever reasons, as we hit high school, I was no longer the favored friend and Rene and the others delighted in mocking, shaming, and generally harassing me yada, yada, yada. You get it by now.
Anyway, this day, I’d had enough, and as we got of the bus (we only lived a short distance apart) I attacked. We rolled on the ground, punching each other in the face, the stomach, pulling hair, whatever. At one point I had her face down and was pressing her beautiful face into the limestone beneath us. At another point, she was on top of me, kicking into my stomach and ribs. We both got pretty bloody and I swear, to this day, she insists she “won” the fight.
And thus ended a “beautiful” friendship BUT, she pretty much left me alone after that. Oh there were still some notes and mocking but for the most part, I went into my advanced classes, made friends with a few of the other smart girls and guys but nothing really close,and certainly nothing that held up over time, ever again. To this day, I have a very hard time forming lasting friendships with women. Pathetic and sad? Yes. But true.
Ironically, at this moment Rene’s Christmas letter is on my dresser, awaiting a reply. Oddly enough, I still love her. Sick isn’t it? We don’t really communicate much at all but if she were in town I wouldn’t be able to stay away. She is happily married, the mother of four kids, grandmother of one. Her husband is handsome. She is still blond, thin, and stunningly beautiful. I’ve joked with her in the past that the only reason we’re still friends is because one day her metabolism is going to change and I intend to be there. All the others, some of whom have actually tried to “friend” me on FaceBook, can all kiss my ass. But Rene, for some weird reason, I can’t let go of.
I’m sick. Sick, sick, sick.
Anyway, the very good thing that came out of my and Rene’s fight was that it was then I discovered the theater. Community theater, that is, NOT the school drama department. I still got picked on to a degree, but every day it became about more than just surviving the day in order to get to the relative safety of home isolation; I now had something to look forward to with people — grown ups! — who treated me as part of the human race.
Note to all adults everywhere — it’s good for kids to have adult friends. At least, it was good, perhaps life-saving, for this one.
My brother, on the other hand, was not so lucky. It’s not my story to tell so I won’t go into details here, but his childhood is almost wiped from his memory due to the intensity of the trauma he underwent at the hands of his school’s bully faction. What I endured was nothing — nothing — compared to his experience. And he had no “theater” to turn to, no group of adults or others to help him through. Neither the church nor the family was a refuge and all these years later, the damage can still be seen just under the surface.
Honest to god, it isn’t amazing that he and I survived our childhoods, it’s a fucking miracle that we function at all.
But, and here’s the real kicker, he is far braver than I. With all he experienced in childhood — he has children of his own. Two boys, sweet beyond words — one a gentle giant and the other an impish athlete.
I…. can not have children.
When I was in my 20s, I just knew it “wasn’t for me.” In my 30s, we made a half-hearted attempt but I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the idea. I’m in my 40s now, just starting to untangle why I am the way I am and now, it is too late.
Note to readers — DO NOT send me any “it’s not too late comments” regarding having children. They WILL NOT be well received.
I cannot have children because I do not like them.
“But Stasha,” my friends say “you don’t really mean that.”
Uhm, yes. I do.
“But children are so innocent and sweet.”
Ahhh, not in my experience.
“Well, you like MY children at least, right?”
Uhm, no. I don’t. At least, not yet. I’m going to reserve judgement until I discover whether or not they’ve grown up to be decent human beings.
You see, when I’m regaled with “cute” tales of someone’s childs bad behavior, I don’t think it’s cute at all. When someone goes on ad nauseum about how their “princess” is adorably manipulative or a liar I see a girl-bully in the making. When I watch groups of boys trying to out-do each other with mean-spirited banter I can’t help but wonder what poor kid is going to be their target.
And speaking of targets, I’m afraid for the nice kids, the ones who are eager to please, the ones who want so badly to fit in, to have friends, to be accepted.
And speaking of adults, other than my escape at the theater where people we ignorant of the rest of my life, I have no memory of effective adult intervention, refuge, safety, helpfulness, nor any usefullness what so ever.
The bullies of my youth didn’t just cost me a few text books and grades. They didn’t simply make me cry, slap or punch, mock, or humiliate me. They didn’t drive me to suicide but they successfully killed off a part of me none the less.
Of course, this isn’t the only reason I don’t have kids. There are other far more complex reasons than a few school-yard incidents, but that post will have to wait for another day…. far, far in the future I suspect.
I don’t think I appear to be an angry person. Most people who know me, I believe, think I’m a pretty happy and well-adjusted, and overall, they’re right. Yet, I have been known to verbally (and in a few cases physically) confront people who I thought were trying to bully me or someone else. I’ve been told I can be quite intimidating and effective.
Note to bullies — keep your douchebaggery to yourself in my presence. I’m no longer a frightened child who gives a shit if you like me.
While I pride myself on my general rationality, I will fucking unleash on a bully — kids, adults, whoever, where ever. Yes, I”m unappologetically irrational about bullies. I could probably use some therapy but for right now I’m fine with simple awareness.
And to those nine “children” who bullied and tormented that poor girl to the point that she hung herself under the stairs to escape their nastiness where her younger sister found her dead body hanging and now her parents and family have lost their beautiful baby, all I can say is you should thank your lucky stars I’m not on any jury. As far as I’m concerned, you deserve the fucking chair.