I want to tell you a little story, it’s a true one, from my childhood. It’s actually from my teen years, but someone told me once that’s part of childhood. Don’t tell my teen that–he swears he’s not a child. But this story involves my freshman year of school.
When I was in high school, think Freaks and Geeks time, we were required to take 2 semesters of gym class over the course of the first two years. I hate gym. I don’t like to run. Don’t like to sweat and I’m not the most coordinated kid out there. I’m still not. But I was required to take gym.
One girl, I’ll call her Alice, didn’t like me. I don’t know why. To this day, I can’t remember why. I will admit I had a bit of a snob complex. Not because we had money. We didn’t. But because I liked being right. Sounds silly now. But I liked doing things the right way. Have a deadline for a paper? I’ll get mine in a day before because it’s the right thing to do. Need a ride? I’ll give you a life because it’s the right thing to do. That sort of action. Get good grades because…you guessed it…it’s the right thing to do.
So Alice is in my gym class. She’s a grade ahead of me and much more athletically talented than I ever will be. I believe she played basketball for the school. Bu she hated me. I mean HATED. I don’t know why. Really. I tried to avoid her whenever possible because I didn’t like conflict. Oh, I could be a moody teen when I wanted, but I did then and still do tend to avoid conflict.
But she sought me out. If we were changing in the locker room – why the room was always dimly lit, I’ll never know – but she’d made comments. She’d mention my underdevelopment or my sometimes ratty clothes (I said we weren’t exactly well off), or my hair. She loved to insult my hair. I let it grow way out until it was past my butt. Then around grade 8, I cut most of it off. I got tired of the endless shampooing and drying. I hated wearing it mostly in a braid because there was too much of it to do much with. I’ll agree the haircut I got wasn’t great. It was a bowl cut back when those things were cool. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t thought it was so neat. But that’s another story for another day.
Alice knew I wasn’t confident. I’ve had body issues all my life. She knew where to jab to make the most impression. I remember being told I should shave my head and start over again because it might improve my looks. I have thin eyebrows. Always have. She’d leave me little notes on the desk we shared in American History class that mentioned my lack of eyebrows and how it made me ugly. I hated going to that class and I love history. I hated gym, too, and now I had dual reasons for it.
We were in gym and she’d given me the latest insult about my outfit being uncool – I was wearing flannel before flannel was a thing. It was warm and we had flannels. Shrugs. Anyway, she’d insulted me, then left a note in my gym locker. She wanted me to die. She’d told me plenty of times I should kill myself because the world didn’t want to look at me and I did my best to brush it off. I said I don’t like confrontation. But this note really got to me.
She threatened to beat the living hell out of me. Granted, she was a rough kid. She liked to fight. No, she loved it. But this was going too far. Beating the hell out of someone…
Who does that? Over your looks? It was common then as much as it is now. I tried to block out how the note made me feel, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to rock the boat, mostly because I thought she really would beat me up and I don’t know how to fight. I don’t remember if I gave the note to my mother or if she found it, but she ended up with it and was pissed. Like, went right to the school and marched into the principal’s office that day pissed. I was mortified. I just knew Alice would find out – mostly because she’d get into trouble – and would follow through on her threat.
Things did happen. I was hauled down to the principal’s office and accused of causing the argument. If I hadn’t provoked her – I was never told HOW I’d done it, but I’d brought it on myself – then she wouldn’t have had to retaliate. We were told to make amends and to stay away from each other. My classes were changed so we didn’t run into each other.
I’ll admit, I’ve stuck up for myself a few times and I don’t always back down, but in this instance, I did. I was a coward. I didn’t want to get my face mashed over someone having a problem with it. I didn’t try to kill myself, but I tried any and all means to get out of gym class and any other event that brought me in Alice’s circles. I hated the person I saw when I looked in the mirror because I thought, if she finds fault with me, then others do, too. If there are faults, then I’m less of a person.
In retrospect, it’s stupid. I’m not less of a person because she didn’t like me. That was on her. I never should’ve given her power over me, but I did. Once you’re bullied, you don’t forget it. I can’t say I’ve been perfect. I’m human. There are some people I just don’t get along with. That said, I’ve tried to take the high road and avoid them. You can’t get into trouble if you’re not around what causes you to get in trouble, right? Or I try to keep a stiff upper lip and be nice, even when I don’t feel that way. I’ve been catty. It happens. Doesn’t make up for my behavior to say it happens. I’m human. I make mistakes. I’d like to think the same goes for Alice. Maybe when she looks back on that incident, she’d like to do it differently. Maybe she doesn’t think about me at all. I don’t know.
I guess my point is no matter how nice or sweet you think you are, there will always be people who don’t like you. No matter how catty you are, it’s not right. You might think your actions aren’t doing harm, but you never know just how deep those cuts go. You may never find out. You might have said something that was totally innocent and not intended to be mean, but was taken out of context and ruins a relationship. It happens. It’s not right and not fair, but it happens.
We’ve only got so much time on this planet. Why not make the most of it and live in harmony? Simply put, don’t be a dick.