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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Bullied Girl Grows Up to Write a Blog

Remember that time in your life when you were just figuring out how to, like, be a human in the world? And you were stuck with the same friends you’d had since kindergarten?

So they had the freedom and power to treat you like shit?

And you didn’t know enough about how to make other friends, so you just didn’t?

I remember the girls I was friends with in elementary school were merciless to me.

(And I’m sure all of you are reading this and saying, oh my god, same exact thing happened to me!)

I would go to school one day and feel bolstered by their loyalty. We had a strong pact, made stronger by sleepovers where we’d choreograph dances to “Like a Prayer,” and make cheese eggs in the mornings. (Except, I didn’t like the cheese eggs, so I’d make them make me regular eggs.)

The next day, it’d be like everyone had discussed my status before I’d gotten to school and decided that I wasn’t in the group anymore.

I distinctly remember showing up on a school day and sitting down at a cafeteria table where my friends were already sitting. I said something I’m sure I thought was cheeky and cute and laughed at myself a little bit.

Silence.

Cold, staring, haunting silence.

My face dropped.

What had I done? Why the sudden shut out?

That silence still haunts me.

It’s amazing how these little moments in our childhoods can brand us for life.

And how often we remember them.

Take this interaction, this first indication that the people around me just weren’t as smart as I was.

My erstwhile “best friend” and I are waiting in a line before we’re let back into the school after recess, and my long hair is blowing in the breeze.

She snaps at me, “Get your hair out of my face!” And I reply back, “It’s just blowing in the breeze!”

She didn’t believe me.

Really? You think my hair is magically standing on end and whipping into your face, unprompted?

Idiot.

Needless to say, our friendship didn’t last past the 5th grade.

And yet, I think about that moment, like, once a month.

The four of us in the group would make little charts that we’d pass around our table in class.

The chart was for rating how much we liked the other members in the group.

“How much do you like me? From 1-10.”

Often, we’d mark 1,000,000 or -1,000,000 just to be clever, squishing the zeroes into the tiny boxes on the note to make our point clear.

My existence on this planet seemed to rely on these rankings: who would mark me high today? Who was going to be typical and mark a negative ranking? And which two had paired up for the day, a seemingly indestructible force?

I look back on those days, aided by the earned perspective of age and years of therapy, and think, how does any of us survive being a girl?

I’ve learned, in contrast, that there’s no gray area with the typical boy: they’re either happy or they’re mad. Either friends or fighting.

And if there’s a conflict, there’s no emotional manipulation, no social customs to try to make sense of, no teenage language to interpret.

Just a couple shoves or swings, and then they’re done.

Now that I’m working with students, I just gravitate to the boys.

I’d honestly rather they try to punch me than risk they might rank me negative 1,000,000 on their Facebook page dedicated to my lameness or whatever this generation’s version of a “How much do you like me?” chart might be.

**UPDATE: I didn't write this post in response to the recent teen suicides or even with them in mind, necessarily. Still, having worked with young people for the last few years and having just recently survived student-teaching at a high school (not to mention my own lonely adolescence), I want to assert to you and to anyone you may share my blog with that finding people who really support and nurture EXACTLY who you are isn't easy but it is worth the work. Luckily, I've begun to figure it out...And, if I can, you can.**

12 comments:

Sassy said...

I am feeling this post 100%. Pre-teen girls are like well-trained emotional snipers.

But you emerged, if not unscathed, at least with wisdom and grace.

Also I think you should train your hair to float up and smack snarky bitches in the face.

Annie said...

That would be a special skill! I thought about naming names and writing more about all the horrible things that were done to me and that I did...but figured you'd all get the point.

Now, if I could just convince myself that not EVERYONE sucks this hard, I'd be golden.

Sarah Lindahl said...

I think you are a +10. The best.

Annie said...

@Sarah, that is SO NICE! Thanks for the support :)

Tria said...

i stumbled on your blog, glad i did, its interesting! :]

Annie said...

Thanks, Tria! Glad to have a new reader.

Annah said...

"Do me a solid" remind me of those really cute Brooklyn guys from high school.

Annie said...

well, considering i grew up in brooklyn, that's a pretty good assessment!

pat w. said...

Annie, I'm so glad you had a guest blog on Sassy C. I love your blogs, it's hard to find commentary that is clever and snarky and sweet at the same time. I'm 47 and I still from time to time think about my mean girls moments. The worst was in Jr. High and I guess it was my turn to be shunned. I got off the bus and went up to my group of "friends' like always and they totally froze me out, completely ignored me. Confused and hurt I went to my locker and everything they had ever borrowed or I had given them fell out of my locker and onto the floor. It was a horrible moment for me since Jr High pretty much sucked anyway. My daughter had her "mean girls" moments also, so alas I guess it is something that will always be with us. If you could train your hair to smack snarky bitches in the face, I would totally pay to know how.:)

Annie said...

Pat! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for sharing your thoughts. What I didn't include in my post is how horrible I was to a classmate in junior high. Because she worshipped me, and I could. Still regret it. Oh, girls...

J. Orbom said...

I would play dumb when middle school bitches were mean to me. I remember when girls started being sly, I was confused, because up until then, it was all about fun and being active. Why do little ladies have to leave that behind and then struggle to find it again mid-20s?

Annie said...

I think, people never really change. At least, bitchy, snarky, evil people...