Bullying (or, nolite te bastardes etc.)

7 Oct

I’ve written on here about some of the less-than fun stuff I went through as a teenager, but I think that last night was the first time that I’ve ever publicly referred to it as bullying. And now I kind of want to talk about it?

A little bit of background:

I’d had the same group of friends throughout most of elementary school. The five of us had been pretty tight, spending every recess and lunch hour together, pairing up for science projects and book reports. On the weekends we would force our parents to shuttle us around the city for various playdates and sleepovers.  I’d known them for so long that I couldn’t imagine ever not being friends with them.

Then, one mid-day recess in seventh grade, my friends told me they had to talk to me.

We sat in a circle on the schoolyard pavement, near the edge of where the grassy field began. It must have been October or November, because I remember that the sky was grey and there was a chill in the air. My friends started out by saying that they’d been talking about me, and had realized that they collectively found me annoying. They told me that they’d come to the decision that they didn’t want to hang around with me anymore, and asked me to stop joining them at lunch and recess. I tried to argue with them, then tried to bargain, but it was pointless; their collective mind was made up.

Basically, they broke up with me.

What had already been a difficult year went from tough-but-manageable to downright miserable. Even before I was de-friended, I was already being picked on by my classmates for my bad skin, the way I dressed, and the nerdy things I liked. Now, not only was that all still happening, but I suddenly had no one to protect me, and no one to tell me that I wasn’t an ugly pathetic loser.

As the year went on, the kids who made fun of me became braver, making more and more publicly humiliating comments about me. One kid said that I didn’t need to use whiteout, because I could just use the pus from my pimples – the teacher laughed at that along with everyone else. Another kid wondered aloud why my clothes were so terrible, since my father was a lawyer and could almost certainly afford something better than ill-fitting sweatshirts and track pants. Boys from my class prank-called me in the evenings, pretending to ask me out – then repeating everything I’d said on the phone the next day to the rest of my class.

I didn’t tell my parents what was happening because I was embarrassed, although they must have noticed that I wasn’t being invited to my friends’ houses anymore. I didn’t want them to know how much of an outcast I’d become at school, because it seemed like it was mostly my own fault for being unlikeable. Anyway, I reasoned, even if they did know, what could they do?

When I started high school, I chose a school that almost none of my classmates were going to. The only person from my class who was coming with me was the girl I’d become close with in 8th grade, so that was fine. I figured that this was the perfect chance to start over. No one at this huge new school knew me, or knew my past; I would walk through those front doors in September as whoever I wanted to be.

I didn’t get to start over, though. Does anyone ever really get a fresh start? I still had all the problems that had led to being teased in the first place: bad skin, the wrong clothes, and geeky interests. Even worse, the last two years had left me with zero self-confidence, which meant that I was constantly second-guessing myself. Because of this I had a hard time making friends, and when I did I was clingy and jealous. I was even more of a mess when it came to boys. Boy, was I ever.

Bullies can smell a victim, and I was soon back to being the butt of the joke. I went to an arts high school where I majored in dance, and the girls in my dance class were saccharine sweet to my face (most of the time), but made fun of me as soon as my back was turned. By the end of the year I was so tired of it that I transferred out of dance class and instead majored in visual art, where I was surrounded by pretentious art school kids, stoners and comic book nerds – on the whole, a much nicer group.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I was totally friendless. I mean, yeah, I had people that I hung out with – a pretty big group of friends, actually. But even within that group I was teased. Early high school was pretty much just as shitty as late grade school.

My later high school years were better, and the same goes for university. I moved out east for school, made some great friends, and became the stunningly self-confident adult you see before you today. Things are mostly totally fine now. I am mostly fine now.

What’s strange is that now I’m friends on Facebook with a lot of the people who made me miserable (maybe some of you are reading this now – hi guys! kind of awkward! sorry!). We’ve never talked about or even acknowledged what happened; after half a lifetime of not knowing these people, we mostly just “like” each others’ statuses and comment on photos of each others’ kids. Initially, I felt awkward having them back in my life, mostly because I worried that they were still judging me and still finding me wanting, but now we’ve settled into a sort of comfortable camaraderie, reminiscing about our collective school days as if we’ve been friends all along.

Maybe they’ve forgotten what happened, or maybe it just never seemed like a big deal. Maybe they feel bad.  Maybe I’m the one with the problem. Maybe they were right, and I am a pathetic loser. Maybe they were dealing with their own stuff at the time and didn’t realize how much it sucked for me. Most likely it’s a combination of most of the above.

I find that when I talk about what happened, I use a lot of euphemisms; I’ll say that I went through a tough time when I was younger, or else that I had a bad year the year I turned 12, or any other number of variations on the same thing. I’ve been hesitant to use the word “bullying” when talking about my own circumstances, for a couple of reasons:

1. Was I even bullied? I mean, yes, I was teased, but does that count as bullying? When does it cross the line from normal kid behaviour to bullying? Or is bullying so pervasive in our culture that it now seems normal?

2. Weirdly, I feel anxious about what the people who are my friends now will think of the fact that I was such a loser. There’s a part of me that thinks that they’ll start to reconsider our friendship, start to notice all of the less-than-stellar components of my personality.

3. Saying that I was bullied is admitting that I also became a bully later in high school. I made fun of people, talked behind their backs, told secrets. I was even party to making a girl cry in 11th grade chemistry class. I was mean, and I liked being mean.

I do think that it’s important to start a dialogue about this, especially in reference to the first point. In the wake of Jennifer Livingston’s on-air response to an email criticizing her weight, in which she refers to the man who sent her the email as a bully, there has been a lot of discussion about what qualifies as bullying, and whether or not it was the appropriate word to use in that instance. David Dickson, chairman of the Bullying Prevention Initiative of California, says“Bullying, normally, is what someone, in a very mean spirited way, continually and on a repeated basis, does to another person, typically in a social setting in front of other people…It was a stupid letter he wrote, but he commented privately.” 

Now, I’m not an expert on bullying, and none of the definitions that I’ve found online have really been satisfactory, but it seems wrong to ignore this entire discussion just because what happened doesn’t fit Dickson’s fairly narrow definition of what bullying is. Whether or not the letter sent to Livingston was public, it was certainly hurtful and unnecessary, especially considering that she’s likely spent a lifetime of facing comments like that. Also, it sucks to have a so-called bullying expert be so condescending and dismissive, especially when bullying in our culture is so often dismissed as kids just being kids (or, in this case, fat ladies just being too sensitive).

Maybe Dickson wouldn’t consider what I went through to be bullying. I mean, sure, it was public, and it was often mean-spirited, but maybe it wasn’t very mean-spirited, or maybe it wasn’t repeated or continual enough. Maybe it was just teenagers being dicks to each other, and I’m just an oversensitive lady-type. Usually writing things out here makes them clearer (and hey, it’s cheaper than therapy), but this time it just makes them seem murkier and more confused. Was I the one with the problem? Were they the ones with the problem? Was I undeserving of friends? Am I still?

What I do know is this: I’m tired of pretending that nothing happened, and I’m tired of feeling like I did something wrong and have something to hide. I’m tired of waiting for all of my friends to discover that once-upon-a-time I wasn’t cool, and then to high-tail it out of my life – so take that, brain, a pre-emptive admission of uncoolness. Most of all, I wouldn’t want any other kid to feel as shitty as I did.

So yeah. Can we talk about this?

Me at age thirteen, centre, with my cousins and sister.

29 Responses to “Bullying (or, nolite te bastardes etc.)”

  1. ryanfhughes October 7, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    EEEE I love seeing tiny versions of people I know now!

    That was a totally shitty thing that happened to you. I had similar experiences around the same time. There was a birthday party literally NO ONE came to. I remember asking a girl to a movie and her bringing her cousin along and the two of them ditching me afterward. I had totally forgotten about hiding that stuff from my parents because it just seemed like my fault and something I had to deal with.

    I don’t know if all that stuff is bullying though, in the sense that I understand that word, which is essentially to mean aggressive harassment and terrorizing. I feel like that is a word that gets overused and like any powerful word that gets overused, it gets less powerful with overuse. I don’t think every shitty thing that’s done to you or that you do is automatically bullying. Your friends were trying to be mature about their issues with you. They did a piss-poor job, like any jr high kid might, but, as you tell it it didn’t seem like their goal was to harass or torment you with these actions. They are no less shitty or scarring for all that, but I don’t see any malice. Do you see what I’m saying? Teasing can be a part of bullying, and gossiping for sure, but they have also been part of some very important friendships and relationships in my life, and very healthy ones at that. I think you have to feel this stuff out and consider context, and everyone is going through their own private hell at that point in their lives and are not the most thoughtful or delicate social creatures, and they will inadvertently knock a lot of breakable stuff over and maybe even be defensive about it or embarassed, but I feel like that’s a little different than walking in with a baseball bat and systematically breaking every thing in site. You know?

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 3:51 am #

      Oh yeah, for sure! To be clear, I didn’t think that what my friends did was bullying, only that it came at a crappy time when in my life when I maybe was being bullied by other classmates. Maybe? There were a lot of publicly humiliating comments made about my skin and my clothing (one that I specifically remember was some kid making a joke in front of the class that I didn’t need whiteout because I could just squeeze one of my pimples and use the puss – the teacher laughed at that along with everyone else). I didn’t write about specifics because the specifics were really painful and embarrassing.

      Does that make sense?

      • ryanfhughes October 7, 2012 at 4:22 am #

        Ugh Jesus. Yeah see, there’s definitely malice in shit like that. GROSS!

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 4:01 am #

      (I edited to clarify a bit, by the way)

  2. Sarah D. October 7, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    I want to first say that I think bullying is the fault of the bully-er. Just as a woman shouldn’t be blamed for being raped because she wears revealing clothes, nor should the nerdiest of nerds or loser-est of geeks be subjected to ridicule. That said – while we need to be held responsible for our behaviour, there is often an underlying reason for that behaviour (and might I say – that underlying reason often has to do with the bully more than the victim, although still perhaps worthy of some compassion and exploration). Your drawing the parallel from being bully victim to becoming one yourself at times illustrates that perfectly. I think something can be wrong/bullying/hurtful/in need of redress, and still be high school kids being dicks to each other. I’m going to say something here and feel free to delete if it’s too public a forum, but since you put this out on your blog I’ll put this out too – you and I I think had some catty ‘moments’ in high school … and I think we both had some responsibilities for that … but even then I chalked it up to high school politics and drama, trying to impress the same people etc., and that without that nonsense, I thought we could actually be pretty good friends (which I’d say has ended up being the case). Does that mean it was ‘OK’ to be jerks to each other back then? No. But does it mean that sometimes teenagers are jerks, and sometimes teenage jerks can grow up? Yes. 🙂

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Of course I’m not going to delete your comment! That’s not really my style anyway, and you didn’t say anything bad or offensive.

      But yeah, a lot of what you say here is spot-on. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Carolyn Thériault October 7, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    You´re 30 years old. You´re married. You´re a mother. The time has come for you to stop worrying about what other people think of you. Unfriend those people from FB. Put your energy into relationships that matter.

    Seriously: stop expending so much energy on what people think of you. How is this a good use of your time?

    • sarahannaoriginals October 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      Most people never really stop worrying what other people think of them. Now I do believe that worrying yourself to a point where it becomes pervasive in your every day life is unnecessary, however it is still part of human nature to value the opinions of others, especially when it comes to yourself.

      That being said, Carolyn is right. Don’t make yourself sick worrying that people might not like you anymore just because you feel like you were a geek or a ‘loser” in highschool. We were all losers in some way. 😉 Some of us bigger than others (myself included!).

      We have both come a long way since the days of highschool. You and I have a lot of parallels in both our past and our present. I was also bullied in school, even after school. But I’ve reached a point in my life where yes, things like that might still hurt, but I’ve grown and learned to view things like that in a different light. And I try not to take it too personally anymore. Kids can be real dicks. 😛 But I’m proud of you for writing about it and bringing it to the forefront of our consciousnesses.

    • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      I don’t spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about this; actually, this is probably the first time I’ve ever talked about it. I guess I was more trying to figure out what happened and how it affects my relationships and behaviour now.

      Anyway, I am pretty much the worst at making good use of my time 😛

  4. Sarah D. October 7, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I think worrying about what others think, to the extent of how it shapes us, and to what extent they might be ‘fair’, is natural and human. But having said that, I think what I said before holds, we all need to give ourselves, and others, permission to grow up and realize that teenagers are teenagers, they can be nasty, often just as much if not more to themselves as well as others, and to leave that time and place in its time and place, except to the extent it affects us now – which is what you seem to be doing, and I think that’s incredibly healthy.

    • bellejarblog October 10, 2012 at 2:22 am #

      That’s what I’m trying to do! I don’t think that I really bear anyone any kind of ill-will, but I do want to examine what happened and how that shaped who I am today. I feel like I spent a LOT of time NOT thinking about my teenage years and wondering why I was so weird about relationships (not just romantic ones, mind you), so it’s been kind of cathartic writing this all out.

  5. Christa October 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Anne, I think you hit it spot on when you said that teenagers are so wrapped up in their own stuff they have no idea someone is being bullied or that they are bullying…I know we weren’t great friends…but I had no idea that any of this was going on with you -actually that’s a lie…I had some idea, that some people didn’t like you…but I thought it was b/c sometimes you could be aloft (Which @ the time I could relate too b/c sometimes they thought I was too and know I know why you appeared that way)….but I was so wrapped up in my own stuff that I had no idea that it was so bad. And that makes me sad…My 16 year old self cried and wanted to tell your 15 year old self that it would all be okay.
    Thank you for writing this…I agree that bullying is so in grained in our culture that we think it is normal….b/c it doesn’t stop when we graduate from highschool and if it was just teenagers being mean..you think that it might.
    By that way…I should tell you that I think you are sooo cool now.

    • bellejarblog October 10, 2012 at 2:28 am #

      Awww thanks Christa. For the record, I remember you being the biggest sweetheart in high school and I didn’t think I was nice enough to be friends with you.

      I’m glad we’re friends now. And I think you’re cool now too 🙂

  6. MamaToBean October 8, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    I can relate to much of what you wrote but Ive never had a problem saying I was bullied. And those people who made my daily life a living hell? Yeah, I don’t care what happened to them and those that tried to “friend” me on facebook got a swift FU and a quick block. I was terrified to go to school in grade 7 and 8. I was an outcast and anyone in any grade that tried to be my friend became an outcast too so I didn’t have friends. Whenever someone talked to me I assumed they were out to get me because they were. I hid it all from my parents. Even the teachers hated me because I was different. They brushed off the abuse and I got in trouble for being a “tattle tale”. Yeah. High school only changed around for me in grade 11. I was terrified of boys (I’d spent so long being told how ugly and undesirable I was that I assumed if a boy talked to me it was because he was going to do something bad)

    Teasing and bullying is not ok. It’s ok not to like someone. It’s ok (IMO) to talk to your friends about how you don’t like someone. When you tell THAT person you don’t like them every day, with lists of why you don’t like them, write it on the chalkboard, actively get others to “not like” the person, become verbally or physically abusive towards them – then it’s not ok.

    I still have scars emotionally and physically from bullying. Those that gave them to me? A sincere apology would have to be given before I would consider even a cyber “friendship”.

    Sorry, ranting. This is a sore spot for me.

    • bellejarblog October 11, 2012 at 1:34 am #

      “It’s ok not to like someone. It’s ok (IMO) to talk to your friends about how you don’t like someone. When you tell THAT person you don’t like them every day, with lists of why you don’t like them, write it on the chalkboard, actively get others to “not like” the person, become verbally or physically abusive towards them – then it’s not ok.”

      I think this is a really important point to make – it is definitely okay not to like someone or even to talk to your friends about why you don’t like them. The rest of that definitely is NOT okay.

      *hugs* I’m so sorry you had to go through that. What a fucking shit show.

      Just in case you need to be reminded: you are an awesome, gorgeous, strong, fabulous, talented, wonderful person. And you have a very, very, very cute son.

  7. transparentguy October 9, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    I had a similar experience in 7th grade where my best friend suddenly decided not only did she not like me, but that she would be the gang leader in picking on me for the rest of school. We moved away and I got a “do-over” at a new school that was much friendlier and accepting of people who didn’t fit into neat little boxes.

    Years later out of the blue she asked me to be in her wedding. I hadn’t heard from her since 7th grade and her bullying days, so I turned her down. Maybe she thought it was a way of apologizing. I’ll never know and I don’t care because there was no excuse for treating me that way.

    So … yeah, I agree with others who have said you shouldn’t waste time or energy on people who treated you so badly in the past. You might not be able to stop second-guessing what their intent is, so why give them your time? Spend it on yourself and your family.

    • bellejarblog October 11, 2012 at 1:47 am #

      That is … incredibly bizarre that she would ask you to be in her wedding. I’m glad you turned her down.

      Sometimes Facebook and social networking just take past relationships to a whole new level of weird and uncomfortable, I think. I’m okay with these people being on my Facebook, and I don’t second-guess them or anything, but I do wonder how they view what happened. Does that make sense? Like, I’m so far beyond that part of my life now that I don’t really feel like they have any power over me.

      • transparentguy October 11, 2012 at 2:16 am #

        This happened before social networking took off, so I don’t even know how it crossed her mind to ask me.

  8. Rosie October 9, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    1. Yeah, it sounds to me like you were bullied, and yes, it is so pervasive in our culture that we trivialize it.

    2. I know exactly how you feel, and it’s totally normal, and also what everybody said about how we have to stop giving people that kind of power over us. Also, you’re super cool.

    3. No surprise that when you found some power you used it to hurt people the way you’d been hurt.

    4. You were a beautiful child.

    Now you’ve got me thinking about my jr. high/high-school years. What a scary little microcosm we throw our children into and expect them to fend for themselves. It’s a wonder any of us come out of it in one piece.

    • bellejarblog October 11, 2012 at 2:28 am #

      “What a scary little microcosm we throw our children into and expect them to fend for themselves. It’s a wonder any of us come out of it in one piece.”

      Seriously. Thinking about Theo going through that (even though it’s, like, a bajillion years in the future) scares the shit out of me.

      p.s. Thank you

      p.p.s. You are extra super cool.

      • Rosie October 11, 2012 at 2:32 am #

        Thank you! 🙂

  9. greenstockings October 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I think we use “bullying” to mean two very different but related things: first, our general societally-taught put-other-people-down-to-feel-good-about-yourself behaviour, and second, a pattern of behaviour which we have criminalized as destructive and analogous to physical abuse.

    Neither of these definitions is inappropriate, but because the concepts are somehow elided, the more dramatic (the second) is lessened by the first, in exactly the same measure that the first is given weight by the second.

    When we say an single instance of someone doing the put-other-people-down thing is bullying, we may be painting the picture of a genuine pattern of bullying that the victim may experience. The problem is that when we use the same idea to criminalize abuse, it has to be a pattern established by a single person (the “abuser”) against a single person (the “victim”).

    When we (rightly) establish that as a prosecutable, criminal behaviour, we become stuck in a place where we cannot ascribe that pattern of abuse to society at large – which is the kind of thing we need to do if we’re ever going to dismantle things like casual misogyny. It’s pretty typical of our approach to things that instead of trying to reorganize our collective thoughts about how people are treated, we single out single “abusers” as those who have been exemplary of those patterns of behaviour. We can’t stand the idea that our individual actions are actually part of a societal pattern that we can’t prosecute away.

    I find it interesting that you are now concerned about your present friends ascribing your high school reputation to you now – in the nerdy, weirdo, theatre/arts world I belong to, it’s much more embarrassing to admit that you enjoyed high school, that you were well-liked, not bullied, and generally got something from the experience. Having been bullied is a sort of badge of honour that my friends wear now. It gives you cred as an artiste, it means that no matter how middle class your roots, you have a wound to poke at every once in a while. Certainly, there are people people who experienced very dramatic examples of bullying, just as there are those who just didn’t have very many friends, who were thought of as weird, but by no means were victims of criminal behaviour. It doesn’t mean any of it was right, but it sure is deeply set into our society. Whew.

    • bellejarblog October 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

      1. The first four paragraphs here make a really excellent point. Thank you. This especially: When we (rightly) establish that as a prosecutable, criminal behaviour, we become stuck in a place where we cannot ascribe that pattern of abuse to society at large – which is the kind of thing we need to do if we’re ever going to dismantle things like casual misogyny.

      2. I think part of my weird feelings about how my friends now will view me have to do with the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying not to be a geek. I’ve studied what to wear, how to act, what to like and created a pretty decent outer shell that I show to the world. In fact, I am now genuinely interested in a lot of the things I fake-liked in order to be more “normal”. So I feel like I’m sort of stuck in the middle – not geeky enough to be a geek anymore, but still not “normal” either. I don’t feel like I fit into either camp very well, and I still feel very insecure about how people see me. I don’t know, it’s weird! I’m not even sure that this makes sense as I’m typing it out.

      But yes, I hope I have cred as an artiste. That would be pretty great!

  10. edenkaill October 10, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    I was a bully in high school. I was so scared, all the time, because my friends were obviously such assholes, and if I wasn’t careful and compliant they would turn that nastiness on me, and no way was I ever going back to being the one who was picked on.

    It was really hellish, on a lot of levels. I’ve apologized to some people, and they have been incredibly gracious, but the idea that I caused hurt that might still be hurting…augh.

    I really hope I can help Isadora be a kind kid. There were always some of those, the kids who were friendly and fair and peaceful. I wish I’d been one of them so bad.

    • bellejarblog October 12, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

      “I was a bully in high school. I was so scared, all the time, because my friends were obviously such assholes, and if I wasn’t careful and compliant they would turn that nastiness on me, and no way was I ever going back to being the one who was picked on.”

      I think this is a super important thing (and also something I experienced in high school, to a certain extent). There’s definitely a feeling of kill-or-be-killed in high school. I think it’s amazing that, as an adult, you’ve turned around and apologized to the people you might have hurt. It would have been so easy to try to forget about it, or write it off as kids-being-kids or normal high school behaviour.

      And yeah, I hear you on hoping to help Isadora be a kind kid – I hope the same thing for Theo.

  11. Joy October 10, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    For me, it was really important that I start using the word bullying for what happened to me in grades 6-8: which was surprisingly similar to yours. There is power in acknowledging the past for what it was: power that can help us heal. For me, I put all of that time in a box and forgot it – to this day when I think of those years there are big gaps in my memory which I can not recall – only a vague sense of impending doom and sadness remains. I had to call it bullying (it was) so that I could start to heal all of the bits of me that broke in those years.

    I also used my power for evil when I got it. I remember excluding a kid at orchestra who was geekier and better than me. I apologized later. He didn’t want to hear it. Freire talks about this phenomenon in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and while he was talking about race I really do feel that in this one regard, the response is universal. I was the “overseer” who upon having any status became “more of a tyrant towards his former comrades than the owner himself”.

    Freire talks about how the oppressors are trapped in the cycle as much as the oppressed. “As the oppressed, righting to be human, take away the oppressors’ power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression.” I think this really speaks to the difficulty of schools to intervene (though i believe they must) – I think the bullied-bully contradiction can only be fixed in a similar manner as Freire speaks of the oppressed liberating the oppressor. But who are we to ask these children (remember always that regardless of grade, we are talking of children) to not only regain their own humanity/self-esteem which had been lost through bullying but then to stop and forgive their bullies?

    I have tried to forgive my bullies and have failed every time. One of them has her face on posters in Spadina station. Every time I ride the escalator I want to rip them down. I don’t want to forgive her: I want her to go away and never touch my life again.

    • bellejarblog October 13, 2012 at 1:28 am #

      It’s funny, because I don’t think that I bear any malice towards the people who bullied me, but I do kind of want to ask them why. Not that they would know how to answer, other than that I was an easy target. Much to my disgust, though, even after everything that happened, I still want them to like me. How gross is that?

      Thank you for the Freire quotes – I haven’t yet read Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but I definitely need to.

  12. Fatima March 20, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Hey, I just stumbled upon your blog and I found that I can relate to it so much. (I think your posts are great, and I love the topics you choose!)

    I spent those complicated years of being a teen and pre-teen in a completely different setting than either Canada or the U.S, but that petri dish of teenage culture was still there and the older I got, the more difficult I found it to “fit in”. I went to private schools, and a small university (big mistake!! haha!). I spent the first year of college (I am supposed to be a sophomore now but moving halfway across the world jolted that lol) feeling completely rejected. I like how you said that bullies know how to sense victims.

    And I do believe that when people choose to ostracize a person it is bullying.
    It is not direct, like a punch. It is so subtle that if one mentions it, you put yourself at risk for sounding delusional. But it really is there! Like some sort of hegemonic spell. It has put me in fear of ever talking about it because it scares me that I could possibly be taking liberties against people by saying ” they are really nasty, competitive people who have hurt me”
    “oh yeah? what did they do?”
    “….they weren’t nice…”
    Except it’s so much more complicated than that.

    I can’t keep feelings in forever though, and I remeber telling people about how I’d feel, only to get responses such as me being a “drama queen”, “too nervy”, taking things too seriously, it’s all in fun, or those hateable nods of sympathy. And eye rolls. The feeling of loneliness was overwhelming. Later on I decided simply that being alone was better for myself so I welcomed the isolation. And the “friendly” people in Student Affairs who loved to call themselves “family” never batted an eyelash.
    Wow, I can count the number of times I was actually abandoned on trips/projects/etc. After I had asked them not to leave without letting me know. And then me getting stalked. But according to them it was an accident. okay. what could I have done anyway?

    Two months into the second semester I realized in horror that I hadn’t completed a single assignment. Silly me blamed it on lagging “vacation mood”, but I knew it was because of how depressed I was. Nothing hits the nerves of a lonely geek more than that.
    I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep. I hated every inch of myself.
    I went to a counselor later who asked me if perhaps the problem was with me. And deep down, because I am insecure, and because I would hate to be living in denial of actually being a bitch to people, I said maybe. Maybe is perhaps right. Later on though, she did mention that the environment was very unfriendly and “clique-ish”, and that a few other students had come to her with the same feelings.(surprise!!!) So maybe I wasn’t too wrong.
    (and about Facebook, I feel ill when I see their posts on it… I guess not enough time has passed, but It has been getting better). It affects me so much when dealing with people too, I feel like they can read what I feel on my face.

    I guess what makes all this so painful, even long after it happens is the deep sense that somehow it’s your own fault…for being too much of a quiet person? too enthusiastic about things other people aren’t excited about? that maybe I am not really a nice or giving or thoughtful person? Because I am not to the standards of what they find attractive/ charismatic/ interesting.
    And then it takes all the power of the people who love you, and more, just to get you to change your mind a little bit. I am so thankful that I am in a new environment where I can have the chance to be myself without fear, and find people who will appreciate what little I might have to offer. And a huge huge huge thank you for writing this. It takes so much courage to talk, and I believe sharing experiences is crucial to connecting what is humane in each of us. I feel silly posting something as long as this, but it’s just a way of me saying thank you.

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