First of all, I am now 25 years old. I have a bachelor's degree in Music Performance, and I work for the government in social work. This particular choice of work was, interestingly enough, directly related to my experiences as an adolescent. One very good side effect of being tormented as a young girl was the development of compassion for the outsiders around us and the extreme desire to make a positive difference in the lives of people who don't otherwise get treated too well by the society they live in. My goal is to return to school and get my Master's and Doctoral degrees in child psychology so that I can work with teenagers who have the same kinds of problems I had in school.
I had a happy childhood, and my parents were very supportive of me. I didn't notice feeling different from my peers other than the fact that I was unusually intelligent. I remember feeling somewhat uninspired in my elementary school classes, but had no other problems until about the age of 12. Somewhere in my sixth grade year, all the other people in my class suddenly started to know and care about things that I didn't understand. The girls started wearing make-up and dressing in the latest fashions and talking about boys. I was not ready to do this yet, and this became a huge gap between myself and my peers. On top of this, I had always been somewhat socially inept. I felt somewhat unpopular and confused at this time, but the major problems didn't start until I entered junior high the next year.
From the beginning, I was the number one victim in my school. In gym class, the popular girls would surround me and torment me about my body when I had to undress. They hid my clothes several times so that I had to go to the rest of my classes in my gym uniform, which was completely humiliating. There was one girl who was considerably larger than I was who would wait for me after class and throw me into walls and lockers. She threatened to beat me up after school on a regular basis, so I spent most of the time between the last bell and my bus terrified and hiding in various places. I was always the last person picked for teams, despite the fact that I do and did have some athletic talent. I don't know where the teacher was while this was going on - I don't have any memories of ever seeing her at all in the locker room, and she was kind of vicious to all the students during actual class time.
The other worst class I had was band. I made principal flute in honor band as a seventh grader and therefore was subjected to any torment the older girls who I had replaced could think up. All seven of the other flutists would move their chairs over about a foot every day when I sat down, at which point the teacher would laugh and make them move back - which made this humiliation public for the class. They made fun of the way I walked, the clothes I wore, my hair, anything they could come up with. The people in the row behind me joined in at some point during the school year and would hurl objects at me when the teacher wasn't looking. Somebody broke my instrument one day right before an audition. To this day I don't know who did it.
During all of this, I was still desperate to be accepted. The leader in all of this was a girl named Amy (cheerleader, homecoming princess, dated the quarterback,you get the picture) and the meanest thing she ever did was to one day take me aside and tell me sweetly that she only wanted to help me fit in a little better. She gave me advice as to how to peg my jeans (those of you who grew up in the 80's will understand this reference) and how to do my hair. I eagerly accepted this advice and excitedly went home to practice all night. When I came to school the next day they all surrounded me, including Amy, and laughed at me, telling me that nothing I did could ever keep me from being ugly and disgusting. The worst times I can remember in this class happened when the teacher would leave. He never stood up for me at any time, even though I am sure he knew what was going on, and I think he didn't like his job much, because once a week he would leave the class to watch a movie. I was always terrified, because it was an hour of pure torment for me. The class would spend the hour stealing my things and playing with them, spitting on me, throwing things at me and sometimes having public discussions about how horrible I was. Luckily, the band teacher was fired the next year, and we got a nice teacher who refused to put up with that kind of thing in her classroom. The next two years band was a happy place again. Thank you, Ms. Strivings, wherever you may be! :-)
The cafeteria was another horrible place. I learned very quickly (after going home several times with ice cream in my hair) to take my lunch outside with the rest of the losers and weirdos. The bus wasn't much fun either. After this day of oppression at school, I tended to cry on the bus home, which put me in the notice of my neighborhood bully. He used to sit behind me and slap me in the back of the head. I would run all the way home from my bus stop because I was afraid of him. Interestingly enough, this was one of the only incidents I remember involving a boy. Almost all of my tormentors through school were girls. After a while, I became friends with another girl who was picked on as badly as I was. We took comfort in each other, and I am so grateful for that friendship, because I don't know if I would have made it otherwise. I really related to the list moderator's story about how she became fascinated with the holocaust, because this other girl and I were obsessed with the French Revolution for the same reason, and I used to fantasise about putting my classmates to the guillotine.
I went through three years of this kind of thing, and eventually I found a group of people who I fit in with. At that time we called ourselves "mods" but I think they are called "goths" now. This was good in the sense that I had people to hang out with, but I also became a serious drug user. This was in the beginning of high school and I am glad that I had some peer support (as dysfunctional as it was) because things got really bad. Some of my fellow outcasts attempted suicide (and some succeeded) and all of us were being seriously physically assaulted on a daily basis. More than one of my friends ended up in the hospital at this time because the "jocks" had jumped them on the way home from school. I also was considering suicide on a regular basis, and entertained serious thoughts about killing my classmates. I am glad now that I didn't have access to a gun, because I had nothing to live for at that point in my life and might have happily gone out in "a blaze of glory" like the Littleton shooters. I was having major problems with school authority, and in my sophomore year was expelled for "drug dealing'. I was told by my principal at the time that he didn't have any real proof of anything but that he didn't want "my kind" of student in his school (I suppose he meant All-State musician, IQ 140, State poetry winner kind of student).
My parents threatened me with rehab, so I got sober and transferred to another school in town, which happened to be 50 % minority, and didn't have a very good football team. I had a happy last two years of high school, during which I was not particularly popular, but I was not picked on either. During that summer before I transferred I came to one of the best conclusions which I have ever had in my life, which was that I was never going to be a victim again. I decided that I was going to fight back to the death the next time someone fucked with me, no matter what. It must have showed in my attitude, because I never was messed with again. I think this is what bullies fear - a victim who turns out not to be so easy to victimize. I know that people say that you shouldn't fight back, but I think the opposite. I think that you should let it be known that you WILL fight back, and you will do so with any means that you have available besides deadly weapons, claws, teeth, whatever.
However, I don't feel that killing your classmates or suicide or any other permanently life changing solution is an answer. Something that is hard to realize is that life does go on after high school. I just think that people should feel free to take any action that will enable them to feel good about themselves when they are an adult. Especially if your school authorities will not help you. In hindsight, I would have rather spent time in Juvenile Hall for assault than time in the concentration camp they called school.
On the bright side, it really does end after high school. I am now a successful adult, a leader among my peers at work and in my social circle, and am happy to say that most of the people who tormented me that I have run into now look older than their years, have too many children and are generally unhappy. Which I cannot help feeling a small pang of glee about (just for a little while, though, because I try to be a compassionate person generally!) Anybody out there considering suicide or needing someone to talk to may write me personally. I will be happy to help you in any way I can. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell this story.
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