I’ve had several positive responses to my “It Gets Better” post, including an email from a teacher stating she was going to use it in class, and a couple of people who’ve told me they too had a hard time as kids.
I hope I did a bit of good.
Until I read the book “Odd Girl Out” when I was in college, I honestly thought it was my fault that I’d been bullied. I figured it was because I had glasses or because I was “smart.” I didn’t dress any different from my peers, and I wasn’t chubby until junior high, so it wasn’t either of those things.
But they don’t need a reason, as it turns out. Sometimes they’ll just pick someone, and then that person will become a sort of symbol for everything “our group” isn’t. Uncool, nerdy, geeky, know-it-all, or whatever. They really don’t need a reason or an excuse, because once they pick their victim, they can make up all the excuses they want.
My class was especially cliquey and the girls had some of the meanest groups my teachers had ever seen, but my class was the exception and not the the rule. The girls didn’t punch anybody, but at that point in my life a straight-up brawl would have been far preferable to the silent treatment and shunning I got. Whereas my brother’s class was tiny, and they were tight, and when somebody was nasty to one of the people in his class, every member of it closed ranks against the outsider and defended the victim.
I think some of the girls in my class would have happily fed me to sharks.
I never ever talked about it if I could help it. My parents would ask me how my day was and I would say “fine,” partly because being shunned was normal and average and “fine,” and partly because if I talked about what happened, it became more real and everything hurt all over again. So it is partly my fault that the adults didn’t have any idea how awful things were.
But in a way, it really wasn’t that bad. Nobody ever beat me up and very, very few kids ever said anything cruel to my face. Very, very few kids ever said anything to my face, actually.
If I hadn’t had a few best friends (April and Sarah R.) who were willing to be shunned for speaking to me, school would have been unbearable.
If you have ever experienced bullying, especially if you’re a girl or a woman (because a lot of adults are still haunted by bullying they received in childhood, I learned), I strongly recommend reading “Odd Girl Out.” It’s a great book, and it talks about girl bullying both from the victim’s point of view and from the bully’s.