I stood in the middle of the locker room, my shirt, socks and undies on. My pants were the tool of a tug-of-war between me and Donetta. That’s her real name. If she’s reading this, I’ll accept an apology via the comments section.
Donetta and her friends had zeroed in on me, with my braces and glasses and my gangly Middle-school age hair and budding acne. Every day for a year, I raced to the locker room to try to get my clothes before Donetta got them. Mostly, I failed. She’d stolen a necklace my parents bought me in Amsterdam, untold amounts of money, and my dignity.
So, here I was, in a tug-of-war for my clothes. It was a very real possibility that I’d have nothing on my butt when the bell rang.
I don’t remember the rest of the story. Eventually, I got my clothes. Eventually, I moved. Eventually, I’ll stop linking the name Donetta with Devil.
Fast-forward 6 years. I’m a Senior, and I don’t feel threatened by my peers. In fact, I’ve got a pretty good social life. I date as much as I want, I have friends I love, and I haven’t felt out-classed for years.
But along comes Ivy (not her real name, because she’s a victim here.) She’s a Sophomore. And for some reason I still haven’t figured out, I cannot stand her. We should be in the same social settings--we like the same music, the same type of boy, the same clothes. She’s young enough that she doesn’t pose a threat to me. But I do all the mean-girl things. I write pithy, cutting poems and post them on all the lockers around hers. I slam her locker door shut. A lot. I make animal noises when she passes me in the hall. And one time, I left a roll of toilet paper on her doorstep with a note that said, “I would have TP’d you, but you’re not worth the trouble.”
Now, don’t get all psychological on me. I was mature enough to know that I had no right to abuse her like that. And I don’t think it was my Donetta moment.
Here’s what I do know: I’ve felt bad since I graduated.
So, recently on Facebook, I sent her a message, apologizing. I didn’t ask to be her friend--I’m really not interested in that, anyway. I just wanted her to know that, although the poems were very clever, they were evil and I’m sorry.
She responded. I didn’t expect her to, but she was very gracious and grown-up about it all. She said she hopes my life is flourishing, and I didn’t sense any sarcasm in the comment.
Boy, she turned out cool.
And I’m so glad.
But I would like to save other children the emotions I experienced, both as a victim and as a perpetrator.
So I’m working with a middle-school counselor to put together a curriculum for our local 7th and 8th graders. The curriculum will be short, 5 minutes in the classrooms once a month to either roll-play or do a case-study, with follow-ups posted in the newsletters, over the announcements, etc.
To that end, I’m collecting stories about bullying, personal stories. I don’t want them to come from strangers on the internet or from the news--I’d like them to come from you, my friends. I don’t want them to be the sensational “she killed herself because of a bully” story because that’s the exception, and I want to set up a curriculum for the general population.
My theory is that everyone except my brother, for reasons based entirely on his personality, has experienced bullying in some form. Social, physical--maybe even cyber, although we’re all so old, maybe we missed those experiences.
Would you email me your stories? email@example.com I’ll change your names, so you don’t need to worry that when you run for President, your past will suddenly find its way to Fox. Thanks.