As a young person, I had many experiences that still haunt me today.
Yesterday, a memory—as vivid as though it just happened—popped into my mind and I couldn’t get rid of it.
It was my best friend’s 12th birthday party. We did everything together, though I was a year younger and therefore a grade behind. I arrived at the front door, gift in hand, and climbed the steps up to the livingroom where voices wafted down to me. I was excited. Birthday parties meant treats and games—an afternoon of fun and laughs.
I turned the corner at the top of the stairs to see every guest, and the birthday girl, in frilly party dresses, carefully coifed hair-dos, and stockings. They sat like little ladies staring at me as I stood in my everyday pants and blouse, probably resembling the poor farmer’s hillbilly daughter. I swear I even saw a look of pity flash through the eyes of the birthday girl’s mom.
I’d missed the memo on the dress code. There was nothing I could do but sit uncomfortably and leave at the first opportune moment.
I didn’t know it but I’d been the target of a group of bullies dressed in chiffon and pink ribbons. I did however feel the shame and humiliation. I can still feel it today as I feel their eyes looking me up and down–judging.
I was a little girl who did nothing wrong, yet I felt less than everyone else, though I didn’t know why. I never told my mom, or anyone else.
I intrinsically knew I no longer fit and I was, for whatever reason, ousted from the group. I never spoke to my ‘best friend’ ever again. I now wonder if she remembers? Does the bully ever remember it as clearly as the target? Probably not. My other question would be, ‘why me?’ I’ll never know.
As I look back on that incident all those years ago, I wonder how much of an impact it had on me as an adult. There are pivotal moments of one’s life that come to define us today, and for me, I believe this was one of them.
I wonder though how different my thinking would be if I’d had someone to talk to about such things. If someone had explained the behaviour and been on my side. I think I needed to hear that it wasn’t my fault and feeling hurt was normal. I needed someone to confirm for me that what those girls did was mean, petty, and cruel.
Bullying can come dressed in party dresses, false friendships, and broken promises. The key to stop it is to have a discussion with someone (like Auntie, Big Sis, Mom…) about the behaviour and how it makes you feel. Don’t tuck it away for several years like I did. Recognize a toxic relationship or friendship for what it is and do something now. Click here to read more about toxic friendships and gaslighting.
A bully comes disguised in many forms, but it can also be blatant and obvious. A young boy lost his life because a group thought it would be funny to feed him drugs so they could videotape it and laugh. You can’t get more obvious than that. And yet young people still stood in silence.
Bullying changes and affects people forever.
Be aware of your part in it… whether victim, instigator, or bystander. Find your voice. Bullying, in any way, shape, or form is not okay—ever.
And a note to my younger self: It wasn’t your fault. You were targeted. You are worthy of happiness and inclusion.
Here are some other blogs on friendship and bullying that you may want to read.