Note: Today and tomorrow’s posts are about bullying. In light of me sharing some personal stories, I ask that you keep the comments a bully-free zone. Please do not post anything mean, petty, or derogatory. I will be deleting comments that I find offensive, so just FYI; you have been warned. Let’s keep it polite. Thanks!
Almost every adolescent or teen is bullied at some point. Sometimes it’s mild teasing, but other times, it can go as far as total mental, emotional, and/or physical harassment. Recently, we’ve seen how bad bullying can really get and the horrible consequences extreme bullying can have.
Since the tragic deaths of those bright young lives, millions of people have shared their own experiences. I’ve wanted to share mine, but I’ve been afraid. Afraid of what people would think, what they would say, how they would react.
Because I was bullied. And it leaves scars that are impossible to erase.
While I have many more stories and episodes where I was a target of someone’s unkindness, today I’m going to share three true stories about my own experiences with bullies.
I longed to be cool. I wasn’t especially unpopular, but at 11, being “one of the cool kids” was all that really mattered. I was thrilled when, in 6th grade, I ended up in an especially good homeroom and an even better pod (pods designated which group of teachers you would have), which also meant that I had a good locker location. Things seemed to be okay; I was finally “with it” and had a good group of fairly popular friends. I had always been a dancer, but everyone was going out for cheerleading, so I decided I wanted to as well. After all, cheerleaders were the popular girls. Making the squad equaled a life of popularity, I was sure of it. So I tried out and didn’t make it. I was naturally heartbroken, because not only didn’t I make the squad, but most of my friends did. I was promptly deserted, mostly because 11 year old girls are cruel. Very cruel, it turns out.
One random day, I heard a rumor that one of the new cheerleaders (and a former friend) had made up a new cheer and that cheer was about me. I was naturally anxious, but didn’t think much of it, until it was performed at lunch, in front of most of the 6th grade, by several of my so-called-friends. I don’t actually remember what the cheer was about; I’m sure it had something to do with me being a want-to-be cheerleader, ugly, fat, or any of those things preteen girls find so important. I remember being horribly embarrassed, but doing my best to laugh it off in front of everyone, trying to play it cool, because that was how I had always been told to treat situations like that. Laughter and stories about the cheer and how it was about me (and wasn’t that so funny!?) died down after a while, but it’s hard to forget something like that. Especially when all I did was try to be a cheerleader.
Another tale also starts in the lunch room and ends with me having major body issues. During lunch, two guys and another girl who sat around me always made these jokes about “Mrs. Hippo”. Mrs. Hippo was someone in our classes and was some girl that had a weight problem. I had no clue who Mrs. Hippo was, but I knew that I didn’t want to be the fat girl.
At 13, I was incredibly gawky, all arms and legs, with the exception of some stubborn baby fat. I was sure that having that small bit of pudge around my middle made me fat. I joked around with my friends, pushing out my stomach like I was pregnant, and pinching my fat rolls to hide my own self-consciousness about my body. None of my friends had this roll of fat above their jeans, therefore I must be fat. I quickly developed an idea that skinny was the thing to be. The fear of being like “Mrs. Hippo” was strong, and I began limiting what I ate and becoming quite adapt at eating without really eating. For several months, I almost never ate lunch or snacks, and ate the smallest amount of breakfast and dinner I could get away with. I never progressed to becoming an anorexic and I didn’t lose more than a couple of pounds, but I was constantly obsessed with my weight and how I looked. Talk of Mrs. Hippo at the lunch table faded as the year drew to a close, and I stopped obsessing over what I ate. Then, while signing yearbooks, I found it. Under a sloppily written “have a great summer”, was “P.S. you are Mrs. Hippo”.
By the time I got to high school, I thought being teased was behind me. 9th grade past without too much drama, and while I wasn’t all that happy, I was of the opinion that things could be a lot worse. As a rising sophomore, I made the high school dance team and started practicing with the team after school. We had our own locker room and always dressed out together. At the very first practice, a girl commented on my “granny panties”. Soon, while changing, some of the older girls would whisper about my granny panties. It got to be a big joke, that Elizabeth wore granny panties.
I did wear what most people would classify as granny panties. My mother bought them in packs of 3 at an outlet store, and while most of them had a cute design, or were a bright color, there was no denying that they were basically briefs and that they were not from Victoria’s Secret. When the jokes and the teasing got to be too much, I took some of my babysitting money, and marched myself down to the mall and bought brand new, non-granny-panty underwear. But every time I ran out of clean, new underwear, and wore the old ones, I would hear the whispers or the jokes about my granny panties.
Looking at these, my stories about being bullied are not near as bad as other stories you’ve probably heard. I have others, including the time I was spit on, the time some mean boys impersonated a boy I liked online and basically made a fool out of me for fun, the time someone dressed up as me to put on a skit designed for the sole purpose of making fun of me, the list goes on and on.
What makes these stories stand out? Of the three, they are the ones that probably damaged me the most. From the whole “Mrs. Hippo” thing, I developed, and still struggle with, weight and body image issues. The cheer in the lunchroom gave me the idea that if you aren’t cool, you are nothing. Enter major self-confidence decline. And the panties? Just another mark on the “you are worthless and a loser to boot” chalkboard of life.
Tomorrow I will be talking about how being bullied has affected me throughout my adult life and how I eventually over came it. If you would like to share, I would appreciate comments and your stories about being bullied.