“This must be a twenty-first century girl-thing,” my husband observed while reading a story about a twelve-year-old girl who killed herself because of cyber-bullying. He was appalled that anyone would get together with a group of “friends” and systematically send taunting comments to a classmate via social media. “Why do they do it?” he wondered. “Boys would ridicule you to your face but girls do it over the internet.”
Frankly, I have no clue why people chose to diminish others or if females are more likely to use more circuitous means, but there’s nothing new about harassment-by-proxy. When I was in the fourth grade, I was bullied by girls I’d known for years, some of which had previously been my friends. While some of the torment was face-to-face, the worst of the abuse came as anonymous letters through the mail. I’m sure if Facebook had existed then, whoever was responsible would have used that media to let me know how stupid, unattractive and generally worthless I was. In a way, I suppose, using the mail is more malicious. There’s a time-lag between writing and sending that doesn’t exist when you can just type and hit “post”. You even have to find a stamp and address the envelope, steps that are eliminated over the internet. Regardless of the means, bulling sucks. The internet just makes it easier.
The letters showed up periodically for a few months, and then they stopped. The next school year no one bothered me. Maybe they found a new person to focus their nastiness on. Maybe they just grew up. Whatever happened, the experience changed my perception of myself, mostly in negative ways. The constant barrage of mean-spirited bashing made me question myself and I became wary of others. I never found out who was responsible for the hateful letters. Part of me doesn’t care anymore, but I do sometimes wonder, as my husband did this morning, why it happened at all. It did, however, fuel something positive: turning inward gave me the chance to think up tales, something I’ve done ever since. It took decades before I actually decided to write some of them, but now I can’t seem to stop. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying any part of what happened was a good thing. While it made me who I am today, I’m pretty sure I would have turned out a whole lot better adjusted without it.
Now, I don’t let anyone push me around. I still have some self-esteem issues but I like how I turned out and I love being an author. When you read my stories, some of the scared little kid probably leaks out into the words, as does the confident adult. As for the girls that made my life so miserable all those years ago? Fuck you.
Hey, I said I was confident, I didn’t say I wasn’t still pissed.