I am not really sure why I feel absolutely compelled to write this post – right now.
But I do.
So I will.
Maybe today one of my readers needs to hear this story – I am not sure – but I am going trust my gut and share.
This isn’t particularly easy for me – but I am going for it.
If you know me, you might not imagine that I was bullied in high school. I am pretty confident (okay, most of the time) and I am not afraid to stand my ground (pretty much ever). I’m not gorgeous or particularly hideous. In those days, I fit pretty much right smack dab into the middle of just about everything. Not too tall. Not too short. Not too fat. Certainly not too skinny. Not too geeky. Certainly not too cool.
In high school, I had plenty of friends and I had dates to just about every function – most of the time I had a boyfriend. I made good grades but wasn’t a total nerd. I owned at least one pair of Tiger shoes and a pair of Guess jeans. Had me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilts too. And at least 3 shirts donning that Lacoste gator. So I wasn’t necessarily setting trends but I wasn’t a fashion abomination. Continuously falling right smack in the middle.
Because I was President of the Student Government and an officer in several other clubs, I also had fantastic relationships with quite a few teachers – okay, maybe I was more nerdy than I realized. But, the point is – I didn’t ever have to walk down the hall alone – I wasn’t invisible to teachers. I knew lots of people and got along with most of them.
Except one girl.
I won’t share her real name – but she did not like me – not one little bit. (I guess I will call her Tasha – because that’s not really her name.)
Tasha hated me.
I mean really hated me. Really, really.
Honestly, I didn’t really care so much if she hated me. Her impression of me wasn’t that important to me.
Remember – I was a pretty confident kid – I completely understood that her opinion of me did not define me. Just because she called me a bitch (or worse) every. single. time. she saw me walk down the hallway did not mean I was a bitch or worse. That was clear to me.
However, she could have totally kicked my ass. I was pretty afraid that one day she would realize her words didn’t work to hurt me and that she would turn to sticks and stones to try and break my bones.
It was painfully obvious to me that the only way to survive a fight with Tasha was to never get in a fight with Tasha.
She was in my face. A lot.
And I was scared of her. A lot.
But I would just walk down a different hallway. I didn’t come back at her with words and certainly never with actions.
My worst experience with her was one night at a party at the lake.
She found out I was there and came looking for me. Running up the hill with her friends, screaming, “Where is sheeee?”
Thank God I was in the bathroom with the door locked. (Teach your children to lock the bathroom door at a party.)
She pounded on the thin wooden door for what seemed like 15 minutes, daring me to come out.
Then begging me to come out.
There I stayed – behind that locked door – probably shaking – trying to guess what my best option was. Thinking what was the worst that could happen if I came out.
That was easy. She could have totally kicked my ass.
So I figured my best plan was to leave. Quickly.
Apparently, Tasha didn’t like that little life-preserving decision of mine. Maybe she was tired of me turning away from her. I don’t really know.
But, she positioned herself in front of me – and in front of everyone else, she threw her drink on me. Right down the front of my shirt. The funny thing was I had borrowed that cute white sweater from a friend of mine. Who was also a friend of hers.
Of course, it was a red punch drink of one sort or another.
My theory remained in tact – the surest way to not get beaten up was to not get in a fight.
I headed to my car, ever grateful that I still had my keys with me.
Tasha headed to her car. If I remember right, it was a jeep. I could be wrong on that. But I think it was.
Two girls in my class drove jeeps – the homecoming queen and Tasha. Funny little Southern irony there.
I drove on the dark hilly road along that lake scared out of my mind. Not knowing where I was going. No cell phone. No GPS. Just sheer adrenaline and prayer. Lots of prayers.
Tasha followed me very closely. And it was my distinct impression that several times she tried to run me off the road.
Yes, you’re right. She was mean as hell.
Somehow, I made it out of the woods in one piece, without wrecking my car and without getting in a fight.
That night I went to bed in that red-stained sweater, still shaking. I never told one adult what happened. In fact, I never really talked about it with my friends – even those who were there.
Tasha’s need to spew her hate at me seemed to quiet down after that night. Maybe she scared herself too. Who knows but I enjoyed a little respite.
She didn’t say much more to me until we were rehearsing for graduation. I was asked to give the prayer for the graduating class.
Tasha was my motivation.
My prayer appeared focused on the global picture of war and hate but it was meant for her.
Stop hating. Stop scaring. Now, I was begging her.
She pretended to shoot me as I walked down the stairs from the stage.
Finally, I said something.
“Oh, I think you got me this time.”
I must have looked ridiculous clutching my chest and pretending to be shot. But I finally felt it. Enough already.
Several months later, a dear friend of mine invited me to join her in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. She went to Auburn and they were playing Alabama (my favorite team).
My only reservation in going was that I knew Tasha had moved to New Orleans. Yes, I was still worried enough about her that I almost didn’t go.
The friend who had invited me reassured me – it’s a huge town, thousands of people are going to be there to see the game, you’ll never see her. What are the chances?
You can probably guess what the chances were – 100%.
We were walking down the street and, towards us, came Tasha.
My heart tightened and I had to catch my breath.
She walked right up to me and gave me the biggest, hardest hug.
“I thought you hated me,” was all I could muster.
“Oh, that was high school,” she said and laughed.
Now we are facebook friends and we have joked about how much she hated me. Now she’ll know just how much she scared me, too. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh about that.
To be fair to Tasha, she has since shared with me that she thought I was mean to her friend – I thought Tasha hated me because of a boy who called me when he was “going with” her. Tasha said that she was defending her friend and was furious when her friend stopped being mad at me. I guess Tasha just couldn’t let go. To be fair to me, I don’t ever remember not liking this other friend or being mean to her. If I was, I am sorry for that.
As I said, I am not sure why I am supposed to share this story but I feel that I am.
Maybe there are some important things here. I will share what I think they might be…
- Being nice is always the best option.
- If someone comes to you with a bulling story, please do not tell them that they simply need to toughen up. Help them. It is really hard to share these things – if they thought they could handle it on their own, they would have.
- There are books that can help you talk to kids about bullying. If you aren’t sure where to start, look here at Dinner A Love Story.
- If your child is a bully – it’s not cool – he’s not tough, stop him now. Or her. (Boys aren’t the only bullies.)
- If you are modeling bullying behavior for your child, stop it now. You are not cool and you are not tough. But I think you know that.
- If you are bullying your own children, you might be creating bullies. Get help so you can stop the cycle. And get them help too.
- Scaring someone is not entertainment. Buy a movie ticket.
- It’s not always obvious who will be bullied. Even those who appear strong can be victims because weakness is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder can be a vulture waiting to strike when no one is looking.
- Those who are bullied will not always tell that they are being bullied.
- Even if they have multiple safety nets.
- If you are being bullied, tell someone. Someone you trust, especially if you are scared.
- Red drink stains will come out of a white sweater with 409 and it’s good to lock the bathroom door at a party.