Yesterday, Amanda Palmer posted an amazing blog on internet hatred and bullying. You should go read it. Spend some time in the comments. It will probably break your heart. It broke mine.
When I was a kid, I was drawn to the kids who were different. The ones who were fragile and fantastical and generally quite fucked up. I didn’t hang out with the cool kids, partly because there was never money for whatever the latest craze in toys was – slap bracelets, troll dolls, sticker collecting – but mostly because the cool kids were boring. My friends were never boring, but the flipside was that they would turn on me in an instant. I had frenemies long before the term was popular. Girls who loved me one day and said vicious things about me the next. Or kicked me as we went down the stairs to recess, so that one year my shins were black and blue from September to June. Or poured chocolate milk all over me during lunch. Or took the confidences I had whispered during sleepovers and spread them among all the other girls to get a leg up the popularity ladder.
Seventh grade was the worst. It was the year of the bar mitzvah’s. I grew up in a mostly Jewish town, went to a mostly Jewish school. There was a bar mitzvah almost every weekend, sometimes two. The rich kids had their parties at the country club, where there would be a magician or face-painter or a DJ, or sometimes all three. The popular girls collected photo albums of invitations. Even the unpopular girls like me got invited to their share – someone who invited all of their homeroom, or all of their Hebrew school class, or whose parents made them invite the kids who’d been in carpool.
I don’t remember which one of them thought up the game. I don’t even know why it was so funny to them, or so hurtful to me. It went like this. I would be sitting alone, staring at all the kids out on the dance floor and wishing someone would come over to talk to me. A group of the popular boys would be hanging out at the other end of the table, whispering with each other. Suddenly, one of them would run over to me, get down on one knee, and ask, “Will you marry me?” I would sit there in shock and confusion, without a clue as to how to send him away so that I came off as the cool one. Then, laughing hysterically, he would run back to his friends and they would all exchange high-fives. I was convinced, utterly and absolutely, that what they were really telling me was that I was hideous, and ugly, and that nobody would ever, ever want to marry me.
By the time we hit high school, it was mostly over. I hung out with the freaks, took the honors and AP classes, played lacrosse, dated a guy who thought I was gorgeous, and pretty much tried to ignore everyone who had caused me so much misery a few years back. It worked so well that by the time senior year came around, I was a certain kind of cool. At senior prom, one of the hottest guys in my class told my boyfriend he’d never realized how hot I was. The popular boys wanted to pose for pictures with me on the last day of school. I told them all to fuck off.
Which should be the end of it, except for one last thing.
About five years ago, one of the boys who’d played the marriage game found me on Facebook and sent a friend request. I’ll admit, my response was not as graceful as it could have been.
I never wrote back, because I didn’t know what to say. In truth, he wasn’t even the worst of them. In high school, he was actually pretty friendly to me. I still hated him, even more than I hated the ones who had bullied me for so long. The way I saw it, they were idiots. They couldn’t help themselves. He was smarter, more popular, better than all of that. He could have stopped them, if he’d wanted to. He never did.
So. To all those kids who made my life a living hell. To the kids who lived through it from the other end. To the ones who bullied, and were bullied, and watched the bullies and did nothing. If you want to talk, I’m here. I’m listening. Hit me up in the comments.
And to all those kids who are going home after school and crying, and cutting, and wishing they could die: