i'm a fan of dr. phil and his show and books. i've learned a lot and changed a lot as a result of what he's written and said. he does a lot of work on bullying—why kids bully, what happens when they do, how bullied kids can handle it, the whole spectrum. i feel so sad for the kids who get bullied—kids get bullied to the point that they internalize what they hear, and some of them even kill themselves. but it's taken till now for me to figure out what touches me so much about them.
i realized today, watching today's episode, that i was bullied. kind of a lot. i used to get teased a lot about my nose. if you've never seen me in person, trust me: it's a thing to inspire awe. it's huge. and bony. i hated it. i wanted nothing more than rhinoplasty for most of my youth; the only thing that finally convinced me that i'd never do it was reading a magazine article explaining that the doctor breaks your nose—while you're awake—then resets it. yeah. that was *not* happening. so now i try to tell myself that it gives me character, though i still loathe photos in profile.
i remember being bullied in middle school—sixth grade, i think—a lot a lot. i had a close circle of friends, and at some point, they decided that i was going to be the target, and they were pretty good at it. they started a rumor that i was a lesbian; i didn't get how that was an insult and totally laughed it off, so that one died relatively quickly. then one of them challenged me to a fight. a fight! girls' bathroom, friday at high noon, be there. seriously! i maintained all week that there was no way i was fighting anyone, especially not my friends, that they could show up and i wouldn't be there. i was scared inside, of course, because i'm totally not a violent person and couldn't even begin to imagine what this meant, to fight someone, but i stood firm that i wasn't going to go to the appointed time and place. fortunately, nobody came and grabbed me and took me there, and the time passed and no fought took place.
when i got to the summer before freshman year of high school, i was a target again. this time, i saw it coming: leta was having a big party and everyone was going. but i thought there was going to be pot there, and i didn't want anything to do with that. i didn't go, and that felt like a turning point. after that, none of my friends was my friend any more. we didn't just stop being friends—i would pass them in the hallways at school, and they'd literally look the other way. avoided me like i had done something horrible. i was a pariah. seriously. it was awful. i felt so alone. i made a couple of new friends, but i still missed my old friendships and didn't understand why they'd been ripped away from me.
the worst was when a rumor started in english class about me and the teacher pulled me aside to scold me. i can't remember all the details, but i do remember that the teacher was strident in her accusations and wouldn't believe my truthful denials. i remember being completely flummoxed about where her information had come from. i also remember that she was the mother of a girl of whom i was jealous because she'd landed a part in a play that i'd really felt i was meant to play—strange, but i remember that losing that part was incredibly painful for me for some reason, and i was sad that this girl would be playing the part instead of me. the fact that this teacher was this girl's mother made the pain of the wrongful accusations and scolding even more acute.
after that, things were never the same in high school. i had some other issues, particularly with a boy in the neighborhood who made me feel very threatened and vulnerable sexually. i wish i understood why, but it was intensely difficult.
my parents took me to a psychiatrist, which i guess means that it was as bad on the outside as it was on the inside. after a few months, the doctor recommended that my parents give in to my pleas to transfer me from that high school to another one. i wanted that transfer so badly that, when my family took a monthlong trip to japan and i had to choose between starting at the new school on time and going on that trip, i started at my new school. seriously. i know. ubergeek, right? but i really thought it was the right thing. i think it probably was.
at the new school, i made new friends and renewed friendships with childhood classmates. i was never popular, but i wasn't ever really bullied again, either. i didn't fit in with any one clique, but i had some really true friends.
postscript: all the friends involved in the threatened fight of 1977 are now my friends on facebook. i've thought of them a zillion times over the years, especially the girl who was actually supposed to fight me, and always wistfully. wishing i knew what had become of them, wishing we'd stayed in touch. when i joined facebook, i looked for her particularly and found her. we are now looking forward to reuniting next time i'm in our hometown. we talk on facebook most days and always get a big kick out of each other's sense of humor. all of them have turned into beautiful women with beautiful families, grade-school kids of their own. it makes me really happy to see the photos of them. the fight incident was one of those weird blips on the radar that just seems...weird. nothing more or worse than that.
postscript 2: i'm 43 and have still never tried pot. it kind of baffles me, but there it is.