Polimicks

Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

The latest death laid at the feet of bullying, is the suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/03/29/2010-03-29_phoebe_prince_south_hadley_high_schools_new_girl_driven_to_suicide_by_teenage_cy.html

Phoebe had recently moved to the US from Ireland, and committed the greatest of great sins of dating a popular boy. Because of this her fellow classmates began a campaign of abuse towards her that ultimately led to her taking her own life.

There but for the grace of God…

I’m gonna warm you right now, this one gets LOOOONNNGGGGGGG…

Elementary school wasn’t bad, apart from some teasing I received after trying to save earthworms after rainfalls (“Worm Girl”), I didn’t catch too much crap in spite of developing early and being one of the smart kids who got bussed to a multi-school program for the academically talented. This was due in part to the fact that I was pretty jock-y for a nerd, and also because when the school bully tried to pull me off a swing, I kicked him in the face and quite possibly broke his jaw.

Let me elaborate, I was at the top of the arc of my swing, which was really damn high, and he kept trying to grab my legs and yank me off my swing onto the gravel below. On the way up, after he’d nearly taken one of my shoes off, I swung my foot out and connected with his face. Down he went. Funny, he left me alone after that.

Then we moved across the country. I got to be the new kids, and it sucked a lot. Still the teasing wasn’t too bad, partly because the school bully had a crush on me and would beat up people who gave me a hard time, even if he himself couldn’t bring himself to actually talk to me. But it was manageable.

However, in seventh grade… oooohhh, seventh grade.

My best friend went back to being friends with her former best friends, twins who didn’t particularly like me. After ignoring me for the first month or two of the school year, she called me a slut.

Word spread like wildfire. I was a slut. I had slept with the football team, basketball team, teachers, coaches…

I was 12 and still a virgin.

In fact, I was a virgin until I lost my virginity in a rape three years later.

Also in seventh grade my complexion exploded. I still have scars from the acne I had in jr. high. Developed early (38 B by 8th grade), too smart, bad skin, and then that slut thing. Oh, yeah, junior high was a fucking party.

Popular boys would pretend to like me, and then recoil in horror if I spoke to them. Male classmates would unhook my bra in class so many times I finally just started reaching up under my shirts to re-hook it instead of fleeing to the bathroom. You have no idea what a fucking revelation front clasp bras were. Oh, and after I discovered those, they contented themselves with trying to see how far forward they could stretch their hands over my sides to my breasts, pulling my hair and running their fingers down my neck. Most other girls wouldn’t speak to me outside of class. I was shoved into walls, against lockers. I learned really early on to not relinquish my grip on anything I owned ever, and wore my backpack backwards so I could lock my arms around it. I once had my purse kicked up and down the halls until all the make up I had in it was crushed. One time at the urging of a frenemy, I wrote a note to a boy I liked, only to have him rip it up and throw it in my face on the bus where I couldn’t escape. A boy in my AP English class in 9th grade threatened to rape me, in class while running his hands up my legs.

My husband, once while looking through some of the t-shirts I’d kept from that time period (Duran Duran), was puzzled by the holes they all had across the shoulder blades, at relatively uniform distances. “How far apart are the barbs in barbed wire?” I asked him. “I used to dive under and through barbed wire fences to get away from people chasing me.” I once spent nearly an hour hiding in a badger hole out in the desert, waiting until the jocks who had chased me out there went away.

Classmates would sneak up on my house and pound on my bedroom windows in the middle of the night, yelling “SLUT!” There was only one abortive TP-ing attempt, because we had a big dog.

I did have some friends. The stoner girls. I’d help them with their homework, they got my back, and introduced me to the wonder that was marijuana. Wonderful substance pot, made all the pain go fuzzy and fade out for awhile. I always find it kind of funny that the one time my dad did accuse me of smoking pot was the first night in many, many months I’d actually been straight around him.

They just didn’t want to know.

In ninth grade, when we were 14, the best friend who had turned on me, starting this whole thing, got pregnant.

Guess who the only person who’d talk to her when everyone else found out, was?

Yeah, this sucker right here. That was, incidentally, the same year I was hit by a car driven by one of our classmates. In Idaho you can get a limited license (driving during daylight hours only) at 14 since much of it is still farm country.

By this time I’d heard the refrain of “If you ignore them they’ll leave you alone,” from parents and teachers so many times I didn’t even bother to tell anyone until years later.

In 8th or 9th grade my folks put me on Accutane, which cleared up the acne, but left the horrific scars. I refused to leave the house, even just to get the mail, without full make up for years. Something my father used to tease me about mercilessly. I will say one thing for Accutane, it works. I’ve not had skin problems since, and the scars have finally mostly faded to the point where they’re barely noticeable even to me. Although I still laugh when anyone tells me I have beautiful skin.

By midway through 9th grade, my pregnant friend had been sent to the special school for unwed mothers in our city. I am totally not shitting you, these still existed in the 1980s. It wasn’t an alternative school or any shit like that. It was specifically for unwed teen moms.

Now, I did have some friends. Other misfits, the nerdy girls the preppy girls would pick on. Sometime in the middle of 8th grade, my stoner girl friends had succeeded in imbueing me with the philosophy, “Fuck ’em. They think I’m scum anyway, what’s it gonna hurt?” This was how they got me to smoke cigarettes and pot for the first time. I took it upon myself to stand up for the downtrodden, and fuck with the popular girls, openly. By this time I’d developed a reputation as a psycho by proxy, after one of my good friends had gone after her bully with a knife in class.

Trust me. This was a step up.

Basically, the guy was one of those nerdy, weaselly little dorky shits who thinks his parents’ money will buy him popularity, and when it doesn’t tries being a complete douche to those he views as lesser in a desperate bid to prove how cool he was. He’d started a months long campaign of bullying against my friend, calling her a slut, a whore, crazy, because she was adopted he played on that, telling her that her mother had given her up because she knew she’d be a crazy stupid whore just like her. Yeah, it got pretty fucking vile. And like me, she tried going to her parents and school counselors with no results.

The thing that tipped her over the edge was, I believe, he touched her while saying this shit. And she went after him with a pocket knife in Spanish class, I believe.

The attack got my friend committed, and her parents to move to a different school district.

And me largely left alone. All I had to do for the most part was lunge quickly at most people to get them to back the fuck off. I started spreading my own rumors about kicking people’s asses and cutting someone.

Worked. And was possibly why I got hit with a car, because they didn’t feel safe coming at me without some sort of protection, like a 1970s station wagon. When I flew off my bike to land on the side of the road, they blazed off. The rest of the boys in the car laughed, but the driver looked like he’d seen death. He never fucked with me again. I think he realized the stakes were too high.

I picked myself up, walked my bike home, and told my mom I was sick to stay in bed for two days with an icepack on my hip.

I never told her, until after Columbine happened, when I said I didn’t condone what those boys had done, but I damn well understood it. Then I told her about the car. She stared at me and asked why I hadn’t said anything. “All you ever told me was ignore them and they’ll stop, and it didn’t work. You didn’t stop anything. Why would I think you’d do anything then?”

Now, this is not entirely fair. She did have a talk with my best friend’s mom at the end of seventh grade, and the open hostilities ceased, if we didn’t manage to really be friends again until after she got pregnant and no one else would talk to her. And my mom was going through her own issues at the time.

In tenth grade we went to a big consolidated high school. In January of tenth grade, I lost my virginity in a rape, by my boyfriend. When he found out I’d been a virgin, instead of a slut “as advertised” he got pissed at me. Told me he never would have done that if he’d known I was a virgin. And we broke up shortly there after.

I didn’t get near as much bullying shit in high school. I reconnected with my older stoner girl friends, and we ran as a pack. I also dated a real big, scary looking dude who’d been a 9th grader when I was in 7th, and who had apparently had a crush on me then, but thought I was too young. So, the bullying mostly stopped by then.

At the end of tenth grade, we moved to Ohio. It was ok. I got some shit for being from the cheap condos in an old money suburb of Columbus, but it wasn’t too bad, not compared to Idaho.

3/4 of the way through that year (my junior year), we moved to Seattle. I think I got the least amount of bullying here. But by that point I’d developed a truly devil-may-care attitude about school and the other students. I passed my classes, but really, why give a shit about people I’d known less than a year, and who knew if I’d graduate from this one anyway? They just didn’t fucking matter.

Honestly, moving probably saved my life. If we’d stayed in Idaho any longer, after the whisper campaign my rapist started about me, I’d probably have wound up suiciding, or accidentally OD-ing on something. By the time we left, I already had a pretty serious alcohol problem, and was smoking copious amounts of pot to self-medicate.

I’ve got a bunch more horror stories, but I can share those later.

I guess the big over-arching point her is that, bullying hurts, it sucks, it kills people. I only had one suicide attempt, which was interrupted by the family dog. But you know what? Knowing that one creature in the whole world would care, or miss me, if I died, got me to knock that shit off right quick.

Ok, I was still hurting myself in other ways. Hot candle wax, driving needles and pins through my finger tips and the skin of my thighs, up my inner arms… I used to heat them up in the candle flame to “sterilize” them. And there were the drugs, and the drinking. Lots of drinking.

I quit drinking shortly after I turned 21, for several years I didn’t drink at all. Years later I taught myself how to drink in moderation, much as I’ve taught myself to actually eat. I do not have any more than three drinks. On those rare occasions I have let that slip, the drinking quickly becomes a binge and the hangovers are epic. So now, three drinks, that’s it. Ever. And honestly, I just don’t drink that much at all, now that I’m pretty happy with my life.

Bullying isn’t something “everyone goes through,” nor does it “toughen you up” or is just “part of life.” Bullying like this, like I experienced, like what Phoebe reportedly experienced, is above and beyond schoolyard teasing. It’s incredibly harmful. It leaves mental and physical scars that linger. I still don’t like going out in public alone. I’m hyper-vigilant and always have a weapon.

I don’t think I’ll ever let that go.

Below are links to several other takes on what happened to Phoebe Prince and bullying in general. Sorry this wasn’t more coherent, but I’ll be completely honest, I started to tear up and had to stop several times. Maybe I’ll edit it into something more coherent later, but now I just wanted to get this out there.

Yeah, I survived, but not everyone does. A lot fewer than you think.

http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/law_enforcement_moves_to_take_bullying_seriously/
http://the-f-word.org/blog/index.php/2010/04/01/open-post-your-school-bullying-stories/#comments
http://www.harpyness.com/2010/03/31/girls-will-be-girls/

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20 comments on “

  1. xythen
    April 2, 2010

    God, that poor child. And everyone else who has suffered such abuse.
    I didn’t experience the physical violence of bullying- or really only in small amounts- but the psychological bullying is with me to this day.
    I’m still afraid to be around kids I don’t know- elementary, junior high, or high schoolers. How ridiculous is that? A grown woman of nearly 40 afraid to be teased by kids walking down the street.
    It does leave scars.

    Like

  2. gloraelin
    April 2, 2010

    oh, my gods. I am so… I mean… “I’m sorry” sounds so trite, you know? But the English language doesn’t really have another term for it. “I sympathize” is better, but that gets you laughed at.
    *sighs* I had bullying problems too, the short time I was “in” school [before my parents pulled me out to ~homeschool~ me], and, like you, nobody listened. Nobody cared, really. Boys will be boys. The worst that I can remember would definitely be being thrown to the ground and walked on.
    No, not a mistype. Yes, walked on. Legs, back, head. I wonder now if that’s why I have so many spinal problems, but I guess we’ll never really know. *shrugs* There isn’t much I can do about it now, but you’re right — it is harmful. I’m what I call “twitchy” about being touched on my back or my neck [you touch those without me authorizing it first and I’ll break your fucking arm], and I’m definitely jittery about public spaces with … not “those kind of guys,” that sounds so wrong. But at the same time, it’s true. It’s not an ethnicity, it’s a character and attitude thing.
    Bleh, wow. I seem to vent a lot here, I’m sorry. Anyway. I hope talking about it helps.

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 3, 2010

      Vent away. I think the more of us come out and talk about it, and make it more visible, the less able to ignore it people will be.
      I hope. Whenever I get the patronizing, “It happens to everyone…” I want to strangle people. No, it doesn’t.
      For awhile my husband was using Marcy Playground’s “Saint Joe on the Schoolbus” as a sort of litmus test. If you didn’t get that song, you weren’t going to get what he and I had both gone through in high school.
      I never did understand how I was supposed to be, simultaneously, the most hideous thing anyone had ever laid eyes on who no one would ever fuck, and the biggest slut in the world.

      Like

      • Anonymous
        April 3, 2010

        {{hugs}}
        I wrote more …. but it just hurt too damn much to see the words. So I will just say this.
        Been there.
        They took all I had then ….
        I REFUSE to let the bastards poison my present and my future.
        One day at a time.

        Like

      • polimicks
        April 3, 2010

        Mostly I don’t think about it, but I don’t want to forget, because that way lies saying stupid shit to kids like, “Everyone gets bullied,” and “It’s not that bad.”
        I’m glad you’re better now.
        Honestly, I had kind of forgotten a lot of these incidents until I started writing this post.

        Like

  3. garpu
    April 3, 2010

    I was bullied unmercifully from about 2nd grade until I went away for college. The apex of it was about in 5th grade, where one day I was beaten so badly I had a concussion. Yeah, I got told by parents and teachers to quit giving them something to beat me up over. The Frood was bullied, too, but his parents were proactive about it and got him the hell out of the high school he was in. Thank God, because I doubt he’d be here today because of it.
    It’s been a mixed bag seeing some of these people on facebook. Most of my bullies I block when they try to friend me. One I didn’t. I”m not sure why, either.
    She was a total monster towards me. When she friended me on facebook, she mentioned how messed up things were for her then (but said it didn’t excuse it) and that her parents were both drunks. She said she’d understand if I didn’t friend her back, but wanted to apologize for things. (Assumed she’s making amends as part of Al-Anon.) Kind of glad I did friend her back, because she’s a completely different person now.
    Not everyone’s that lucky, I know, and there’s a lot of people I hope to God I never see again.

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 3, 2010

      I haven’t had any of my former bullies try to friend me yet, but then again, I was there for so short a time in most of the schools I went to, that doesn’t really surprise me.

      Like

  4. denyse
    April 3, 2010

    How horrible. When I heard about Phoebe’s story, I fretted about whether or not my kids would ever get bullied in school when they got older. I hope not! But I’ll certainly listen if they complain of it.
    I was pretty lucky in school myself – no real bullying, just a brief period of ostracism for being vaguely foul and nerdy when I was 11-12, and I got my own group of friends together so could ignore most of it. But the schools I went to never had much by way of bullying that I ever knew of – and certainly no physical bullying. I certainly never heard of anyone being called a slut. I don’t think I was truly so clueless as to miss bullying of anyone else that was going on – I was reasonably popular in high school and not really out of the loop. I think I was just lucky in the schools I went to.
    It makes me wonder – what’s the role school administrators and teachers play in all this? Why do some schools have really bad bullying problems and some not?
    Though, on second thought, my junior high school did have some mean girls who did say some bad things about my best friend. And some people said I was a bit weird and scared them with all the geek scifi stuff. But even then, I think there was the sense that if things got out of hand, the teachers and parents would’ve gotten involved.

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 3, 2010

      Well, there are a couple of competing schools of thought that exacerbate or at least let the bullying go unchecked.
      A lot of administrators and parents have the “Everybody’s bullied,” or “It builds character” attitude. These folks were usually NOT bullied themselves, or may even have been bullies.
      My mom, and Ogre’s, just kept telling us to ignore them, turn the other cheek, quit reacting and they’d go away. The problem with that is that bullies are really good at reading nonverbal cues. You don’t have to flip the fuck out for them to know they’ve gotten to you.
      Like I said, by the time the bullying had escalated to the “car hitting” phase, my mom had done so little to stop anything else that I just didn’t trust her to have my back anymore. And my father and I weren’t talking at all at that point, in spite of living in the same house.
      A lot of people just don’t know what to do about it. And frequently even if they were bullied, think that if they survived it, it couldn’t have been that bad, or they don’t want to see what’s going on with their kids. Or they’re bullies themselves.
      It’s like the drug use. Like I said, the only time my dad commented that I was acting strange and was I on drugs was the first time in months I hadn’t been high around him. They didn’t want to know, ergo they don’t see.

      Like

      • denyse
        April 3, 2010

        Yep. It’s this sort of thing that makes me fret about how to be a good parent.
        You have permission over the next 2 decades to bonk me on the head to make me pay attention if I appear to be blind about something about my kids.

        Like

      • polimicks
        April 4, 2010

        Will do!

        Like

  5. m_cobweb
    April 3, 2010

    I doubt that I will ever completely, fully trust another human being because of the bullying I went through in middle school.
    This is also one of the larger reasons I decided never to have children.

    Like

  6. botia
    April 3, 2010

    I dated the most badass guys in Jr. High to keep bullies at bay.
    I’ll also note that, in 1991, the year I graduated, one of my best friends got pregnant. They wanted her to go to the “Expectant Mothers Program” instead of finishing her senior year in our high school. They also fought to get her to NOT attend graduation because they didn’t want her big pregnant self mucking up their ceremony. She resisted and walked the stage after finishing school IN the regular classrooms!

    Like

  7. staxxy
    April 4, 2010

    we’ve discussed some of the shit I went through, and some of what you went through before.
    I have nothing new to say on the topic for either of us. I am glad we survived. I am glad that we are both strong enough to not really have to take that kind of shit any more.
    I wish none of us had to deal with it in the first place.
    When my niece started to get harassed at school, I told her to talk to the school (teachers, counselors, principals) about it, and to her mother. I told her not to listen to anything they said, and to try to stay away from them as much as possible. I also told her that if her school wouldn’t do anything about it to tell me and I would rain down on them with unholy fury. (they were pressuring her, at 12/13 to lose her virginity). She let me know that some people had given her the “just ignore them” crap, and I told her that never works. I also told her half the reason they teased her was to get a reaction from her and the other half was probably jealousy (developed early, was in advanced classes). And I told her it would not last forever. And I talked to her mom, about it. I know things got better for her after that. I believe that rides were arranged so she did not have to walk home alone anymore.
    The kind of teasing we got has just gotten amplified as it has been passed down to lower classmen from upper classmen and added to. What we got was horrible, do not get me wrong, but it seems to be starting at the worst levels younger and younger.
    I am constantly surprised that so many kids actually make it into adulthood, to be honest. Between the massive and viscious bullying (terrorists could take lessons, really), the peer pressure to do outrageously stupid things (reckless driving, stupid stunts, massive alcohol and drug binging, just to name a few), and the different ways kids are pressured into killing themselves (direct suicide or eating disorders or really unhealthy habits like not sleeping so they can study all night instead). I sometimes feel like kids are being brought up (by the system more than anything) more like rabid fighting dogs than productive members of society.
    ugh.
    also, “frenemy” is the perfect word. I had a few of those too.

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 5, 2010

      I don’t know that it’s starting younger, really. I mean, like I said, my odyssey into being the slut started at 12. I started drinking and doing drugs at 13. I just think A. you and I are a lot more mindful. And B. these things are way more visible now
      Oh, I stole Frenemy from either Jezebel.com or The Pursuit of Harpyness.

      Like

      • staxxy
        April 5, 2010

        I say it is starting younger because:
        – my niece was getting “slut” harrassment around 8 or 9.
        and pressure for losing her virginity around 13.
        I got both of those a couple of years later.

        Like

  8. spitphyre
    April 5, 2010

    until after Columbine happened, when I said I didn’t condone what those boys had done, but I damn well understood it.
    I was in 8th grade at the time of Columbine and this is EXACTLY how I felt. I didn’t really know how to put it into words because part of my felt like the other kids deserved it. Everyone was saying how “nice” the victims were but you know? If they weren’t outsiders as well NO ONE was ever nice to me so I found it hard to believe that all of their victims were “nice kids.”
    It’s such a shame that the Columbine tragedy didn’t scare kids enough to fucking stop that shit :/

    Like

    • polimicks
      April 5, 2010

      There’s actually been research on brain development that shows that adolescent brains have difficulty with the concept of consequences, which is part of why we do a lot of stupid shit at that age.
      Thing is, you can work around that, and teach teenagers not to be dicks, but it involves not turning a blind eye, and that’s hard.

      Like

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