How Being Bullied is Still a Part of Me

What's the worst thing you can say to a person? What's the worst way you can mock them? I suppose this can change from person to person, depending on their experiences and personal fears. But for me, they were words like, "Hey, you excited for our date tonight?" Sounds pretty innocuous, right? But when it's delivery is snide and accompanied by the laughs and jeers of at least six other guys, the pain is immense. I received comments and full one-sided dialogues like this for weeks in high school. And although I have thankfully left that place and those boys behind me, those words, those laughs, still cut to this day. 

Every few days, a group of guys would approach me at my locker after lunch and mock me with feigned interest and attraction. It was usually spear-headed by one, then others would join in or just look on laughing while it happened. Frozen by shame, I often forgot any alternatives to staying quiet, so I pretended that I was ignoring them, all the while hearing every word so distinctly and feeling each one like a punch to the stomach. But it wasn't the words themselves that hurt, or that linger in my memory today. I honestly can't quote them. It was their suggestion, their implications. These are what bring me to tears in the early hours of the morning.

It's the idea that no one could ever actually feel attracted to me. The suggestion that anyone feeling some semblance of love or affection towards me is a joke. The implication that I would be alone, indefinitely. But these were just stupid high school boys? Why should this still bother me? 

Mostly, because it is one of my greatest fears. I am not traditionally beautiful. I am no airbrushed woman in a magazine, nor am I a beauty fit for the big screen. I have a quirky, eclectic, big, and sometimes abrasive personality. I am a nerd and proud of it. While none of these characteristics mean that a woman cannot find love, it certainly has seemed to make it harder for me. And when somebody points out that you are not appealing in such a blatant, and hurtful way as those boys did, it makes you question, "Is this how everybody sees me? Am I really this... repulsive?" These types of questions and anxieties tend to stick around, growing, fermenting, gnawing at the back of my consciousness. And when I feel most alone, they resurface. When I hold out hope that maybe I've found somebody who could be as interested in me as I am in them, these experiences return to my mind, telling me, "Nobody wants you and nobody ever will. And to hope and think that that will change is laughable. This is how people see you. You can go anywhere, try however hard to you want to make yourself more the person you want to be, but the outcome will always be the same: you are alone." 

So while those boys got a good laugh in, I get sleepless nights year after year. While they have fond memories of time with friends, I get the pain of feeling undesirable and alone. While they get to move on, I am stuck. 

So if any of those guys who used to huddle around me and my locker and snicker at the mockery they made of me ever find this and read this: your words and actions are not without consequences. The pain you cause is not easily forgotten and left behind. But that does not mean that I am defeated. I will overcome, and so will the girls like me. We will leave those who hurt us behind and use our pain to empower us to create, to build, to rise to new heights. You are not forgiven. We will not be forgotten. 

And if you have been affected by tormentors like this, remember - you are more than their words. I won't tell you to forget them; I won't tell you that they're just self-conscious because I don't know that for sure; and I won't tell you that the past is in the past, so don't bother with it. It is a part of you, something that has had some effect on you, some impact on how you look at the world, how you deal with situations, people, relationships. It is part of you, but it is not you. There is more to you than these incidents, than these words. And you can use that part of you for good. Whether you use it to inspire you to create or to advocate for others or whether it just encourages you to treat other women better. There are so many ways that you can take that part of you and use the other parts of you to make it something powerful. Maybe beautiful, but more importantly powerful.

And if this hasn't happened to you, you're not exempt here. The women it does happen to are you sisters too. When you see it happening, show the perpetrators that you will not stand for it. Trust me, your approval or lack there of goes a lot further than you could know. And when people come to you with their experiences, listen. They are sharing a part of themselves with you, a part that they don't like to acknowledge, a part that hurts. You don't need to see them as poor broken things, because they're not, but acknowledge their pain. Hear them out. And this goes for everybody, don't try to compete. Let them have their moment of vulnerability without feeling like they were overreacting by you sharing something worse that happened to you. That's not constructive either. I encourage you to share that part of you as well, but wait. Let them have their time. Share your experience if you feel it's appropriate, but don't try to make it a competition. Everything is relative, especially pain. A water droplet to a person is a flood to an ant. So just please, allow others to be vulnerable. You'll get your chance to be as well. 

Stay strong, collegiettes. Life goes on. 

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