So today I pissed off two strangers. One of them was just plain idiotic and mean. He didn’t like what I said about Bush and started in on a character assassination of me. None of what he said had any basis in reality. None of his assumptions made any sense based on my post. Among other things, he called me uneducated, stupid, fat, and told me I take no responsibility for my life. Okay. Whatever. None of that is true. Unfortunately, I took the bait and sent him back 3 emails, one saying my house isn’t in foreclosure, another saying I have two college degrees, and the final stating I’m actually not overweight. In each case I wished him well. As the day progressed, I thought a bit more about him and I realized this man is probably a really unhappy person who is undoubtedly completely alienated from everyone. He is so angry and mean, I seriously doubt he ever listens to what anyone has to say and instead begins every encounter with an attack. His is the behavior of someone who is not present. He deserves nothing except compassion because I can safely assume he is miserable.
The other person made some assumptions as well, but at least the tone of “her” email was kinder than the first. I say “her” in quotes because I do not know what gender the person was because “she” did not give her name. However she said some things in the message that led me to believe that her gender is female. She called herself “Tea Rock.” Tea Rock stated that she knew the person who had been mean to me in junior high. Tea Rock thought I was the meaner girl because what I said in my story about Kelly was “vitriolic.” She said she could not believe an adult would say what I had said about what Kelly told me when I saw her some years later. She was also concerned that Kelly’s children might read my post.
I emailed Tea Rock back. I told her that Kelly did in fact say the words I attribute to her, whether or not Tea Rock believed me. I also questioned her assessment of my descriptions of Kelly as vitriolic. Vitriol means caustic, and while I am certainly critical of Kelly and her actions, I do not believe my words rise to the level of vitriol. Finally, I pointed out that although I was critical of Kelly, I also offered my belief that something must have been happening in Kelly’s life that she made these choices. In doing so, I recognized that there is always more than one perspective; this story just happened to be mine.
Because I was contacted by this person who claimed to know Kelly, I edited my post and changed Kelly’s last name. Hers was a rather unique last name even though her first name is common. I changed the boy’s last name to a more common one as well. Their real names aren’t necessary; I just honestly thought no one who knew them would ever care about what I had to say. I’m not exactly Oprah.
I thought a lot about this second email this evening. I found it interesting that Tea Rock was concerned about Kelly’s children reading my post. It is ironic. Because Tea Rock purported to know Kelly, then her concern was for Kelly’s children. What if she had known me, would her concern have then been for my child? Assuming Milla did not know how I was treated in junior high, how would it be for her to know how it had been for me? It is such human nature to take the side related to us. Because Tea Rock knew Kelly, Tea Rock’s concern was for Kelly’s children. If Tea Rock had known me, I doubt she would have cared if Kelly’s children read my post. In fact one of my friends commented on that same blog and was cheered by the ending. Since she had been a bullying victim and since she knew me, she found it “karmic” that Kelly ended up as she did. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that is was karmic. Mostly I just think it’s pathetic and sad. I hope she has moved on with her life. Tea Rock did say that although she did not know Kelly well, she could not imagine her acting this way. Perhaps this is an indication that Kelly used her early experiences to grow and become a stronger, kinder person. Who knows.
I’ve talked to my daughter quite extensively about bullying. It would not be a shock to her to read a story where her mom was picked on because I’ve told her all about it. In second grade, a girl in her class picked on Milla. She went out of her way to exclude my daughter and got all the girls in class to do so as well. My initial thought when this began to occur was, Oh no. Not again. Not my daughter. Milla is so much more confident than I was. She’s pretty, smart, and outspoken. I actually cried at the thought that Milla would have to go through what I did.
I had cancer last year. The parents in my daughter’s class made us meals and set up playdates. They were unbelievably kind. When the Bully Girl started harassing Milla, I did not have the heart to talk to her mom about it. It just seemed so ungrateful to complain to this woman about her child when she was making us meals and helping us out, along with countless others. I gave Milla some tips for handling things and when that did not work, I went to the teacher. He was useless. There were many, many other problems in his class besides this one and because of his ineffectiveness in handling the bullying and other problems, we chose to change schools. We are still friends with students from the school and know children in the class. Unfortunately, the Bully Girl has moved on to other targets. It is sad. I wonder what is happening in her little life that she acts this way. But while I feel compassion for her, it is still my job to protect my daughter and I did that by getting her out of there.
In spite of everything, Milla seemed to handle the bullying better than I did. Maybe having a mom to support her helped. I did not have any such support as a child. In this situation, I began to understand more fully that the behavior of bullies has more to do with them than with their chosen victims, although this realization did not lessen the pain of seeing my daughter suffer through nasty treatment at the hands of these girls. It is one of those difficult lessons every parent has to learn; that their children have to live their own lives and experience their own pain and growth. It is what makes them fully human.
While I recognize that Tea Rock’s perspective comes from her concern for her friend, other than changing the names of the people in question, I did not alter my story. It’s mine, for better or worse. Kelly has hers. Mike has his. I’m not going to censor my life or experiences because it might make someone uncomfortable. If I had something to say that would genuinely damage another person I would not say it. But in this case especially, I think my story provides a greater opportunity for benefit than for harm. My point wasn’t to punish my tormentors, but to show that we grow up and get past junior high. Even though we might meet more nasty people later and in fact it is probably a guarantee, we’ll survive it. And seriously, what’s wrong with that?