Confessions of a Middle School Bully
If you knew me, you would know that I’m terrified of Shrek – the ogre, the movie, the donkey, the whole thing. If you knew me, you would know that I’m barely five feet and one inch tall, but I say I’m 5’2” because that is above the height for a legal midget worldwide. If you knew me, you would know that I’m scared to try foods I’ve never had because once, in third grade, I threw up after I tried guacamole for the first time in front of my whole class. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me. If you knew me, you would know that my best friend in the world is my mom, my dad is my inspiration, and there is nobody in the world I care about more than my younger brother. I would do anything for any of them.
What I’m saying is, I’m not a monster. I never was. But, I was a bully.
I never stole anyone’s lunch money – Like I said, I’m five feet tall; that never would have worked for me. However, looking back, what I did was much worse. In fifth grade, I was a complete nerd. I loved school more than anything. Math was fun, I wrote poetry, I read books in my free time. I was quiet and easygoing. The change was immediate and drastic. After entering middle school, I made a new best friend. She was adventurous, all the boys loved her, and it seemed like every girl wanted to be her. And she wanted to be MY best friend. My whole life began to revolve around her – I remember thinking she was so cool. Before long, I was the girl they warn you about before you go to middle school. The one who will ditch her old friends to become more popular, make fun of girls who dressed differently, and flirt with boys to no end because that was what was cool.
And, as far as I could tell, it was working. I was the most popular girl in the entire eighth grade.
Trust me when I tell you, at the time, this was a very important feat. I had never felt important before. I had always been average. I was average looking, average at sports, quiet, and I felt forgettable. Now, suddenly, everyone knew my name. I mattered.
It was not a rebellious phase. I refused to lie to my parents; I thought drinking was something only adults did; I had never even heard of drugs. It wasn’t like I had gone off the deep end. I was just being mean. And in retrospect, that almost feels worse. There was no stand out moment in which I stopped this behavior. I grew out of it slowly but surely as I entered high school, made more friends, and became passionate about more than just how popular I seemed.
There was, however, one moment when I was confronted with the fact that I had been a bully. I hadn’t thought about this phase in my life for a while. Then, a few years ago, I was talking to one of my best friends and she joked, “At least you’re not the same bitch you were in middle school. I absolutely hated you.” It was a joke to some extent, but I could feel the animosity. The worst part? I didn’t even remember that I knew her in middle school. I hung up with her a few minutes later, only to sit and think about how many apologies I probably owed people. I now hate bullying. The idea that sticks and stones can break bones, but names will never hurt is the root of the problem.
Girls justify their behavior by comparing themselves to the boys who wrestle in the locker rooms and throw their friends in the dumpsters. Mean girl bullying is no easier to recover from than physical harm. Emotional destruction is not something to ignore. My friends today can count on me to stand up for them in the face of bullying. Having been on the other side, I would do anything to help the victim of a bully. Is it possible that it’s all selfish? Am I just trying to make up for the mean jokes I made and rumors I started? And, if so, is this a bad thing?
I would argue that this does not take away from my convictions or my actions. It’s okay to be a “reformed bully,” and it’s okay to allow my past mistakes to create a path for my future. However, it is not okay to believe that helping people now erases the things I did to others. It’s not okay to diminish my acts of bullying with excuses about how I could have been doing worse things, like drugs or failing out of school.
“Mean girl” bullying is not a small issue. It has serious effects on all those involved, to a greater extent than any middle school girl can realize. So, no, I will not beat myself up for the rest of my life for telling everyone that a girl in my grade was a loser because she wanted to date the same boy that I did. But, I will take actions so that girls like middle school me can understand that bullying is not a joke.