The bully found me … years later

The problem with Facebook? You run into some of the people you want to avoid.

Last night, the bully came back to me by sending me a friend request on Facebook.

Let’s talk frankly about the bully. What does the bully have to gain from putting other people down, other than those few moments of feeling better about themselves at the expense of someone else?

A few statistics about bullying, per the CDC:

  • In a 2009 nationwide survey, about 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey;
  • During the 2007-2008 school year, 25% of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. A higher percentage of middle schools reported daily or weekly occurrences of bullying compared to primary and high schools.

Among the root issues of bullying: low self-esteem, the need for personal validation, lack of respect in the home or lack of assertiveness in interpersonal situations.

But statistics aside, here’s a rhetorical question: what justifies bullying, if anything?

We’ve been reading all about anti-bullying initiatives and tolerance, and while these are great values to espouse, we need to teach kids something else: stand up for yourself. Something I didn’t do years ago … but something I had to do now.

The bully had gym class with me. She used to ask me very pointedly, in front of her friends and our classmates, if I showered at all, if I had any friends, about my sexuality, how much I weighed, why I even bothered to show up to school, why I wore certain clothes … basically trying (and sometimes succeeding) in driving a stake through my self-esteem.

via girlshealth.gov

We have 12 mutual friends, all from high school. She didn’t send a note, just a friend request.

There was nothing left to lose. Years later, I was ready to stand up for myself – something I couldn’t do 20 years ago, for whatever reason: fear of being socially ostracized, fear of detention, fear of – gasp! – causing a scene in the locker room.

But sometimes you need the closure. Point blank, I asked her:

What did you gain from making fun of me that year?

She wrote back:

I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry. It truly makes me feel terrible to think that I said or did anything mean to you in the eighth grade. Honestly, I was just a girl trying to fit in, and really didn’t have many friends back then. So, to answer your question, I’ve gained exactly nothing from my past behavior.

You found me. You gave me the answer I needed to hear. And you’re right. You gained nothing.

And because of our communication, I’ve forgiven her.

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