18.3.10

A Story of One Girl's Ever After.

photo courtesy of Rachel McAdams Tribute Photo Gallery, www.rachel-mcadams.net

This is a story about a girl. It's a story about the choice a girl made,  a choice made without thought and one that has haunted her. Her life has become the moment before that choice and the Ever After.

Really, this is a story about two girls, but I don't know the ending for one of them.

There was a girl, sitting at that desk right there, see? Her teacher had ordered them alphabetically.

Sometimes that was a relief; it meant no jockeying for position closest to the cool and popular nexus. For this girl was not in the nexus but just ouside it's periphery. Those within the nexus, she was sure, did not worry like her about where to sit or what to wear or even what to eat.

This girl was firmly on the periphery, she teetered on the age of coolness. She knew what held her back. She was fat and fat girls do not belong in the nexus. Oh yes, there were one or two, but they had confidence and charisma that she did not. It's okay, she was taking care of the fat.

Of course there were other things that held her outside. She was too nice. She knew that. But she wasn't willing to change it. She was too smart. Again, not willing to change it, though perhaps she could hide it a little. And she was too good. A downright goody two-shoes who could not do anything without her conscience torturing her.

She thought with all these weaknesses she could never be IN the nexus, but the corona would be good. The outer ring was better than just outside the outer ring. She'd be invited to the parties and maybe even meet some of the boys but she wouldn't have to worry as much about being toppled, would she?

She had set her sights and nothing was going to get in her way.

But this seating plan was not working for her. There, across the room, see them? There was the nexus. Nine or ten of them, similar in everything including alphabetical order of name. It began to burn an idea into her head. Perhaps it was pure coincidence: they were seated together in Kindergarten and remained that way since. But it couldn't be that easy. She had the formula; she knew the steps to her salvation.

The trick was to never stay outside too long. Flit into their group, interest them, pretend you're not interested. Hard to do from across the room though. And even harder to do surrounded as she was by the alphabetical losers.

She cursed her name that day. For there she was admidst the overweight, four-eyed, asthmatics with urinary incontinence or ADD or some other equally socially death-giving affliction.

And there was that Other girl. A red-head. Overweight, big glasses, pasty looking, completely the wrong clothes. And what was that? She was smiling! Smiling at The girl. Smiling at her in that pathetic way she imagined someone stuck in quicksand might smile as they reached their hand toward you.

It was the most pathetic save-me smile The girl had ever seen. But the pure audacity and puppy-love charm of it made her smile back. That and she was nice and couldn't not smile at someone who was smiling at her.

This of course, is the moment of the death of her dreams. For one cannot make it even into the corona with a fly stuck to one's shoulder.

And that is how The girl begins to feel about the Other girl: a fly, a pest, a flittering annoyance that buzzed around her disrupting her day. They had nothing in common. Well, okay, they were both fat. But even The girl looked glamourously fat in comparison to the Other girl. The Other girl wasn't even very bright. She attended special education classes.

The girl began to be teased about the Other girl. "She has a crush on you," they would call from the nexus. "I didn't know you were a lesbo," someone would inappropriately say from the corona. Even her own very-good friends began to avoid her because of the nuisance of her companion.

The girl prided herself on being different. She was in rugby and drama. She was in choir and Model UN. she was WELL ROUNDED. She was SMART. She was GOING PLACES. But not with this millstone around her neck.

The girl dressed carefully but non-conformingly. She might wear something verging on ridiculous but edging on cool. She would be noticed and someone would say "cool outfit." Her week would be made. However, the next day the Other girl would show up in some horrid imitation of her outfit. "Don't I look cool," she would ask, her eyes big and innocent. And The girl could not be mean. She could not tell her what she really thought. She could not even tell the Other girl to go away.

Instead, she complained to her very-good friends who sometimes avoided her. They began to call the Other girl The Pest. They joked about bringing bug spray to school to ward her off. The girl was not quite comfortable with this joke, but it was funny and fitting.

And then there came the day. Of course there would be one of those days wouldn't there? The girl, who has sworn to never regret the choices she makes made the one choice she has always regretted that day.

The girl was excited about something. Who knows what young girls were excited about then. A part in a play? A party? A boy? A trip with one of her clubs? She was talking with her very-good friends at their lockers. The Other girl approached. She was wearing a truly disastrous outfit modeled on The girls clothes of yesterday. She had died her hair to match The girl. She had the same bookbag. She was bordering on stalking.

The girl resented the interruption. "Don't I look cool?" the Other girl asked. And that was the breaking point. Anyone who is anyone knows you don't ask if you look cool. The girl went into her zone. The special place she reserved for rugby tackles and on-stage anger. She went to her mean place and she pulled out her imaginary bottle of bug spray.

SPRITZ. SPRITZ. She pretended to spray the Other girl. "Do you hear that little fly?" she asked her friends.

Their eyes widened. They breathed in and never out. The girl felt her stomach drop. She was whisked from her mean place and straight into the reality of her real place. The place where she had just hurt someone. The place where she had become one of "them:" a mean girl.; an uncaring beast of a girl who destroyed another person's happiness.

The Other girl fled. There were tears. There were stares of recrimination. She couldn't quite cut her ties, but she never idolised The girl in the same way again.

And The girl realised that there are some things more important than the corona or even the nexus. There was the right here and now of being who you are.

The girl is older now. Much, much older. And one would hope she's wiser too. She has children of her own. She worries more that they will be bullies than that they will be bullied by others. She worries for a good reason. She knows that within herself, on that day, she pulled a bully from her mean place. She promptly tucked her back away but the power and the ease of it frightened her for life.

She doesn't know where the Other girl is now. She's heard things sometimes. The Other girl works at a daycare. She saw her once on Facebook. She looks happy. There doesn't seem to be a husband or children. She didn't "request" they be friends. It seems a little too late for that now. She wonders if she said sorry if the Other girl would even remember what she was talking about. She wonders if the Other girl's world shifted that day like hers did.

She doesn't want to say sorry. Not because she isn't. She truly, deeply, everlastingly is. But because she doesn't want to be forgiven. For The girl with no regrets has this one regret. She thinks perhaps one regret in life is healthy - a learning opportunity. She will hold it forever. It is fitting punishment for the pain she caused that day.


This post was written in response to one of the prompts at Sleep is for the Weak's Writing Workshop. I chose prompt number one. Tell me about someone from the past who you lost touch with and who you often think about.

11 comments:

  1. My second attempt to leave a comment! I was completely enthralled, what a fabulous piece. Was also choking back tears over the pain of the confrontation.

    I think you're right- sometimes it's better to hold on to that feeling rather than salve it with an accepted apology. We're all still learning...every day :)

    Px

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  2. Wow, you took me right back. High school is such a poisonous place. To be honest, if you were only mean that one single time you are some sort of saint in my book. Everyone's got a guilty secret of this sort. Like you, I'm trying to steer my daughter to be kind; worryingly, she's already got a sort of sixth sense for 'who's in, and who's out', and she's only 5!

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  3. @battlingon - thanks. I do believe that sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we've learned already in order to remember to keep learning - if that makes sense!
    @notwaving - I know what you mean, my 5 yo son is in a class where some of the kids are already very socially aware. I've explained to him over and over what I expect from him in the way he treats others. I think I worry needlessly about him - he's very sensitive and empathetic. The girl (3) has me a little scared though!

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  4. You write so beautifully. I was absolutely captivated there.

    School is such a horrendously difficult experience at times isn't it? A part of me fears for Kai going through it. No doubt he will be both the bully and bullier at times, I most of us experience both at one time or another.

    Thank you so much for this. I really enjoyed it x

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  5. I so enjoyed reading this, though the emotions it brought up weren't comfortable. I was desperate to be in the nexus and flitted in, and most definitely out, throughout school.

    Being banished to the periphery was devastating, and the fear of my children having to go through a similar experience almost put me off becoming a parent. I don't simply hope that my children make it into the nexus, but instead hope that I can bring them up with more confidence and self-esteem so that it's not something they are bothered about.

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  6. Wow, that was written so beautifully.

    I was more often than not in the Other girl's shoes during my school years, and the thought of my children suffering the same snide comments, and being treated with the same disregard scares me.

    I would like nothing more than to read something like this written by one of my bullies, but I have no desire to speak to any of them again. But maybe, one day, our paths will cross again and it will be laid to rest.

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  7. @Josie. Thank you. I think it was easier to write - but also to get the depth of feeling across - in a more creative way than a straightforward anecdote style.

    It's true, I think we're all bully and bullied in school at some point. I was most definitely the bullied, though in high school there was not as much bullying and it was more lack of self-confidence (from the previous years of bullying most likely) that held us back.

    I agree with you Young Mummy, I used to worry so much about my child not fitting in, but now I just worry about them being strong enough to handle all of those frail moments.

    @Beth, it's unfortunate, actually, that the bullies don't speak out now that they're adults. Some of them, I'm sure, are still bullies, but many of them must be ashamed of how they acted. We hear so much about the victims of bullies but rarely do we hear from the bullies themselves unless it is to place themselves in a victim status as well (I was abused and unhappy . . .). I was probably the furthest thing from a bully possible which is maybe why this one incidence stands out so much. But if the guilt and disgust I feel with myself for once being mean is any indication of how the bullies must feel for being mean throughout school than trust me, they are suffering enough.

    I've talked to my children about bullying but also about social outcasting. I've made it very clear to them that they are never to engage in gang mentality against other children and that if one child is being picked upon than they are to either stand by that child's side or go find an adult to help. I know they're young yet but I hope that if I tell them this throughout life than it will sink in.

    When they're older I'll share some of my experiences with them.

    It definitely scares me more, though, that they will become bullies than that they will be bullied. Because if they are bullied there are things I can do about it, but if they become bullies I'll probably feel helpless in the face of it.

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  8. RAP, kudos to you for wanting to always remember the lesson you learned that day, but witholding an apology that you owe someone is not the way to go about it. I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that experiences like this can hurt for years and years and that there have been times in my life when a sincere apology from one of the people who tore me down at school would have meant the world. Apologise to Other Girl, and let her read this post. It's the fair and decent thing to do.

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  9. It's funny the memories this is bringing back. This actually happened in the fall semester and we continued to be friends for the rest of the year. I did apologise then. And I think she mostly forgave me as she continued to what to hang out with me, but not with the same intensity she had before.
    I ran into her at university too and we had a little chat. And I said again to her then that I didn't think I had been a very good friend to her and I was sorry.
    I'm pretty sure I have been forgiven, actually. But I haven't forgiven myself. It was the most rotten, horrid thing I had ever done. I think bringing it up to her again would maybe just upset her more than make her happy. But I'll think about it.
    For myself, I really can't give a frig where the people who bullied me are now and what they are doing and whether they are sorry. But there have been friends who have hurt me that I'd appreciate an apology from, and I guess that's the place I'm in here - a friend who hurt a friend.

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  10. wow, what a strong and wonderful post this is. you had be enthralled all the way to the end. Brilliant.

    It is so easy to be that mean person, so hard to keep the meany locked up and be nice, step above it all.

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  11. That is such a moving post. I cried for both the girls.
    I can see why you don't want to be forgiven but I think you also need to remember that being a teenager is tough. It's dog eat dog in high school and you shouldn't beat yourself up for cracking one time.

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