Am I the only one who feels that I learned some major, important life lessons about twenty five years after I should have?
I just finished reading Odd Girl Out, a book about how girls bully through hidden aggression rather than the overt, physical manner in which boys bully one another. I know, I don't have daughters, so why was I reading it? 1. It looked interesting. 2. That girls begin to lose interest in appearing smart right around puberty, and how this affects them in other aspects of their lives, interests me. 3. The title describes how I have felt many times during my teen years. 4. I've always meant to read Reviving Ophelia but haven't gotten around to it yet, so this seemed like a title in a similar vein.
The author interviewed hundreds of young girls and women, asking them about their experiences with bullying. Everyone had a story to tell, whether the aggressor or the victim of shunning, building alliances, spreading rumors, and so on. What I found most interesting is that most of the girls and women who were victims of bullying learned how to deal with being on the receiving end pretty much before they graduated high school.
I was the victim of bullying several times, starting in elementary school and continuing pretty much until my family moved from New Jersey to Ohio at the end of my freshman year of high school. I never told my parents; I was too embarrassed to let them know how some girls who I thought were friends (and a few who I knew weren't) were treating me. I felt like I had done something wrong (a common thread in the book), and that I somehow deserved to be treated like this (another common belief).
Yet it wasn't until I was in my mid- to late-twenties that I realized that I like who I am, and if other people don't, that's their problem. Now that I'm a mother, I don't have time for this kind of behavior. I've met many other mothers and if they don't like me, oh well. If they don't call me, I don't worry that they're secretly getting together to mock me behind my back. I know how busy we are raising our children. Maybe our schedules, children, or our own personalities don't mesh. That's just how things go.
I wish I was brave enough to have reached out to someone when I was younger. I wish there was a teacher I trusted, instead of those who dismissed me as a "goody goody" who didn't know when to stop being a pest. I wish schools had psychologists back in the 80s, so someone could have given me the opportunity to role play and practice better ways to handle situations when I was bullied.
I know I can't change the past, but I would be curious to know who I'd be today if I gained those tools, that knowledge, when I was in my teens instead of when I was almost thirty.