Over dinner with friends, the conversation turned to Rebecca Sedwick, the pretty 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after a year of being cyber terrorized by teen girl bullying.
One by one, we all began to commiserate over our own experiences. Turns out the two, shall we say, loudest babes in the group, had been victims of childhood bullying.
"You have to find a lot of inner strength to get through that and it makes you stronger, but you still have the scars," Cee explained aware of how shocking it was that an "Alpha" type babe like herself was a bullying victim.
I have witnessed a lot of cruelty in my life but rarely does anything compare to the cruelty I saw and was often the victim of in the 7th and 8th grade.
I recall the most horrendous bully in school, a big ugly boy in the 6th grade. He looked quite a bit like a bulldog, which was made all the more apparent by the bulldog emblem on the back of his football jacket, bulldog being our school emblem. Billy the bulldog used to throw pennies on the floor in front of me, and yell "Pick them up, dirty Jew!"
To this day, I hate pennies.
Puberty arrived for me almost overnight. The mini breasts I'd been able to hide ballooned into two horrendous cantaloupes -- maybe sexy to a 20-something, but completely unsightly for a kid. Honeys, I was a C-cup at 12! I was so embarrassed by the change that I hid myself under giant sweaters and began to slink to the back of the classroom. It didn't take long for a gang of "mean girls" to notice and taunt me so severely that I stopped going to the cafeteria. I wound up eating lunch for most of the 7th grade in the bathroom. The hours that squeaked along till 3:00 felt like decades.
The summer after 8th grade I went to Miami Beach and feeling the sun on my skin, not to mention discovering that boys found me rather fetching in a bathing suit, melted me out of my sweatered cocoon. I exploded out of my shell like a tan, blonde rocket. The quiet, stooped over girl who hung her bangs over her eyes so no one could see her crying bounced into Rumson Fairhaven High school in 1978 with a Janis Joplin hairdo, ripped jeans, a tight black T-shirt cut off at the sleeves, a pack of Marlboro lights in the T-shirt pocket and a whole lot of attitude.
I surrounded myself with an army of rockers, druggies, burnouts and punkers. In retrospect, high school was one long slice of revenge for what I'd endured in the 7th and 8th grade. I never used my new-found power to tease anyone less fortunate, quite the opposite and to this day, I take on bullies the moment they rear their insecure heads.
I am stronger, but the scars are still there.
There were many days in the 7th grade that I ran home, dove into bed, buried my head under the pillows and wished to fall asleep and never wake up again.
I used to have a fantasy, that the older me, could go back in time and befriend the sad, sweatered, 12-year-old me. I would tell myself things like, "You will fly so high above these petty bullies that they won't even be a bleep on your radar. You will be so amazingly and immensely loved it will knock your socks off! You are loved right now! It's just waiting, just beyond the hill for you to reach for it. Be patient, just a little longer."
I ran into Billy the Bulldog at a high school reunion. Our entire table of formerly bullied (by him) girls surrounded him and screamed out the terrible things he'd done to us. "You hit me in the head with a lunch box!" "You spit on me!" On and on we went.
He started to cry and explained that he was being abused at home and came to school looking for someone to take it out on. Textbook, I know. He said he had a new baby boy born on Christmas day and had become a born-again Christian. I hope he got help before turning his darling baby into a bulldog too.
I was lucky, I got to rise out of victimhood and find my mojo, but I was also lucky in that the bullying I endured ended at 3:00.
Thanks to cyber bullying, for kids today the school's out bell may just be the beginning.