On Kissing Like a Horse (Sponsored)

The following post is the first in a series sponsored by Chase - a strong supporter of the Bully Project, a program committed to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society. Learn more here.
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circa my "Kiss Like a Horse" days, 9th grade
My first published story was called Hopscotch and Tears. It was published in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II after my ninth grade teacher, Mr. Roberts, offered his entire class extra credit to submit a personal essay to an anthology. He wanted us to familiarize ourselves with the process of submitting and I had just finished reading the first Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul book.

Fast forward to years later when my story was finally published and the next three years when I contributed to the series as a staff writer, recounting my teenage experiences almost in real time. 

It was kind of like blogging except it took about nine months for the essays to see publication, which was ideal, in a way, because I could pour my heart into something that I would be long over by the time the book hit shelves. I could admit that I had feelings for boys I routinely hid feelings for. I could write about my experiences with the older girls at school without having to deal with the ramifications.

I wrote as a way to cope with some of the less ideal situations, heartache, bullying. I wrote about my experiences in high school and through the years published dozens of personal essays both pre and post graduation. Perhaps the most daunting (and mortifying) of them all was a story I wrote about being bullied. It was called I Kiss Like a Horse (Tough Stuff) and it was about being called for, yes, kissing like a horse.

***

Where I grew up, girl on girl meanness was prerequisite. From seventh grade on, we were told to fear the older girls and we did. We feared them all. We would avoid them when we could. Sit on the other side of the quad from them. Say nothing as they pushed by us snarling.
photo-1 with friends Mere & Kendra, 8th grade
IMG_4277 9th grade
photo
10th with Kendra & Dani 

We were younger so they hated us. That's how it worked. You got pushed around until it was your turn to do the pushing. You got to be the butt of all rumors, to pay your dues as an underclassman, until you were old enough to do the bullying. To be the hard-ass bitch.

It was the emotional equivalent of trashcanning and where I went to school, it was status quo. My best friend Kendra, who was beautiful (but completely oblivious to this fact) got hit in the face with books on her way to class. ALL the time. She had sodas routinely dumped on her head and had to wear her PE clothes home from school frequently. She was beautiful and popular and boys liked her and that was just the way.

Same went for all of us who made the "mistake" of hooking up with older boys. Of being seen with older boys. Glanced at by older boys.

"Oh, you are SO dead," they'd say. "I'm going to kill you. WATCH YOUR BACK! We're gonna get you."

And I believed them. (Of course I believed them!)

There was one day when I had a full on panic attack on my way to PE class because some of the girls in the class were older. And in my head it was only a matter of time before they jumped me in the middle of class and pounded my face in.

Dramatic?

Totally.

But being sixteen is dramatic enough without waking up every morning to the word "SLUT" on the garage door of your parents' house. Without fending off crank calls from girls threatening to kill you. Dodging glass bottles at parties and having to be escorted to class by older boys for protection. That's pretty much how I spent my first year of high school. Because I liked the wrong guy and the wrong guy liked me back and game over, Becca Woolf, you are DONE.

"Oh, It's just girls being girls. You know how they are."

I wrote I Kiss Like a Horse because I was O.VER. the same old story. The "popular girls" vs the "nerds"... the "jock" who beats up the "freak". I never spoke up about being bullied in school because I never felt like I could. Because when it comes to bullying? Nobody wants to hear from the homecoming queen. (Insert eyeroll, right?) And although I assume bullying was rampant in every social circle, it was also brutal in mine.

Paralyzingly so.

***

I would like to think I was innocent. That by the time I was an older girl I knew better. And I did. Mostly. Although I did participate in several group toilet papering missions Junior year. 

It's just what we do, was the justification. 

"Because the older girls did it to us and now it's our turn."

Yes.

Shame.
***

When I Kiss Like a Horse was published, girls responded. Hundreds. Letters poured in from girls of all kinds. Some of whom were beat to a pulp because they wore the wrong thing, kissed the wrong boy, had the "wrong kind of face." Some that changed schools because they couldn't deal with the rumors. Some that turned to drugs. Hurt themselves.

"It's just girls being girls."

And this was before social media. This was before facebook and twitter and all the new ways in which to push and punch and pursue.

***

One of my biggest bullies in high school later became one of my closest friends. Because she wasn't a bad person. She was awesome, actually (Hi, Brooke!). Underneath her raging bitch suit, she was an amazing girl and is now an incredible woman. She just happened to hate me because once upon a time she, too, was hated. She, too, had beer bottles thrown at her face. She too had her name atop the same "whore list" three years in a row. And now? It was her turn.


I think of her often when the word "Bully" comes up because all these years later, I love her. I love the girl who made my Sophomore year hell. I love the girl I thought was going to kill me. She is one of the most incredible women I know.

And yet...

"It's just girls being girls."

"You know how girls are?"

"Girls are awful to each other."

Are they?

Do they have to be?

Is there a way around it?

Can you teach empathy? Compassion? Can you fix jealousy? Insecurity?

"It's just girls being girls."

I refuse to believe that. I can't. Especially now that I have daughters of my own, in no time flat, will be posing for the same pictures with their best friends. Not now that I see what a lasting effect all those years had on me, my relationships with other women, myself. Now that I know how incredible women can be. Girls, too. Even the "mean" ones. Even the bullies.

***

I don't know if my story kept anyone from bullying. Probably not. But it kept a few people from feeling alone. And it empowered me to feel I could speak on my own behalf. I felt liberated, even as I revisited my mortification. I went on to tour on behalf of the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul series. I visited local and not so local high schools, middle schools, brought the book, read my story.

...A story that was in no way extreme or brave or even surprising. In fact, there wasn't a single person in any group I spoke to that didn't raise their hand when I asked if they'd ever felt marginalized by their peers.

Not one.

"How do we stop this?" I'd ask.
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There wasn't a single person in any audience who had an answer. No one even raised their hand.

GGC

61 comments:

Stephanie Green | 9:46 AM

I think I got off pretty easy in high school (and junior high), but my poor sister didn't. Younger girls hated/were jealous of me, but I was totally clueless so they took it out on my even younger sister. I had no idea. I wish I had known and shared your essays.

Also, your teacher sounds amazing. Setting the stage for a professional writing career the result of which helped so many young women. If only we could all be that awesome.

Red Stethoscope | 10:05 AM

Oh, man. This sounds awful. I feel very fortunate that I went to a nerdy, magnet high school where it was cool to be smart and the rules were way too strict for anything like soda dumping or book smashing to have happened. Yet, your story empowered so many other people, and that is amazing. Your teacher also deserves a fist bump for pushing your class to start professionally writing. Yay teachers!

Cave Momma | 10:21 AM

That is heartbreaking. Really. I'm sitting here trying to hold back tears. Though that could just be the PMS talking. Not only does bullying break my heart, it also infuriates me. My daughter, only 4.5 years old, has already been bullied by a neighbor girl and it makes me so mad. Thankfully she now stands up for herself in a good way but those first few weeks were horrible. She stands with self confidence and I am in awe of how well she handles it now. But it still just pisses me off that people are like this. And more so that it was just brushed off which fueled the fire.

I'm so incredibly sorry you had to deal with that but glad you were able to come out of it healthy and strong and even friends with one of them.

Also? How awesome was your teacher?!

Jen | 10:50 AM

Love this. And it is so fitting to read today, as it is our final day of school with kids (high school/junior high school). We are burnt out, spent, exhausted and so over it. Yet still planning for next year...always planning! We have a program in place here where I work-Olweus. It is an anti-bullying program for grades K-12. It involves everything from regular classroom meetings, community groups, bullying reporting systems, rubrics for when you are turned in for bullying behavior, signage for the schools, a district-wide policy, training for all staff (including secretaries/bus drivers/cafeteria/custodial), and more. It isn't perfect, but it does completely empower kids to stand up and report things happening! And it gives all adults a framework to educate the students on proper behaviors and improper behaviors. As one of the school counselors in this district, I can say that it has made a difference in just one year. Baby steps, yes. But steps nonetheless! As a parent, you can start demanding your school implement programs like Olweus (a research-based program) to combat bullying and educate students on positive behaviors. It takes a community to raise our kids, and we have to keep making our communities better, right?!

Happy summer vacation all!

dave | 11:01 AM

We just had a girl in my son's grade (7th) commit suicide because of persistent bullying. We live in a small town, so this hits us all so hard. What they found especially with girls is that during school not much happens, it is the social media, texting, etc. that happens after hours where the worst events were taking place. Just awful.

dave | 11:02 AM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous | 11:02 AM

I really think it starts in preschool. At such a young age of 3 and 4 little girls are trying to find their place. There are always little girls that are natural leaders and always the natural followers. But, what I am seeing while working in early childhood mental health is we have to TEACH empathy and TEACH problem solving and coping skills. These don't come automatic. It starts young. If we can teach compassion and empathy, but also teach little ones to problem solve this hopefully can change the dynamics as they get older and bigger and stronger- into junior high and high school. One thing I try to get teachers to do is to empower the victims in preschool. When a 4 year old calls names and makes a little one cry give attention to the one who got hurt and then have them tell the "bully" what they can do to help "fix" their feelings. Hold the "bully" accountable- "She says you can help her feel better if you get her a tissue, or a high five" or whatever is meaningful to the victim. You break something you fix it. You break feelings you help fix them. Thats my hope at least- I hope that if we give little girls the skills to cope when being hurt and then hold the lil bullies responsible without reinforcing by giving them attention (even negative attention- that this cycle may end because our little girls will grow into ladies who know how to deal.

Elise | 11:23 AM

Wow, you were one self-aware teenager. Wow, just wow.

I hated high school and avoided any situation where I would be seen by anyone in any context. I kept my head down, got good grades, had a few good friends and got the hell out of town.

Now I have three girls and I am so terrified for them. I'll home school them if I have to. How did your parents deal with it? I know they didn't have the power to stop it, but how did they react, how did they bolster you?

Amelia | 12:00 PM

I went to 3 high schools to avoid bullies and still hold myself accountable for not knowing how to 'play the game' despite the fact that I have completely absolved myself of all responsibility.

Amazingly a number of those girls have 'friended' me on facebook now...because we are 'friends'? I can still feel the cold locker slamming into my back and they want to look at pictures of my kid and re-live the good ol days? Mmmmm, notsomuch.

Unrelated? I can hardly talk about Lady GaGa without choking up...I'm so thankful for the advocates and the voices and the people that are speaking out. I'm still to raw to share the parts of my story that hurt, but holy shit am I good at reveling in all that's gone SO right since then. And I'm actually dear friends with two my bullies as well, so there's that. Tell me this will be better when our kids are walking halls. Tell me, tell me.

Adventures In Babywearing | 12:36 PM

I'm going through a hard time with my oldest - boys being boys, I think, but also hate because they are so mean and it hurts him so very much. This stuff is so hard. I didn't go through any of this - I wasn't bullied and I wasn't popular. I mostly felt invisible.

Steph

Amy K | 12:52 PM

I went to a prep school in the 1990s, and the peak of our "mean girl years" were grades 5 through 7. After that everyone just kind of mellowed out and got along. I never witnessed or heard about any physical bullying at all. The bullying you describe, and the extreme bullying cases that I read about in the news are like some sort of crazy horror story to me. The idea that my daughter might have to deal with it one day is terrifying.

Kammy | 12:54 PM

I had so many girls hate on me at the beginning of Jr. High, it was terrible. One girl in particular (can't even remember her name now) made sure my life was miserable. I was called a whore and a bitch and anything else she could think of--out loud, across the school grounds, where everyone could hear and would stare at me. And why? Because one of the older boys had said I was pretty and he kissed me at the movies one night when all of the older girls were around. And what did I do? What everyone did--I became the bitch to the younger girls. Sad. I still feel bad for it and wonder if the girls I made fun of or yelled at still hate me or if they've let it go. I hope they've forgiven me.
My daughter is in kindergarten--she is FIVE--and she has already had little girls pick on her and tell her she's not wanted or that they don't like her for whatever reason. I can't help but think, "Is this what is happening now? It's starting before they're even in first grade?" I'm trying my best to teach my little girl to take the high road, to not stoop to their levels. I'm already terrified for the teenage years and the troubles she might face with the girls that were nasty like me. :( Schools are supposed to have "anti-bullying" programs, but I wonder how much it really helps now that kids can tear into each other on Facebook and Twitter and whatever else is out there.

CP | 12:57 PM

I have been watching my step-daughter (14) go through this the past couple of years and it is horrible. I feel helpless because if we go to the teachers and kids are reprimanded it will end up being worse for her. If we do nothing, it is worse for her. She has cried to us on countless occasions and begged us to switch schools - which she is doing this fall. But I don't think that will be the magic cure.
As bad as it was for us, when we got home from school at the end of a hard day we could watch tv, hang with our family and maybe talk to some selective friends. For these kids now it is non-stop because of social media - they never have a break to decompress and have some distance.
We actually had to go so far as to have a long discussion about suicide with her - it was heartbreaking to even think that such a conversation had to be had and I can only hope that the message reached her and maybe even was passed along to some of her friends.

irelassred | 1:01 PM

Wow, your school sounds like it was really tough. Or maybe it was more common among the most popular girls? I was well liked & friends with people from all sections of the social strata, & honestly loved high school so much. There was definitely some fighting & bullying, but it wasn't at all on the level that you describe. I hate to hear you had to go through all of that. I was picked on a time or two, & shaken by it for a bit, but I don't think anything I experienced was too traumatic. It makes me wonder if I just got lucky now that I look back....

Clem | 1:05 PM

This was an amazing blog post. People can be so cruel, I got lucky and ended up part of the background but my younger sister got it bad, it changed the course of her entire life but she's still fighting through it. I am so glad that you found your voice (totally going to buy the book now!!) you're awesome, thanks.

Amy E. | 1:10 PM

Unfortunately, I agree that there is little to be done in the public school system at the moment at least. I am putting my daughter in a private school that teaches a mindfulness program through all grades. Here's a link to the website:
http://www.mindfulschools.org/

I never in a million years thought that I would be putting my daughter in private school (I come from a blue collar background) but the last year has been hell for her. Overt bullying from both girls and boys because she has different interests such as art and theater. Girls accusing her of having sex. And she's only in 2nd grade! I wish this mindfulness training could be something that the local school district teaches but it just isn't a possibility at the moment. It breaks my heart that other children go through this and have no options whatsoever.

Anonymous | 1:49 PM

There is a wonderful book called 'Hold On to Your Kids' that is all about the phenomenon of peer orientation, and the resultant effects such as bullying. The authors offer lot's of insight into how we can raise kids who do not participate or gravitate towards this behaviour. It's a wonderful, inspiring book that I highly recommend, especially if you are already thinking about how you can raise kids who rise above the pressures of peers and hold onto their individuality.

Kelley @ peekawhoo | 2:00 PM

Thank you, thank you, for sharing.

It's hard to remember that when you're a kid or a teen, the moment you're in is THE MOMENT, it's the definition, it's the it, it's the only thing.

Good for you for seeing past it, for knowing there was more, for finding a way to move through it.

Ashley Melancon Prewitt | 3:09 PM

As I have said countless times before, I grew up on Chicken Soup and had your stories bookmarked. This was my favorite. When I was around twelve I was the "fat, pimply girl with the flat butt and fat legs." Seriously! I am not sure I ever realized tht this was not uncommon because when you are twelve you believe the world is a stage and that all eyes are on you. I have spent years reading your posts and have remained constantly inspired by your ability to express how you feel in a way that others can relate to--something not so simple. You have touched so many lives and I may be pre-menstrual, but I feel so privileged to watch you and your family have beautiful adventures together.

glenda | 3:22 PM

It's a shame that the bullying has gotten worse these days. Thankfully you were strong enough to realize it wasn't about you, but about them.

Micheline Ludwick | 3:51 PM

I had a rough time in middle school and I was part of the "cool crowd" but was often made to feel like I didn't belong. Why did I have to want to belong so badly? I spent so many nights crying. I remember my mom looking out of the window while I cried in my bed, wishing she could do something. I'm trying to figure out how I'll handle things if my kids have to go through something similar.

I'm glad bullying and the like is getting more media attention now. Hopefully there will be more programs implemented across public schools.

Christina | 4:19 PM

Why do we ladies (young and old) always seem to want to tear one another down?!?! It saddens me times a zillion.

I've been on the giving AND receiving end of multiple mean girl moments, and it's brutal man. So damn brutal.

My own son was bullied last year (1st grade!), and I can tell you that the worst part was having his teacher refuse to acknowledge it.

KateFitz | 6:40 PM

I don't have any great insight into the bullying...but I do think your high school blonde self looks exactly like Boheme.

Kathryn | 7:19 PM

This was horrible to live through, the bullying and search for self through it. I fear,as my daughter is now 10, it is going to be even harder to parent through. I don't know how to do it.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:25 PM

Archer's school has an entire month devoted to bullying. The parents can come speak to the students about their experiences and the district is working to rectify, or at the very least, create a dialogue about something that for so many years was just written off as "kids being kids"...

I can't BELIEVE how little teachers did when we were kids. I can't believe how little administrators did. I like to think that that's changing.

Of course it's SO much more nuanced and messy nowadays with facebook and cell phones... We had paper notes and face to face confrontation. We were able to leave it at school.

And thanks Jen for referencing Olweus. Looking into it.

Love to all and thanks for your awesome comments on this. You're all wonderful.

learningwithasher | 10:50 PM

I remember reading that story! Wow.

This stuff is probably what I'm most scared about now having a daughter of my own. Being bullied was part of high school for me, big time.

I wish I had the answers on how to fix things. How to change things, how to help girls protect themselves and show others how stupid they're being.

Now with the internet bullies have so much more scope. I feel sick thinking about it sometimes.

Beck | 1:47 AM

I am loving the photos you posted...My photos of junior high are pretty much identical, right down to the graduation ceremony. I remember being a year older than you, insanely shy, and admiring all of you beautiful ladies who seemed to have so much charisma and confidence. Funny how we all perceive things so differently and that a few people can make us miserable. Thank you for sharing your experiences, this is very helpful to pass on to my Jr high/high school students. I have no idea how they cope in the age of techno-gadget everything public mania...I feel like I myself have no answers to give them. All I can tell them is to be strong in their minds, stand up for what they believe in and to not air their dirty laundry on Facebook.
PS, I've been meaning to tell you how wonderful your blog is. It's lovely, entertaining, thought provoking, inspiring, etc. Oh and your family is just beautiful. All the best,
Becky

Anonymous | 6:01 AM

WOW, this is so moving. I too was bullied in HS, not as bad as this, and you are right, how do we stop this? Can it ever be stopped, who starts the stop. Thanks for sharing all you do. Mary in NY

Ray | 11:33 AM

I do consider your case extreme. Especially since they came to your house, violated it, and threatened you. Dodging bottles...? That's extreme.

I hear stories like this and just think: It can't be true. Things like this only happen in the movies. But that's just NOT so.

I'm sorry you had to go through that.

I'm lucky enough that I've never been bullied. I was quiet, very shy, had few friends, and kept to myself (most of the time). So I wasn't a threat to anyone I assume.

There was an incident in Junior High School at the lunch table, however. I had gotten my lunch and was going to sit with my friends...when I noticed this girl there (who I guess could be called a "Bully"), who I didn't like. She was loud and rude. I decided to sit a bit farther from them, because I didn't like her. She, obviously, noticed that I didn't sit with them and questioned it. I said flat out: "Because I don't want to sit next to you." She got offended and said maybe we should fight after-school. I (a chicken) said that I couldn't because my dad was going to pick me up. I had never had a fight (and to this day never have). I studidly made a fool of myself, and cried in front of everyone. After the bell rang, and we were heading back to class: She got scared and asked me if I was going to tell anyone, about what happened. I, at that point, was annoyed and don't remember what my response was. But there was no fight at the end of the day. And she never bothered me again.

Fast-Forward to a Summer School course for incoming Freshman in High School (she wasn't going to my School. But it just so happened that the course was in my school, so we ended up in the same class): And she had the audacity to bring up the fact that she made me cry in front of other people. Like it was nothing. I just stupidly smiled. Years later, and I sure as hell wouldn't have had the same response.

She also got into it with my Best-Friend at the time (in Junior High). Claiming that she had no friends. No one spoke up to defend her. Even though I was afraid, I mustered up the courage to say: "I'm her friend."

I don't consider this bullying. Or maybe (deep down) it is. An episode of bullying, maybe. But not brutal and years with-standing like others. So I don't count it. Because it was only a one-time thing. Don't know why I felt the need to share that (maybe because the scar of humiliating myself is still inside me. Even though it was years ago and I'm 25 now). Maybe.

Sorry that this comment is ridiculously long.

Kate | 10:33 PM

My son takes karate at a playspace near me, and his karate teacher stayed late to teach a couple of the female employees self-defense. The girls said they needed to learn it because other girls picked fights with them when they went out at night. WTF? Does the bullying never end? These girls are in their early 20s. And you're totally right - no one seems to have any solution to this. It's completely heartbreaking.

Nena Stopnik | 11:33 PM

Loved this! I lived it!

Anonymous | 3:29 PM

I volunteer at a public, middle school and there is constant attention paid to 'anti-bullying', yet it rages on.

How do we stop this? By stopping it. By refusing to belittle someone for any reason, no matter how small or significant. We teach each other (all!) to be kind to one another, even when we're really not feelin' it. Road rage while driving: stop it, bitchiness: swallow it, tearing down others: no.

Karen

Terra | 11:29 AM

We were in the same grade growing up but I went to SDA for HS. I had no idea that any of this was going on. I guess being popular wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I am thankful I was basically invisible. Thanks for sharing your story. As a mother of two girls I am not looking forward to what they may go through.

Ashley Austrew | 11:33 AM

True story: My mom bought me the Chicken Soup books when I was young. I remember one writer I kept seeing over and over again. Her name was Rebecca Woolf. I related to her so much. SO much. She inspired me to write when I had no other outlet. I even looked her up in the back of the book and wrote her a fan letter. I don't think I ever sent it.

Fast forward, oh, I don't know, a decade? And I started reading blogs while I was in college. One link lead to another, and I found a blog I really liked--a blog by a woman named Rebecca Woolf--and, even though I was single and childless, I related to her stories and her view of the world SO much. I had forgotten all about Chicken Soup by then and didn't make the connection until maybe 2 years later when I read a post you wrote that mentioned the series.

In 2010, I FINALLY bought Rockabye and was in the midst of reading it when I found out I was very, VERY unexpectedly pregnant with my boyfriend of only 4 months (who became my husband soon after). Again, your writing was something I could relate to SO much.

I've thought about telling you this story many, many times, but it always seemed way out of left field. It seemed like it could be appropriate for this post, though, so I guess I'm finally sending you that fan letter in a way? I've unintentionally followed your career since you were a teenager. And your writing has helped many people. Never doubt that.

Thanks for inspiring me, then and now.

Cindi F | 12:04 PM

I moved a lot when I was in middle school and high school so I got to be the new kid all the time. I learned to protect myself by being overly nice and generous. I preferred being used over being bullied any day. It is sad to remember how cruel the kids were to each other. I don't know if the boys really had it much better. These childhood memories and the stories of others are one of the biggest reasons I choose to homeschool my kids. If being bullied is "socialization" I rather my children not be socialized.

Anonymous | 8:39 AM

Lots of schools have anti-bullying curriculums front and center now. Kids and adults (who do a lot of bullying themselves) are put on notice: It's not okay to act that way or be treated that way. It takes away the "it's normal!" message to some extent.

Anonymous | 3:13 PM

I was that younger girl growing up around you Rebecca and you were my hero. You were so nice to me that it made me want the younger classmates to look at me that way. I know we can change some parts of this but it takes girls like you to inspire us!! I hope our girls don't have to deal with some of what we did. Thank you for your years and years of writing to keep inspiring me.

The Slick Mom | 9:00 PM

I could have written this. I was bullied in high school by the older girls. The older boys liked me, therefore I was a bitch. I had maxi pads stuck to my locker, prank calls, books stolen, girls hitting me in the hallways. You name it. Notes passed telling me they'd kill me if I looked at them or even walked down the hall where their lockers were. So silly. I got in several fights because of this, but I was always pretty tough and laughed them off. This set them off even more. I never considered moving schools or suicide. I really just thought they were stupid and silly. I also had a great network of friends and was in the so called "popular" crowd in my grade. It's really amazing that this happens. Why? I wonder what those girls think now. Do they even remember? I do.

The Bakers | 9:18 AM

I'm fairly new to your blog and your writing, so forgive me if this has been addressed--but I think it would be great if you (or your mom) would talk about this issue from the perspective of what a parent did do, should do, shouldn't do in situations like this. Even if you chose not to tell your parents what was happening at school, surely they knew something was up when the garage was vandalized, right? Did they call the police? The school? The girls' parents? As a parent of one preteen, two little ones, and a baby on the way, I would love feedback on what type of parental involvement is effective if your child is being harassed.

Caryn | 7:23 PM

I found this post powerful -- fascinating and sad and so incredibly right on.

My 9 1/2 year old daughter and I were just talking about the "popular" girls at school yesterday. I brought the subject up because her good friend's mother asked me to explore it with her (I'm a social worker, often asked to do such things by other moms...). I often call her our "old soul" because she seems wise beyond her years, and I felt that way again yesterday.

Here's what she said, "Sure, Mom, there are popular girls at school (she went on the accurately name exactly the same girls her friend had named)...but they are not REALLY popular -- they just want you to think they are. And, they really aren't very nice, so, I do not care whether or not they are my friends." Wow. I was semi-staggered.

I responded by telling her that I thought she had a very insightful take on the whole thing and encouraged her to remember that as she got older.

The thing that I keep thinking is -- HOW do I help her to do that? Not that hanging on to this perspective will keep her from being bullied, but, this awesome perspective would certainly serve any pre-teen or teenager well. Thoughts?

Anonymous | 2:28 PM

Back in the day we handled bullies, by "beating that ass".

None of this crap talk, call the parents.

To think back, we only had a few bullies!

Anonymous | 11:59 PM

I was bullied back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I gave birth to one lovely daughter. My only child. I figured the buck had to start with me. My mother never tolerated bullying and I wouldn't either. Teach your children well. Make sure they tell you what goes on-in the capcity of of confidence. Do inform school officials -follow proper channels. I did all of this. When it didn't work, I followed my instinct. I started calling mothers of these girls. I offered to visit them every day with similar treatment that my daughter was getting. Maybe a bit more on an adult level. Promised them that they would get this every day until their children learned manners and how to treat people. Including the fact that if you don't like someone leave them alone. It worked. We would like not to be in the order of violence begets violence but sometimes if you are confronted with a thrashing and held responsible you will figure out how to stop it. I will fight for my child. My daughter is now grown and an advocate for anti-bullying as am I. Because as we all know it doesn't stop when you leave school. I see it every day in our adult lives and we don't tolerate it even now.

Stephanie | 6:46 AM

The Federal Agencies are working together on bullying prevention.
Visit
www.stopbullying.gov

for helpful resources

Anonymous | 6:38 AM

I'm 55 years old and still remember the fear I felt when I saw the bunch waiting for me,not knowing what they would say or do today. One girl in particular was the leader, they were older and bigger then me,they had sisters, I did not. I had medicine for a nervous stomach, it started when I was 12 years old and continued till I was in high school, even though we went to different high schools, it persisted. They were the neighborhood bullies, put some girls in the hospital. I had to get the police involved. A group of 5 or 6 waited outside for me with bricks in hand ready to throw at me until luckily a neighbor yelled for them to leave and warned my guardian that they were outside. I have no feelings for any them now except hatred, they never became good women they are a pathetic group of excuses for human beings.

Charlotte O'Keefe | 7:12 AM

Just was thinking about the Twitter comments about Gabby Douglas's HAIR after her incredibly wonderful gold-medal performances in the 2012 Olympics. Lord have mercy. I think our society is so demanding of perfection - I mean total, absolute, complete perfection - that many automatically zero in on any flaw, as if that makes THEM better. No one, not ANYONE, is perfect. One who looks for the best in others is admired by everyone, and it's a wonderful feeling to be loved for that reason.

allison | 8:11 AM

And THIS is a big part of the reason we homeschool. And no, they are not socially backwards, in fact, just the opposite. So now that they are teens, and mixing it up with lots of other teens in our area through all their various activities, when they spot this stuff, they laugh and walk away, or help the underdog. The melodrama doesn't get to them, they don't feel the need to stoop. Learning to survive in the toxic environment that so many of our schools are now, private and public, can do some damage that some kids may never get over. I also have to add, where the hell of the parents of kids like one of your commenters who has a 4.5 year old daughter being bullied?!? Where is the Mom or Dad to stop this, say a huge no, guide and discipline, model better behavior? When I see kids at our community pool, particularly the girls who act that way "girls just act", I can often spot the moms huddled together, doing the very same behavior, just 25 years older. And even sadder. I was bullied, my sister was bullied, and here we were in the "Best" school districts in our area. It often seems the more the money to put in, the shittier the kids, because well, the shittier the parents. As parents, we spend too much time focused on the minors, and letting the majors, like heart and character, and compassion such slide on by. But are the outfits cute? The car right? Is Jenny a cheerleader and Tommy a quarterback? Then life is grand! My little sister was a freshman in 1989. She struggled with her weight. Girls threw her against lockers and called her a bitch, every day. The same girls who ran the Student Body, the homecoming court, the NHS...the same girls who had "active" parents at the school. Not one person said or did anything. Not a teacher, and not another kid. Then one afternoon basketball game? The mom of one of those girls was cussing my sister out for missing the ball. "Get her off the court!!!", she raged, for all the county to see. And then it came a bit clearer. These apples are not falling far from the tree. These are the moms who let their daughters have pink and fluffy sleep overs with every girl in the class but one. Who have the party and don't ever consider to invite the quiet one, the awkward one. I can assure you, that when we throw down in our home, all the kids come, or we don't have the party. This is one way to begin to teach compassion. Who is thinking like this anymore? Who remembers the basic treat others as you'd like to be treated? Who among us as grown women see the same behavior as the highschool lunch room played out over and over at PTA, tennis club, CHURCH, Girl Scouts, etc.? Girls are "just girls" because way to many women are "just women". There. There's a fraction of my two cents. Obviously, this subject touches close to home. It's a crazy as hell outrage that we HAVE to have anti bullying programs. Blessings on your endeavors with your girls, and with your son, in teaching him what is just not OK, in girls, or guys.

Anonymous | 5:49 AM

Thank God for Cyber schools. Where kids can get pure learning. Where they can annonomously side-chat their teachers if they have questions on th subject. Where every kid is assigned a school personal assistant to help them with school and their world. Where kids can study ahead and take college courses to feed their drive to succeed. Where kis can meet like-minded smart kids without fear of retaliation from the bullies. Where bullying is stopped at inception. Yes, Thank God for cyber schools,a bulwark against bullying. A place where kids can let their hearts and minds soar!
Karen
(a mom)

Sandy Cutchin | 10:18 AM

So, you admitted that when it was your turn to be the older girl, you continued the bullying. And STILL you made it look like you were innocent. I don't care how guilty you feel. It's time for bullies in the past to stop hiding and ADMIT the pain specifically. Once you made all the money from Chicken Soup, did you track down all the girls you bullied and apologize? Probably not. You were still focused on yourself. It's time now. I don't feel sorry for you because somebody else did it to you first. You had the decision to stop the cycle, and you didn't. Stop coloring your words, and openly apologize to those other girls!

Anonymous | 1:33 AM

I'm 51 now and had no problems with other girls in jr high or high school; not even in grade school; other than one girl that wanted to hang on me as if I was some sort of protector. I finally chased her off one day, felt a little bad about it - didn't beat her up, and she didn't come back. I was a tom boy that even the boys didn't mess with.

The schools I attended with small and located in small cities, some of them located out in the country. Maybe they just didn't have mean girls.

Since having and raising my daughter, who is now an adult, a college graduate, married and the mother of my grand child, I have heard of mean girls. I'm glad I didn't know of them back when I was in HS. They wouldn't have lasted long with me around. I'd have taught them some manners, real fast.

Anonymous | 6:56 AM

I have wondered for years why young women, college graduates, joining the work force were such b******. What did they have to be b***** about? They were young, top of their game, but now I see as a manager, they are just miserable little girls at heart! Now I think I can understand my daughters-in-law a little better--they really are b******. When I was in school, the older girls looked after and mentored the younger girls. No wonder so many women now are so dang b*****! It does begin in school and it is something they are taught they need to be! Where are their mothers? If I had acted like this my mother would have been so ashamed of me and I would have known she was ashamed of me and that would have broken my heart! What are young mothers teaching their daughters these days?

Anonymous | 11:17 AM

I am a retired public school teacher and would urge any parent to take any legal means necessary to stop the bullying. I did my very best to stop it while I was in the classroom but teachers cannot follow kids everywhere, especially teenagers. Things are so bad now that I urge parents to look into Cyber-schooling or homeschool. Your children will be much better off.

Anonymous | 7:13 AM

Middle school - when no child should be put in a group of his/her "peers." If you only homeschool a few years, make them the middle school years. It's bad for their socialization to be put in with a pile of kids getting though all the hormones and growth spurts.

My daughter was homeschooled and never had this problem in school, but did have it at her dance studio. The older girls were mean. Thankfully the day they graduated the whole place lightened up, the girls all loved each other; dance was a happy place. That's because once the mean group was gone, the new advanced girls were mostly homeschooled, and set a tone of kindness that rubbed off on the whole place. Once day a graduated mean girl came back and watched rehearsals and loudly said mean things about the soloists - and was chased out of the place by an observant (not homeschool) mom. The mom just said, "We don't talk like that here. If you can't be nice, leave." The college kid left. Awesome.


Anonymous | 2:20 PM

I found this interesting because although high school was a considerably long time ago- I still recall the social strata of that time and the various forms of 'bullying' (although we would have never called it that) that went on. However, it was only until recently (mostly through articles and not my own sisters unfortunately) that I realized GIRLS were bullied too. This will probably sound crazy in the hyper-sensitive, litigious and (honestly)unbeleivably fearful realm of children's schooling- but bottles getting thrown at you sounds like a good time compared to what BOYS in my high school went through. There were roughly 2500-3000 students at my high school (the only HS when growing up- supporting a SouthWestern city community of roughly 100,000 at the time) and I honestly cannot recall a single day of high school where a boy I knew wasn't beat to unconsiciousness, sent to the hospital with broken bones or concussions, occasionally stabbed (truly horrific), and even shot at. For almost all 4 years, lunchtime was almost exclusively focused on who was fighting that day. I NEVER went in-between classes, to our cars, to the Administration offices, etc without a group of friends that would back you up or you could pretty much guarantee a fistfight. I can say with confidence that I look back on those days with enormous pride- I learned the value of true friendship (ie: not the ones who ran in the face of danger); found out that getting hit in the face by someone else isn't the end of the world and therefore gained the knowledge of how to fight -which is primarily learning how to control your fears; discovered that violence is something you don't have to participate in, but you better damn sure know what to do when you are confronted by it; and lastly, I felt (and still feel) that those days shaped me into a MAN. I worry these days that there is so much fear driven policies in place that prevents boys from learning how to fight (and better yet, when not to fight). When boys never learn how to fight, fear of getting hurt in a fight makes it really easy to pick up a gun or a rock or a baseball bat to defend yourself and then true tragedy can occur. I suppose the point of my post is that I never saw the girls have to fight like the boys had to (daily) and I was always a little jealous that the worst a girl had to suffer was name calling and spitting. But maybe they were suffering too- just not suffering broken teeth and bruised jaws, but suffering none the less. Thanks for the story.

Anonymous | 6:02 AM

Teach your kids never to bully- but never to get bullied either.

I have my son in martial arts and he is learning about life, and how to defend himself. With my daughters, and I know girls can be the worst, teach them self confidence and to look out for one another.

Anonymous | 9:32 AM

We must all work together to end this out-of-control bullying infestation. Think of the learning and joy and friendship that are being crushed before they are even born by this ongoing warfare.

My daughter and I were both bullied --- she is is in her thirties now. To me, the viciousness of the bullies hasn't just magically evaporated with age, either. Just spend some time in any corporate office, and you'll find them there in their cubicles conducting office intrigue, ganging up, ostracizing and using people. But now the consequences to their victims can be loss of jobs or careers.

I was bullied by both girls and boys --- not physically but emotionally; cruelly and relentlessly. I was very tall and thin --- 5-10 1/2 and 120 something --- just the weight that models yearn for, but in those days, when petite and curvy was the style, I was mocked for being "a toothpick on stilts." Ironic, isn't it? I believed that I was an ugly misfit; that I was never going to stop growing and that I would end up in a biology textbook.

It was my writing (I too am a professional writer) that saved me. I won several writing awards and was published even while in school. That made me a mini-celebrity and earned me the bullies' grudging admiration. They were both afraid of ending up in one of my stories and worried that they would be left out of them!

But I was also saved by candystriping. Just being able to go to a local hospital, put on that crisp uniform and belong unconditionally; to be welcomed by staff and patients alike; to believe that I was doing something to make sick, sad people feel a little better boosted my self esteem and sense of empowerment. The broad, spontaneous smiles when people saw me were balm for my aching heart.

The worst of my bullies were girls who were supposedly my friends. They laughed at me, gossipped about me, told me what others said behind my back (as long as it was mean). To this day, I write and publish short stories about them. I even have a pilot for a TV series in development. But I'd almost trade my success for what school could have been without that daily torment.

When my own daughter (also tall and thin) was bullied, I advised her to form her own crowd of friends; to include the "outcasts" and leave the "popular" (why call them popular? These kids are actually feared and despised) kids to their fun and games. I was glad to see that she never had it in her to purposely belittle another child. She is still warmhearted and quick to forgive --- a much better person than I am! --- but she aches to this day from the snubs and heartlessness she endured in school.

Anonymous | 9:37 AM

We must all work together to end this out-of-control bullying infestation. Think of the learning and joy and friendship that are being crushed before they are even born by this ongoing warfare.

My daughter and I were both bullied --- she is is in her thirties now. To me, the viciousness of the bullies hasn't just magically evaporated with age, either. Just spend some time in any corporate office, and you'll find them there in their cubicles conducting office intrigue, ganging up, ostracizing and using people. But now the consequences to their victims can be loss of jobs or careers.

I was bullied by both girls and boys --- not physically but emotionally; cruelly and relentlessly. I was very tall and thin --- 5-10 1/2 and 120 something --- just the weight that models yearn for, but in those days, when petite and curvy was the style, I was mocked for being "a toothpick on stilts." Ironic, isn't it? I believed that I was an ugly misfit; that I was never going to stop growing and that I would end up in a biology textbook.

It was my writing (I too am a professional writer) that saved me. I won several writing awards and was published even while in school. That made me a mini-celebrity and earned me the bullies' grudging admiration. They were both afraid of ending up in one of my stories and worried that they would be left out of them!

But I was also saved by candystriping. Just being able to go to a local hospital, put on that crisp uniform and belong unconditionally; to be welcomed by staff and patients alike; to believe that I was doing something to make sick, sad people feel a little better boosted my self esteem and sense of empowerment. The broad, spontaneous smiles when people saw me were balm for my aching heart.

The worst of my bullies were girls who were supposedly my friends. They laughed at me, gossipped about me, told me what others said behind my back (as long as it was mean). To this day, I write and publish short stories about them. I even have a pilot for a TV series in development. But I'd almost trade my success for what school could have been without that daily torment.

When my own daughter (also tall and thin) was bullied, I advised her to form her own crowd of friends; to include the "outcasts" and leave the "popular" (why call them popular? These kids are actually feared and despised) kids to their fun and games. I was glad to see that she never had it in her to purposely belittle another child. She is still warmhearted and quick to forgive --- a much better person than I am! --- but she aches to this day from the snubs and heartlessness she endured in school.

Anonymous | 12:00 AM

I feel very fortunate that I went to a nerdy, magnet high school where it was cool to be smart and the rules were way too strict for anything like soda dumping or book smashing to have happened. Yet, your story empowered so many other people, and that is amazing.
discount soccer shoes
Amazingly a number of those girls have 'friended' me on facebook now...because we are 'friends'? I can still feel the cold locker slamming into my back and they want to look at pictures of my kid and re-live the good ol days? Mmmmm, notsomuch.
I mostly felt invisible.

Anonymous | 11:54 AM

I'm watching my 5 year old son go through bullying. The sad thing is that the bully is his 11 year old cousin. What makes it worse is his mom and dad are condoning the bullying. What can you as a parent do in that case but teach your child to ignore him. But its kind of hard when it gets physical between a 5 and a kid twice his age/size.

Kim | 7:09 PM

Those girls who bullied others because it was "their turn to be the hard ass" are the worst of all. Being bullied is no excuse to bully others; in fact, it seems disgusting to me, to let yourself fall into exactly that same hateful behavior you complain about. "Somebody broke my leg, so I have to go break somebody else's leg, to make myself feel better, now." BS!

I was bullied all through school (except for 4 years, from 6th-9th grades, when I went to a private Christian academy, where bullying and cliques were not tolerated). I wasn't popular, or particularly pretty, or outgoing. I kept to myself and tried to just learn and then go home. I had very few friends, all of them outcasts like me. I wasn't even involved in any extracurricular activities, besides French club in HS. Didn't make any difference, whatsoever, in the bullying. Two of the female bullies even made French club unbearable for me and the other "weird" girl in the class. To this day, I don't know why she and I were "weird." Just because we didn't belong to the cheerleader/drill team cliques, I guess.

I was bullied by girls AND boys, as well as by some teachers and counsellors at the schools. In the very first grade, I got beaten up on the way home from school, almost every day, by the same group of older boys. Teachers and other adults would walk right by, as these little creeps held me down on the sidewalk or against the brick wall of the school and beat the crap out of me. I didn't matter to them, or to my parents.

I went home crying and bleeding and bruised, and my parents screamed at me, told me not to DARE come home crying, again, or they'd give me something to cry about. They expected me to fight back. Yeah, a scrawny little first-grade girl can really fight back against four or five 3rd-and 4th-grade boys who are nearly twice her physical size. The physical beatings stopped, after we moved to another town, but the psychological beatings never did, except for those blissful 4 years in the academy.

None of the bullies grew up to be good people, either. Some of the boys went to jail, and I've had the misfortune to meet up with a few of the women, who are successful in business, but who are just as wretchedly horrible people as ever.

It doesn't stop in school, either. It's in every office where there are women and men who were childhood bullies. They never grow out of it; they just learn to use it on adults, wrap it in charm and call it "personal power." Some of them take a perverse pleasure in destroying another human being. They aren't misguided innocents; they're hateful creatures who enjoy the energy of hatred, and the feeling of power that comes with the ability to ruin someone else's life, career, or happiness.

Anonymous | 1:39 PM

... and school administrators to this day still wonder why kids sometimes go postal. Duh!

Dr. Gary | 2:24 PM

My daughter was bullied going into middle school. She would go in one door of the school and leave through the next to avoid a gang of girls who always threatened her. I found out weeks later this was happening. When I asked my daughter what was going on, she told me that she was being threatened. I taught her how to physically defend herself and when the time came, the gang sent their largest "champion" to beat up my daughter and instead, my daughter punched her in the nose, and that was the end of the bullying. From that point on, she was never bullied. I think every girl needs how to defend herself physically, mentally and emotionally.