The Scintilla Project | Day 6 | Bullies and mean girls

March 21st, 2012 Posted by Connection, Uncategorized 14 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project | Day 6 | Bullies and mean girls”

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn’t quite. Now tell them why they can’t affect you anymore.

“People hate you. You’re ugly.”

Awkward started early for me. I was a chubby, braces mouth fifth grader. But I was a nice girl. Kind to her friends. A caring classmate. Good student.

I didn’t think I was ugly. Until that group of girls told me I was.

And I believed them.

After that painful realization in fifth grade, I felt different from the rest of the girls. Puberty hadn’t cursed them yet, so they were all beautiful and slender, nary a greasy hair or pimple on their flawless faces.

It didn’t get better in middle school. I knew I was “the fat one” among my friends. They didn’t have to try hard to be pretty. But I spent bathroom breaks in between classes covering up zits and wondering if I’d ever be as pretty as those skinny girls who walked the halls in their matching jeans from The Limited, a place my mom deemed too expensive.

Individually, the girls were nice to me. I think they saw that beneath my discount store clothing was a nice girl with a kind heart. Who also knew all the answers to the Civics homework. But they also knew I wasn’t cool. So when I’d see the girls walking down the hallway and start to smile and wave, my heart bursts when they’d turn their heads and pretend not to notice me.

One day on the sweaty middle school bus waiting to head home, I sat with my thighs plastered the the sticky seat. A group of cool kids hung out in the back. They were loud and carrying own, I suppose to highlight their coolness. And then I heard what sounded like my name. My maiden name is Gatsos, and that awful hot day those cool kids were loudly whispering Sarah Fat-sos, Sarah Fat-sos.

Instead of feeling mad, I felt confused. I was a nice girl. Why are they making fun of me? I’d never teased any of them. Or anyone. Ever. The idea of purposely hurting anyone’s feelings hurts my heart.

But empathy for others is not a skill most middle schoolers embody.

Puberty cut out it’s angry wrath on me by the time I entered my freshman year of high school. My metabolism evened out. I got my pimples under control. Babysat so I could earn my own money to buy the clothes I wanted. Grew strong from sports and jogging.

I wish I could say I never had a run in with a mean girls group after those terrible preteen years. But I have. There are mean grown girls, too.

Even though now I’m healthy, happy, in the best physical shape I’ve ever been, with mostly under control skin, when I meet a mean girl, I’m back to feeling like Sarah Fat-sos on that bus.

I don’t know why people are mean. I used to think it was because of something I did or who I was. It was my fault they were mean.

But now when I run into one of those mean kids all grown up into a mean adult, I know it’s all about them. It has nothing to do with what I look like or who I am. It has everything to do with their own hatefulness.

I don’t feel remorse because I choose to be a nice girl. I don’t worry about hurt feelings because I think carefully before I speak. I don’t burn bridges because I care more about keeping connections. So maybe I’m not cool or popular. But I care about others, treat people kindly, and don’t need other’s affirmations because being a nice girl is its own reward.

  • Oh man, I can totally relate here. Your story sounds exactly like mine. I am so glad you were able to overcome it though, as I am still trying to on my end.

    Mean girls (and boys) are horrible 🙁

    • Mean girls (and boys) are the worst. While I don’t wish a mean-girl run in with anyone, I’m glad you can relate. It is hard to get over it. But I work to remember that it’s their issue, not mine. Hugs coming your way!

  • Girl . . . been there, done that. Well, lucky for me I was skinny as a rail back then, so wasn’t called fat. But the general mean-ness? I totally get it. It’s amazing just how much that can affect you for years and years. I don’t understand where kids get the meanness – maybe from insecurity and hormones? I dunno.

    • As a mom of a girl, I worry that she will be subjected to mean girls. I am sure it will happen. But I hope she doesn’t let it get to her and finds solace in a group of loving girls who support her. Just like you have for me!

  • OH NO! Those kids on the back of the bus were such a-holes! I think every school and bus had them. UGH! Finding a seat on the bus was always such an anxiety-inducing event for me.

    Kids are so freaking mean. I totally agree with Jane – it’s amazing how much those words can affect you for years afterwords.

    • I know, right?! The ironic part was, the boy who started the chant was a tubby, pimple faced kid who just happened to be bad boy enough to be part of the cool kids. Whatever.

      Oh yes, I hated the bus. That’s why I always sat towards the front, so I wouldn’t get caught up in the trauma drama of the back of the bus.

  • Kat

    Sarah, I had tears in my eyes reading this post. In 7th grade, my gym teacher got me and another girl confused ALL the time. I didn’t even know who she was. Until she came up to me in the lunchroom and informed me that she could not understand how he got the two of us confused since everyone knew that she was prettier.

    I spent all of middle school wondering why everyone else got The Memo and how I had managed to miss it.

    Love you.

    • Oh, geeze! Sounds like a couple girls I once knew. Kids can be the worst.

      I love you, too! Like I told Jane, whatever to all those kids because I made my own tribe of supporting, loving girlfriends.

  • Marie

    Oh, Sarah, what a heartbreaking story! Kids can be so cruel. I still shake my head at what some kids said and did back in the day. Way to rise above, and take the high road!

    • Kids are cruel, no doubt about it. I am bracing myself for the day Kate comes home from school crying. I’ll show her this post 🙂

  • Christina Leaman

    I think we had the same middle school experience. I’ve *always* been very curvy and developed early. Compared to the mean girls I was bigger, rounder and acne made me look hideous. I still have the emotional scars. I can totally relate.

    • Yep, me, me, and me. But now you have a supportive group of ladies who have your back 🙂 Forget those meanies!

  • Great post! What’s amazing is how frequently I still run into “mean girls.” I was telling my husband just tonight how there seems to be an “in” crowd of the preschool moms and I’m not a part of the group. Even though I am in my 30s, it all seems so junior high all over again.

    • I can so relate to that! I definitely don’t feel like I’m part of the “cool mommy” group. I really thought all that would end after I left high school, but mean girls and the in crowd seem to come around no matter your age. But building my own tribe has helped significantly – especially with supporitve, smart women like you as my friend.

Hi! I’m Sarah, I am passionate about creating community, building deep connections, and the power of creativity. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband, our three kids, and our golden-lab mix.

I believe in leggings as pants, and I drink my coffee black. I love shopping at Costco, teaching group exercise classes, and, athleisure.

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