- Posted March 1, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'The Bully Effect': Making it stop
Normal, Cute/Weird, Ugly
When I look at pictures of me growing up, I look like a normal girl, actually pretty cute. But I never felt that way. I felt ugly, and I felt it deeply, beyond exteriors. Perhaps it is like anorexics who deeply believe their fat, when all outward evidence contradicts it.
One day, I made a huge mistake. Most of the girls were either fully developed, mature, and womanly, or in some stage of developing. But I had not even started to develop and had no physical signs of puberty. I looked like a skinny 10-year-old. And I was still a tomboy in my neighborhood, climbing trees and playing baseball, etc. So one fateful day, in seventh grade, I wore a tee shirt under my blouse. In those days, girls were required to wear dresses in public school. Some confident, show-off boy, named George, called me, "the tee-shirt kid." I was devastated, but I showed no emotion and just acted like it didn’t matter. But then, a couple of the kids in the George’s group of friends started calling me tee-shirt kid.
I really believe, looking back on it, that if I had had confidence and a sense of self-worth, this nickname would have just genuinely rolled off my back. For instance, there was a popular girl, who was a cheer leader, and everyone called her “Bones,” because she was so skinny. She even called herself Bones. But I was mortified, and it was as if all my feelings of low self-worth and ugliness had been confirmed in that one nickname. I became the most shy and inward person that I could be.
The next year, in eighth grade, it only got worse. George was the ringleader of his small group of about eight kids, both boys and girls. They seemed to be very bold and confident, making wisecracks all the time and using fowl language. I remember they teased a boy who had cerebral palsy. They teased him all the time. Even his twin brother didn’t do anything, probably didn’t know what to do. I would not have had the nerve to act the way they did or say the things they said, not because I was so good, but because I was so incredibly shy. So in eighth grade, whenever I saw George and his group, I avoided them as much as I could. But George was in some of my classes, and he sat behind me one day and started whispering into my ear. He said sexual words and described sexual pictures and anatomy in my ear. Again, I myself was no prude. I had no moral teaching from my home or anything. But because I felt so ugly, again, it was as if all my beliefs about my worthlessness and ugliness were being confirmed. And George was treating me like trash, because I was trash.
One day we were watching a movie for one of our classes, and George was sitting behind me. He loudly coughed up some thick phlegm and spat it on my sweater. I responded my usual way, the only way I knew. I acted as if it didn’t matter and didn’t react at all. As soon as class was over, I hurried to the girls room and threw the sweater away. I cannot describe in words how utterly worthless, hopeless, helpless I felt.
I went home that day, and I begged my mother to let me go to my neighborhood friend’s school, Villa Maria Academy. They had all girls there, so no boy would tease me, although a couple of the girls in George’s group teased me also, called me names in addition to tee-shirt kid.
I will never forget my mother’s response, one that made me feel more hopeless and alone than ever.
She said that I could not go to another school, and she said, “I don’t see why you can’t get along with the other kids. Why don’t you just join in and have fun? That’s what I did when I was your age. I had a lot of friends.” And I sat there and wondered to myself, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal.
Actual episodes of teasing were actually rare. And it was only this small group of raucous kids with George. But it didn’t seem to matter. I felt as if the whole class thought I was ugly and weird and knew about the teasing. And lived the reality of my ugliness and creepiness every day, no matter if anyone teased me or not. I was just humiliated and defeated.
By eighth grade, I had invented a whole fantasy world that had started when I was ten. I had peopled my fantasy world over the years with anyone that I thought was wonderful. So, in my fantasy world, I had a wonderful, beautiful mother, a great father, and brothers and sisters and friends. And, in my fantasy world, I was not me. I was someone wonderful, beautiful, and very popular. And I would retreat into this fantasy world, imagining different scenarios and situations whenever I wanted. So gradually, for the rest of high school, the real world was like a superficial, going-through-the-motions kind of experience, very unimportant. Because I had my fantasy world, and that became my most important world. I loved that world. I loved being in it.
By tenth grade, I had ended up in a class with my old friends, so my life took on an appearance of a normal teenager. But still, the real world, even with some friends and going to football games, etc., was lonely, painful, and I made it not important to me. My fantasy world was the center of my life. I remember going out on a date with a boy, because my friends thought he was nice and cute. But I didn’t like him at all. I just went out with him to look like a normal teenager.
But in 11th and 12th grade I was alone again. George’s group was not in any of my classes, but I lived under the shadow of the humiliation and rejection that George had set in motion. So I always felt as though, lurking around any corner, George and his friends would be there to tease me and spit on me. On graduation night, when everyone was going to parties and celebrating, I slipped out after the ceremony, went to the parking lot, and crawled into the back seat of our family car and ducked down to the floor, so no one would see me, that I wasn’t going to the parties. My parents saw me in the back seat of the car, but they didn’t think anything about it. My parents came to my graduation, but they were just cardboard parents, not anything like the real parents I had in my fantasy life.
The feelings that took possession of me in those teenage years stayed with me for years, till God miraculously over many years gave me a sense of self-worth and of his love for me in a very real way. But before that, when I was still under the shadow, when I was 21, a boy fell in love with me. But all I could do was think, why would he want me? What does he see in me? Once he sees me clearly, he’ll reject me. I could not fathom how he could love me. And even though we married and had a wonderful marriage and children, it still took many, many years for me to be totally healed or set free from the wounds and pain of those high school years.
Now I am totally free of those feelings and the fantasy life. As a matter of fact, I talk too much—probably have too much confidence, if that’s possible. But my heart goes out to children and teens that are in any level of pain like I lived with.