The year was 1993, I was in fifth grade and I’d finally convinced them (you know the ones – they had perfectly poof-y hair, the best bodysuits, gem-colored jeans, the newest sneakers and BOYFRIENDS) that I was cool enough to be part of their group. I was IN, which took some diligent work on my part because even though I wouldn’t say I came from a poor family, my parents definitely lived paycheck to measly paycheck, sometimes struggling to make ends meet. They did their best to not let us feel the burden of being broke, but we had better luck getting a unicorn than clothes with labels. That was difficult to explain while trying to fit in, but somehow I managed.
In any case, it was a cold, rainy day in good old blue-collar Toledo Ohio; a typical spring day in the Midwest. It was pretty much completely miserable on all levels. My “friends” and I arrived at school early, so we decided to take a stroll in the frigid, torrential rainstorm for some Jolt Cola at the local In-N-Out, situated across the street. My brick behemoth of an elementary school was perched on top of a hill (which was lovely on a sunny day, but during rain it was like a slick pig, full of muddy bumps). Instead of taking the stairs like any halfway intelligent person would have done, we decided to be total idiots and take the shortcut down the hill. For some reason, I went first and (big surprise) I only got one K-mart sneaker on the hill before losing my footing. One teensy-weensy tiny step and
I was sliding down a muddy hill wearing my only decent pair of blue jeans.
As I was sliding (which felt like a freaking eternity, by the way), I managed to crane my neck to see “them,” my so-called friends. I reached a pitiful hand out in a lame attempt at some help, but they just stared at me, wide-eyed with smirks painted on their pretty faces. One laughed, then they were all laughing. They pointed and giggled, then pointed and giggled some more. When I finally came to a stop I was a brown, wet mess sitting on the sidewalk. No one even helped me up. So, with burning cheeks and an undeniable desire to crawl under the nearest rock, I got to my feet, found the closest set of stairs and went inside the school to call my mom. Rain water sloshed inside my no-label sneakers with each embarrassing step and brown water dripped from my even browner hair. I hung my shoulders, not daring to glance at them. I knew that I would officially be OUT and somehow, despite the chain of events, I still thought that mattered.
Bullying is a real problem. I see it now even with my daughter, who is only six. We, as parents, need to stop this starting at home. We have to teach our children that bullying is wrong. We have to help them learn that it’s important to include peers, and to be themselves, no matter what.
If you’d like more information on bullying, check out the government’s website found here.
Photo courtesy of Reza Shayestehpour on Unsplash