Back in grade school, I was most definitely at the bottom of the food chain. I don't know why or how but I just was, and I had learned to deal with it. I guess that's why I was so excited to jump on the opportunity to make another friend, who for the sake of her own privacy we will call Patricia. Patricia seemed nice enough, if not a little pushy at times, so I didn't see an issue with becoming her new best friend. The friendship continued on as we grew older, slowly becoming more twisted and manipulative as time went by. It wasn't until seventh grade that I can safely say it had become an abusive friendship.
At lunch, I would always sit next to her and essentially become her punching bag. Now she wouldn't full-on beat me up, she wasn't that mean, but she did punch my arm multiple times throughout the lunch period if I said something she didn't like. Conditioning me to only talk about things I knew she would enjoy, and to keep my mouth shut if I thought I would say something that offended her. I wasn't a fan of this development, but I kept my mouth shut, wanting to hold onto one of my only friends in the building.
During the spring break of seventh grade, she and her family took me to Naples, Florida with them. I remember this trip being an absolute blast, and it included a trip to Harry Potter world at the peak of my Harry Potter addiction; so I did whatever I could to remain in Patricia's good graces throughout the trip. But one moment shook me to my core and still does to this day. After a busy day at Universal Studios, it began to pour, so Patricia and I darted onto the shuttle bus not really caring who we cut off in line. That's when I heard a mother whisper to her child, "We wait our turn, so we're not rude like those girls there." I've been called many things in my life, but this stranger calling me rude was one that has stayed with me all these years. Was I really becoming rude just because I was spending so much time with Patricia? The answer was yes, I was slowly being molded into one of her cronies who would do as she said to stay in her favor. Now, I hadn't seen Mean Girls yet, but I was basically Cady when she accidentally turned herself into a plastic, complete with abandoning my real friends, or should I say, friend.
It was eighth grade when Patricia caused my best friend in the entire world to cry at lunch. Patricia had been ignoring her for the better part of a week at that point, and my friend had hit her breaking point. Her abusive tendencies weren't aimed solely at me you see. She had a way of making everyone miserable around her as well. To see my best friend crying like that hurt, I knew what Patricia was doing was wrong but because I was so scared of her, I never said anything to disagree with her. Up until that day. Little by little I began to defy her, I questioned what she said and didn't make a peep even after she punched me like usual. I slowly realized how manipulative she truly was.
On our eighth-grade trip to Kings Island, I decided I wasn't going to sit around and ride the same roller coaster over and over again, I wanted to ride some other rides. So I went off with a group of some other students who I was friends with and spent the day riding with them. It is important to note that at this time I did not have my cell phone on me because I had lost it the week before, so the only way I could communicate with Patricia was through one of my friend's phones. Needless to say, communication was limited throughout the day. I first knew something was wrong when I said hi to her mom, who was a chaperone on the trip, and she just glared at me. That was odd. Normally her mom was nothing but nice to me. I shrugged it off, thinking that maybe she was just sick of watching kids all day. It wasn't until we regrouped to take our class picture that I was berated for not staying with her all day and how dare I ride a ride with her boyfriend. Boyfriend? Oh, did you mean the guy you called an asshole yesterday who thought you were absolutely insane? Then yes I rode a ride with him, strictly as friends, but even then it didn't matter because the relationship was entirely in her head. She didn't talk to me for the rest of the school year, which was only another week. We somehow patched things up by graduation as I have pictures of us together at the event, but I'm not sure how we managed that. I guess it was because I was desperate for friends. After all, being stuck with the same sixty students for nine years doesn't leave many options for new friendships.
The week after that we started summer gym for our high school, to waive our gym credit during the year. Patricia and I hung out during the course, but much less than we would have before the Kings Island incident. While the memories of this week are rather hazy, I do remember, not hanging out with her on the last day of the program. Instead, I decided to hang out with some new friends I had made during the course. Patricia didn't like that. Not one bit. On the bus ride back, she berated me for not hanging out with her and severed the friendship on the spot. I cried for hours upon making it home, but do you want to know something? As soon as I stopped crying, I felt better. It was finally over. I was no longer going to be her punching bag both verbally and physically. I no longer had to worry about pleasing her whenever she was around. I was allowed to be me again. I was allowed to figure out who I truly was, since my formative years had been shaped by Patricia and her overbearing influence on my interests, or should I say hers?It's been almost seven years since the friendship ended and I worry that the scars from this friendship will never truly go away. I still filter my conversation's without meaning to and use humor to distract those who are in the middle of an argument, my old methods to avoid getting hit, without even realizing it. I still fall into my old people-pleasing ways, but I remind myself that I'm not in that situation anymore. I'm not the same Alex back in grade school that just wanted to fit in and be accepted by her peers. Now I know that I don't need to worry about what other people think of me. I can be who I truly am and still have friends who love me for that.