To my bully,
I know you do not remember me because you didn’t even know me then. I was once the girl who sat religiously at the table closest to the staircase, but you won’t recall that either. It was the “nerd table,” if I remember correctly, where all us studious folk sat.
I would not expect you to know this, but the February before we first met I spent copious amounts of time in my bed. Originally it was due to a broken collarbone, but it morphed into something more sinister. See, my grades had been slipping because of those pesky participation points – you must actually be present to be graded – and I had never held anything lower than a B- in my hands ever. To make matters worse my fellow nerd folk, those kids who usually filled the table by the staircase with me, didn’t seem to want me around anymore. What turned into an orthopedic rest period ended up being weeks spent home because I was too nervous to show up at school. Nerves caused nausea in my young tummy, and that manifested itself in any of the normal and less pleasant ways. My anxiety about throwing up in the tight, plastic hallways built on the nerves I had about grades and friends, and thus the cycle grew on itself.
It was truly already March before I’d worked up the courage to walk myself back through those double glass doors. I recall classes had gone as poorly as I expected that morning. I bit back tears as my math teacher told me I could pull a D+ if I tried really hard, and excused myself to the restroom when I realized I probably wouldn’t even pass science. It was not a shock though, just another tough pill to swallow and move on after.
When we were excused to lunch, I meandered to the table by the stairs, empty at this point since everyone else had assimilated into some other clique. It was fine, though, because my room had also been empty for that long month. I had my food and my solitude.
You had a large group of friends, as I recall, and you all held at least a year’s worth of maturity more than I. Few things are scarier to a sixth-grade nerd than seventh grade girls, wearing those body hugging tops my Mama wouldn’t even consider buying me, approaching her lonesome table.
You might recall your teasing words. Yes, I did buy all my clothes at Target. No, my mom didn’t pick out my outfits. So what if I think polka dots and stripes can coexist? I couldn’t defend myself in that moment, and you knew that. Did you understand what your words meant?
You did this for weeks. Remember when you mocked my “dating pool?” As if boys who played the tuba were, by nature, any less attractive than your baseball beauty of a boy-toy; that somehow my brains made me unattractive. As if the middle school caste system was stronger than the human conscience.
I want you to know that, although you may have forgotten me, you lingered in my mind for many years. I used to love ballet class until you joined in, and reminded me of the sting I felt as you remarked on my shape. I was far too “plump,” remember? I saw you with your group numerous times at the grocery store, and I worried that the whole place was judging the wash of my jeans. I only dated people I thought I deserved, and sometimes those weren’t the healthiest relationships. It took me five years to wear a bikini again.
What I really want to tell you is that I’m still dating the local high school football star. Nobody cared that the only state ring I’ll ever have was for orchestra. Not a single soul questioned compatibility due to activities, or build or economic status. See, when people grow up they stop measuring human value by subjective and irrelevant information.
I am currently a rising sophomore at a nationally ranked university, but sometimes I wear sweatpants to class. It doesn’t really matter what clothes I have on my body because I’m still absorbing the lesson of the day.
Maturing means understanding the value of a person. A nasty human could drench themselves in gold and still be a nasty. Riches and sex appeal can only fulfill so much. It took me a very long time to see this in myself, but now I understand that your attacks were caused by more than just me.
I hope, with all my heart, you have learned this too. Perhaps now you can see the beauty in every person, including their quirks and oddities. My only wish is that you raise your children, and the children around you, to value uniqueness and diversity. You were part of the problem many years ago, but we can now be part of the solution together.
Wishing you well,