Entangled Teen, as part of the international #OneVoice Against Bullying campaign, asked me to write a Dear Teen Me letter on the subject of, well, you guessed it, bullying. If you are not familiar with Dear Teen Me, it’s a website / project where authors write letters to their teen selves, discussing some of the hardships they faced growing up, sharing with readers some of their painful life moments in hopes that they can help readers through their own difficult times.
This post was, by far, one of the most difficult things I ever had to write. I hope you take some meaning from it….
Dear Teen Tiffany,
The true horror of discovering the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you,” is a pile of crap designed by bullies who try to excuse their caveman-like behavior is pretty much the hardest of life’s many, many painful lessons. Words lead to war, peace, love, hate, so, of course, they have the power to hurt. They have the power to do a great many things. Duh.
You’ve already had it rough. You’ve always remembered the names of the two boys who made elementary and middle school hell, boys who tormented you because your teeth were just too big. You still get uneasy when you reflect back on the time when Eric from elementary school called you a bucked tooth beaver in line at the grocery store, jutting out his upper row of teeth and making his eyes go big, leering at you with his air of superiority (you wondering how someone so young could be filled with so much hate)…right in front of your mom. Your mother, who you can still count on one hand the number of times you’ve heard her raise her voice, berates the child and his mother (who stood by while her son belittled you, saying nothing). And you aren’t angry at the boy or your mother but yourself. All you can feel is like you embarrassed your mother. Somehow, it’s your fault. Or the time, the same boy and two girls, who were supposed to be your friends, invited you to a birthday party only to make you stand in the middle of the circle, calling you names. Having to call your parents to come pick you up. The shame returning.
You moved. You thought things were going to be different. And at first, they were. Until Brady the Bold starting in on you. The same jokes. The same leers…as if him and Eric went to the same finishing school for assholes. You try to build a shield (it’s not your first time fighting the battle), but his words injure you. You win Best Personality in the 5th grade Superlatives. Instead of enjoying the fact that your peers like you, love hanging around you, all you can think of is that old truth…well at least she has a good personality. He had to power to ruin that moment for you and he didn’t even have to say a word. Brady the Bold continues to bully you in 6th and 7th grade. He harasses you in the hallway. And you don’t tell anyone. Not your friends. Not your parents. Not your teachers. Because somehow, this is your fault. This is your shame. And you can’t bear to see it reflected on your mother’s face. Not even for a second.
High school’s been better for you. Brady has disappeared. Maybe he moved, or maybe he fell away when you took the honors and AP route. Somehow, there isn’t an AP course on being a complete dick, so he probably stuck to the remedial courses. And as you look back on those moments, it’s alright to feel angry. You don’t have to accept it under some guise that bullies are probably just insecure. You don’t have to forgive cause it’s the right thing to do. It’s not. It never will be. And you won’t ever stand for it again. You’re going to do great things, kid. You’re gonna be a kickass teacher. President of your Sorority. Travel the world. Write books..as in more than one. You’re going to fall in love and be loved…more than once. And you’re going to keep that anger. Because that anger drives you. It makes you. You won’t let anyone, ANYONE, treat you like that again. You don’t have to forgive and you, certainly, don’t have to forget. Because, Eric and Brady, probably have. They’re kind of dickheads like that.
Not you. You’ll be the voice for those who feel embarrassed to speak out. You’ll let them know, they’re not alone. They never have been.
I pledge to take a stand against bullying each and every day. #OneVoice