Whoever coined the phrase sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me clearly was never insulted, was delusional, or had superhuman thick skin. While I remember that kidney stones were the most physically painful experience of my life — I seriously thought I was dying — I can’t recollect the exact pain. But the times when someone has said something mean to me? That’s etched in my memory forever.
That Cynking Feeling’s recent post about being ridiculed for her hair got me thinking about the times I’ve been made fun of or insulted. There is one gem in particular that stands out.
Freshman year of high school, I didn’t know anyone. My parents sent me to a small Catholic school while all of my grammar school friends went to the more expensive, more popular schools that came with built-in social circles because half of our eighth grade class went to one, and half went to the other. I, on the other hand, had to start from scratch, which is beyond difficult for someone as socially anxious as myself. Luckily a nice girl named Sabrina latched onto me the first day and we became fast friends.
One day we were sitting in the gym for an assembly and we were chatting on the bleachers before it really started. Some of the “popular” girls (I use the term loosely as there were less than 100 kids in our entire class, so everyone was popular if you think about it) were sitting to my right. I felt a tap on my shoulder, so I turned around and one of the girls was smiling at me. She said to me, “My friend wants to sit here, and since you’re alone, can you move?”
I was shocked. I mean, I had been in the middle of a conversation with someone when she interrupted me, not to mention the empty seats right below us. Confused, I gave her a weird look and told her that no, I could not move because I was sitting with my friend. Her mouth fell open for a second and then, without taking her eyes off of mine, her mouth turned into a wicked smile and she said to her friend, “Just sit here and squish her. She doesn’t matter anyway.”
Now, I knew then and I know now that this girl’s opinion was the only thing that didn’t matter, but I’d be lying if I said her words didn’t hurt. This incident happened FIFTEEN years ago and I still remember it clearly — not just what she said, but how it made me feel. I felt like garbage. Dirty, stinky garbage. I couldn’t understand how someone could possibly be SO cold and awful. It was straight out of Mean Girls (despite the fact that the movie hadn’t even come out yet). I came from a close-knit class of 22 kids who were all friends with each other, and the fact that someone could say something like this, not just to me but to anyone, blew my mind.
It doesn’t help that this person is friends with my brother-in-law and his wife. That means that any time there is a kid’s party on that side of the family, guess who’s there? Her, her husband, and their little minions. I’d love to say that I’m a mature adult and that the past is in the past, but that would be a bold-faced lie. I ignore her entire family and pretend they don’t exist because the 14-year-old in my head reminds me that she doesn’t matter anyway.