Inappropriate, hurtful, and nasty anonymous messages have become a huge problem, with 70 percent of young people between 13 and 22 reporting having been cyberbullied — most of which is done anonymously. Cyberbullying has been a problem since the internet became accessible to the average household, but with the constraints of slow dial-up and the cost of a pay-per-minute phone bill, it wasn't as big of a problem back then as it is now.
But that didn't mean it was impossible to send an anonymous message. I know because I sent one myself.
I sent it the old-fashioned way, I wrote something horrible on a piece of paper. It wasn't even writing paper — it was a piece of toilet paper. I was young, selfish, bored, and confused, so out of some weird curiosity and maybe even sadism, I got up from my seat during class, went into the bathroom, and pulled out a pen. I wrote the note and placed it on top of the toilet tank, and I went back to class.
Though I can't remember exactly what went into my note, I recall it was along the lines of "Dear Alison*, I want to have sex with you and put my face between your legs. From David*."
Alison was a good friend. We never got into big fights, and it was all about playing tag and hopscotch in the playground. I wasn't fond of David — he was pretty cheeky to me and got intro trouble constantly — but he wasn't an enemy of mine.
I'm still unsure why I wrote the note, though I think it might be because I was at that age where I'd just begun to learn about sex, swearing, and generally grown-up things. Though my memory is very fuzzy, I do know that I had recently gotten into trouble for saying the F word over and over during a race; I had watched Four Weddings and a Funeral and thought their use of the word was cool.
Maybe I wanted Alison to talk to me about the note so she could explain what it meant to want to have sex with someone — not that she'd even know — or maybe I just wanted some drama. And I definitely got drama.
After another student found the note and brought it back to the classroom, fear engulfed me. I thought I was done for. After much talk of shameful words and inappropriate this-and-that, the teacher declared, looking straight at David, that if the real author of the note didn't come forward, we'd all be punished.
Though it was obvious she didn't believe David's cries of innocence, the teacher gave everyone in the class a handwriting test. We were asked to write their names on a swatch of toilet paper. Even though they saw my handwriting every day, I exaggerated my handwriting and even ripped the paper with each letter to make it look like I found it too difficult to write on.
With my manipulated test and the fact that I was kind of a teacher's pet, no one ever suspected me. Hell, I wouldn't have suspected me — this was the weirdest, meanest thing I'd ever done. But this kind of thinking let me get away with it, and I got two innocent kids into trouble.
I remember so clearly lining up for lunch and seeing the two of them walk single file out of the head teacher's office, both crying their eyes out and looking more confused than I'd ever seen them. Neither of them were in the lunch hall with the rest of us.
Alison was crying because the note was creepy and she had no idea where it came from, but I also found out that she was actually being punished for it — which didn't make any sense. Punishing the author, or at least explaining to them what it meant and why it was inappropriate, would make sense — but why punish Alison?
I feel hypocritical in criticizing the school for how they handled the situation, since I caused it and never once owned up to it. I'll always be deeply ashamed of what I did, how I did it, and how I never made amends for it. Sure, I was just a kid, learning about right and wrong, but that's no excuse, and I wish I had at least confessed and took the punishment that Alison and David took. I haven't done anything like that since, but it still gnaws away at me.
Sex isn't a sick and creepy thing, and it makes sense for kids to be curious and confused about it, but in my note, I used it as an attack. I wasn't angry at either of them, so it still puzzles me to why I did what I did — maybe I'll never truly know. But at least I quickly found out that it was wrong to send such messages.
The fact that I learned from the experience may have helped in the sense that I never did it again to anybody else, but it didn't help Alison and David, or the kid that found the note. I don't need forgiveness; I just hope that the memory doesn't affect them anymore.
Still, my one and only instance of sending a nasty anonymous note serves as a lesson: Words are dangerous. They have the power to wreck friendships, to emotionally scar, and to get people into trouble that they really don't deserve. So if you ever feel inclined to anonymously bully or harass someone, regardless of your age, take it from me: Nothing good will come out of writing that message.