I Was Bullied! As a Kid, and Also Last Night

I was "whore-coughed" by a group of teen girls last night. It...gets better?

Dec 8, 2011 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

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You remember how cool and great-looking I was in school? You might be suprised to learn that my fellow students didn't find it as endearing and hysterical as you guys seem to. In fact, they hated my freaking guts.

My earliest memories are of things like having my glasses thrown over the playground fence by Bryan "If  you were on Facebook I would link that shit" Sherwood, being pelted with half-empty sodas on my walk home, and having "You have a crush on Emily"  become synoymous with really really mean go-to insult around my elementary school.

We've started to talk about some of this stuff in therapy lately. I always dismissed it as "kids are cruel, everyone gets bullied," but its beginning to occur to me that maybe everyone wasn't systematically tortured for a decade. Also, that learning to wrap yourself up in a cocoon of feigned deafness to daily jabs and insults could possibly have a lasting effect.

There was no safe space for me as a child. At school, I was a pariah, my walk home was an obstacle course of shouted insults and threats as well as the aforementioned thrown objects, and my neighborhood was full of the same kids who tormented me at school.

I had a few equally lame friends, but for the most part, I spent my time alone in my house watching syndicated sitcoms and eating melted cheese off plates and generally growing weirder and weirder in the privacy of my own head.

Yes, between the lack of sexual boundaries, the bullying, the poor body image, and the healthy dose of religious shame, my childhood was a perfect storm designed to create a needy, oversharing blogger. This is basically my origin story, if being attention-seeking was a superpower. 

 And you know what? In a way, I sort of AM an It Gets Better video. I mean, it got better! Way better for me than for a lot of those kids who were so cruel to me. But also, I am still kind of scared of teenagers.

Let's keep it real: They're horrible. First of all, they smell. I was pressed up against one in a crowded subway car the other day and had to breathe through my mouth all the way from Brooklyn. As an older teen, when my friends and I weren't speaking super loudly in public places because we thought everything we had to say was so cool and fascinating, we were slathering ourselves in sugary-scented Bath and Bodyworks products. I thought it was self-consciousness, but in retrospect, we were probably trying to drown out that awful eau de changing body adolescents give off from every clogged pore. 

And they're just MEAN, like awkward, gangly rattlesnakes. In my obese days, my worst nightmare was an approaching group of rowdy teen boys, because I always knew they were going to say SOMETHING to me. And not, "Evening, ma'am."

The exception to the teenagers are awful axiom is my very rad little sister (as in, Big Brothers Big Sisters), who will be turning 16 this month and for some reason still wants to hang around me sometimes. She invited me to Exhibition Night at her Professional Arts charter school last night, where I got to see an array of teens do awesome stuff like rap, dance, do capoeira, debate Occupy Wall Street (!), sing, perform original monologues about rape while bringing themselves to actual tears, etc. It was incredibly awesome. 

In fact, I got sort of misty-eyed and lofty-headed about how different the whole thing was from my school experience -- upon entry, I was asked by a charming teen boy if I believed all kids should have a safe space in school regardless of sexual orientation, then given a gay-straight alliance ribbon to wear when I responded in the affirmative. Most of the teachers and lots of the students wore the ribbons, and nobody was getting beat up or fag-bashed that I could see, so it was already a Wonderland compared to my Oklahoma high school.

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Throw in mature discussion of topics like rape and race, multiple compliment on my tattoos, and art about the right to "copwatch," and you almost had me, teenagers! Until a cluster of your obnoxious bretheren actually WHORE COUGHED me as I walked past them. You know, where you pretend to cough, but you're actually calling someone a whore in the cough? They did it like 5 times!

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It's funny now, but in the moment I will admit that I was not amused. I spent the first 3 whore coughs sort of blankly processing the fact that this was actually happening, then the next 2 being embarassed that this was happening in front of my little sister (who was a little ways behind me), then finally, I turned around and shot them a nasty look on the way out the door.

I considered going back and saying something, but if they'll whore-cough an adult woman at a school function, would they even have been intimidated by my attempts at sternness? I was scared, you guys! And for a minute, I was 16 again, and a loser, and nobody liked me, and I instinctually followed that old, not-that-hepful advice of "just ignore them and they'll stop." No, they will not!

But whatever! I can buy beer, my skin is flawless and I don't have to do homework ever again. Being a teenager blows, even if they don't know it yet.

Basically I just want to hear all your "a group of awful teenagers said something mean to me" stories, and also to find out if you were bullied like I was. Something tells me the xoJane community is skewed toward childhood uncoolness. Also, are people really still doing the ol' "insult cough," or were these girls outdated as well as rude?