Get Over Being Bullied!
Or how a mother has hard time to accept that her daughter did something bad
By Vanessa Frances
“Get over it,” she spat in my face, her bare feet soiled by the mud of the soccer field, narrowed eyes like daggers against my chest.
Thunder rumbled in the distance like drums, rolling across a crackling rain-splattered afternoon, as conflict and controversy boiled in my veins. A year of pent-up frustration and silence was coming to bear, and for the first time, I didn’t have the strength to just be quiet.
The sky was becoming dark and cloudy, but it was my disquiet that was the real oncoming storm.
I am not an innocent person. I have made a variety of mistakes in my life, many for which I will never be able to apologize enough, many I will never be able to erase from my own history. I have hurt people. I have offended others. I have been part of situations that have made me one of a core cast of players whose actions are discussed daily in the common routine of gossip and rumor.
I have not been perfect, because the reality is: no one is.
My greatest fault is my catharsis of writing has often gotten me into trouble with those that do not agree with my opinion — and, hence, will fire back when something does not go their way.
That incident on the soccer field? That was the time a woman confronted me about the fact that I’d written about her daughter’s bullying behaviors in a narrative account of a chapter in my own life. Though no names were used, the article found its way to the school, and the girls were all suspended because of their actions as depicted in the article. All this came after the bullying had already reached a schoolwide level, to a point where some staff members had become unknowingly involved in the situation.
I know deep down that the article was not the reason the school took action: it was more so because they were trying to cover their own asses in case my parents decided to take legal action. Needless to say, though, this woman decided to take matters into her own hands when she finally met me in person.
I was, after all, the “reason her daughter had gotten suspended” — though this wasn’t really true.
The truth was that her daughter had gotten suspended because of her own actions, and because of her association with the “leader” of the group at my high school whose members had dedicated themselves to persecuting me. Her daughter had gotten suspended because of evidence against her that was discovered on a public social media platform — evidence depicting her and her friends finding ways to make my existence into a joke to share with her friends and followers. Her daughter had gotten suspended because, although her mother said she wasn’t involved in the final incident that brought the bullying situation to a head, she had been part of the campaign up until that point.
And now it was supposed to be my job to “get over it.”
“You could’ve ruined her life! I was about to sue your ass until the school said it wouldn’t appear on her permanent record.”
I stood there while she said this, trying to let her words roll off my shoulders. But something about them stuck. Her belief was that I should just “get over” being bullied and attacked for a whole year, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that proved this had occurred, even though she was going to sue me because her daughter had gotten in trouble due to my reporting it. It was my fault that I hadn’t been the “bigger person” and gotten over something that had been going on for over a year — all while everyone had stood by, watching it happen. In her eyes, it was simple: when I as a writer finally became brave enough to document the story in the best medium I could think of, I was at fault.
As a society, we’ve come to accept that everyone in society has a different opinion, a different story, and a different viewpoint. And while that’s a valuable understanding ot have, this conviction that every opinion is equally righteous can hinder people in a given situation from seeing what it is like on the other side of their predicament.
Now, this woman has no idea the extent to which the bullying occurred, either online or in the school itself: she simply has the information that her daughter told her and nothing else. And I’m not saying I know everything — I know that it can be hard to watch your child get suspended, especially when you believe that she didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not saying that she didn’t have the right to approach me in a public place and shout her opinion at me loud enough for the rest of the park to hear. I’m not saying that she doesn’t have the right to be upset or angry. I’m saying that she has the right to hold onto her opinion and feelings about the situation, but so do I.
And as we stood on that soccer field, as I listened to her rant and rave about how awful and nasty I was, I realized that there was nothing I could do to change her mind in that moment, and there was nothing she could do to change mine. There is no magic button one can press to erase those old feelings or memories of eating in the library to hide from those who are talking about you behind your back, calling you a “slut” or “bitch” in the hallway, or organizing students and even teachers to humiliate and isolate you — just because you spoke your mind about something that you believed in.
That is something that I will not just “get over.” That’s a memory I’m going to hang onto, and with all my power I will use the lessons it taught me to make this world better and safer — to make this a world in which kids are allowed to have a voice without fearing that they’re going to be sued or attacked for doing so. The moment that our society decides that any voice of opposition should be completely shut down because you don’t like what they have to say is the moment we become blindsided to making any progress in this world.
We as individuals get to decide every day what we want to hold onto and what we let go of. It is what we choose to imbue with significance that becomes significant, and I know that my experience of being bullied and outcast could be significant in one of two ways: it could destroy me, or it could make me stronger than I am now. And this woman’s fixation with the idea that her daughter was wrongly accused and “cyberstalked for evidence” could go one of two ways: she could ruin my life for embarrassing her daughter, or she could allow her daughter to take it as a lesson in terms of how she ought to treat other people.
That woman made her choice.
And I was allowed to make mine.
I stood my ground, smiling back. “Well, that’s your opinion. I’m sorry it turned out the way that it did.”
She looked at me, her eyes narrowing, face growing more solemn. “Wipe that smug smile off your face.”