No surprises, I was bullied at school. It wasn’t the type where the big bully boy throws your bag on the ground and punches you in the stomach like in the movies. It was more the type where the ‘strong’ (read: insecure) and ‘bossy’ (read: bullied herself at home) girl was mean and deliberately destabilising to my emotional wellbeing. I was an easy target: the child of divorced parents; smaller than the other kids; cute faced and quiet, and the teacher’s pet.
Here’s how it would go. Edith would decide which Abba song we were going to perform as a group around the side of the school building, where the teachers couldn’t see. When I asked to do a different song she would tell me that I was wrong. We’d start practice, and it was my favourite thing to do so I’d be so happy for a second dancing and singing Abba songs imaging I was Frida. She would tell me that I was doing it wrong. I’d try harder. She’d tell me I was hopeless at it and tell me to go away. At this point I would walk quietly across the playground to the other side, sit down on a cold metal seat and cry my eyes out.
This story played out in various ways over the years but I only remember this one, or maybe two other versions in detail.
Some days, if I was lucky, my hero and the teacher who was essentially my surrogate Dad would be on playground duty. He would find me and sit with me, hold my hand and let me cry. Then he’d march me back over to my friends, tell Edith off for being nasty and insist she include me.
I’m in my 40s now, and even though I have experienced a measure of success and overcome various hefty obstacles to become a mother of my own three children, yesterday I was reminded that the little girl being pushed around as a child is still in me.
Here’s how it goes these days. I meet a woman who on some sub-conscious level reminds me of Edith. I feel inexplicably compelled to befriend her. More than likely she is a bit nasty at some point and it hurts my feelings. I search my soul for what I’ve done to deserve it, then I try harder to be her friend. The cycle repeats.
At some point I inevitably question why the hell the friendship of a person I don’t actually like is so important. And how is it that in every other area of my…