I was the target of frequent bullying in school when I was younger. There were a couple of things that made me an easy target – I lived in the big “dream house” on the hill, so not only was I physically separated from everyone else in my school, but I was perceived as the “rich girl,” which didn’t help the situation. I also had a big mouth – I wasn’t shy about talking OR about expressing my opinions and that got me into trouble on more than one occasion. Finally, I had a huge problem with my own self – I never felt I was worthy or good enough to be loved and accepted – so I believed it when others felt the same.
I was lucky, because I had two close friends who were always there for me, through thick or thin – however, they were often the targets of bullies as well. When we moved onto Junior High, we suddenly were in a different environment. Instead of the same classmates we had been with for years, there were all sorts of new people from other elementary schools. We weren’t any more popular than we had been before – but now we weren’t at the bottom of the heap. There were others who were clearly lower on the food chain – and one of these was a boy named Les.
Les was a socially awkward boy who was unfortunately overweight, with greasy black hair and horrible acne. I’m sure that he must have had a learning disability, as didn’t speak much and, when he did, it was laborious and slow. He had no friends and he must have been the target of bullies at his elementary school, because he attempted to keep his distance from others. My friends and I, jubilant over the fact that we were no longer prime targets, began to feel superior to those like Les – and we began to pick on him as others had picked on us – and even worse.
As an adult, I cringe when I think about our behavior and I find it difficult to write about, even now. We would corner Les in deserted halls and taunt him mercilessly, calling him names, insulting his looks and clothes, and questioning his intelligence. It didn’t stop there – we would also hit him and kick him, literally adding injury to insult. When Les saw us coming, he would stop and change directions in an attempt to avoid us, but we would follow until he would give up as we surrounded him. He would seem to shrink down into himself, never making eye contact as we persecuted him.
I am so deeply ashamed of the way we treated Les. One of my friends, who was involved in this behavior, died at a relatively young age of cancer. She mentioned to me before she passed that our bullying of Les was her main regret in life. As she stayed in our hometown after high school, she actually tried to find him to apologize, but he seemed to have disappeared.
I know that Les will probably never read this post – but I hope that he found happiness in life and that the actions of people like me did not scar him so much that he was not able to love or trust. I wish he knew that I understand a bit what he must have been going through and that I was the stupid one to think that I could improve my own situation by making someone else’s life so much worse. I ache that I can’t apologize in person or go back in time and stand up for this boy who could not stand up for himself. I just hope I can honor Les by being strong enough to stand up to bullies and bullshit when they are abusing others – even if that other is me.