You know, I’ve been rude.
And it’s time I apologize. I’m sorry.
I never thanked all the bullies at my high school for the wisdom they unknowingly passed on to me through their years of emotional and physical abuse. I never expressed gratitude for the lessons I was lucky enough to learn early on in life.
So, if you were one of the people who hurt me because you were probably so cruelly abused and hurt yourself, and you’ve been waiting for a nod of recognition, here goes.
To the little boy down the street who was friends with me when my mother was around, but refused to sit in a chair I sat in at school, exclaiming, “I won’t touch it if fatty sat there!”, thank you. Not only did you teach me that the separation between “pretty” and “ugly” starts early, but you taught me to pick my friends as carefully as one balances on a tight-rope wire. You taught me to beware of people’s masks, and that some are really good at hiding their true selves behind that mask.
To the boy I had a crush on who wouldn’t clap for me when I got a music award in the seventh grade because I was simply, “Amanda Bruce”: thank you. You taught me compassion. Why? You were nice to me when it was just you and me at our lockers, but ignored me when you were around your friends. In the end, I felt bad for you, because it was probably really hard to be a nice, popular kid who felt pressured by his friends to do what they did.
To the girl who called me “Turtle” since I appeared slow to her because of my size, I bow in gratitude. First of all, you made me hyperaware of my size and lack of coordination. I bought into the belief that I couldn’t do anything athletically for a very long time. So much so that I developed an eating disorder because I was ashamed of my body’s appearance and what it couldn’t do. And then, years later, I would have to go into treatment and take a very hard, long look at myself and those beliefs. It would take awhile, but I would then realize they were bullshit. I would start to run. I would start to love it. And finally, I would run for not what my body looked like, but for my internal sense of peace.
There’s a second part of my thanks to you, Turtle girl: thank you for calling me “a slut” and “too fat to wear leggings” at a school dance. That night, I came home from the dance and cried. My mother cried too, for a long time, because her baby had a horrible time at one of her first junior high school dances. That night, the bond between my mother and I became stronger than ever. I wonder if you ever had a night like that with your mother. I’m grateful I did. And you know what? I hate the word SLUT because of you. I won’t call another female it because it’s an incorrect, stereotyped, misogynistic word. Thank you for inspiring the power of feminism in me.
To the boy who invaded my boundaries and tried to touch my leg repeatedly in music class: many thanks. Because you viewed me as beneath you due to my weight, you felt you could attempt to harass me. And you did, then. But now? My boundaries are rock-solid. They were too solid for awhile, and I didn’t let many people in. But now people can’t take advantage of me even when I share things like this. Why? Because I know how to take care of myself and defend myself. I have turned the ugliness into beauty, and into love, and no one can take advantage of that.
To the adults in my life who didn’t stop the bullying when it happened: I am grateful. Because of you, I am the fiercest mama lion to my beautiful daughter. You showed me exactly how not to be around children who are victimized. When you forced me to stand up to eat lunch because you wouldn’t consequence the kids who wouldn’t let me sit with them on a field trip, you saved another kid from being bullied on the playground twentyish years later. Because even on a nannying job in grad school, I kept my eye out for the kid on the playground who wasn’t treated fairly. And you’ve also taught me to take a step back and let my daughter defend herself when she needs to. You’ve taught me to not be an over-involved parent who screws up her child.
You see, I’ve spent years feeling tortured, controlled, and dominated by these memories. Until I realized that a whole lot of love can emerge from hate, if we have the courage to stop and lead an examined life.
So on this Spirit Day, where we raise awareness for bullying, I salute you, bullies. I acknowledge what you’ve been through and have compassion for it. I can’t possibly understand the depths of your life experience.
I will, however, see your hate, and raise you with understanding and change.