Down on the highway, Highway 54,
Becky let a big one and she shot me out the door.
Wheels couldn't stand it, engine fell apart
All because of Becky's super-duper sonic fart.
I don't remember where the song came from. I learned it from some other little kid in first grade. And I don't remember what it was about Becky that made her the target of our teasing. I have a vague recollection that she looked something like a Mrs. Beasely doll; or perhaps she just had one, as many little girls at the time did. She may have been "slow", as people said back then, though I don't believe she was mentally retarded. She was a little chubby.
Whatever it was, we were six years old, and we picked on her. I was never the ringleader, but I certainly did my share, and being a smartass and good with composing doggerel, I contributed mean little rhymes.
It was too long ago; I don't remember if I ever felt guilty about teasing Becky. I think I did, but that may just be my adult guilt trying to rewrite the script so I can feel a little better about myself. I do know that I have thought about her over the years, wished I could take back those ugly words and that meanness.
In middle school, the victim of choice was Jackie --- who, ironically, was also a sometime friend. She was an overweight girl who lived in my neighborhood, and she was perfectly nice --- perhaps a little overly enamoured of teen fan magazines and teen stars like Lief Garretson. (Yeah, who)? People mainly made fun of Jackie because of her weight, and while I don't remember making any direct attacks on her myself, I certainly laughed at her behind her back, made jokes, and through my complicity encouraged other people to pick on her.
In high school, it was Gina. Gina was poor, not very bright, and had tiny feet, I mean really tiny. We called her Bird Feet Gina, though I don't recall doing it to her face. Nor do I recall any direct bullying, at least not from my group of friends. We sniggered at her behind her back, but we also felt sorry for her. Still, I am sure that in some way I contributed to some misery for her in high school.
I remember each of these girls. I remember my part in behaving cruelly to them, and I am sorry for it. I hope that their school years weren't miserable and that they are happy, strong people now. I don't consider myself to be a mean person, but I have my share of meanness in me. Even as an adult, I have partaken in some pack behavior (internet bulletin boards in particular encourage this) of which I am not proud. It's in all of us.
Ironically, I was teased and bullied, especially in middle school and parts of high school. I was considered fat by the time I got to middle school, and I believed it at the time, although a review of photographic evidence reveals that I simply matured earlier than other girls. I was in a C-cup before high school, and had the hips to match. The athletic girls and cheerleaders didn't like me for some reason, and they always gave me a hard time. I didn't have the right kind of clothing or the right haircut. I didn't live in the right part of town. But I did have friends, and I was smarter than most of those girls, and I wasn't afraid to fight back. The only time it was ever really a problem was when they ganged up on me.
I was in band, and played the oboe, and I was always first chair. One day I had a challenge for my chair, and Andrea, one of the jock girls, took my oboe. I was frantic; this was a very expensive instrument and I knew my parents would be furious if I'd lost it. I looked everywhere and finally I just went to the principal's office and reported that Andrea had taken it. She had hidden it in the girls bathroom, and she and her gang thought this was a fine joke. I don't remember her getting in trouble for it. I do remember that I lost the challenge, which was the worst thing of all for me.
I also had trouble from two girls in the marching band --- they were upperclassmen and liked to harass me at every turn. Kelly and Lisa. They were good friends and often ganged up on me. They were also pretty trashy, and I remember the day I took my power back. I don't remember what they did to provoke me that day; it might just have been that I was tired of putting up with them. But I turned to Kelly and said, "You can say whatever you want to me now. Two years after we graduate high school, I'll be in college and you'll be living in a trailer park somewhere, having your third or fourth abortion." That apparently shocked her so much that she more or less left me alone after that, and frankly, it's probably what actually happened.
I don't know what makes us as a race so mean. Sadly, it's probably the same thing that gives us strength and the ability to perservere. I do know that, whatever you're going through, living well is the best revenge. I also know that, as an adult, one of my greatest regrets in life is my own past meanness. Maybe thinking about that from time to time will help me be a better, more compassionate person the next time my own demon of cruelty rears its ugly head.