So, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past couple of weeks you would have heard about the so-called ‘cat-fight’ between Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP). Cattrall’s brother past away recently and SJP gave her condolences, to which Cattrall outright rejected and accused her of taking advantage of the situation, which is a big no-no in the celebrity world.
Now, it probably seems like Cattrall is making a mountain out of a molehill, but if you believe the reports, it’s been going on for quite some time.
There have been reports of inequality, exclusion and just plain old ‘Mean Girls’ behaviour whilst filming Sex And The City. So really from the sounds of it, when you examine all these news articles, Cattrall’s outburst was a long time coming.
I honestly can’t imagine having to be subjected to that type of bullying for years on end.
Yes, it is bullying.
Just because Cattrall wasn’t physically abused (to my knowledge) doesn’t mean that it is any less serious. Ever heard of the saying ‘sticks and stones might break my bones but words can never hurt me’? That’s a load of shit.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been the victim of non-physical bullying.
Here is my story:
Most of my childhood was spent in Kalgoorlie and my parents decided to move back to Perth. Once there, we moved twice and both times, I was enrolled into a new primary school. Luckily, I was really sporty and friendly, so kids were naturally drawn to me and I had no problems integrating. It wasn’t until I started at a new primary school in 1998 that things began to change.
I was put in a split class (years 4 and 5) and little did I know at the time that the teacher had sat me right next to most popular girl in the class. Let’s call her Allie*. And interestingly, we got on like a house on fire. I suppose it may have been because I was different (you know, from the ‘country’), but I found myself bringing in interesting things from home which she seemed to enjoy.
One day, I brought in this awesome drawing pad where you could create different dresses by mixing and matching selected tiles (so this day, I still think it was the greatest toy on earth) and was in the middle of showing Allie how to do it, when one of her friends said to me:
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be playing with that?”
And then she laughed. So did Allie. I was crestfallen. I wasn’t used to being spoken to like that, so I just stood there, dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. They used that to their advantage and they walked away, leaving me all alone. At that age, you tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially when you don’t understand what’s going on. You learn from what others tell you, so I believed that at 10 years of age I was too old to be playing with dress designs.
I never played with that toy again.
That was just the beginning. In the coming weeks, Allie began to distance herself from me, no matter how hard I tried to talk to her. Her friends would make small remarks at first about certain things I did like, but over time, they eventually eroded my self-confidence:
“You write weirdly.”
“You don’t have a pen licence? That’s pathetic.”
“Those shoes look like they came from a rubbish dump.”
“What’s that smell? Ew it’s you – that stinks!”
“Why are you eating that? That’s gross!” (FYI, it was a jam doughnut.)
And from there it escalated to actively ignoring me. Even simple questions like asking what day it was made them roll their eyes and turn the other way. Looking back on it, they were quite passive aggressive, even for 10 year olds. I decided to try to make friends with other people in my class, hoping that they would be nicer to me. But they wouldn’t have a bar of it. Eventually – after numerous begging attempts – managed to befriend 3 girls who were happy to hang out with me during breaks.
But it was short lived.
I remember meeting them for recess and as soon as I sat down, one of them said to me:
“I don’t think you should sit here anymore.
Naturally, I asked why, but they all went quiet. I stood my ground and sat with them anyway. In retaliation, they decided to whisper things to each other right in front of me. I got frustrated and demanded to know why they were being so horrible to me.
Yet again, none of them answered.
I couldn’t work out what was going on, so I stormed off and cried in the toilets for the remainder of recess.
Kids can be very resilient, but there is only so much they can take until they break.
My breaking point came in the form of a Monday morning, refusing to go to school. I don’t remember what was said that day, but apparently I said I felt sick with a stomach ache and that it hurt so much that I couldn’t walk. Mum didn’t buy it. Neither did my Dad. But they could tell that something was wrong.
Never underestimate a parent’s intuition.
According to them, I wasn’t myself. Well, to put it bluntly, I had changed. My parents observed my personality shift over a whole term, which I didn’t even realise had happened. I had become introverted, shy and nervous, and didn’t want to eat anything. I didn’t seem to be excited or happy about anything and my grades were suffering. It wasn’t until they were called in by my teacher that they voiced their concerns over my wellbeing. To this day, I am so grateful that I have such great parents, otherwise nothing would have changed.
After the parent-teacher interview, my teacher began to keep a closer eye on me. He must have noticed a lot of things. That I didn’t participate in class. That I sat by myself at recess and lunch. That I didn’t talk to anyone…
But not just me. He would have observed how the kids ignored me like the plague, or if they spoke to me, there were mean. And eventually, he would have pinpointed the people responsible for everything.
I was in the middle of an Italian class when my teacher called me out to have a word with me. I asked him immediately if I had done something wrong and he reassured me that everything was fine. We walked into a common room and to my surprise, Allie and her group of friends were waiting for us. My immediate reaction was to run in the other direction, but I was so shocked that I froze on the spot. I couldn’t work out what was happening, until my teacher explained that he had been aware that I was being bullied.
That was when everything suddenly began to make sense.
I was being Bullied.
B – u – l – l – i – e – d.
And I was very confused. As a 10 year-old, I thought bullying was when someone bashed you up for lunch money. And that wasn’t happening to me. My teacher explained that bullying can take many forms, and that what Allie and her friends were doing was not acceptable. He made them apologise to me right then and there.
I’m not going to lie, it was awkward.
Allie’s friends weren’t really sorry for anything. I could tell that they were only sorry because they got caught. But Allie… I could tell she was remorseful.
She admitted that what she had done was wrong and that she actually really liked hanging out with me. It wasn’t until her friends started saying things about me and spreading rumours that she decided to stop associating with me. I eventually learned that her friends were jealous that we had become so close in such a short space of time, which was why they didn’t like me. I also found out that the rumour (I didn’t even know that there had been a rumour spread about me!) about me being a lesbian was why none of the other girls in my class wanted to be friends with me.
I didn’t even know what a lesbian was, until I asked my cousin. And I still didn’t fully understand it.
Yeah, that’s how naïve and innocent I was.
Even though Allie and I made amends, I never hung out with her and her group again. We were simply ‘civil’ to each other. But things gradually improved and I found myself bouncing back to my old self. Well, not completely my whole self…
Admittedly, in high school, much to my horror I became like Allie and her friends. Maybe it was the fact that I was a teenager trying to work out this new adolescent phase, or an attempt to boost my lack of self-confidence or the fact that I was easily influenced by my friends and ‘followed the herd’ but whatever the reason, I grew into a bully.
And I regret it every single day.
I am truly sorry for all the hurt that I have caused those people. I should have known better, considering I was a victim myself. No amount of apologising will ever change their lives, which is what makes it all the more worse. I will live with this for the rest of my life.
Bullying is NOT OK. Under ANY circumstances.
Even though I was bullied a long time ago, it still stays with me. And it can manifest in different ways. I hate the thought of being left out and I have this tendency to please people so I can get them on side and like me. I over analyse what people to say to me and how they interact with me, even if it is over something trivial. I also am very reserved which can be a double-edged sword; not as sociable but I will always have something meaningful to contribute. And because I don’t speak as often, people stop to listen when I do.
I know that my experience has helped to shape the person that I am now. But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Sometimes, I wonder what type of person I would have been if I wasn’t bullied. Maybe, I’d be more confident in myself and I wouldn’t agonise over the tiniest of criticisms. Maybe I wouldn’t be afraid to step out of my comfort zone, take chances and not worry about the consequences. Or perhaps I’d be more assertive and outgoing and not second guess everything I did.
I can’t change the past, but now I live my life by the following motto:
“Treat others how you would like to be treated.”
And it’s working a treat. (Pardon the pun.)
I always wear my heart on my sleeve, but even opening up on my experience has been a challenge. To those brave of you, I ask you to share your story about bullying, and how it has shaped the person you are today.
Do you think you’d be different now if you weren’t bullied back then?
*Name changed for privacy reasons.