During my senior year of high school, I finally became confident in my height (I’m 5’10”) and was not shy about showcasing my legs in cutoffs that, looking back, were probably the same size then as my 5-year-old daughter’s shorts are now. Boys began noticing me — an intoxicating change after having spent the prior year rendered essentially invisible as a Color Guard Flag Girl (let’s just say our football game uniform featured a structured, forest-green jacket with epaulettes and white nursing shoes). So I had fun. I went on dates. I kissed boys at parties. But that was it — we kissed. Maybe a little fooling around. I was a virgin when I graduated, saving myself for Eddie Vedder.
One not-so-fun result of my floppy disk-sized skirts and fondness for first base: T,* a popular, pretty girl in my grade, told everyone I was a slut. (This was before women attempted to reclaim the word.) Who knows why she made it her life’s mission to convince people I got around? Maybe she felt I had upended our school’s social caste system. Maybe I looked at her wrong in the mall. Regardless, the gasoline-like atmosphere of the teenage rumor mill ignited her story, and soon it had gone, as the kids now say, viral.
So when T’s name popped up in my Facebook Friend Request folder recently, I laughed audibly. Really? You wanna be “friends” with me now? After making my life miserable for a year? Yeah … no. You don’t get to bully me in 1994 and then “like” photos of my kids in 2017. True, who we are at age 16 isn’t necessarily who we are at age 41, and I know that forgiveness is good for the heart and all, but something about hitting “Ignore” just felt so satisfying. I don’t care if you changed your profile pic to an “I Stand With France” sign or if you’re volunteering for your third-grader’s school — you might be a good person now, but you were crappy back then, so buh-bye.
No former tormentors have attempted to friend me IRL, but I’d like to think that if one did, with sincerity, and asked to be my friend, I’d have the emotional strength and maturity to give them a shot. But that person — the girl who made sure I sat alone at lunch in junior high; the boy who called me a cow in fourth grade — would have some serious, Anthony Weiner-level apologizing to do, and even then, I don’t know if I’d be able to get over the hurt.
Not that I’m perfect, BTW. I remember doing something inexplicably mean in grade school to a young boy who, looking back, I now realize was likely autistic. (I told a lie that got him sent to the principal’s office.) It was totally out of character for me; I think I was trying to get some other girls to think I was cool. And you know what? All these years later, I wouldn’t blame him one bit if he thinks I’m an a-hole. I’m not, but I was, then, toward him.
Back to T … you spread hurtful rumors about me in high school. True, you might have unwittingly helped me flex my resilience muscles, but I’m not about to write you a thank-you note. You also made me cry. You don’t get to kick back and laugh with me over a glass of rosé. Your loss. I’m fun as hell.
*Name changed because I’m a nice person.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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