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Guest Post: I found my childhood bully on Facebook

Published: August 25, 2011 | Last Updated: June 23, 2022 By | 21 Replies Continue Reading
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By Barbara Greenberg, PhD, Psychologist and Teen Parenting
Expert

 

I was writing an article about
teaching kids how to deal with bullies. Well, as usual, one thought led to
another and I looked up my middle school bully on Facebook. I must admit that I
also looked up a high school bully. These were two girls who had literally made
me sick. I remember the stomachaches that used to accompany me to school during
the times that these two girls tormented me. Two very separate years but two
very similar experiences. You see, I always loved school but these two
relentless girls introduced anxiety, stress, and nausea into an equation that
had formerly consisted of learning, eagerness, and excitement about going to
school.

 

Bully #1 entered my seventh
grade year with loud concerns about whether or not I needed to be wearing a
bra. And yes, while we stood on line waiting to exit the classroom she
“whispered” her concerns to the other girls. And all this while I
stood there shaken up but pretending to be calm and collected. Well, lo and
behold, I looked up W. on Facebook and there she was. How ironic. She is in her
adulthood a teacher and one who certainly looks like she should not leave her
house without wearing her bra. Maybe I learned something from her. Perhaps it
is partly because of her that I now know how to appear calm even in the most
stressful situations.

 

And Bully #2 entered my life in
high school. She was very interested in my hair, in pulling it, that is. She
followed me around school and took every opportunity to yank my long hair. Yes,
you are correct. I found N. on Facebook with a very retro Farrah Fawcett hairdo
and a deep leathery tan. She appears to have moved from hair to skin. I don’t
know what she does but with all due respect to cosmetologists and hairdressers,
I would guess that she is somehow involved in that industry. Maybe she just
didn’t like the way my hair looked. Couldn’t she simply have suggested a
different style rather than offering up daily tugs and doses of misery?

 

Here I was faced with photos of
both of these women and all that I could think about was why didn’t they look
guilty? Did they remember how mean they were? Do they teach the children in
their lives how to behave kindly toward others? Or did they grow up to become
mean adults?

 

In case you are wondering I have
NOT friended either of these two women. Their Facebook information was public.
Even now, they let it all out-private info and all.

 

Do I sound angry? If so, it’s
because after all these years my eyes still burn when I think of these two.
There are some things that one just doesn’t forget.

 

Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder are co-authors of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual. 

 

Please tell your secret.
Have you spied on any of your former bullies? Do you still think about them?

 

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (21)

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  1. Tessa says:

    I was a very studious, skinny kid with thick glasses and bushy blond hair. From 7th-11th grade I was picked on by the same girl. My best friend was also bullied by this girl. She would call me hurtful names, trip me, hit me, and pull my hair on a daily basis. I was constantly begging to stay home from school and was especially terrified of being trapped by her in the gym locker room. This was in the early 80s and the school did nothing to help.

    When I was in the 11th grade, I arrived at school to find some of her friends crying in the hallway. Once I got to class I found out that my bully had died over the weekend. She and her boyfriend died of carbon monoxide poisoning after falling asleep in the backseat of her running car.

    This is terrible, but my best friend and I both pretended to be sad that she had died, but after school that day we both admitted that we felt enormously relieved that our bully was dead and would never bother us again. Normally, I would have been devastated to lose a classmate, but this girl made my life so miserable that I saw her death as a great stroke of luck for me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The “you’ve turned into a bully” is the weak, revolting argument trotted out when ever these topics come up. I often wonder is this thinking comes from individuals who were bullies themselves, or were accomplices of bullies in order not to be a target. The more we see bullying as stalking and not as ‘teasing’ the more bullying/stalking will be seen as a mental aberration of the bully and less as some revolting rite of passage.

    Regardless of the author’s feelings about her tormentors today, this in no way takes away from the actions of two individuals who chose to abuse her. Viewing a former bully as pathetic — precisely because so few of them actually mature into empathetic adults, and generally screw up their lives through their own behaviors — is not being a bully. What’s most disturbing to me in this whole commentary is that one of these bullies is now a teacher — someone who, for all intensive purposes, doesn’t have a critical and compassionate understanding of bullying. She could be teaching the children of the bully apologists, and I don’t want that kind of person being the one to witness a situation similar to Phoebe Prince’s.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t contact them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    ….but can you really blame her? She picked on their appearance because at one point they picked on hers. Who doesn’t want to get revenge on people who’ve hurt them?

  5. Anonymous says:

    You’re making the mistake of thinking everyone can handle things the same way you do. Newsflash: everyone is unique. Something that might not hurt you might wound someone else deeply. Nobody should be permitted to get away with bullying anyone, even if it’s only “occasional.”

    You have a really insensitive attitude. Stop justifying bullies.

  6. EagleWings says:

    I don’t like violence (or rough talk), but sadly, there are some people who don’t respond to anything but, like bullies on playgrounds, or even adult bullies in offices.

    Parents can send the wrong message by telling their kids to just remain passive and take the abuse (mine did that with me).

    Schools are also pretty bad because they also tell bullied kids to just sit there and take the bullying.

    Or else some school systems tell the bullied child, “tell a teacher about the harassment.”

    Most teachers I had did not lift a finger to stop the bullying, and kids today say that teachers don’t usually intervene, so that’s not really a solution.

    Sometimes friends (when you are a kid or an adult) won’t come to your defense if you’re being picked on because they’re afraid the bully will turn on them next.

    Being abandoned by friends like that is a very hard thing to accept.

    ——sig line——–
    post by Eagle Wings
    ~if you have an issue with me, please contact me directly via the site’s contact form, rather than leaving public complaints about me. If that’s not possible, I can make available an e-mail address. thanks~

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your experiences with bullies. Moving so often must have been really rough. And I agree with the Coughlin quote. I think standing up to bullies, including physically fightling back, sets limits and shows power. Thanks for that!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I understand that being mercilously teased is awful, but I still stand by the ocassional teasing is not something that should be considered bullying. And that we are moving into a culture that is unable to differentiate between what is normal, and pathetic kid interactions (kids need to learn that life is not fair, an that not everyone is since) , and bullying that is truly mentally destructive.
    I was also mocked and not well liked at school, I do not remember who participated, but I have moved on and realized that my kid brain may have recorded things that were not at catastrophic as I remembered. Again, this was not major bullying, but it was not fun, and I think kids should be able to deal with that.
    It is also the persons right to stand up for themselves. If you were being bullied, which I am sure you were, it is your responsibility to do something about it. And we can teach kids that lesson.

  9. EagleWings says:

    Anonymous, I agree with your steps.

    I am sorry to hear about your sons getting harassed at school, but it sounds like, thanks to your steps, they were able to take charge and overcome the bullying.

    I was bullied a lot when I was growing up. I was unfortunately taught by my mother that I should never stand up for myself.

    My mother was very concerned that I not hurt anyone else’s feelings for any reason at all, not even if it meant speaking directly, roughly, or bluntly to someone who was being abusive or mean spirited to me.

    The result is that I almost always behaved like a doormat, even into adulthood when being harassed by other adults.

    My mom also led me to believe if I was very nice to people, even abusive ones, that people would be nice to me in return, or stop being mean.

    However, based on my experience, I came to find that being nice to bullies only seemed to encourage them to bully even more.

    It’s not been until the last few years that I’ve come to realize that some people will not stop the harassment or bullying unless and until you stand up to them, which may involve verbal or physical force.

    Many bullies I’ve come across (both as a kid and as an adult) have not responded to love, peace, politeness, empathy, appeals to compassion, or common decency.

    We had to move every two to three years when I was growing up, so I had to go to schools all over the nation.

    Only one school out of the several I attended actually did anything to stop bullying.

    The teachers at the other schools I went to knew I was being bullied, or I would tell them so, and they would do nothing to help me.

    At yet other schools, the teachers and principals would blame me for the harassment (even though I was not to blame and did nothing to provoke it).

    I’ve heard bullied kids today say it has remained much the same, that schools are reluctant to get involved and help.

    I found an article not too long ago which contained this information, and it confirmed what I had come to conclude on my own earlier (Source: “Q&A With Paul Coughlin About Bully-Proofing Your Kids”):

      Unfortunately, serial bullies are not easily reached through appeals to peace, love and understanding. They listen to power, limits and consequences. They need to the the pain of continuing to abuse others is worse than the pain of giving it up.
  10. Anonymous says:

    Lingerie:

    “she should not leave her house without wearing her bra.”

    Hair:

    “I found N. on Facebook with a very retro Farrah Fawcett hairdo”

    Skin:

    “and a deep leathery tan.”

    Would you call those kind descriptions? Or are they bullying in tone?

  11. Anonymous says:

    It sounds to me like the author has moved on and can see her bullies for who they were and are. I don’t get what you are seeing here.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sorry for the lack of formatting in the above. I don’t know why it didn’t come through.

  13. Anonymous says:

    At my 15th high school reunion one of my worst bullies came up to me and apologized. I was deeply touched and thanked him. Then he apologized again, and again, and again, asking if I really forgave him. He emailed me several times after the reunion and finally I just stopped responding. It went from touching to downright creepy.

    I set up a facebook page a few years ago and was surprised that a number of girls who’d made my life miserable during periods of our childhood friended me. I’m a published author, so maybe they were just curious, but it was still strange. But really, I didn’t mind and just skim their posts. Occasionally they’re interesting and I comment.

    It took some therapy and reading the right books (Reviving Ophelia is very good on girl bullying) to heal some of the old wounds, but it was worth it.

    My two sons were also bullied when we moved to a new small town where everyone knew everyone and were standoffish to outsiders. My older son coped by ignoring the bullies and sticking with the good friends he made through a club. But that was high school.

    My poor younger son went into the mea tgrinder of 6th grade and was so bullied that he got sick and stressed and missed so much school he was almost held back, though his grades remained good. I begged and pleaded with the school to help him, but they were mired in the 50s and were no help at all. Finally I’d had enough of watching my son suffer and we established the following rules which I also shared with the unhelpful principal and teachers.

    If someone is bullying and threatening you, follow these steps as far as you need to:

    1. Tell your parents so we know what’s going on.

    2. Try communicating with the bully. If that doesn’t work–
    3. Walk away. Ignore them. If that doesn’t work–

    4. Tell a teacher. If that doesn’t work–

    5. Parental intervention– your parents talk to the school and the bully’s family. If that doesn’t work–

    6. If the bullying is really bad, with physical threats or acts, PUNCH THEM AS HARD AS YOU CAN.

    My younger son got to step six by the end of his sixth grade year. He didn’t actually punch anyone, but picked one little bugger up by his back pack and tossed him (my son’s a big guy), and took another boy up on a dare to show up for a fight after school. My son turned up. The bully didn’t. After that, things got better.

    As a kid, I finally slapped a bully who was drunk and being abusive at an 8th grade dance (yes, he was drunk which tells you something). He staggered back in surprise, and was nice to me for the rest of our school experience. So were some of the bullies who witnessed the event.

    I don’t advocate violence. As the above list shows, it’s a very last resort, but I can tell you from my own experience and my son’s, it works.

    I’ve since had occasion to talk to some former bullies. They were really ashamed of themselves and felt horrible when they realized what they’d been doing. Many of them had been bullied themselves, by kids or parents, and decided that’s where strength lay. They also told me that as a bully, they would pick on a “weaker” kid to see if they would stand up for themselves. Once they did, they weren’t any fun to torment anymore.

    Being bullied is awful. It can leave emotional scars that linger into adulthood. This doesn’t mean the person is weak; it means they suffered abuse at a very tender time in their lives. Telling a kid in crisis to toughen up and deal with it alone is abuse, too. The rash of teen suicides of bullied kids should be evidence enough of that.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I was mercilessly verbally and physically bullied in jr. high. The verbal assaults were every bit as bad, if not worse, than the occasional physical attack. Telling a child who’s being picked on continuously to “develop a strong self esteem” is useless and cruel. I was a smart, confident kid and these people reduced me to a wreck for two years, and I still carry some emotional scars, though I’ve done my best to work through them. But you don’t forget, even if you forgive.

  15. Anonymous says:

    where is any mention of lingerie, hair and skin? how was anyone turned into a bully? a formerly terrorized person was able to overcome childhood terrors and confront her attackers nonviolently. and you question her soul? you, sound like an emotional bully yourself.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, this piece indicates that the effect of the bullies was to turn their victim into a bully. You must feel really good (or at least superior) to call out two people from your past and criticize their lingerie and hair and skin. But what does that say of your own soul?

  17. Anonymous says:

    i was a police dispatcher and the first one was arrested for car burglary and under the influence of crack cocaine. yes, i went back into the lockup to say hello. it was a sweet moment in my life.
    the other went through my grocery checkout stand (prior to my law enforcement career). her check was refused. not by me, by the bank. another sweet moment.
    I was the smallest child until the 9th grade, but she stopped growing and i had gotten started. i was almost 6 inches taller than her and when she looked up at me and remembered who i was, it was specatcular. She could not get out fast enough.
    Karma make take 20 years, but it does come around.

  18. Anonymous says:

    At least, with the bullies I went to grade/middle school and high school with. I will not forget how they treated me, took me years to get over. I know I sound bitter, but I want to forget those people. One of the grade/middle school bystanders friend requested me on FB. I checked her friend list, most of the tormentors were on it, I hit “ignore” and it felt liberating. We were not friends, she never talked to me. Why be facebook friends with those who tormented me? I did look a couple of bullies up on FB, just the same, except have kids and married into money. I am surrounded by people who care about me, and I don’t think about those people anymore. Why give them the satisfaction? Just leaving things alone is the best way to show I have moved on. I don’t have anything to prove to any of those people.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Bad things happen and people do mean things, this does not make everyone a bully. If they touch you, absolutely, but saying mean things – I feel like we mix too many concepts here and have unreasonable expectations of others.
    Gossiping does not make you a bully, and making one off comments does not make you a bully. A strong self esteem should be established for kids so that they can mentally separate from silly behavior is what is needed, and teaching kids that sometimes life is not fair, and that people can be mean, but it has nothing to do with you. When it gets to calling you, emailing you, texting you, facebooking – that is real bullying.
    Also, generally, my guess is that person does not remember being a bully. So I am not so sure contacting anyone would do anything.

  20. Anonymous says:

    If it were me I would just let it go because these people would mean nothing to me today. I really do believe bullies act that way because they are lacking something and usually it’s attention from some where, or they are dealing with something they cannot handle so they take it out on others. Now there are some bullies that do it for the fun of it because they are idiots. I think alot of these bullies grow up and look back and regret treating certain people the way they did. The only reason I would reach out is if this was something you were having trouble with today and who knows they might even apologize for the way they acted. I was a new kid in school in the 4th grade and a couple of kids would throw spit balls in my hair, I still remember it today and I remember the kids and then in High School we were in the same classes and we acted like nothing never happened. I look back on it as these kids are the ones with the problem not me and I wouldn’t give them anymore of my time and energy. I just took the experience and taught my own children how not to act and that there will be people who are down right mean in life and to try and steer clear of them. Bullies in school were one thing but you will find bullies in your familes, work, they are every where:(

  21. Anonymous says:

    I am still struggling with whether or not to send W. the teacher and former bully an e mail-kind but to the point. Should I?

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