I Was Bullied: Part One – A Recollection by Emily FataEmily Fata August 13th, 2016 Personal Story
Written by: Emily Fata
It began when I was just five years old – that was the first time that I became self-conscious about the way I looked. In a class filled with girls predominantly sporting their hair in short bobs, mine nearly fell to my waist. This was not a good thing in a school where the children seemed engrained in expecting uniformity and a singular look. That was the same year I was called fat by a classmate for the first time as well, despite being slim and tall. These are just little jabs that continue throughout your school years.
The following year I began first grade and begged my mother to let me lop off my hair, envying the girls who seemingly were never bothered simply because their hair fell above their shoulders. “Maybe,” I thought, “the girls will stop making fun of me if I get the same haircut as them.” My mom finally conceded and I chopped off my hair. It didn’t suit my face at all, but the girls relented for a while. Until a specific shoe brand came into style and I didn’t have it as soon as they did.
It seemed like it was only overnight, and every kid in my class were sporting the same pair of over priced high-end running shoes. As a young child in elementary school, I certainly didn’t have the money to buy these shoes myself, and I felt horrible to ask my parents to buy me such an unnecessary luxury; after all, I had a whole bunch of perfectly good shoes, many of which were still new. However, it wasn’t about having just any new shoes, it was about having these particular new shoes. I waited months to ask my parents to get them for me, until right before my birthday, trying to ignore the kids who mocked me for not owning those shoes. For the weeks leading up, I continuously told my ‘friends’ about how I would soon be getting them each time they made a snide comment the absence of them.
When I finally got the shoes, I slid them onto my feet feeling like I was the coolest kid in the world. More than that, I was flooded with relief that my classmates would finally stop mocking me for what I didn’t have. When I came to school the following day, not one person commented on my new shoes. No one said they liked them. No one said how cool they were. No one even acknowledged that I had even got the new shoes.
In that very same year, a new brand of clothing became all the rage; skintight yoga pants and little sweaters of the same material to match. I knew the routine, that I would have to tolerate the relentless bullying from my peers until I too, had the new clothing line. I asked my parents for the ensemble when Christmas rolled around. My mom agreed to buy me the $150+ outfit, as long as I was okay with having the looser tracksuit version (reasonably negotiating that the form-fitting version was not appropriate for a young child). When I came back from the winter break wearing my new outfit on the very first day, I waited for someone to acknowledge it. No one said a word.
Confused as to why people didn’t seem to care, I brought up my new clothing in conversation with one of my closest friends, hoping she would at least give me a compliment on them. All I got was a shrug when she answered, “I bet it’s a knock-off version. It doesn’t even look real.” That’s when I realized that nothing I did, nothing I bought, would satisfy my peers. They would always find something to criticize me about.
The following years in that elementary school were torture. I was bullied for everything and anything, and I came home crying more often than not. Every other weekend, when I would go to my dad’s house to visit him, I’d cry about how much I hated my school, how I thought nothing was ever going to change and I would always feel like I never had any true friends. Each of those weekends, he’d take me upstairs to a quiet space and let me get everything off of my chest, then reassure me that things would get better. At the time, I’ll admit that I hardly ever took much of that to heart; the more I was told this however, the more I gradually came to believe it.
Still, the bullying escalated in those years to the point where I was pleading with my parents to let me transfer schools. For months and months I asked, until my mom finally agreed to take me to sign up for the elementary school a few blocks away for sixth grade. In my last day of grade five, I was so relieved to tell everyone that I was leaving the school, never specifying where I was transferring to. All I could think was “good riddance!”
A few days into summer vacation, I went to the new school to register and the secretary from my original school happened to be doing some clerical work at the new one I wanted to transfer to. Of course, she had asked me why I wanted to move and I explained it all to her, trying to hold back tears. I had known her since I had first started kindergarten as a four-year-old, and trusted her with the reason I wanted to move. It was then that she repeated what the other adults in my life had told me time and time again – that bullying occurs in all schools and I can’t expect to escape bullying all together simply by transferring. Truly, switching schools doesn’t solve the problem. I needed to become more proactive in defending and sticking up for myself. With this in mind, I decided to try out my school for another year.
My final year at that elementary school was easier, as I now began pushing back against people who not only bullied me, but other people as well. I had always told bullies that they weren’t being nice when I saw them picking on my peers, but this was the year that I was persistent with it. I never really realized that other people besides myself were being picked on, but I finally began to see it happening. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. By the end of the year, I had found out that I was moving to a new city and would consequently have to move schools; I had mixed feelings about a new school this time around.
Grade seven was my first year at the new school and it was kind of difficult, as I didn’t know anyone and had trouble socializing with a new group of kids. In fact, I only had one friend for the majority of that year, and she routinely thought it was funny to kick and punch me. I often came home covered in bruises, sore to let my legs or arms touch anything, but I continued to hang out with her because she was my only friend. It wasn’t until I started talking to more of my classmates and making more friends that I finally lashed out on the ‘friend’ who had been physically hurting me for so long. I remember all of the pent up rage I felt toward her as I started screaming at her and even throwing a kick at her shin (I felt so horrible about that after, despite the fact that it was maybe a little bit warranted).
My grade eight year passed by quietly and when I found out I was moving again, this time two hours away from where my then-current friends were, I was devastated. I spent my summer in the new house pent up in my room feeling sad for myself while texting my friends from my old school. When high school finally started, I was nervous to begin in a place where I knew nobody, but my parents reminded me that I had transitioned well during the previous move and I would do so again this time.
I have to say that they were right. All four years of my secondary school education went by with little disturbance and bullying. I made many friends very quickly and over the years, figured out whom I clicked best with and kept them in my life. Even now, there are a handful of those friends I still keep in contact with, including one of my very best friends. However, there is a specific bullying instance in high school that sticks out for me, one that I will never forget. To read about that, click here.