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The Exclusion Project

Updated at the Bottom

It is a snowy ice day here.  No school, but no sledding unless we aim to be decapitated by the huge chunks of ice.  Isn’t that so sad?  To finally have a day home due to the weather, but not be able to go sledding because ice is over the snow?  It’s like water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.  Are we beginning to sound like sledding freaks?

But this post is about something else.

Last week, the ChickieNob was having a shit day.  Another child had made fun of the picture she was drawing of me wearing thick, navy blue glasses (note to self: those glasses rocked.  Go try to find plastic, navy blue, square-eye frames).  And still another told her that she did a crap job of cleaning up their desk.  And another told her that she was having a playdate with someone else and the ChickieNob wasn’t invited to join them.

We went up to her office, which is what we call the rocking chair in her room (I always offer: “my office or yours?” with my office being my bed and her office being the chair), and rocked and cried.  She was really just having a shit day and it was grey outside and she was having a pity party, listing out all of the tiny slights that she perceived; all aimed directly at her heart.

When I asked her if — perhaps — she was crossing the line from shit day into creating drama, she said, “you wouldn’t understand because you’ve never been excluded.”


Hold your horses, little Miss Six-Year-Old.

Everyone has been excluded; everyone has been snubbed at some point in their life from the Queen of England to Missy No-Mates (which is what I sometimes call myself when I’m feeling lonely; which is different from when I call myself Smelly Melly, which is just my every day name I call myself when I’m thinking).

She challenged me to name a time and I told her about a girl who told me that she wasn’t inviting me to her Bat Mitzvah, which I didn’t believe because who believes that sort of think when they’re taunting you with it?  But she didn’t invite me to her Bat Mitzvah.  She would talk about it all day at lunch, every day.  And I was the only one at the table who wasn’t going.  And the worst was that I asked if my invitation was lost in the mail, which just gave her another chance to tell me that I wasn’t invited.

The ChickieNob was delighted to hear this story and immediately forgot about her own friend conundrum in order to ask me to relive my worst moments from childhood.  I admitted that most of them had been forgotten — they had hurt terribly in the moment, and if I read about the incident in an old diary, I could remember it.  But off the top of my head, those moments  were gone.

Still, as a former teacher, I knew how much it meant to students to hear that they weren’t alone in the horror that is growing up.  I couldn’t tell them what any other student had said, but sometimes I told them that they weren’t the first person who had come to me crying that day with a friend problem.  And that piece of information was enough to get them over the hump that was their problem.  Sometimes, all that was really needed was to not feel alone.  To not feel like you’re the only one struggling.

In parading out my stories, the ChickieNob stopped crying and critiqued my life instead of her own and left the room 20 pounds lighter, without the burden of aloneness on her shoulders.

And it got me thinking; I think it could help all the girls out there to hear our stories.  Sort of in the same vein as the It Gets Better project, except in regards to feeling alone as a child.  To feel as if you are the only one struggling within friendships.  I’d like to collect these stories so the ChickieNob can read them whenever she comes home feeling like she is the only person on the planet who has ever been excluded.  And I’d like all the kids in your life — your children, your students, your nieces — to read these stories too and use them to know that friendships get better too.

Please use the comment section below to write about what it was like for you in the friend department when you were a child and write about a time you were excluded — from an event, by a person or whatever has stayed with you all these years — and if possible, talk about when and how social stuff got better.  Please don’t worry if your comment gets enormously long — use the space to say whatever you need to say, knowing that at least one six-year-old, home on a snow day, will be reading it and using your words to make herself feel better.  And she will be looking back over those words in the future whenever she is having a shit day.

I will kick it off up here with my story:

My best friend broke up with me after 8 intense years of friendship.  We were not only best friends in middle and high school — formative years that I could not have gotten though without her — but we went far away to college together.  If you had told my 18-year-old self that one day she wouldn’t be in my life, I would have told you that you were crazy.  But then one day, she closed the door on our friendship and wouldn’t give me a reason.  No huge fight where we could say why we weren’t friends.  People would ask me and I couldn’t answer them beyond, “I don’t know.” (Many of the details are contained in that linked-to post, and here is the aftermath).

For me, social things changed when I got to college.  There wasn’t a popular crowd anymore and an unpopular crowd per se — instead, people broke into small groups based on common interests.  And that’s where I started feeling more confident in myself and was able to be a better friend.  And in turn, I got better friends.

I told you mine, now you tell us yours.

Added — Note from the ChickieNob:

Thank you for all of these stories that you had when you were a kid.  Some of these stories are the same kinds that I had before!  I had some kids say that I’m not going to be your friend anymore or they wouldn’t let me sit with them.  After Mommy read me the stories, I felt better.  Some of them made me very sad.  Please keep sending more.  It makes me feel better to hear other people’s stories.


1 jodifur { 01.18.11 at 10:43 am }

I have a story like you do, about a best friend that broke up with me over something so stupid. Some perceived slight that wasn’t really a slight. And I watched her do it to everyone around me, and I always thought she would never do that to me. That I would be different. But I was wrong. She threw years, and years, and years of friendship out the window and the lesson I learned was to watch how people you are with treat other people because one day you will become those other people.

Sometimes I run into her, as we still live in the same area and it puts me in a bad mood for days. I think I miss her, but really, I can’t believe the years I wasted on her.

2 Delenn { 01.18.11 at 10:54 am }

My best friend moved away–far away. She moved to Massachusetts, in fact. This was during junior high school when I was the most vulnerable to slights. And she left. It hurt, but we wrote and kept in contact for over a year.

Then she came back to Michigan for a visit. And she hung out with her friends who had come with her and she said “wicked” all the time like it was a secret language. And she was there and I was glad, but yet…she wasn’t my friend anymore. I was right there with her on the playground, but she did not really care about me–she cared about showing off. And then she left, and while I felt sad–I was glad she was gone because she wasn’t really my friend anymore. And I stopped writing to her.

(Wierdly enough, when my fiance and I moved out to MA, we found that we had moved to her “home town”. We tried to re-connect–I even invited her to my small wedding…but there was too much time and events passed (I was just starting out; she was married and pregnant). We parted as friends, but we had outgrown each other. I have not seen her in years, although she may live in the same state I do.)

3 N { 01.18.11 at 10:55 am }

Most of my childhood was spend being excluded, for a variety of reasons. And my adulthood, not intentionally, but by accident. The number of times I was asked why I wasn’t at [x] event, only to answer that I wasn’t invited, and the person who held it really REALLY thought they’d invited me, and yet…

But the one that really killed me at the time, and though it doesn’t anymore, it is still beyond me as to how kids could be quite so cruel, is from elementary school. From remembering the bus route on which I cried, I’d say it was 6th grade, but I’m not entirely certain of that. It was valentine’s day, and the classes did that thing where you all make boxes, and everybody who brings in any valentine has to bring in one for the whole class, etc etc. Well, not only did I only get one or two in my box, but at some point during the day, (a bunch? all? it’s fuzzy now, but it was certainly a group effort, and not a single individual) my classmates all gave me back the valentines I’d put in their boxes. Some of them ripped or drawn or written on.

4 serenity { 01.18.11 at 10:58 am }

There was a girl in my school who hated me for some reason. Even though I wasn’t popular, it wasn’t enough for her – she wanted to make my life miserable.

So she spent the summer between 7th and 8th grade telling everyone in my school that I was “talking about them”.

She basically spent a summer poisoning people against me.

And when I went to school on the first day of eighth grade?

Not a single person talked to me.

To this day, it’s STILL one of the worst days of my life.

I actually posted about it a number of years ago:


5 Lacie { 01.18.11 at 11:16 am }

There was a kid in my fourth grade class who decided that it was my day to get the brunt of his bullying.

When the teacher was called into the hallway for a few minutes, he stood on his desk and yelled to to class, “Whoever thinks that Lacie is a four-eyed monkey, raise your hand!” Every kid in the room laughed and raised their hands. Every. Single. Kid. Even the two girls who were supposed to be my friends and a boy who wasn’t well liked but who I liked to work with because he made me laugh, laughed.

I felt so alone.

6 B { 01.18.11 at 11:22 am }

I spent my lunch and recess in the bathroom hiding for a couple of months in 7th grade. I did this because one day in the lunchroom I went to sit at the table where I always sat with the girls I always sat with and one day they told me I wasn’t their friend and I couldn’t sit with them anymore. This crushed me. I had nowhere to sit and no one to call a friend. Thankfully after a few weeks I made new friends and was able to face those mean girls in the lunch room again.

7 Christina { 01.18.11 at 11:35 am }

In the fifth grade, I had a best friend named Rachel Spates. She had long blond hair, was a total spitfire, and I thought she knew everything. One day, she got upset at me over something (funny how I can’t remember my part in this, but I know it was something slight, like forgetting to call her the night before) and wouldn’t speak to me. At the end of the day, she had gotten the whole fifth grade class not to speak to me. When I put my coat on to go home that afternoon and slipped my hand into my pockets, instead of the fleece interior of my pocket I felt a million grainy, disgusting crumbs and a note. It was from Rachel, telling me that I was now part of the crumbled cookie club, a club that meant no one in the class liked you. And sure enough, she had the signatures of every other person in the class on that note. I cried into my bedspread for hours; my eyes eventually dried out but the sobs wouldn’t stop coming. I have never before and never again felt as excluded and alone as I did seeing that note, and feeling the disdain of my peers via the cookie crumbs. I desperately hope my own daughters are never on either side of a situation like that, but I’m sure they will feel slights and exclusions of their own as they grow, and I think that might be one of the hardest challenges in my parenting.

8 Oak { 01.18.11 at 11:37 am }

It was an entire school year (5th grade) that I was black-balled first by my friends and then slowly but surely, each person who dared to befriend me was told that if they were my friend, then no one else would be their friends. That alone meant that no one, not one single child in a group of 150 5th graders, dare speak to me or sit near me. For a whole school year. My chest still tightens when I think about this and but I also know that it made me who I am today and by the time 6th grade rolled around apparently my tormentors had found a different subject and I was able to make friends again. To this day, the sheer magnitude of this exclusion blows my mind.

9 Kir { 01.18.11 at 11:55 am }

My mom and dad both worked full time, where I grew up and in the small Catholic High School I attended that was odd. My mom never hung out with the other moms, she didn’t sell candy at our basketball games and gossip, she just wasn’t that lady, and my dad didn’t really like sports or coach anything..he was a business man and my mom was a career woman, very very successful and so it made me very alone and very independent. One of the things my sister (and later my brother) were responsible for was cooking dinner, cleaning the house etc a lot when we hit junior and high school….I still remember the POSTER the girls in my class (who called themselves my friends) gave me that was covered with pictures of MR Clean, gloves, buckets etc…to show me what they thought of my “no social life until the house looks nice” rule in our house. I was still a cheerleader , on the student council and debate teams, I had boyfriends etc, but those girls all knew how to exclude me anyway, by making sure that my life was different, that my mom didn’t bake cookies and wasn’t home when I got there..and therefore I wasn’t “enough” .
What’s funny is that I made my mom “my hero” in the yearbook and still think that maybe my childhood wasn’t perfect, but I look back and see that I had the best teacher of life..to be able to look beyond this immediate moment and know that things might be different later.

10 Shelli { 01.18.11 at 12:06 pm }

I was the girl, who in 3rd grade, needed glasses the size of coke-bottles because my vision was so poor. I was teased and taunted by lots of kids, but it hurt even more because my best friend joined in with the mean kids and made jokes behind my back. One particular day, my best friend passed me a note in the girls bathroom. It read… “You are ugly so I can’t be your friend anymore.”

And that was that. I cried every day that school year. I felt awful, because I thought everyone hated me, but the reality was it was just one little girl being a bully. Eventually, I made new friends… better friends who liked me for me.

11 Frenchie { 01.18.11 at 12:11 pm }

I have too many of these–don’t know how I could pick just one! I was sort of an ‘odd’ kid, and friendships were hard. I did have two really, really close friend all throughout elementary school: Sarah and Lori. We were all sort of like a super geeky 3 Muskateers. Then, junior high hit: Sarah went to a private Christian school (her father was a pastor) but I was relieved that my other best friend, Lori would be going to the same school as me. Starting junior high is, of course so scary. Over the sumner Lori had gone on some trips with her parents and their family friends who had a daughter the same age as Lori: Jenny. They became good friends. I didn’t know Jenny because she went to a different elementary school-but she would be going to the same Junior High as Lori and I. I guess I assumed when school started, Lori, Jenny and I would all be able to hang out together. When I got to school on that first day, I was relieved to see my friend by her locker–hanging out with Jenny and a bunch of other girls I didn’t know. Now, over the summer, while Lori had been hanging out with Jenny, I guess somehow her status had gone from geeky to cool. Her parents had taken her to shop for all kinds of new clothes at the Esprit and Benneton stores, while I was donning my new duds from JC Penny or Sears Roebuck or somesuch. Naively, I ran up to Lori, smiling my buck-toothed smile (Lori had ALSO gotten braces over the summer!) only to be physically excluded from the group. They literally formed a tight circle with their bodies, and as I approached, trying to get in, they tightened the circle, their backs to me, to prevent me from joining… including Lori. She would not even make eye contact with me. Et tu, Lori??? We were never really able to be good friends after that.

12 Denver Laura { 01.18.11 at 12:13 pm }

My parents were upper middle class but you wouldn’t know it by looking at us. They prefered for us to go to Wally World 8 times instead of buying the most expensive clothes.

One day, I had saved up enough money to buy an fairly expensive shirt to fit in with some of the more popular girls. Of course, the shirt happened to be the same exact one as a preppy girl. She pretended to write on my shirt so when I looked, there was nothing there. Then she actually did write on it. In very small letters, but large enough for everybody to see, it said, “DORK.” The ink ruined the shirt and I had to throw it away.

Another clothes story (I know, just one story, but it fits in a different way)… I was wearing some boy jeans one day becasue my tall skinny frame wouldn’t fit into curvier jeans at the time. There were some girls that were picking on my well, baggy bulgy jeans. One of the more popular older students came over and asked if their comments hurt. I nodded that it did trying to fight tears. She said that it didn’t matter that the girls were insecure and sat with me for the rest of that period so the mean girls wouldn’t taunt me anymore. That one small thing made all the difference for my day. And I still remember it 25 years later.

13 Warrior Woman { 01.18.11 at 12:13 pm }

In middle school, I tried to be friends with one of the most popular girls in our class. She lived a few houses down from me. We hung out together a few times, mostly spending time in her room or watching TV after school. Then one day I called, and over the phone she told me she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. When I asked her why, she said it was because I didn’t wear the right clothes. I was heartbroken at the time and angry that my mom wouldn’t buy me expensive Guess jeans, but I also remember quite clearly the realization that she was a shallow person for not wanting to be friends with someone because of what they wore, and if that’s what being popular meant, then I didn’t want to be part of that.

14 Michelle { 01.18.11 at 12:24 pm }

Oh how I love this project! So many times I have sat on the floor in the hallway with my 12 year old female students, and tried to explain ‘this’ way of the world. So so many tears shed over this.

As an adult, I’ve been excluded from camping trips etc. that people just assumed I wouldn’t want to go to…you know…because we don’t have kids. That really sucks.

But as a child, this probably happened more often than I can remember. However, some times really stand out. When I think back, it’s like I would be standing above myself thinking…oh how sad, you poor desperate thing.

Growing up in Ontario meant that summers were hot and sticky. We had an above ground, SMALL, peanut pool. All was well in the hood until the neighbours up the way got a BIG inground pool. Then all of the kids started swimming there. 🙁 On many occassions, I remember my besty going there and me not knowing. I could hear all of the splashing and laughter from afar. But never was a direct invite to me. I was crushed…repeatedly when this would happen.

So one day, I remember…picture desperate 9 year old here…I decided that I would try to force an invite while the action was happening up the way. I literally walked the sidewalk up and down my street in just my bathing suit and a towel…back and forth….desperately hoping to get noticed for that casual and impromtu ‘invitation’.

I think I walked for about an hour before I gave up on the gig.

I believe that there were many tears involved after that. I don’t even think that I went back to my little peanut pool. I probably let myself suffer in the heat and humidity…moping about my horrible, lonesome, life.

Oh the memories. 😉
Thanks for letting me share. And don’t worry, I get invited to all of the parties now!!!! LOL!

15 Justine { 01.18.11 at 12:41 pm }

I was excluded for most of my childhood because I went to school where my mom taught, not where I lived. And I was different from the other kids … a little more bookish, a little more chunky (at that time, anyway), glasses-wearing. I will never forget the time that my elementary school crush called me a fatso during band. I was terribly lonely, and I wanted desperately to be like the popular girls. In 7th grade I got contact lenses and some new clothes, I acted a little less bookish, and realized, after they finally deigned to talk to me, that strangely enough I didn’t even *like* the popular girls! In high school and college I reveled in my little niche of friends … and I still do! When I see those people who were the popular crowd, often they’re not the most successful or the most happy people now … because they never had to figure out how to be themselves, and how to have real, deep friendships. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and say “ha-ha!” to them and “hang in there” to my elementary school self, but that wouldn’t be true to the more generous-spirited person I’ve become. 😉

16 Katie { 01.18.11 at 12:47 pm }

My story is very similar to yours. As a new kid in my school/town in 7th grade, I immediately befriended Corina. She was just like me – fun, a bit of an outcast and nerd, and an obsession with Leonardo DiCaprio (it was right around the time that Titanic was released). We would have sleepovers at each other’s houses almost every weekend, and I still have a box of dozens of notes we used to pass back and forth in the halls. One day, she stopped speaking to me. No reason, no fight. We were no longer friends. We continued to attend the same school for 8th grade and high school. I would pass her in the halls, but she acted as though I did not exist. Even when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she never said a word.

A few months ago, I opened up the paper and in front of me was her mother’s obituary. She passed away after a 7-year battle with breast cancer. To this day, even though she’s the one who stopped speaking to me, I deeply regret not reaching out to her when we passed each other in the halls. I regret not trying harder. Maybe I could have been there to help her through the pain.

17 April { 01.18.11 at 1:02 pm }

The first day of 7th grade, my next door neighbor and best friend for the last 5 years told me she couldn’t be seen walking to school with me anymore because I wasn’t cool enough. We never really talked again even though she and I lived next door to each other until we were 18.

This was one of the more defining moments of my jr. high and high school life. When my best friend told me I wasn’t cool enough to be seen with anymore, I retreated into a very small group of friends that would be with me for the rest of high school and college. Sadly, we aren’t close like we used to be, but when the door to one fridnship closed, another one opened.

18 Erica { 01.18.11 at 1:16 pm }

I met my best friend (I’ll call her Lisa) when I was about 5 years old. We grew up in the same neighborhood, played together every weekend, and our moms were friends. Before Junior High, she became part of what was to be the cool clique. I was never a part of this clique and there were days when she’d pretty much ignore me at school. I don’t know if I’ve ever really come to terms with that – I know (now) that she was under a lot of pressure but it hurt, and sometimes it hurt *every day.*

When I started high school, I started doing my own thing, made friends with the drama geeks, and me not being so dependent on Lisa improved our friendship. High school was better, and I thought we’d come to a mostly happy place.

The day before our senior year started we planned to walk to school together. My house was on her way and the morning of that first day of the school year I waited. And waited. And waited, worrying that we’d be late. And then a van, full of the high school version of the cool clique, drove by, and I could see Lisa sitting in the back seat. I ‘d never felt so hurt and betrayed and surprised – the bottom had dropped out of my little world. But Mom was watching and I didn’t want her to see me cry so I shook myself off and walked to school. I wasn’t even late for class.

Lisa and I moved past it, but I’m still working to forgive her for that, and sometimes I wonder if that’s the real reason I’m not better at staying in touch.

19 Geochick { 01.18.11 at 1:58 pm }

I’ve always had trouble in the friend department. Growing up I was way too shy, never popular, and wore (still do) my heart on my sleeve so to say. So, no friends really in middle school or high school, at least none that I continued friendships with beyond those years. It got a bit better in college. Apparently I started being more outgoing and trying harder. My best friend from college and I were total opposites but it was a great friendship until, in my late twenties (after she was my maid of honor) we got into a ridiculous fight that ended it all. I tried to reconcile with her (valiantly in my eyes) and she kept breaking coffee and lunch dates. Eventually I moved on. It still hurts to this day and when I ran into her in the past few years the hurt translated into me being a giant bey-otch even though she obviously wanted to reconnect. Not good. I still struggle with maintaining friendships, especially with other women and was recently booted out of a book club because of “personality clashes” with two girls whom hardly read the books and were really only there to drink wine. C’est la vie I guess. Rejection is an on-going theme in my life.

The bat-mitzvah story is awful! What a mean girl.

20 Meghan { 01.18.11 at 2:25 pm }

I have so many stories I could pick from, mostly from late elementary school and junior high. For high school I went to a much smaller catholic school and found my niche

The story that sticks out the most is from 6th grade. Everyone morning we all sat in the same seats on the bus. Then one day I got on the bus and all of my friends had changed things up so there was no place for me to sit. I stood there for what seemed like forever waiting for them to make room for me. Finally, with the bus driver yelling at me, I sat somewhere else. They didn’t talk to me for weeks. The whole thing was so embarassing and I remember it anytime I get on a bus or train

21 HereWeGoAJen { 01.18.11 at 2:33 pm }

I moved a lot when I was growing up, so I was always the new kid. No one talks to the new kid after you are older than about eight years old. So I would make up questions to ask people so that they would have to talk to me. I remember when I was in eighth grade, I asked someone in every single one of my classes to explain my new report card to me, just so that I had someone to talk to that day. (Because my old school did letter grades, but my new school did number grades. They must have thought that I was really stupid to not be able to figure out what number grades meant.) But I let that teach me a lesson and I always talk to the new kid in school. When I was in high school, three of my friends were girls that I met because they were new and no one else talked to them.

Another story: When I was in second grade, no one would sit with me at lunch because I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and they said that my sandwiches smelled bad.

My last story is one time, I was invited to a birthday party. We were all going to go to this girl’s house for lunch and then her parents were going to drive us somewhere fun. (I’ve forgotten where we were going to go.) But this girl put the wrong time on my invitation card, ON PURPOSE, so that when I got to her house, everyone was already gone and I missed the party. (A note from adult Jen: I have no idea now how we knew that she did it on purpose so that I would miss the party. But I know that she did because I remember my mom being really mad and calling this other girl’s mom to complain. And my mom does not jump to conclusions.)

22 HereWeGoAJen { 01.18.11 at 2:34 pm }

Oh, and it got better when I met my husband. Which probably sounds like a long time, but I was fifteen. And in college, I was totally awesome and the rock star of the entire school.

23 Monica { 01.18.11 at 2:40 pm }

I am going to try and keep this short 🙂
I still remember all of those stupid things that all those mean girls did to me. I can call them up quickly and they still hurt in a very small way. It is like looking at the place where I got stitches once; I remember it happening, I remember it hurting, but I can’t call up the pain exactly. But as a bonus, I remember that I am going to warn my kids against riding on the back of a bike and cross my fingers that they won’t have to learn my lesson the hard way.
I remember bringing a book to read during recess each day in fifth grade. I remember girls who were supposed to be my friends changing their behavior around other girls. I have been invited to parties as a joke. I remember all these stupid instances that could have made me a hard and sad person.
But I let those hurts scab over and tried not to let them scar. And in return I have a group of girls I have been friends with for almost twenty years. I love my sisters more than words can say. And my husband and I have a great friendship.
The exclusion stuff will always hurt. How can it not? And it still happens at work, with adult friends, with neighbors…it happens.
As simple as it sounds, the advice my mom gave me has turned out to be right time after time after time after time; if that’s the way those kids are going to act, you don’t want to be friends with them anyway!
After many years of reflection, I have realized that most people show you the kind of person they are and I am the one who gets hurt when I expect more of them than they are willing to give.
As much as you will remember all of the things you were left out of, you will also treasure the great fun with the friends you do have today and the ones you will make tomorrow.

24 May { 01.18.11 at 2:42 pm }

I was a shy, awkward kid, and my younger sister was a sociable, popular kid with lots of friends (well, more friends than I had). One summer, when I was about ten or eleven, I actually had a best friend, at last! We spent hours together, playing and talking and telling each other our silly little-girl secrets. And then, she came to stay at my house for the whole weekend (I was so excited!).

Within an hour of her arrival, she and my sister were giggling together in corners. By evening, they would run off whenever I approached them. The next day, they spent hiding from me, sneaking round corners to throw mud at me and shout insults and run away again before I could catch them. My best friend and my own sister. I spent the last day of the weekend hiding myself, reading books and desperately ignoring the sound of them playing together outside.

My ‘best friend’ and I were never friends again. Weeks later, I remember asking her why she’d played with my sister instead of me, and thrown mud at me. She said ‘well, your sister’s more fun than you are.’ I was utterly shattered by this. I refused to even try to make friends with anyone for years, until my sister and I were sent to separate schools.

I have also asked my sister, many times, why she did this (the above story is just the most egregious example of ‘friend poaching’. She did it through-out our teens into our early twenties, and yes, she thought boy-friends were fair game too). She doesn’t know why she did it, she says. Though she has been known to shout ‘well, you were Daddy’s favourite!’ apropos of nothing at all and storm out, which makes a kind of hearbreaking sense.

25 loribeth { 01.18.11 at 2:44 pm }

You’re singing my song, dear Chickie Nob. My dad was a banker & we moved every 3-6 years when I was growing up. It wasn’t a big deal when we were very little, but moving as I started Grade 3 & then again in Grade 8 was awful. The older I got, the harder it was to breaking into the established cliques & make friends. Not only that, I was both smart & awful at team sports — not a good combination. (And yes, I wore glasses too. The happiest day of my life was when I got contact lenses in high school.)

One example I can remember off the top of my head was being the only girl in my Grade 3 class who wasn’t invited to a birthday party. The birthday girl was surprised later when she mentioned something about her party & I told her I hadn’t been invited — not sure if she was trying to save face or really intended to invite me & somehow the invitation slipped through the cracks. We did become friends later, but man, it hurt at the time. 🙁

It got a little better in high school — we’d been in this town for a few years by then & I also became good friends with a couple of girls who were also new. I was never part of the popular crowd, but at least my friends & I could be unpopular together, lol. University was when I really came into my own. My mother always told me things would be different then, & they were. : )

This is so timely. On a non-ALI forum I frequent, one of the moms of a 13-year-old girl was horribly upset yesterday. A 15-year-old girl from her daughter’s school killed herself by hanging this week. She had been bullied and also had had a fight with her boyfriend. 🙁 So many of the women on the forum were writing about being bullied as kids, and how much better things got when they got older.

26 a { 01.18.11 at 3:05 pm }

The only serious rejection I got was very early and very unfortunate. My sister is a year older than I am, and we were very much always together when we were young. And then she went to school. At that point, she decided that I was not interesting enough and not worthy of being her friend. Unfortunately for her, she has issues and I don’t think she made a real friend until high school. The most obvious rejection was when we were at the park with some kids from her class and one of the girls said something rude about my sister. I responded with some sort of smart remark in my sister’s defense. Then the girl said to my sister, “if I had a sister like that, I’d lock her in a room and never let her out.” My sister responded with “I wish I could.” That was the last time I had any warm feelings toward my sister. And it left me with serious trust issues too.

27 Rebecca { 01.18.11 at 4:16 pm }

I was bullied as a child because I was clever.

Now I’m doing what I’m proud of, using those old brains to be my best self.

I had no friends who liked the same things as me, but now the internet brought a lot closer. It is excellent!

28 Mina { 01.18.11 at 4:41 pm }

When I was in the fifth grade, I moved to another school, in the same town. It had a special ‘gifted’ class where I got accepted and I was the new kid in a class where everybody knew each other and whom nobody talked to. My birthday is in October and I did not have enough time to make friends in my new class, and I was a bit of a know-it-all because, well, I studied hard and knew quite a lot for my age, actually, but that did not make me popular, obviously. So, for my birthday party, I invited some of the girls and boys from my new school and my friends from the old one. The new kids did not bother coming to my party, instead they went together to the movies. My old friends did not come because we were not seeing each every day any more and they decided we were not friends any longer. My mum prepared food and an enormous cake for the many children that were supposed to come. We were three, two neighbour kids and a very weepy birthday girl. Can a birthday get more awful than that?!
Surprisingly, I did survive this. In time I even made some friends at that new school. And I even had more birthday parties, which were quite successful. But that fifth grade was horrible.

29 Janey { 01.18.11 at 4:52 pm }

When reading this, I’d like you to know I can smile about all this now although at the time I thought I’d break my heart. I think realising that things tend to get better over time is a very comforting lesson!

When I was 7 we moved away from London to the place my mum had grown up. And because we had moved, I didn’t sound like the other kids. I had a totally different accent. It was awful not being able to open my mouth without advertising the fact I was different. Over the summer one of the really popular girls was friendly with me as I lived very close to her. We played together every day. But in September when we went back to school, she didn’t want to hang out with me any more. That hurt a lot. When we went away to camp, she and her gang turned off the hot water when I was in the shower so I had to have a freezing cold shower!

When we went to secondary school at age 11, we went to the same one. But it didn’t matter so much that we weren’t friendly any more because there were other girls who I made friends with, six of whom I’m still close to 20 years later. I wonder what would have happened if I’d let her go earlier and not desperately chased her friendship all that time…

30 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.18.11 at 5:00 pm }

My family moved after 3rd grade and I had to start in a new school in a new city in a new state. By then, friendships had already been formed and I felt like an outsider and a little bit of a misfit.

But I made two good friends in 4th grade: Jamie and Cathy. We would have play dates and sleepovers, we were in Girl Scouts together, we played Four Square at recess, we wrote notes to each other and memorized each other’s phone numbers.

In 5th grade, Jamie and Cathy had one teacher and I had another. They became closer and began excluding me from their notes, their slumber parties, their recess activities. The worst part was one day when the two of them took a poll of the entire 5th grade, asking who hated Lori.

The way i remember it (which may be a result of created drama) was that EVERYONE voted that yes, they hated Lori.

I endured 5th and 6th grades by becoming good at the flute and finding new friends who were also band geeks. I continued to be a band geek through jr high and high school.

Know what? When I go back to any reunion, I am so glad I am me and not anybody else. I like who I am. I am glad that I did not give Jamie and Cathy the power to change who I was for the worse.

Hugs to you, ChickieNob. Know yourself, love yourself. In the long run that’s all there is.

31 cheryllookingforward { 01.18.11 at 5:17 pm }

I had a birthday party when I turned 12 or 13 – I was still in grade school then – and no one showed up. It was held at a public skate at the ice rink and I spent the whole time in the lobby hoping that someone would show up. I had invited my whole class, which was only 10 or so kids, and I was devastated. The smaller the group, the easier it is to be excluded.

It got better the next year. I went to high school and met my life long friends (one of them posted above – my life wouldn’t be the same without her). Who cares about those kids from grade school? They are not the ones who have held me up during the hardest times, they are not the ones who have rejoiced with me during my happiest times.

I tell this story every once in a while people don’t believe it. I have to back out of inviations now because I need some time to myself. It got better. It got a million times better.

32 Jill { 01.18.11 at 6:29 pm }

The Exclusion: When I was in 5th grade I was part of a tight group of friends. There were 4 of us total. Toward the end of the school year, though, the group leader decided she didn’t like me anymore and wanted to be mean to me. Since we were all desperate for her approval at the time the other two went along with her shenanigans. She started out by having everyone say the opposite of whatever I said. Me – “Man, hot lunch today looks gross!” (And seriously, when was hot lunch ever NOT gross? Okay, so maybe on pizza friday…) Them – “What? I don’t know what you are talking about, I think it looks delicious!” And so on. This went on for a few days and eventually I learned to just not share my opinion. Seeing that this was no longer effective the group leader decided one lunch to pretend I was trapped behind a wall and they couldn’t get to me through it. They would yell, “Jill, are you in there? I can’t see you?” while pantomiming pounding their fists against this wall. She hit pay dirt with this. By the end of recess I was bawling. And I continued to cry about it for several days afterwards. These girls had been my best friends for the majority of the school year. WTF did I do?

The happily ever after: There are actually many happily ever afters to my exclusion story beginning with when we got back to class after that fateful lunch/recess. Seeing the sorry state I was in one of my other friends immediately invited me to move my desk to the empty one next to her. The desks were all arranged in groups of 4 in the shape of a square and of course at the time I was in a quad with my “frenemies.” Just a year later one of the girls in my old group of friends and I ended up in several classes together and became best friends. She apologized for being so mean and explained that even she didn’t know why I had been targeted. Next in high school the other girl and I ended up hanging with the same crowd and shared quite a few laughs about what went down in 5th grade. Finally, I’ve saved the best for last… the ol’ group leader moved and attended a different high school than the rest of us. However, toward the end of high school my friends and her brother started playing gigs together with their bands at local churches and coffee shops. She would come to the concerts and often tried to hang out with my group of friends. However, I hung out with an elitest emo group of kids (before emo meant wearing all black and was more a late 90’s version of the grunge movement) and they wouldn’t give her the time of day since she used to be a jock and was “posing” (in their opinion) now as emo to fit in. Ah the beautiful, karmic irony of that! I can’t say it didn’t bring a satisfied smile to my lips 🙂

It happens to the best of us!

33 Missy { 01.18.11 at 7:18 pm }

I had a best friend named Sharla. We cheated off each other in 1st grade in creating a Statue of Liberty puzzle. We were similar in appearance and even had the same shirt which we would coordinate and wear on the same days. When we went to 4th grade we were no longer in the same classroom. She became friends with the popular girls and would no longer even talk to me in the hall before or after school. I was crushed. Other girls would tell me the mean things she would say about me like I was her stalker. I thought we were friends. I’m pretty sure this ruined my ability to have trust in my friends for a really long time. I spent a lot of time on the outside looking in at the popular girls and never really truly appreciated the other friends I had. Kids can be so cruel, but friendships get better with age and wisdom!

34 Calliope { 01.18.11 at 7:41 pm }

I moved around a LOT when I was in school. I had to go to a new school and make new friends almost every year- and sometimes it happened in the middle of the school year. It was hard, but I liked making friends and usually managed. One year I moved in the middle of the year and I tried really hard to fit in with the kids at school. But they said I was weird, said I was different, said I was a freak. I liked to express myself with clothes and silly hair and earrings and every day I started to hate going to school more and more and stopped trying to make friends. I was really sad. But a few weeks went by and some shy girls I hadn’t noticed before started being kind to me. And their friendship helped make the rest of the year SO much better. I now know that people don’t always know how to react when they see someone being different. Being different is awesome and wonderful- but it takes a special kind of person that is secure in their own self to know that.

35 Adrienne { 01.18.11 at 9:14 pm }

I was rather geeky girl in middle school and a lot of the athletic (and cute/populr) boys would make ask me all sweet like to do their homework for them or let them copy mine. At one point, I stood up for myself and said ‘no’… that day at lunch recess they chased me around the blacktop calling me names so I climbed up to the top of the monkey bars to get away from them. They then decided to steal my shoes off my dangling feet and throw them on the roof of the gym. That scene became a joke for the whole school, but it helped me learn who my real friends were (the ones who still sat with me at lunch the next day). Once I got to high school, I became more popular and made some wonderful friends, but I was always tempered by that day on the monkey bars and tried to include the less popular girls at lunch and in other activities.

36 Barely Sane { 01.18.11 at 9:46 pm }

ChickieNob, you rock!

37 NotTheMama { 01.18.11 at 11:18 pm }

As ridiculous as it is, grown-ups do it, too. I’ve told my girls at church that even when you’re a grown-up, there will be bullies. I have a coworker who loves some combination of the silent treatment, talking about you when you’re standing 10 feet away, and general cattiness. I generally just shake my head, amused that she can’t just grow up already… But ChickieNob, there are times when it does hurt my feelings. It takes a lot to bite my tongue and remember to treat her better than that, and not repay evil for evil. It’s hard to remember that she will pay for it one day, when she’s making a point to talk to everyone else and ignore me. But one day, it will all come back. And you can rest in knowing that you don’t treat others like that!
Of course, when your feelings are hurt, sometimes you just need to crawl up in mom’s lap and have a good cry. You’ve got an awesome mom, ChickieNob, who totally understands you. 🙂

38 Sarah { 01.19.11 at 12:00 am }

When I was in third grade, I was one of three girls not invited to a classmate’s birthday party (one was new, the other one was mean to everyone so no one invited her to anything). She was one of two kids who had been kept behind a year, so she was older and considered popular. I’m not sure why she was popular for these two things, but anyway….everyone kept talking about her birthday party and how exciting it would be. Her mom was making mini pizzas and they were going to rent movies. For about two weeks I had to hear about Jeanette’s birthday party and how great it was going to be, knowing I couldn’t go. Her birthday party came and went and later I found out she had forgotten to give me my invitation. We became friends a few years after that, but I still remember how awful it felt not to be part of the group. It was a good introduction to exclusion. When you grow up, there will be other ways you might be excluded. What you need to do is figure out what you can do to make yourself happy and feel better when you do feel excluded. You are responsible for your own happiness. There will always be people who love you (like your mom, dad, brother and other family members) to help you find your happiness.

39 jjiraffe { 01.19.11 at 1:32 am }

I’m so sorry, ChickieNob. My three year old daughter tearfully told me yesterday that one of the kids in her pre-school class no longer wanted to play with her. It broke my heart. I sure wish kids didn’t act this way, but it seems to be universal. So many stories, all so similar!

Junior high particularly seems to be the land of mean girls. I had gone to a small sheltered academy for elementary school, and I had a nice group of friends. I had to say goodbye to them for junior high, because my parents wanted me to attend the local school, a large institution where everyone knew each other from their own feeder elementary school. I knew NO ONE, but I somehow managed to break into a clique of girls. I was terrified that they would stop being friends with me, and I would be thrown into a world with no friends. That is exactly what happened. Wit and humor (mean-spirited) was all that mattered to this group, and I was hard-pressed to keep up. One day the clique was talking about how clothes with holes were ridiculous. I made an off-handed quip about how silly shoes with holes were. (So many holes! So little coverage of feet! So cold during the winter!) I didn’t realize that the leader of the clique had shoes with holes in them. She instantly shunned me, and by P.E. class no sixth grader would speak to me except one: a brave girl named Ina. I’ll never forget her.

I had to make all new friends, ones who valued cleverness and kindness. And those people are around. The mean ones may sparkle a lot and attract the most attention, but look on the edges of the crowd for the diamonds in the rough, who are nice and kind and not cruel. Those are the people who will be true friends.

40 Elizabeth { 01.19.11 at 7:32 am }

Even family can be hard on you sometimes. When I was in kindergarten, we were visiting our relatives and all of us cousins got to play together. This didn’t happen very often because my family lived in South America and the rest of our relatives lived in New York. So it was really fun for me to see them.

My two older boy cousins, Frank and Simon, were pretending that my cousin Tammy and I were their prisoners in jail. Then they said I was free to go but Tammy had to stay. I an away delighted at this sign of their favor, into the living room where all the aunts and uncles and baby cousins were , and then suddenly I realized that Tammy was still playing with Frank and Simon, but I wasn’t – and that their decision to let me go and keep her meant they liked HER better, not me – and I KNEW that it was because she was blond-haired and prettier than me (it didn’t occur to me that it might be because they saw her more often and so had more of a friendship with her than with me).

Funny how this was the first memory to come to me when you asked for stories. In middle school, Frank was VERY mean to me and called me spoilsport bookworm and said I had a fat butt. But when we were in college I spent some time working on his family’s farm and we became really good friends – in fact, he became the older brother I never had. I guess we both had to grow up a little bit before we could discover our common ground. And the same thing with Simon – although he was never as mean to me as Frank was to begin with.

(As for Tammy, she’s always been nice to me but we don’t have very much in common so we enjoy seeing each other but I wouldn’t say we’re BFFs or anything.)

41 Sharon { 01.19.11 at 10:49 am }

When I was in junior high, a girl in my class founded the “I Hate S” club and persuaded most of the other girls to join. (I never did quite figure out what prompted this.)

For a few weeks, none of these girls (all of whom played on the same sports team as me) would talk to me at all. I might add that this was a very small school, with only about 100 students in my entire 7th grade class. There were only two girls in my class who talked to me at all during that time period, and I will be forever grateful for them.

After a few weeks, Christmas break came, and when we came back to school in January, the “I Hate S” club seemed to be forgotten, and most everyone started talking to me again.

As you can imagine, this episode was very painful for me when I was 11 years old, but looking back, I can see that it helped to shape me in a way. That was the beginning of my letting go of caring what my peers thought of me, and that not-caring kept me out of A LOT of trouble in years to come in my small town where teen pregnancy and drug use were common. It also formed my resolve to get out of my hometown, which I did shortly after high school graduation. I’ve never looked back (and thank G-d, my father moved to another town when I was a college sophomore, so I never have to go back to my hometown if I don’t want to).

42 Heather { 01.19.11 at 11:46 am }

Dear Little Girl Having a Bad Day Who Needs To Know She’s Not Alone:
I grew up in a town straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I grew up with the same children my entire life.
I was always different.
I had glasses. Awesome grades. Played music. Danced. Sang.
I didn’t drink, or smoke, or party on the weekends.
The kids I was best friends with my entire life, started making fun of me. I wasn’t invited to anything anymore. No parties. No hanging out. I had to ask a freshman to my senior prom, because no boy would ask me.
Because…I was different.
Different got me a college scholarship. Different got me an internship working at Disney World. Different make me stronger on the inside, and more confident on the outside.
And someday, friend…it won’t seem so bad. Because, different will make you awesome.
(And then you can silently giggle while you watch all the “cool girls” have terrible, awful, craptastic things happen–which they broadcast to the world on Facebook.)
Love you to pieces,

43 Robyn { 01.19.11 at 12:05 pm }

In eighth grade, two of my best friends had a sleepover and didn’t invite me – and the next day I saw one of their moms at our local youth soccer field. She asked me why I wasn’t at the sleep over, and I told her that I wasn’t invited. Being the “mom” and wanting to correct the exclusive behavior of her daughter, she must have spoken to my friend about this. Feeling I betrayed them by “tattling” to one of the moms, they decided that they were not going to talk to me anymore, and then instructed all of our other friends to do the same. No one would sit with me at lunch or talk to me in class, in the hall, or at recess. Middle school was hard enough – and I was going through my awkward physical stage, and then to have no friends…I was miserable. Two things helped me get through this:
1. A friend from elementary school, who I hadn’t connected with for a while (we had settled into different groups of friends for a few years) watched what was happening to me and decided to do something about it. She and her group of friends sat with me at lunch, hung out with me at recess, and tried to take the sting out of my social exile. It made all the difference in the world to me. She is one of my best friends to this day – 25 years later.
2. My mom took me to the eye doctor to get contacts. Not that changing one’s physical appearance fixes everything, but getting contacts gave my self confidence a boost, and I had something else to focus on other than feeling alone and shunned by the people who were supposed to be my friends.

I look back at what my friend did for me, and it hits me how she could have just sat passively by and watched me suffer socially. But she didn’t – she reached out to help when others were content to go along with the edict of the “leaders” of our social group. She couldn’t watch that happen to another person, and her bravery saved me. It reminds me to keep driving the message home to my own kids that watching someone being bullied/ harassed and doing nothing is just as bad as the bullying itself – if not worse.

Hang in there, ChickieNob!

44 mybumpyjourney { 01.19.11 at 12:09 pm }

Oh ChickieNob- My heart goes out to you! So many adults say “I want to be a kid again”. There is no way I would be a kid again. Being a kid is HARD!
When I was in the 6th grade we moved across the country, but for me it was different world. I talked funny, I dressed funny, I called soda “pop” instead of “coke”. I said “you guys” instead of “y’all”. I wore clothes that looked so funny, and I didn’t carry a purse.
I moved from a school that 6th grade was still in elementary school- complete with recesses, one teacher all day, back packs,and our class was the “top dog”. The Older Kids. The school I moved to had 6th grade in a junior high. We changed classes every hour, girls carried purses and wore make up. I made the mistake to ask if we got a recess.
I had never experienced such cruelty. I was different and new so I was picked on. Even though the school I went to before was an elementary school, I was ahead in my studies. I was “smarter”. I loved to read books- the more the better. I had also been learning to play the flute since the 5th grade, and these kids just started that year. I was way head of them in band also. This just created more problems.

I tried to do whatever I could to fit in. I quit studying, I pretended I couldn’t play my flute as well. Those didn’t work b/c you can’t unlearn things. So I just made myself invisible. I cry when I think about it now. I didn’t tell my mother because she was having adjustment issues also, and didn’t want to “bother” her. Years later when I was in high school and going through some other stuff with friends, I told her about it. She was sad I didn’t tell her.
I wish now I had. She could have boosted my confidence, and my self image. Struggling alone isn’t fun, and as humans we need each other (especially our Moms!!) to help support us in all kinds of ways. I am glad you are close with your mother and you can talk to her.
My Mom and I are best friends now, and I can’t imagine a better cheerleader for me. No one knows me like my Mommy.

When I was in high school I had another ‘friend’ incident. I was close friends with two girls- but they didn’t know each other really. I thought it would be awesome if we ALL were friends. I introduced them, and thought life would be perfect. Turned out they liked being friends with each other, and they found common ground in making fun of me behind my back. To this day I don’t get it, and it still hurts. I remember having a bad day and needing to talk so I called one friend and she couldn’t talk- said she was on the phone with her mom. I called the other friend, and she said “I am on the phone with (friend #1), and I can’t talk”. The next day it was just awkwardness. I don’t know why, but girls think they can only have one best friend. Also, girls are notorious for cutting each other down. I don’t know why, but perhaps it is to make themselves feel better? I am reconnected with friend #1 in recent years, and she apologized to me on how I was treated. It was nice that she acknowledged it, but I still hurt from it.
They would make fun of me because I couldn’t tan and had freckles. The would make fun of the car my mother drove, and the fact I had to wear thrift store clothes. I developed a warped self image based on their teasings. I didn’t realize I was beautiful and unique. My pale freckled skin in now ‘en vogue’.

I hope you know that these girls may not be in your life forever- it sure feels like it now…but 10 years from now you will be in a different place (Assuming you go to different high schools) not only physically, but emotionally. Perhaps these girls make fun because they are trying to feel better about themselves.
Sometimes, people just like being mean. I don’t know why, but I do know it sucks.

Just know that you are a super smart girl, and you will always have your family by your side.
You can’t control how other people act, but you can control your reactions at the time. Doesn’t make it suck any less, but at least you can feel strong because you can control your side of the interaction. (what I mean by this is not being mean back, or talking about someone behind their back)

You are such a sweet girl (from what I can tell by what your Mom says), and don’t let that change.


(p.s. I am working on a super power that WILL control how others act…to be used exclusively by kids. I will let you know when I get it finished….I think it will somehow involve cookies. 🙂

MEL- I hope this helps a little, and I think you are great to reach out to the ALI community to help ChickieNob. She is lucky to have you as a Mom!!

45 nh { 01.19.11 at 12:35 pm }

When I was 14 (so a bit older) my Dad got a job in Yorkshire. We’d lived in one place so long that I’d forgotten how it felt to move. We moved, and I spent most of my first year at my new school being told that ‘you’re posh’ because I didn’t sound like them. And because I sounded posh to them, on the whole nobody would pass the time of day with me. And what made it worse was the my friends that I had left behind, kept writing and telling me all their plans, that I couldn’t possibly join in with.

It did get better, I made friends. I started doing activities outside of school and met other people, some of whom are still amazing friends of mine. I lived through another 3 years of school without close friendship, just people that I would pass the time of day with. But I lived through it, and I always had those friends from outside to share with, and spend time with.

It hurt, but now looking back, they did me a favour. I still spend time with those other friends, they share my life still. And I came across someone from school a couple of months ago, and asked about some people that I knew, and she’d no idea what had become of those people.

46 Eliza { 01.19.11 at 1:43 pm }

Same friend, happened twice.

First time was middle school – the ever dreaded time that was hormones crashing against poor self-image and burdgeoning awareness of the opposite sex. Looking back, everyone had a shit time, but at the time, I didn’t know it. I thought I was simply unlikable, awkward, fat, horrid . . . everything bad, I was probably it, even when I knew it wasn’t true.

A group of friends used to sit together every day at lunch. One friend in particular, a guy named M was super fun and a little wacky. I had sort of a crush on him, because he seemed so cool. He sat with my little band of misfits because we’d befriended him before he was cool when he was a brand new student among classmates of years.

One day he started coming up with wacky polls – he’d ask a random question like ‘what color M&M was the best?’ and poll everyone, first at our table and then going from table to table in the cafeteria. Everyone thought it was fun and looked forward to it. One day I was talking enthusiastically about the polls and was overheard by a far more pretty and popular girl, who turned around, rolled her eyes and sneered “You know he only does that get away from you.”

I can still feel the prickles of hot and cold that ran over me as my face flushed red and tears welled up in my eyes. I remember quietly confronting him the next day, was it true?

And he looked down at me and said that I embarrassed him and he didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. He started eating lunch somewhere else. I remember how horrified I was, how embarrassed I was. Apparently, some cooler kids asked why he sat with us and someone told him I had a crush on him and they were making fun of me and he was embarrassed about it, so he joined in. All those polls were his way of getting away to make fun of us while still being our friend.

We avoided each other for a few weeks, but I didn’t know any of the above. I didn’t know why he suddenly disliked us or why I particularly was so embarrassing. I agonized over it, for a long time. And then one day, out of the blue, he simple apologized. Said he’d been wrong, and we were better friends to him and what he’d done was mean.

We were friends all through the rest of the torture that was middle school and through high school. We did theatre together, which was a tight-knit group. Our senior year, we were very close. M and I both had last period off, so we ate lunch together. I helped him study for history (one of my better subjects). We hung out. Honestly, my seventeenth birthday -which I just spent with him – was one of the best memories of my life. I think I always maintained a tiny crush on him, but mostly we were content to be friends. We were very, very close. I dreaded going off to college, and losing one of my best friends.

During our final play, we spent a little less time together – he had a big role and I was the stage manager, so we were often busy. He started hanging out with some other people, which was fine. I did too. I really wanted to go to prom with him – strictly as friends. I didn’t have a date and didn’t want a real date, but I really wanted to just have fun. I thought it would be awesome – we’d go to dinner together, hang out, dance, laugh. I remember begging him at one point and he finally let out his secret – he was gay. I was the first person he’d told (though a couple of others had guessed). I don’t know that I reacted terribly well – it was not as widely accepted back then and I was brain-washed by a very conservative church – but I didn’t write him off or anything (which was big for me, since back then I was indoctrinated into gay = going to hell, which is SO far from what I believe now), because, well, he was my best friend. What did it really change? Nothing.

I think though, that my reservations came through, and I think that he felt more comfortable with people who didn’t know his secret. He started spending less and less time with me, started being unavailable. Then I started hearing him make fun of me, things like that. I never knew what I did wrong, and for YEARS I thought it was me, that I had done something to make him treat me so badly. It came to a head when he was completely rude to me in front of a bunch of other people so that I came off clingy and with no self-esteem. We didn’t speak to each other again until graduation, when I congratulated him and he blew me off.

For years, I tried to figure it out. Had I been too clingy? Had I been too needy? Was I a bad friend? Did I make him feel bad about his sexuality (haunted me for a long time after the brainwashing faded)? Anytime I’d run into someone who would mention him I’d get all clammy and sweaty, just how it was the last few times we talked in high school. I felt ashamed.

For years that went one, with one awkward surprise meeting in a Hobby Lobby of all places. Then the 10-year reunion came and went. He wasn’t there, and I was bummed. I really had made peace with it, and felt it was my fault for not being supportive when he told me he was gay. I think I’d done the best I could at the time, but it wasn’t what he needed, and I could accept that. But I’d hoped to see him, to apologize for that.

Then I joined Facebook. And stumbled across him. And bickered with myself about doing a friend request. Finally did. And . . . he friended me. And ten minutes later I received this incredible long, heartfelt message, apologizing for the way he’d treated me. Telling me about the years he’d regretted since then about how he’d made me feel, and how he knew he’d lost a good friend who genuinely cared about him.

We’re not close now, our lives are far too separate, but that moment of healing, the moment that restored all the good memories we had that had been overshadowed was worth it.

So, I guess it can take years. And it can be hurtful. But the soul-searching and bettering myself was worth it. I came out a better person for the relationship, and in the end, so did he.

47 Emma Berry { 01.19.11 at 2:01 pm }

As a child I witnessed a girl being bullied in class. Eventually, after speaking with my folks, I stood up to the bully. The bullied girl was furious with me and stopped being friends (I think she felt humiliated by my interfering). I can still see Linda and my ex-friends sitting together in the classroom. I had to move next to the bully who would spit at me during the lessons. The bully of course, had lots of friends so from then on I was an outcast.

As painful as it was, I am so proud that I stood up to that bully. I have never regretted having the gumption to speak out. Indeed, I make a living speaking on behalf of folks that don’t normally get to be heard.

48 onceamother { 01.19.11 at 2:10 pm }

my father insisted on cutting my hair when i was younger. he also insisted that my sister and i wear coats that he got at trade shows, which may have been cool, had he not been a tractor trailer truck tire salesman. when i was seven we moved to the town over from where we had lived. it was a richer town full of “keeping up with the joneses” and all that crap, and my father decided he should give me a fresh haircut before my first day of school.

i don’t want you to be under the wrong impression here, we were not the poor family who moved to a rich town, my parents had plenty of money, they just gave frugal a whole new meaning.

the haircut my father gave me was crooked. very crooked, and not in the trendy shorter in the back longer in the front way that hair is styled today, but instead in a “the left side of your bob is two inches shorter than the right side of your bob but don’t worry, if you walk with your head tilted, no one will notice” way.

I didn’t want to wear the man’s size XL Sumitomo Tire jacket to school on the first day, so I opted for my snowsuit instead. This might seem odd, since it was late August/early September, but my rationale was that at least the damn thing was pink.

So there I was, starting school at the end of summer, wearing my crooked hair and my pink snowsuit (nothing like an awesome first impression) and after our first few classes, the teacher sent us outside for recess.

I hadn’t made any friends yet, of course, because I was new, and my hair was crooked, and I was sweating in my snowsuit, so I headed all alone to play on the monkey bars. a girl that i had never met came charging over to me, surrounded by another girl with very intimidating freckles. they started yelling at me and threw me off the monkey bars. the bully kicked dirt in my face, told me the obvious (that my hair was crooked) and ordered me to go back to where I came from (another town all of seven miles away) because there was “only enough room for ONE Chrissi at this school, and that Chrissi was her!”

I tried to explain that my name was Krissy, not Chrissi, so there should have been enough room for both of us, but she didn’t care, and her taunts continued. The incident left me rattled. No one had ever been mean to me in my old school, much less kicked dirt in my face.

That night I went home crying to my parents who wrapped me up in the same awful snowsuit the next day, gave me some lame line from an old French movie that they wanted me to defend my haircut with (because clearly second graders are all up on French movies) and sent me back to school for another beat down.

When I got there, I took my seat, alone, and all of my classmates were whispering about me and looking at me funny. I later found out that Chrissi had spread a rumor around school that the reason I was so pale (hey what can I say my people are a pale people – Irish, Welsch, English, German, you get the picture) was because I didn’t eat my vegetables. I was like a walking cautionary tale for my tan (primarily Italian) classmates as to what could happen to you if you didn’t eat your carrots and broccoli. It might sound stupid, but at seven, a rumor like that can really ostracize you.

Anyway, I don’t actually know when Chrissi stopped taunting me but it must have happened at some point because, in an odd twist of fate, we have been the very best of friends for the last twenty plus years, standing alongside one another at our weddings, welcoming babies into this world, etc. We have been through the good and the bad together and I wouldn’t trade my friend for the world. It just goes to show you, you can’t take these things too seriously. You never know where you will be in twenty years, and when you get there, none of these little heartaches will matter.

49 Kristin { 01.19.11 at 2:42 pm }

I got teased a LOT when I was younger. It didn’t really start until 2nd grade but once it did, it seemed almost never ending. For a few years, I got teased about my hair. See, I have very curly hair like your mama’s hair. But, my mom had straight hair and didn’t know how to deal with curly hair. I got teased a bunch about my hair and was called bird nest and other things. When they stopped teasing me about my hair, they started teasing me and picking on me because I was the smart kid. I remember coming home from middle school and crying so many days. But, it got better. We moved before high school and suddenly was in a place where it was ok to be smart. While I was never a super popular kid in high school, I started to feel like I belonged. In college, I really felt like I blossomed. Even though it’s been almost 20 years since college, I’ve made friends that I still have to this day. As I’ve grown up and gotten older, I’ve learned that as long as I like who I am, that is all that matters. Rejection still hurts but that hurt doesn’t last because I have my family and many wonderful friends including ones I’ve made online (like your mom). And, one other wonderful thing happened that continues to make those old hurts all fade away. Back in August of last year, I reconnected with a bunch of people from elementary and middle school. I figured I would let things that happened in the past just stay in the past. So, I sent friends requests to a but of people including some who hadn’t been too nice to me. I got the most beautiful message back. It said “Hey Kristin, I was really happy to see you on FB and humbled when you sent me a friend request. I was such a little jerk to you and have thought about that often. I have raised two daughters and realized (been Taught) how things said by another child can be taken hard. You look GREAT and so happy. I deeply apologize for being THAT jerk on the bus. I hope you can forgive me one day.” Someday, even the little brats and jerks grow up and many of them realize and regret the way they treated people.

50 S { 01.19.11 at 2:45 pm }

My senior year of high school I shared a block of lockers with five other girl friends. I came in one day and found all five of them plus two other girls wearing matching concert t-shirts. They talked all day about how awesome the concert was and how they had so much fun. Not once did they acknowledge the fact that I wasn’t invited, even though we were all friends. I think that is when I realized I wasn’t fully a part of the group, I was in but on the edge and it wasn’t the only time I felt left out.
I made good true friends in college who liked me for me and I began to feel comfortable just being myself. Ironically, one of those five girls from high school went to the same college as me. She did not get along with her roommate freshman year and had trouble meeting friends the first month or so of school. She relied on me to introduce her to my roommate and other girls in my dorm. Years later she told me she couldn’t have gotten through those first months of college without me.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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