02 February 2009
adjective; something felt to resemble vitriol especially in caustic quality ; especially : virulence of feeling or of speech, (vi-trē-ˈä-lik)
High school was hell on earth for me. No, I wasn't abused, no, nothing terrible happened. Quite the contrary. I went to a suburban school, lived in a two-parent family, had a safe and mostly happy home.
What was bad requires a rather long-winded explanation. My old high school is located in an upscale little bedroom community. There aren't just a few McMansions; there are many developments full of them. It was not at all unusual for kids to be handed the keys to a brand-new car on their 16th birthdays, and I ain't talking about a basic Chevy, either.
Besides the cars, there were the clothes.
One of my classmates went to Paris and came home with tons of new clothes; I remember the brand names because they were prominently displayed. She had a bunch of things from Gucci, and lesser-known Naf Naf, along with uber-popular-in-the-80's Benetton.
She was the only one - so far as I know - who went to that length of going to Europe for school clothes, but at the time, the popular brands were Express, Limited, Gap, Learner New York, things like that. (huh, the more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?)
My family wasn't poor, but brand new clothes for my sisters and I came from K-Mart. Often, "new" clothes came from the thrift store or as hand-me-downs from a cousin, long before vintage was cool and "re-purpose" was a buzzword.
I got teased a bunch about clothes from K-Mart, often got crap for not having the latest shoes or purses.
Kids are cruel. Things that you would say to a 5th grade classmate would be completely beyond the pale to say to a colleague at work; "You're fat!" "Yo, Lucy, nice generic shoes!" (said with all the sneering of a practiced snob.)
You would think that it might get better as you moved through junior high and then high school, but I don't think it did. The terrible things that were said to me would today be taken far more seriously, as schools have been sued over bullies and school-yard taunts, but back then, it was put up or shut up time.
This was a daily barrage, not of threats, I never feared for my safety, but of nastiness and verbal attacks, with lots of vitriol. It probably goes without saying, but I was miserable. I felt less than worthless. I felt ostracised. I felt ugly, because I was told every day that I was ugly, useless, worthless, and far too smart for my own good. Yep, even getting good grades was grounds for harassment.
Eventually, of course, I got over it, although I didn't really develop any self-esteem until I was 20-something. I came home from Europe with a lot more bravado, and faked it well, but inside was a different story.
I haven't thought about those days at all in a very long time. No need to dwell on it, although I would probably take great delight in knowing that my tormentors aren't happy adults, because what goes around comes around, sucka! Yes, yes, I know that's petty and vindictive. Ask me if I care.
But lately, I've been thinking about those days a lot as I've gotten friend requests on Facebook from people that I don't remember all that fondly. None of the true bullies have sent me friend requests (yet), but people who were mean little shits and wow, do they remember things just a leeetle bit differently than I do.
Go figure. Of course they don't remember treating me like yesterday's garbage.
Re-living those days in my head has stirred up a lot of resentment and anger that I didn't even realize I still had within me. Maybe even a few steps beyond anger to outright rage and fury.
As an adult, I'm rather blunt. (I hear you laughing out there!!) I say what I really think; don't ask my opinion if you aren't ready to deal with the fact that I'm not going to lead you down the primrose path.
So there are things that I would say to these people NOW that I would have never even dreamed of saying back then. And I find myself compiling a mental checklist of what I'd like to say, among them things like, "I hope someday that someone treats your child as cruelly as you treated me."
That's....that's....well, that's awful and evil and rude, and sadly, true. I do hope that somewhere along the way, they come to understand that the words they threw at me daily left deep and permanent scars, and the same part of me that wishes for that knows that hurting them wouldn't hurt nearly as much as someone hurting their child. Even though I'm not a parent, I think that's something which is instinctively understood. Why? Well, exhibit A is my mother; she's sweet, and nice, and not too outspoken. But harm one of her children, and the Furies of Grecian mythology pale in comparison to what she will do.
I really don't like thinking of myself as a petty vindictive bitch. Anger left to fester only hurts the person who is angry, it certainly is no skin off of the collective noses of the nasty brats. But I'm having a very hard time taking a deeeeeeep breath and letting it go, as I usually can with anger. Wounds I thought long healed are in fact still wide open.
Clearly, I'm not done with therapy yet!