On a laid back Thursday night, I did my usual channel surfing and landed on a made-for-TV movie about a teenage girl being bullied by her so-called friends. So this movie isn't going to win any Oscar nominations and the theme of rising against bullies has been done over and over again but this time, it really struck a nerve.
As I watched the protagonist of the movie go from hanging out with the popular girls to being sent hate mail after overdosing on sleeping pills that went along the lines of, "Wow, you can't even do THAT right," it was a reminder of how cruel teenagers could be. And somehow, unleashing itself from the crevices of my subconscious mind, was the memory of my secondary school days ...
And the bullying I experienced.
Over the years, I've managed to bury this ugly part of my life. I have refused to remember, let alone acknowledge, the fact that I had let myself become the target of teenage hatred and ugliness when I was 13. It wasn't until I watched the movie did the bits and pieces of that horrible time come back to me.
Me. Bullied. Can you imagine it?
I come from an all-girls school, which can prove to be the best AND the worst schooling experience, trust me. Teenagers can be cruel as it is but teenage GIRLS can be the evil incarnate itself. It was sometime in the beginning of Form 1 when it all started. It was a stressful time for any 13-year-old: the transition from primary to secondary, meeting new people in a new school, finding your identity which could potentially stick to you for the next five years.
I thought I had it quite good. Me and my 'best' friends managed to land spots in the school of our choice and we would be best friends forever and ever and ever. I had done well in primary school, having been class monitor and Prefect all my life up to then, placed top 5 in class during every term exam, represented my school in oratory competitions (and undefeated champion thankyouverymuch) and was even awarded Best Student of my school during my final year in primary school. I was the Nerd Supreme!
Little did I know that everything I had achieved was slowly working to my disadvantage. I was naive not to realise that my 'friends' were not happy with the attention I was getting. Tagged a little 'show off', having my mum teaching in the same school did not help. It just gave them more ammo to hate me. And it all came to a climax when we entered Form 1.
Long story short, a pathetic rumour began to spread: Melissa Leong stuffs her bra. In hindsight, I should be flattered that I was filling out so convincingly that my flat-chested peers thought I was PADDING my bras! The whispers and pointing began, the snide remarks and, in true gossipy fashion, more nasty statements. Melissa Leong is fat. Melissa Leong should run home to mummy and cry. Melissa Leong has the worst handwriting. Melissa Leong is so stupid at math. Nobody wanted to sit with me at recess. I got chosen last for teams at sports. Eyes rolled whenever I raised my hand in class. I had never felt so unwanted and alone in my life.
And all those girls who were supposed to be my 'friends' had turned against me. It didn't help that one of those girls was the Principal's daughter, so I knew going to the teachers or any adult would make no difference. I had gone from having so much to having an absolutely lousy time in school. There were two camps: those who hated me and those who were indifferent - I'll give them credit for not feeding the rumours but they didn't quite back me up neither. That's me, aged 13, sitting next to the class teacher. It takes a lot to knock that smile of my face, biatches...
I was one hell of a miserable teenage girl. I cried almost every day and dreaded going to school. It got so bad that one day, I begged my parents to let me stay home. I begged and I cried and I pleaded with all my heart. Which was when my dad realised something was very wrong at school. I told them everything and felt such a release. My parents were so upset that they didn't blink when I asked them to transfer me. My dad started looking at other schools and I was all set to transfer to All Saints' when word got around to the Principal. I then got called into her office along with her daughter. What transpired from that meeting remains a blur to me but I do remember her saying, "Oh such a pity to see your wonderful friendship go to waste over a misunderstanding", her pooh-poohing my plans to transfer as 'drastic' and we were made to hug and make-up there and then. Next thing I know, I'm in the same damn school for the next five years.
It haunts me to this day the 'bullying' was played down to a 'misunderstanding'. And it bugs me that I forgave and forgot so easily. These 'bullies' swept everything under the carpet as if it never happened and some 20 years later, I'm still supposed to call them my 'friends' when I run into them in the street. But I must state that during this tumultuous time, I did have a couple of friends who stood by me (one of them was my cousin and the other monkey is still my closest confidant until today).
I think I buried this memory so far and deep because I refuse to acknowledge the fact that I could ever be a victim of bullying. Only losers and the weak get bullied right? How could I have been an over-achiever, please everyone and STILL be bullied? It was the anti-thesis of bullying.
It took me almost 20 years to understand the simple truth: Losers and the weak don't get bullied. They ARE the bullies. They played on my insecurities to feed theirs. There was nothing I could've done to prevent it (short of binding my breasts lah but even that's no guarantee).
So yes, I was a victim of bullying. No shame in that because it has made me who I am today. And seeing the losers they've ended up marrying, failed attempts at decent relationships into their 30s and the boring people they've become, karmic retribution paves the road for me to move along. Thanks for being such bitches - you've made me realise I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. And yes, I still have awesome boobs.