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Just friend them; they're as frightened as you are

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“Just ignore them; they’re as frightened as we are” (“Hey man!” Kids in the Hall)

I did not go quietly into that lonely and unpopular night. Each morning, I tried to assume a casual air of friendship. Big mistake. My efforts backfired, and my former friends’ apathy toward me turned to hatred. Soon, I was not just ignored at school. I was tripped as I came out of the shower. People made flatulent noises when I sat down in class. My locker was magic-markered with the word "loser." We are tempted to remember this behavior and make light of it. Oh, it couldn’t have been that bad, we said. But I remember it well. It was that bad.

[. . .]

Whatever my intention was when I contacted my former friends, it’s different now. I no longer want validation; I no longer am testing the waters to see if they now find me worth their time. These women are not who I thought they’d be. They’re people having a hard time in the economy, people who are struggling through their days, their relationships. I don’t have enough in common with them to think that, had we not fallen out, our friendships would have survived. But here, now, I am someone who also struggles with these things. I have stretched across a social divide that was narrower than I thought, and I found community where I least expected it. Am I pathetic? Maybe. But what I also am, finally, is a popular seventh-grader. I think of my younger self, eating her lunch alone, wondering when this agony will be over. I wish I could tell her I haven't forgotten about her. I wish I could tell her I've made it OK. (Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Facebook, the mean girls and me,” Salon, 29 November 2009)

They've befriended me, but still insist I have a mangina!!!

You are that popular seventh-grader if you know that if you found yourself back in that place, at that time, that something about you would make you liked, not despised. I think a lot of people assume that if their older self was teleported inside that youth from way ago, s/he'd show everyone a thing or two. I suspect many would actually find to their horror, that they haven't grown as much as they need to think they have.

All your friends are suffering. It would have been better for you if these old pals proved to be doing just as well as you imagined. It would have been good for you (but poor for them) if, after they friended you, they taunted you in the way you recognized. Better help you to test to see if you have come as far along as you deserve to have, or if "old ghosts from the nursery" continue to haunt.

- - - - -

beat me, I'm worthless

@smontgomery

re: "Most likely, if they have any decency, then they'll apologize up and down, you can accept it--and then you can have an *honest* friendship. And if they don't... you know they aren't worth it."

I like the idea of bringing it up. But I think what one would hope for is an honest response from them, more than you would an apology. It is possible that they tormented her because she seemed almost to want to be tormented--which is what masochism is all about. The sense that her neediness made her bad, which still haunts her now, very likely afflicted her then.

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@kisilano:

We weren't all extremely needy. Only those who were poorly attended to were. These are the ones whose neediness was so profound, they either tormented similarly needy kids, in an effort to DENY their own neediness, or put themselves in a position to be bullied, to confirm the rightness of parents who had assessed them as not worth the time.

In any case, I'm all for going back. But the main problem isn't there: it's earlier, and elsewhere.

- - - - -

Writing under Ross cover

I don't think this article is particularly brave. For some time now we've not lived in a society where all boats have risen, and we've all come to understand geeks as those who later on in life are near expected to become Ross-types from friends: their geeky traits actually evidenced their appropriateness for our sophisticated information age. Under this protection, we're seeing a lot of people own up to being geeks. Intellectual, cautious, and accomodating, they even now have their own president. So if you're a successful writer writing now of your previous torments, there is a sense that you're not just uncovering old wounds, but cementing a sense of yourself as constitutionally fit, in a way. To many of your current peers (and us) you may not even be tipping your hat to them (i.e., your early tormentors), to their lasting influence on you, because many of us are barely off talking to one another about how wonderful it is to be carried afloat with Obama, after so many foul years of being pressed down by Bush.

Again, I think the journey back is extremely important. But there are so many temptations to do so so "armored" that we discover nothing, really, but in a way that allows us to pretend that we've uncovered everything. Also, that tightness in your stomach: It's primarily from your experiences inside your home. Most kids even now are more needed by their parents than they are loved by them. They function to give their parents the love they themselves missed out on. When kids start reaching out on their own, to explore who they might be, not only do parents start to lose interest, they also lash out at their kids, for abandoning them just like their parents once did to them. As a result, many kids develop "alters" inside their heads, which tell them they are bad when they reach out for what they themselves want. These alters are a crazy-awful affliction, but they serve the child because they ward him/her away from a superego crackdown. Bullies no doubt function as external alters. In any case, they're not unfamiliar to you, when you first encounter them in school.

Take on your mom. Establish for us what it felt like to be abandoned, bullied by her -- what it still might feel like to be afraid of her. Do it in an environment when showing how you were once a geek doesn't evidence your likely current withitness, but rather that something horrible was lacking in you, may still be lacking you -- that not treated, will deny you so much of what you deserve through life. Even if you become a senator, who no longer responds to out-of-town requests.

Link: Facebook, the mean girls and me (Salon)

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