I was largely a compassionate and empathetic child. I sobbed uncontrollably during Forrest Gump when the kids were mean to him on the bus and when they threw rocks at him and made him run. I hated Trix commercials and always wished I could meet the rabbit and share a bowl of cereal with him. And in real life application, I was always the one who introduced myself to the new kid at school and asked them to join our lunch table. I was pretty nice kid to everybody, until the day, for reasons I still can’t explain, that I wasn’t.
In the 8th grade, there was this one girl, we’ll call her Constance, who was quiet and kept mostly to herself. She wasn’t necessarily bullied (that I know of) but was rather a girl whom I mostly remember people just not paying much attention to at all.
It was the last few minutes of the last period of the day, during the last week of middle school, and the room was teeming with excitement. All end-of-grade testing was completed, awards given out, high school classes registered for. There was no more official instruction and those last 2 or 3 days of school had been nothing but goofing off, yearbook signing, and classroom parties. On this particular day kids were sectioned off into groups listening to portable cd players (some of us still had Walkmans!), drawing comics, talking to friends, etc. I was sitting with the class clown, a loud and boisterous girl who was generally a friendly cut-up. She began singing nonsensical songs about everyone in the classroom, on everything and nothing in particular: the red shirt he had on, the book she was reading, just whatever improvised rhyme she could come up. But when she got to Constance, it unfortunately turned hurtful. Her silly ditty about Constance turned into an ugly verse on her hair, her clothing, that the boys didn’t like her, that sort of thing.
And not only did I laugh, I joined in. I don’t know if I just got swept up in the excitement of it being the last days of school and I just took complete leave of my senses, I mean, I really don’t know. But there I was, doubled over laughing and snickering loudly in the corner, in complete earshot of Constance. And we went on and on and on. I can only imagine now how that must have felt like an eternity to her. She didn’t say anything, she just sat with her head bent down staring at her desk. And when the bell rang and my friend and I moved to the front of the room, still guffawing loudly, we brushed past her desk and I noticed tears falling down her face.
In the mad rush out of the door, I didn’t stop, but I did immediately regret my behavior. I would like to think I would have apologized to her the next day, but I didn’t find the opportunity to do so, although perhaps it’s true that I did not search hard enough for one. We were on a modified schedule that last week and were all in various classrooms doing different things. We didn’t find ourselves in the same groups again and admittedly, in the schedule melee, I did not move to seek her out. Two days later, middle school ended, and the following fall, I went to a different high school in another town.
I never saw her again.
But I have thought of her often, wishing I could take that moment back, hoping she never experienced such treatment from mean girls again, and generally wondering whatever became of her and how she was doing. While that had been the only time I was ever blatantly mean to her, I thought about how I basically had ignored her through middle school, and wished that I had taken the time to be kinder, to just say hi sometimes.
And then Facebook came along. I looked her up sometime ago and sure enough, there she was. I could see from her photos that she has married and has had children. She has posted pics of her kids and family online like anyone else and has had no shortage of friends and family that comment their love and support.
She seemed fine.
But I still wanted to send her a message. I wanted to say I was soooo sorry for being such a jerk that day years and years (decades!) ago and that I hoped she could accept my apology. I typed it, but with my finger hovering over ‘enter’, I had a sudden thought: how would this message be received? On the one hand, would she appreciate the gesture and be glad that I sent it? What if, on the other hand, she resented me reaching out to her? What if my contact dredged up bad memories of school for her that she’s long worked to forget and move on from? Was it presumptuous of me, arrogant even, to think she’s been wallowing in despair and sadness all these years? How important must I think I am?? She probably has not given a moment’s thought to me ever again in her life! Wracked with indecision, I ended up hitting cancel. I did, however, quickly send a friend request before I could talk myself out of it.
I imagined she would delete or ignore it but a day or two later she accepted it! And in a rush, I left a public message on her wall with the sentiment that it was good to find her up here, congratulating her on her family, and that I hope she has been well through the years. And she replied! The basics of which was to say thank you and that she thought the same for me.
And that was it.
I wanted to send her a personal message with an apology right then and there, but still I hesitated. And time moved on again.
Sometimes I wonder if my post was enough. Did that somewhat serve as an apology?
It’s been even longer now. We’ve been Facebook “friends” for maybe two or three years, if not more. Is it safe to assume she harbors no hard feelings if she has “liked” many of my posts and photos over the years?
Every so often, when she pops up in my feed, I’ll still get the urge to send her an actual apology for that specific incident. And then I always talk myself out of it for the same reasons as above. I don’t know what the right move is anymore. I just know she didn’t deserve that. And that I’m still so very sorry.
Cristina, this is great and so well-expressed. If I may, it doesn’t seem like an explicit apology is needed now, given her acceptance of you. Your *olive branch* was taken. You could approach it generally at first and see how she responds (it’s possible she doesn’t specifically remember the incident or that you were involved, and if she does, she still overall remembers you without rancor – maybe she knew that wasn’t really who you were?). Just thoughts. I totally get how this could eat at you though.
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Thank you Colette! I value your input and appreciate hearing your thoughts on this! It makes me feel a little bit better already to hear someone else’s perspective that she has likely already forgiven me judging from her fb interactions with me. I sure hope for this to be the case!
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I think it’s easy for kids to get caught up in the actions of other kids and to do things that are hurtful to others whether we realise or not. It’s good to be aware of the times we’ve let others and ourselves down and hold those memories so we can try to avoid the same pitfalls in later life. Hopefully with so many positives in Constance’s life now that incident you recall so painfully, although upsetting for her at the time, might not be something she thinks of at all now and from your fb interactions sounds like if she does remember she certainly doesn’t hold it against you.
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Brionny, you’re so right about it being easy to get swept up in the moment and I think thats why it still wears on me so badly, because I always strived to be different, to *not* follow the crowd. I *knew* better, especially having myself been the target of mean girls before! Luckily I had a strong support system, great friends, and a solid sense of self to weather those times. I know bullying isn’t new and maybe its just the recent (deserved) inundation of coverage of it that has brought it to our cultural forefront that makes me reflect on how this could have gone so differently, and for the worse. I’m just so thankful that it didn’t.
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