‘The school mean girls loved to target me, but I got the last laugh’

Oct 30, 2020
Mary recalls her difficult days at school. Source: Getty

For many of us, grammar school was a wonderful experience. Playing with your peers, going crazy at recess, and shooting spit wads were all a part of the jolly grade school life.

But what about those kids who were bullied on the playground? How did they manage? If you were different, wore glasses, braces or didn’t look like most of the other students, you were probably harassed.

Back in the 1960s, bullying was something many had to endure. For those who didn’t fit in with the popular cliques, painful memories punctuated grammar school where incessant teasing took place, with social omission, blatant cruelty, and many forms of exclusion. Those who didn’t fit in had to fight for their place in the sun.

I was very athletic in school, so I was never bullied physically. I was taller and stronger than most of my classmates, so people knew not to mess with me.

But my twin sister Teresa and I were bullied in a different way. A flock of girls can be very cruel and vindictive when they band together. There’s always the popular ringleader who inspires others to join in with the mockery and frenzy.

Many girls in grammar school would make fun of our hand-me-down clothes. We were poor, and although we lived in a decent neighborhood, we were embarrassed that our home looked haunted, so we rarely had friends over to visit.

When we went to camp one summer, it was one of the worst weeks of my life, having to endure the cruelty of several 10-year-olds holed up in a tent. I still remember them whispering and giggling in the corner and then pointing at my sister and me because we dressed as tomboys, and came from a broken home.

I was so glad when that week ended, so I could go home, get lost in the gully and feel good about myself once again.

In my teens, I began to gravitate toward the brainy kids in school, and those who were also artists. Although I was always the class clown, and highly athletic, most of my close friends were brilliant outsiders who made me feel more at ease.

During that time, I began using my writing and humour deflect certain social standards that seemed ludicrous to me. I hated cliques and never really belong to any particular social groups.

Once, I even ran for homecoming queen as a joke, knowing it would be a real coup if I were actually elected.

To this day, I’m still uncomfortable around a gang of women. I still wonder if they laugh at my outfits, whisper when I’m not around, or make fun of my tomboy style.

Thankfully, my sense of humour helped me through some tough times when I was young, but I wonder how others who were bullied endured their pain.

I hope they found a healthy way to get through it all.

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