Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Lisa Cach's Story
Angela was a sweet, bubbly, funny girl who would never hurt anyone, and yet starting in junior high she became the target of Tiffany. As Angela says, “Tiffany was the original ‘mean girl.’” Tiffany was full of sneers, derogatory comments, that ‘I’m looking you over from head to foot and hating what I see’ glare, and was a generally rotten individual who made Angela’s days a misery.
Angela and I told ourselves that Tiffany was insecure, and that’s why she was so mean. We half believed it, but not really. It felt like one of those things you tell yourself to feel better, but you aren’t convinced it’s true.
In high school, Tiffany and her gang of unpleasant people were in several of Angela’s classes. They sat in the back, and often interrupted the class and made it hard for anyone to learn anything. Angela was constantly distracted by them. Angela developed such a hatred for Tiffany & Crew that she vowed she would get good enough grades that next year, she would be moved into higher level classes, where Tiffany could not follow her.
And Angela did it. The next year, her classes were Tiffany-free. But of course, Tiffany still roamed the halls like a bad odor, and there was no protection from her there. I got my own share of sneers and dirty looks from Tiffany, but I wasn’t the direct target that Angela was.
Now fast forward 20 years, to our 20 year high school reunion. Angela didn’t go (high school was not a happy memory for either of us), but I did. I had dreamt of someday returning to this reunion and saying, “Ha, ha! Look at me! I’m a published author!” Thing was, it turned out that if you live the life you want, by the time your 20 year reunion comes around, you don’t care what your old high school classmates think of you, one way or the other. In fact, you can’t remember who 95% of them are. I had many moments of, ‘Who the heck ARE you, and why are you acting like we’ve ever met before?’
And the ones who were mean to you now try to ‘friend’ you on Facebook. Yeah. I don’t think so. I still remember what you said about my butt, in sixth grade. ‘Ignore!’
I remembered Tiffany, of course. She was there, and she gave me a tight smile and that look that goes from head to toe. She seemed to be doing fine: she had her own small business, and looked attractive. It didn’t seem like karma had bitten her for her days as a teenage nasty. From the outside, she looked good. “Fine and dandy,” I thought. “Live and let live. Maybe she’s a grown-up now.”
But it was all an illusion. A few years after that reunion, I heard that Tiffany killed herself.
It turns out that she had long struggled with depression. When Tiffany was a kid, her own father had killed himself. Her home life was difficult: her mother was unwell, and she had a sibling with a severe disability. When Angela and I had told ourselves that Tiffany was mean because she was insecure, we had no clue about the pain that she faced every day. We didn’t know that she was living a life that she didn’t know how to cope with; a life that she never would learn to cope with. It doesn’t excuse her being so rotten to Angela — many other people have faced similar issues and haven’t dealt with it by being cruel to others -- but it does make clear that it really wasn’t anything about Angela that deserved Tiffany’s attacks.
As soon as I heard about Tiffany, I called Angela and told her. She was stunned. “I thought Tiffany was too mean to ever die,” she said, and then she was quiet for a moment. “She was really, really messed-up, wasn’t she?”
Tiffany had left scars on Angela’s psyche, but Angela had survived and prospered anyway. Tiffany... Hadn’t. Angela couldn’t quite feel compassion for Tiffany, but her view of the past fundamentally shifted when she found out that Tiffany had not been well. The flaws really had been in Tiffany, not in Angela; we’d told ourselves that all along, but we had proof, now. A dark and horrible proof, but proof all the same.
Angela — still bubbly, still funny -- has two little girls of her own now, and she wonders what mean girls they’ll face in school. When they’re old enough, she’ll tell them about Tiffany. When someone is a bully, there really is something broken inside them, and in their life. You may never know what it is, but be assured that it is there. If you fantasize about revenge, know that a bully’s true punishment is in living her own life, as herself.
And you, meanwhile, can go on to live the life you dream of. You will love and be loved, will laugh and feel joy, and you will find your place in the world, amongst people who understand and support you. I promise.
Check this talented author's fantastic book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wake-Unto-Me-Lisa-Cach/dp/0142414360