Tina, me and the junior high bullies

Junior High Me

In the summer between my fifth and sixth grade year, I made a new best friend. Tina’s family was new to the neighborhood. I met her one day while walking to the local swimming pool. She was friendly, outgoing and funny. We hit it off immediately, and for the next few years we were inseparable.

When we started junior high in the fall, Tina was immediately popular. Not only was she friendly, outgoing and funny, she was also exceedingly beautiful–athletic but feminine build, dark hair, flawless olive skin and impossibly long eyelashes. She looked a lot like a young Elizabeth Taylor. That she seemed so completely unaware of her beauty and its effect on others endeared her to me and made her that much more popular. What took her completely by surprise was a group of older, much larger girls whose mission was to make our junior high existence miserable. She couldn’t understand why they hated her so much–she didn’t even know them, we didn’t have any friends in common.

Unlike me, Tina went out of her way to be nice to them. She smiled at them when we passed them in the halls. They responded by calling her names. She even went so far as baking them cookies and bringing them to school. Their response? They accused her of implying they were fat and threw the cookies back at us.

While all the drama played out, Tina kept a stiff upper lip at school, but I remember her breaking down in tears in the privacy of her bedroom. “Why do they hate me so much, Kathy? I’ve never done anything to them. I don’t even know them!” My response to her then was the same response I give now to those who wonder why there are those who hate America:

Nothing you do for them will soften their hearts towards you because they don’t hate what you do, they hate what you are. Furthermore, they see your attempts at kindness and accommodation as weakness, and that perceived weakness only strengthens their resolve to destroy you. (Okay, I probably didn’t say exactly that. I was only 11 or 12 at the time, but that was the gist of it.)

From that day forward, when they confronted us in the halls, instead of ignoring their name calling or running away, we confronted them. When they threw cans or rocks at us, we picked them up and threw them right back.

Tina moved again in the summer after 8th grade. The bullies did not. And while they gave me plenty of dirty looks over the next four years of high school, they never bothered me again.

They never stopped hating us, but once we stood up to their hatred, it lost its power. Once they realized what they thought of us wouldn’t change who we were, the bullies found another outlet for their anger.

Because hate for the sake of hate always seeks a vacuum to fill, and this world is full of opportunities to nourish it.

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19 Responses to “Tina, me and the junior high bullies”

  1. jake September 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    I can totally picture an eleven year old Kat fighting back, or having really good retorts to names. It all goes to show how awful we can be, doesn’t it?

  2. Natalija September 18, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Good for you for confronting them and putting that lesson into perspective for today’s society. There will always be haters, but powerless ones if we all stand up to them. Thank you for such a moving post.

  3. Ricky Anderson September 18, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Middle schoolers are little devils.

  4. SimplyDarlene September 18, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    That’s junior high Kathy? Wow. Jr. high me is rather home-permed and goofy as all-get-out. Miss Kathy, I’d stand next to ya and toss cans back any ole day.

    Did you keep in touch with her, with Tina?

    [You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. ~ 1John5:4-6]

    (i’ve got me some younger me images at my place this week too… great minds 😉

    • katdish September 18, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      In the interest of full disclosure, that picture was taken in 8th grade after my “frump years”. I haven’t talked to “Tina” in several years, but we kept in touch for many years after high school. She is a lovely person, inside and out.

  5. James Williams September 18, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Of course, this post isn’t really about middle schoolers. My question: are you saying we should let people in the middle east know we won’t back down, nor apologize, just because they choose to get offended? To show them we are not as weak as they think we are?

    I have thought about our proper response a lot this weekend, as many others have. I wonder what would happen if we simply pulled all our people, and all our govt aid, out of those countries. If we didn’t say anything, shake our fist, rattle our sabers. Just leave, and ignore them. I wonder.

    • katdish September 18, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      No, it’s really not about middle schoolers. Personally? I’m not of the opinion that people who want to destroy us will respond to kindness or understanding. Look at Israel. Do you think they give a rat’s patooty whether or their neighbors like them or not? Being feared by your enemies is sometimes the best defense. As to leaving and ignoring them? No. I don’t think that’s the solution either. Look what happened in Iran after the Shah was removed from power. I still believe democracy is the world’s best hope against anarchy.

      • James Williams September 18, 2012 at 9:14 am #

        I generally agree, but here’s the problem with the last statement: whenever democracy is tried in one of these cultures, they tend to elect the guy who barks the loudest, which means they end up with the most radical leaders. This is happening now in Egypt, Libya, and will happen soon in other nations in that area. Perhaps democracy isn’t a good idea for them.

        • katdish September 18, 2012 at 9:22 am #

          True democracy cannot exist within the confines of Sharia Law. That’s definitely a huge obstacle.

  6. Jason September 18, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    “Because hate for the sake of hate always seeks a vacuum to fill, and this world is full of opportunities to nourish it.”


    • katdish September 18, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Thanks, Jason.

  7. Laurie September 18, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    This is a very timely topic in our community. As it is everywhere these days. But the fact is, it’s not a NEW topic. I fully remember being bullied in elementary school in the 70’s. Thanks for sharing these personal thoughts and sharing your emotions with us.

  8. Hazel Moon September 18, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I would have helped you throw those cans back at them!

  9. Joseph Baran September 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    You haven’t changed a bit. Just as attractive now as back then.

    Sometimes one must draw the red line and fight back. You did good.

  10. floyd September 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Why is it that you and many of us as kids had more common sense than the most “enlightened” people in our society today? It isn’t a rhetorical question. I have my ideas and beliefs as to why, but I really would like to hear yours.

    • katdish September 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

      You know, Floyd I’d have to think about that. I’ve just always felt compelled to stand up to bullies. Not so much for myself, but for others. I guess my mom showed me that. I just don’t have much patience for mean people.

      • floyd September 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

        I’m with you on mean people who want to tear others down thinking they will somehow be magically be lifted up, but I’m talking about the instinct that gave you insight into their character or lack of it.

        • katdish September 21, 2012 at 8:21 am #

          Hmmm…maybe because I saw it in my own family. My mom is Japanese. My father’s family misjudged her because of what she was, not who she was. But she won them over.

  11. floyd September 21, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I think God blesses some people with wisdom beyond what the majority get. I also think He uses events in our lives to help nourish it, but it seems inborn. I also think it’s what He uses in those to lead others. I’ve also noticed the ones with that gift are also the ones who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, even if they have to stand alone… which isn’t for very long.

    I agree with you politically as well… It’s just common sense of human nature…

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