Mean Girls: How should this reader deal with school bullies?

Dear C and Dr. B;

As if having virtual classrooms wasn’t bad enough, I recently had the horrible experience of having this little click of snotty girls decide to target me.

Even before COVID isolation, I was very sensitive and didn’t have many friends. Virtual learning made it easier for me to express myself. So, for English class, when we were asked to describe a personal experience. I wrote about what I went through during my parents’ divorce in the middle of the pandemic. I guess the other kids just wrote about stuff like their favorite song or making cookies, because the teacher singled my essay out as being the one example of honest, insightful writing. She said “This is one girl who has the courage to tell us what she is really feeling.” She may as well have pounded the last nail into my coffin.


That same afternoon, the girl group decided to make me the brunt of ongoing jokes – they call me “Boo Hoo” as in “Boo hoo! My parents don’t love me!” Every time I go online for class, they snicker at me and say things like “We wish we had your courage.” 

It seems like they want to torture me. Why? For having feelings? Why are they doing this? It seems as if they think they are “cool” to not care about anything. Even though I feel like there is something wrong with the girls who are attacking me, it still really hurts. 

Betty Bruised 

Dr. B says: One of our recent columns was about how speaking to immature individuals as if they were 5 years old, no matter how old they are, can bring good results. This is because the level of basic verbal communication skill of many (if not most) Americans is at about that age level. Your peers are a perfect example – you wrote a good essay and got praise from an adult teacher and this singled you out for ridicule. Your work should have been seen as a good thing. You took a risk, you showed initiative, you were creative. That is great! But sometimes the 5-year-olds can be jerks. They don’t like it when the attention is not on them. They will bully anyone who allows themselves to be bullied. 

Try not to take it to heart; it isn’t personal. Don’t give them any more attention or satisfaction than if your 5-year-old brother was vying for your mom’s attention by pulling your hair. That is all it is. If their tactics become verbally threatening, or if they write public comments that are racist or demeaning, copy it and forward it to the administration. Five-year-olds need to learn that there are consequences for their behavior. 

Otherwise ignore it, and try to wish them well. Hope that they will learn and grow and find more meaningful things to pursue in their own lives. If you can do this, it is much healthier than harboring resentment, anger, sadness or fear – it allows you to look at others with compassion, even if they are being mean or stupid.

C says: Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Betty. This is good practice for the real world. There’s a lot of mean and stupid people out there. 

I’m not sure what career you are planning to pursue when you get out of school, but you seem to have a talent for writing. Fair warning: The moment you publish anything that has depth or meaning, a lot of jerks, along with well-educated critics, are going to crawl out of the woodwork and either make your life a living hell or laud you lavishly. I suggest that you not pay attention to either side. Honest expression requires that you are swayed by neither damnation or praise.

There is a saying among those who train in martial arts: “The average person sees everything that comes to them as either a curse, or a blessing. The warrior sees everything that comes as another challenge to be met.” If you do anything significant in life, Betty, you will be constantly challenged. Get used to it, and consider these girls part of your entrance exam.

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