Cliques and Cliches: Who Your Real Friends Really Are
November 10, 2015
By Chloe Smith, BS ’16
Bullying is ever present in our society, a fact that hurts a magnitude of children on a physical and/or emotional level every day. The concept of bullying seems to have been passed down from generation to generation, stemming from before our grandparents were born to the present day. But throughout the years, there have been limited effective measures taken to stop bullying in its tracks. As time progresses, it is important for those who have been bullied to step out of the woodwork and vocalize their experience with the community in an effort to bring hope to those feeling helpless.
I was a victim of bullying.
Here is my story.
Nine years ago I graduated from my town’s public elementary school. Everyone was excited to move on to the local middle school, a feeling I could not partake in seeing as I was leaving the town’s school system and going to a private country day school the town over. I remember being nervous yet invigorated to learn, as I loved to read and worked as hard as I could during my grammar school years to get a glorified “private education.” I would know nobody going into the school, a fact that insinuated I would have to exert energy in making new friends. I was not concerned about this fact however, as I was a very happy, outgoing youth whom loved meeting new people. This new school experience was going to be fantastic.
The first day of school came and with it the realization that cliques were already established, cliques that did not want additional members… cliques that used harsh words and body language to degrade people they thought did not meet up to their standards. The school was extremely small, having approximately 45 students in the graduating class, with everybody knowing everybody. As a newcomer, it was impossible to infiltrate the barrier that a majority of the girls put up, leaving me alone with no friends.
Even if these girls were open to accepting a newbie into their pack of fake friendship, I would not have been selected. During classes and at lunch I would get ridiculed by these mean girls with harsh stares and cruel words, all cast with the intention of making me feel like a shell of a person. I was an awkward middle school youth, a girl who had not yet started wearing makeup and still had the juvenile hairstyle of curls and thick bangs. I wore comfortable clothing, often wearing Disney sweatshirts and baseball caps, bell bottom pants and the occasional crocs. I had a full set of braces and had chubby cheeks, seeing as I had not yet lost my baby fat. My persona was a stark contrast from what the girls in the cliques deemed “popular.” They based popularity on what was materialistic and shallow, creating this elusive “fake” model to use as a guideline for what “cool” people should look like. They were all super skinny, most not even eating lunch in hopes of maintaining their already skeletal figures. Everyone shopped at Abercrombie and Fitch or Hollister, buying sizes two sizes too small in hopes of pushing up their barely existent breasts in the effort of vying for a boy’s attention. The girls had full, glittery makeup on at all times, and pin straight hair from the use of a straightening iron. When they saw me, they laughed.
I would be ridiculed on a daily basis regarding my appearance. They would snicker and jeer at me, often getting their guy friends to partake in the verbal abuse as well. They demeaned me to the point where I felt like a worthless, hopeless individual with no one to turn to. The girls would make snide remarks regarding my weight, calling me fat and looking at the size of the tag in my pants in the locker rooms to call me out on not being a size smaller. They would tell me that boys would never like me because I was ugly and really needed to use makeup so that I could have some salvation from an otherwise "destined life of misery." I would go home crying most days, sometimes even going to the headmaster so that my parents could pick me up early from class. In 8th grade, I got very sick, losing a ton of weight very quickly without me trying to do so. I began to look gaunt and disheveled, lethargic and sad on a daily basis. After going to the doctors, I was misdiagnosed with stomach cancer, a misdiagnosis that still haunts me to this day. Weeks later, however, I went to get a second opinion and was ordered to have an endoscopy, a procedure to check the villi in my small intestines. It turns out my villi where not working properly, making me malnourished, unable to absorb any of the nutrients I was taking into my system. I was properly diagnosed with Celiac Disease, an allergy to wheat that I could rectify if I ate a diet void of gluten. A couple of weeks later after my correct diagnosis, my grandfather passed away. He was an integral part of my life, teaching me how to draw and being there for me throughout all my sport competitions and academic accomplishments. I was devastated, a fact that did not deter the bullying from girls in my middle school. I had been through a lot, and I had had enough. I transferred schools when it came time for 9th grade.
As I matured out of my awkward phase, a lot of the girls from my middle school began wanting to be my friend. They would like all my photos on social media, friend me on Facebook, and ask to hangout on occasion. The moment that I was deemed "acceptable," all of the popular cliques from my past wanted me to join them. I cast their invitations away, as I knew how disgusting it was for these people to only like me because of my newfound "status" and my cooler appearance. It showed that these people did not like me for my personality, seeing as they unmercifully bullied me in previous years, but instead reveled in my sudden “popularity.” I would never want to join a clique as such, a clique of people who present the facade of happiness and niceness, whereas in fact they are all shallow, narrow-minded, and insecure with who they are as individuals. They hide behind the notion of having a group of fake friends for the sake of appearances. I realized it was so much more important to have one or two great friends who would do anything for you than to have a slew of hypocrites. To be frank, life is too short to worry about what narrow-minded cliques think of you. They are not your real friends. They do not matter. Anybody that puts you down is not worthy of your company. You are the puppeteer of your own life, choose wisely who you keep close.
At age 21, I am very proud of who I am as a person. I have worked hard, made wholesome friends, and accomplished great things since my incident with bullying. I became in tune with who I am, how I love to draw and paint, and love to be my own person, never attempting to fit societal molds that are still present in our culture. I will be a graduate in NYU this year and look forward to a prosperous future.
Bullying doesn’t define you.
Know who your real friends are, but more importantly, know who you are.
You can do wonders for this world. You are worthy.
"In Their Words" is a blog series on Bridgit.com of firsthand accounts of experiences with bullying, cyberbullying, harassment or adversity.