There Is No Loyalty at the Cool Kids' Table

I've been blogging about mom shaming for years, along with the Judgment Game and dangers of cyber-bullying. Last week I read about a mother who became the focus of debate and ridicule after blogging about her personal, religiously inspired decision to stop wearing yoga pants. 

Yes, that's right... YOGA PANTS. 

I decided another blog post wasn’t going to cut it this time. I decided the “if you don’t want people to attack you, don’t blog about it” reasoning behind such an attack is a cop out. I decided change starts with me, and that I’m no longer willing to look the other way in hopes things get better.  I decided I’d rather take the kind stance than the popular one. I remembered where my loyalty lies.

I've always wanted to be one of the "cool kids." I've gone to absurd lengths to get approval from others. I was a pretty awkward kid, and I spent a lot of time pretending to be the opposite of Me. I wanted to be you. I wanted perfectly straight teeth and silky hair, and what I got was buck teeth and an afro. I wanted to be thin and look all sorts of cute in tight rolled jeans and a sweater, but I was chubby and never felt "cute" in anything. I've spent years comparing my insides to your outsides, and trying to hide all of the reasons I was different so you wouldn't judge me. I was teased and bullied in elementary through junior high school, and I wanted nothing more than to disappear some days. I tried my best to blend and even fit in, but apparently I wasn't very good at it.


The first time I thought about killing myself I was thirteen years old. I had had my share of disappointments at that point, and I remember waking up many days feeling broken and praying no one would notice. I had physically moved away from an abusive and often traumatizing home life, and the plan was a "fresh start," but at times it felt like a simple change of scenery. I think it was the first week at my new school that I adopted a nickname I still can't say out loud thirteen years later. I heard it every day, walking down the halls, from kids I'd never met. I felt like everyone hated me all the time, and I often tried to work up the courage to end my life.


I made a few friends, but don't remember trusting anyone enough to tell them how I felt. My parents made me see a head shrinker who put me on medication, but it didn't really help me feel any less broken or afraid.


Every morning I attempted to look absolutely perfect before leaving the house for school, as to not give anyone another reason to point out that I was still ugly and fat. I tried to apply make up to hide my acne, which only had kids pointing out that my face was orange and discolored.


You get the point. It was awful.


The summer before high school started, I "became a woman," and lost forty pounds. My face cleared up considerably, and even my hair tamed itself a bit. My parents sent me off to a co-ed 4H camp far away from anyone who knew I was a loser, and I got to see what it was like to be a "cool kid" for the very first time in my life.


IT. WAS. AWESOME.


I learned a lot that summer, like how it felt to be "adored" by a boy and watch him fumble all over himself to impress. How good it felt to be told I was prettier than other girls and have them jealous of me. I also learned how very capable I was of being a mean girl.


I remember how powerful I felt the first time I made another girl feel like the girls at school had made me feel. I remember how much it started to feel like something I wanted more of. I remember making a commitment to NEVER feel like that broken, pathetic little loser EVER AGAIN.


When I returned to school as a freshman, I was a new Julie. My miraculous makeover was a shock to many who hadn't seen me since the last day of 8th grade. Some tried to talk to me as if we'd just met - as if I might have forgotten their cruelty. I made it very clear those days were over.


That was the year I started fighting the world with my fists.

 
I found friendship in like-minded girls who hadn't attended my junior high school, and we created our own cool-kids table. We talked shit and excluded others, and hiding became so much easier for me. I found that mocking people was a great way to get laughs while also deflecting attention away from my own insecurities. I found alcohol that year, and together we conquered my fears of inadequacy with all sorts of inappropriate behavior. 

I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know that I was still that scared little girl. I thought the power was real.


Then I got pregnant my junior year, and members of my tribe began whispering about me in the hallway. I dropped out months later and got my GED. After my daughter was born, many of those friendships had completely disintegrated along with much of the faux self-esteem I had acquired through them.  


The problem with relationships built in mutual dislike, is they're not based in anything powerful enough to sustain them. As soon as I became the butt of the joke, it was easier for my "friends" to join in than defend me. No one wants to be on the receiving end of a bully-fest. 

There's no loyalty at "The Cool Kids' table."

The idea of "cool kids" and bullying doesn't end in high school.  We adapt. I carried mean girl mentality until I was almost 30. I looked for weaknesses in others who challenged me, and became a master in the art of deflecting attention from my defects. I believed if my intention was not to be hurtful, your feelings were not my responsibility. I was still seeking fake power to feel better about who I wasn't. 

I'm not sure what changed, but I did. Maybe it was all the therapy; maybe the debilitating agony of postpartum depression with my youngest - the reminder of what shattered vulnerability feels like. Perhaps it was the number of teens committing suicide in this country weekly due to bullying. I don't know what shifted my thoughts, but I'm grateful.  

I stopped hating myself for what others might think, and gained confidence to share my truth instead of hiding it. In turn, I have built beautiful friendships based in honesty and mutual respect. I have found my voice. 

If it had not been for bloggers like Allison Hart, bravely writing about their struggles, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I don’t know if I’d be right now. They inspired me, and the bravery to speak so openly here.

Mom bashing has become a cultural norm in our society, and it feels dirty. The fact that so many of us have to watch how our truths are delivered to avoid public online scrutiny makes me uncomfortable. The probability that there are other moms feeling broken and vulnerable while reading the judgment breaks my heart. What are we fighting about? Diapers? Feeding our kids? Does how another mother raises her kids really affect us so much that we’d wish her harm or deny her support she might need? 

It’s time for change. We need to end the cycle of bullying. Our kids are watching. It starts with us.

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  photo credit: Melissa-Brewer



 
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2 comments:

  1. Kathy Radigan2/04/2015

    Very powerful piece Julie. Thank you for saying this so perfectly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jeannine (@EubanksEutopia)3/06/2015

    Thanks for sharing your story, Julie <3, and I'm so glad you turned your pain into something positive in the world.

    ReplyDelete