Monday, June 15, 2009

I Love Facebook, But...

sometimes it dredges up things from your past that were probably better buried.

There is a lot that is enjoyable and good about Facebook, and I've got an entry soon about that, but today, I just want to tell you a story that I'd done my best to forget. When these types of things happen, I need a day or two to process the thoughts, what they do to me and how to write about it. If you haven't figured it out by now, this is my therapy. Whatever is bothering me will sooner or later end up written down.

This is a long one, so if you want to grab a cup of coffee to mull over it or skip entirely, go right ahead. I think it speaks a lot about the person I've become.

When I was 6 years old, my parents bought a house on the South Shore of LI. The town was chosen because, at that time, the schools were in the top 5 in the state. They pushed to get there when Giggles and I were young.

On the first day of school (really second day-they kept me home the first day), I walk into Mrs. L's classroom and got called Freckle Face Junior by one of the boys. I burst into tears. The stage was set for twelve years of teasing.

It didn't help that I was the nerdy kid, more interested in books than dolls, talking to the adults than hanging out with my peers. I ended up with a friend here or there, but most of my friends lived on the street behind me that went to the elementary school I could see from my house, but was in another school district.

Cut to middle school. I was still being teased, but finding my way. A family friend taught confirmation class out of his house and asked that I be in his class, sort as a good influence on the 'bad kids' that were too disruptive for catechism at the Catholic school. The only girl with six or seven budding troublemakers. That's where I met Jimmy.

We had the same taste in music, played the same video games and we started to become friendly. He'd come over to my house and watch movies. It was 8th grade and I wanted to be liked. Jimmy was the kid who'd get detention, got suspended, told me how he took extra Ritalin 'because taking 4 of them was like taking a downer'. I didn't care, because I was getting attention from a boy. Around Christmas that year, he told me he wanted to be my boyfriend and gave me a pair of earrings.

Let's just say his only goal in life was to get in my pants. I was the good Catholic girl-no way. I was pressured into doing more than I thought I should, but I was crystal clear that "It" was not happening. He tried and tried. Eventually, I gave him back the earrings and lamented my rotten choice in boys.

If you hadn't already guessed, six years of snide comments and some pretty cruel teasing battered my self esteem. The fact that I had a boyfriend thrilled me, and I didn't even stop to consider his request 'to keep it secret' anything out of the ordinary. My two best girlfriends knew, but that was about it. I found out the reason for being secretive about a month later.

His best friend bet him $100 bucks (a shitload of money to a 13 year old in 1980) to 'pop my cherry'.

How did I find out? One of the dirt bags came by my table at lunch one day "Suzie made it with Jimmy." My jaw hit the floor. I denied it (because it didn't happen), but this kid (I can close my eyes and see him, what he was wearing and his idiotic smirk.) He insisted that I did, because Al had bet Jimmy to do it. Of course, these guys all believed Jimmy, the kid who'd been caught in numerous lies over the years.

For a girl with self esteem issues, that's probably the worst thing that could happen-to find out that someone only dated you because their best friend wanted him to take your virginity at 13. I was a game to him, a notch in the belt that he had to say he'd made.

After the shock wore off (but not the embarrassment or mortification), I confronted Al to tell him that he lost 100 bucks to a liar. Of course, he didn't believe it.

It colored my experiences until college and beyond. I wondered if a guy really liked me for me, for what I had to offer, or if they were feigning interest because someone bet them if they could get the loser girl in bed. It was a little easier once I got to college, because except for a few people, no one had known me. I blossomed in the theatre department and radio station.

Why this and why now?

Facebook.

When I started the Facebook thing, I had my closest friends from throughout the years. Then some blog/message board friends and then some coworkers. I found some of my favorite people from the college theatre department that I missed terribly. A classmate from High School that was probably my worst enemy back then is a friend, but we're trading comments back and forth on each other's pages. (I know she still thinks I'm strange, but I'm okay with that)

Someone started a group for the HS Drama company, a guy who was a year older. We went through all three schools together, a somewhat rare feat in our town. He friended me. Then a few other theater people from high school. The two girls I considered my lifeline back then ignored my FB requests. Back then, it would have torn me up. Now, I say it's their loss.

Thanks to those self esteem issues, and the ignored requests from those two who I considered somewhat close, I have not 'friended' many people, preferring people to approach me. Oh, the blog world, message board and work people-I'll send a request, they don't intimidate me. I avoided the people from my school days, figuring it wouldn't matter one way or the other. Here and there, I'd get a friend request.

More requests have come in from people from my school days. Someone who was in my first grade class who was never anything but nice. I must have shown up in 'friends you may know' because I was in her list with the same schools and well, the requests are coming in a little more often.

With these requests, I've gotten some very kind messages and a lot of glimpses at how others perceived me. When you're the kid being teased, you get a distorted sense of self. Then add emotional abuse (as I was in my first marriage), my self perception is even more distorted. Those messages, without fail, mention my smile, how smart I was, and other positive things. Funny how I see myself completely different.

Then, I got a request from a guy who had lived up the block. The best friend of the guy who called me Freckle face junior. There for a lot of the teasing. He seems like a genuinely nice guy now. He asked how the heck the past 25 years have been, just the getting to know you stuff. Shared some funny memories of our neighborhood. I got to hear about his life, too and see some pictures of his wife and their travels.

After him, then came people who were in school at the same time, but I never really had any interaction back in the day (again, probably because of the growing numbers of people from my graduating class). Yeah, we were in the same year, but hang out, really know anything about each other back then? Not really. With those requests, the memory of the humiliation came back and the feelings of doubt started creeping back.

Are they sending friend requests because they want to laugh at me?

Why is it that thirty years can pass, but I feel the same emotions as I did that day in the lunchroom?

Elsewhere, in something totally unrelated, a poster stated "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me." Yes and no. Other than the Freckle Face Junior moniker, I can't tell you the words that were flung that upset me back then. That said, the actions of several boys definitely still hurt thirty years later.

As for how it shaped the adult Suzanne, I probably worry about what others think more than I should. In life, I spend a lot more time putting myself in the other person's shoes, because I never want to inflict the hurt I felt back then. I also feel I am afraid to put my foot down when I need to, for fear that I'll upset the other person.

I'll bet none of the guys have this thirty year old memory troubling them.

4 People talked back:

DoeWDW said...

As someone who had some of those same experiences in school, your post really hit home for me. Lots of "stuff" I'd rather forget. I'm slowly learning to face those memories without the shame and guilt but it takes time. {hugs}
- Doreen in PA

daysgoby said...

This was a reunion year for me, and Facebook brought people out of the woodwork - kids I've tried to forget, people I don't remember being close to at all. Most with a nice note or two, then silence.

Facebook brings strange people to the table.

Janna Bee said...

I totally feel for you! I was shy growing up and got a lot of teasing through 4,5,6 and 7th grade.

Facebook is interesting. I totally friend people from high school just to see what they are up to now.

Saffa Chick said...

I wasn't teased at all in school, for which I am eternally grateful.

I do sometimes feel bad about being occasionally mean to others back in the day, and I once had a long-lost BFF apologise for "dumping" me for a new friend when we were 14... so the memories do stick around for the wrongdoer.

I wonder if that horrible boy thinks about what he did to you - especially if he's a dad himself now. You never know!