Public Penance

Oh lord, I'm in Redbook magazine this month -- as a former horrible bully apologizing to those I tormented in middle school (or junior high, as we called it). The article is based on my 2009 Can I Sit With You? story, Not Nice:
I found every last part of seventh grade bewildering. The hundreds of new students, the maze-like new campus, the rows and rows of lockers, having to choose classes and then needing to switch between those classes six times each day, the concept of “popularity” and its blatant yet slippery links to student government elections, and the hundreds of new students.

My classmates and I had been plucked from our isolated, comforting, elementary school nerdling pod, and dropped into a massive social cage match. I found myself on the sidelines, confused and lost, in a holding pen with the geekiest geeks from five other elementaries.

I might have been at a social disadvantage, but I was also not a nice kid. And I quickly compensated for my social disorientation by picking on the weaker and geekier.
So, please, feel free to tell me what an asshole I was. And be assured that, though decades of interim social conditioning  led to improved impulse control and diplomatic skills, I am still a dick-at-heart -- though a generally kindly one.

Were you ever awful in middle school? Would you mind telling me something horrible that you did, so we can don twin online hair shirts? Or something someone did to you, so we can vilify them in absentia?


  1. Good for you.

    I wasn't much of a bully, but I did my fair share of joining in. I did apologize to a woman (we reconnected on the dreaded Facebook) for teasing her about her height in 7th grade. She told me her daughter is now being teased for the same thing. I felt really, really horrible, and told her to tell her daughter that the teasers were just insecure jerks, just like I was.

  2. In 7th grade, I kicked a kid from behind. He hadn't done anything to me. He wasn't even a jerky kid. He was not one of my close friends, but he was certainly just a normal kid that I knew. He innocently squatted down to tie his shoe on the playground. I was walking past, and I kicked him in the rear end. I might even have got the back of his balls, poor guy. I kicked him for no reason, and then I just kept walking with the group I was with. I never found out if he knew it was me or not. I still (20+ years later) feel bad about it, because it was so completely mean of me and totally unprovoked by him in any way.

  3. Squillo, we are all insecure jerks, it seems. Except Jennyalice, apparently -- she was too busy having fun.

    Heather, we have a rule in our house (and by "our house" I mean the house in which I was raised with three brothers): You never bend over in front of a Des Roches. Resisting kicking someone in that position takes considerable inner strength. I'm sure your reserves are much greater now.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.