While reading "Odd Girl Out", a book about how girls act aggressively toward one another, I recalled a lot of memories about my experiences in elementary and high school. As I'm sure is the case with most kids, I experienced a lot of teasing, much of it quite cruel. However, I'm pretty sure that I got teased more than other kids for various reasons.
My family was poor so my sister and I didn't get the best clothes, shoes, or accessories. We were also relatively unsophisticated compared to other kids because we lived relatively far from anyone else. Most of my peers were either "townies" who lived close to one another and in walking distance of the schools or at least in proximity to a few neighbors. They could communicate about what was popular in music, television, or in teen magazines. Most of the time, I didn't know what other kids were talking about. Keep in mind that this was about 30 years ago before the Internet leveled access to media.
Kids living in relative isolation from other kids like us tended to hear the music their parents listened to and wear the clothes their mother chose up until around their early teens. Townie kids listened to modern rock and pop and modeled their dress on whatever was in fashion magazines. My parents were relatively conservative about such things and wouldn't allow make-up or anything resembling fashionable clothes before age 16, and, in fact, frowned on things like shaving one's legs. All in all, I think my parents were both uncomfortable with anything that indicated we were making a transition from children to adults because of the hints of sexual maturity that came along with it. My sister and I were tailor-made to be the dorky kids everyone at school could delight in tormenting.
As far back as I can recall, I was the victim of malicious teasing. The worst of the bullies was a triumvirate of popular girls. One of them was the prettiest in our class. Another was very athletic and the last was a bit of a hanger-on who was a cheerleader in her later years, but probably represented the least talented and attractive of this little clique. The last girl was the one who seemed to spearhead most of the nastiest attacks and attempts to humiliate me. After reading "Odd Girl Out", I realize that this was her means of solidifying her position in this trio since the other girls had beauty and sports success on their sides. It's not unusual for less desirable (from a friendship perspective) girls to ingratiate themselves to more popular girls by amusing their girlfriends with acts of cruelty against other girls.
In "Odd Girl Out", the author talks about how unpopular girls will often do whatever it takes to get popular girls to like them in the hopes of advancing socially. She never talks about the victims of their torment who decide after being bullied that they have no interest in currying favor with the members of the elite cliques. One of my experiences shows how not everyone will sell their soul to make the popular girls like her. At the very least, I wouldn't.
When I was in 5th grade, I was in the girls' bathroom with the prettiest girl in our grade. She was spending her time primping in front of the mirror after spending her time in the toilet stall combing her hair. I know she was in there styling herself because, in the process, she managed to drop her comb in the toilet. When I came out of my stall to wash my hands, she told me to fish her comb out of the commode. She didn't ask me to do it. She told me to. I refused and she took up an exasperated posture and said, "it's only water!" To this, I retorted something along the lines of, 'if it's only water, why don't you get it,' and walked out.
At the time, being a kid and all, I didn't think about the psychology behind this. I just knew I wasn't sticking my hand in a toilet for anyone, and, if I were inclined to do so, it sure wouldn't be for some extremely vain girl who was a source of almost daily suffering for me. Thinking back on it, I'm impressed (unfavorably) by the ego that must have been behind her request. She sincerely expected a person she treated like crap to do an extremely unsavory task at her request because of her beauty and popularity because she was so accustomed to everyone doing anything they could to please her. In retrospect, I'm sure that, had I done as she'd "asked", she would have used it as a jumping point for making fun of me even more. No doubt many jokes about my willingness to play in toilet water or possibly bathe in it would have been my reward for complying.
Around our sophomore year (when we were 15), the prettiest girl in the class got pregnant. This was at the beginning of what would be a snowballing trend of high school girls getting knocked up and at a time when it was still a major embarrassment to be so young, unmarried, and pregnant. Being in this situation was bad enough considering the time period but it was worse in a heavily Christian rural town. In fact, I'm pretty sure this girl was the only one who had ever managed to put herself in this position and not decide to either drop out of school or get an abortion during the six years I was in our high school. The circumstances leading up to her predicament made up some pretty major gossip among students and much was made about whether or not she'd marry and quit school. She ended up doing neither.
This girl's situation completely broke her group apart. Her friends distanced themselves from her and she had to endure the daily embarrassment of a swelling belly and having to wear maternity clothes. People were nice to her face, but it was all really forced. I'm sure that if a less popular girl had gotten pregnant at 15, she would have been treated far worse. At that time, I can recall nothing but relief that her situation had smashed apart a group which caused me a lot of distress for so long. I didn't really experience any schaudenfreude, but I also felt zero compassion or empathy for her situation. I simply didn't care about the difficulty she faced.
I'd like to think that karma settled a score for me, but I know karma doesn't work this way and the consequences of being sexually irresponsible as a teenager had nothing to do with me or the suffering said teenager and her cronies put me through.