When Becca Mayes beat me up in ninth grade, there was almost a reason for it. In that case, I actually did something inconsiderate (asked her boyfriend if it was true she was a slut (I wasn’t one myself, yet, and I was sincerely and naively curious about a rumor I’d heard)).
Becca stalked me for about a week. Stood outside my classes, glaring through the tiny windows on each door. The day finally came. After homeroom, Becca, Lisa Ryan, and another girl started grabbing me, pulling me into the bathroom. All I could say was, “what about my books?” (The big pile of books in my arms, where to put them down.)
Once she had me in the stall (yes, I tried to stop them dragging me there) most of it is a blur. I remember ducking the punches. I remember the loud echos. I remember using all my strength (successfully) to stop her from flushing my head in the toilet. But, I mostly remember the ridiculously civil, even therapeutic (for her), conversation we had.
Me: “Why are you doing this, Becca?”
Her: “You called me a slut!”
Me: “I’m really sorry about that. I asked John about what I’d heard. I am really sorry!”
(Thud. Thud. Whack. Some punches grazing off my face, some landing on the stall wall behind me.)
Me: “But we were friends last year! What is so wrong that you’re doing this to me now?”
The little chat (Thud. Whack. Thud!) actually moved into how unhappy she was, how she hated me for being “so perfect,” and how it wasn’t fair that I got my life and she got hers. I felt sorry for her as she tried to beat the shit out of me (successfully).
The other girls, the door-watchers, participated in some parts of the conversation — I was sure the unnamed girl’s sister couldn’t be pregnant if she had her period, the unnamed girl was sure her sister was pregnant.
The only time this sort of insanity happened in my life? Nope.
The next major time I recall was Gina someone spitting… no, Lori Matarazzo spitting in my face at a dance. For this exchange I have no recollection what I might have done to spur the sputum. Perhaps I again said something stupid or naive. Or, perhaps I did nothing.
No one has physically beaten my up in a lot of years. But, I’m still a magnet for people hating me. Really, seethingly hating me. Almost every time it sneaks up on me. Almost every time it hurts my feelings at first. Almost every time I do some crazy dances to try to fix whatever’s wrong.
Then I remember the pattern.
Over the years I’ve gotten used to it. Not in any sort of “oh poor me” martyr kind of way, but, just a sort of an “it’s the cost of doing business” kind of way.
When I’m in a group setting, an advisory board, for example, my style bugs a lot of people. I don’t like to dabble with what-ifs. I like to decide and do. I like concrete achievable tasks, not theories and considerations.
The best groups generally have another strong-personality/leader type to balance me out. Someone who recognizes the value of detailed planning and consideration before taking action. Almost always, though, I ruffle feathers. It’s okay. I also get things done, and that’s more important to me than being liked.
The last time I was in one of these messes, hooo-boy, did she hate me. Seriously hated me. I’m talking piercing stare-downs with the strength of lasers. All I could do was giggle with nerves, it was so insane. Emails like, “Did you enjoy your vacation? I sure did.” It was brutal. The worst was, though, how she sucked me into insanity. She accused me of theft, of power-plays, of dishonesty, and all sorts of almost-criminal acts. I prayed like a crazy person, as I had become nuts wondering what I’d done to make her hate me so. Crying over it one night, I asked Josh why these people latch on to me. “You’re outgoing, you don’t hold back.” That’s really what it is most of the time.
A wise soul explained that particular situation this way. Some people take on leadership. Others see those leaders with bull’s eyes on their chests. Just looking for that best shot. Take ’em down is their call.
My style and personality aside, there are people out there looking for targets. I can’t try to become someone these sick people don’t notice. It doesn’t work that way.
My best spiritual guides have always told me to pray that the people who drive me most crazy, who hurt me most, that I should pray they get everything I want in my life. Simple. I pray they find peace. Remarkable what praying for them does. I usually move directly into forgiveness.
When I’m most healthy, I treat these people with respect. I consider what my role in the relationship is. I find what my part of it is, if there are things I’ve done that need amending. Then, I promptly ignore almost anything they say. I pray for them. I feel sorry for them. And I move on to the next thing.
It’s my natural tendency to isolate. Part of why isolation soothes me so is I don’t have to deal with the Haters. But I do like to make things move, so I don’t stay alone for long.
Last night I was honored to speak to a large group of people about issues near and dear to me. As the words came out of my mouth I knew my positions were strongly held. I knew it was likely I was really, really pissing off some people. I also knew there would be others who would just as passionately value my message.
Dancing around trying to make people happy is one of the most miserable ways to live. I know. I used to do it all the time. Being my authentic self, my considerate and caring authentic self, I can only hold fast to the knowledge that I am well-intentioned and well-meaning. When those crazy Haters come at me, I say, “hey, what’s up? I’ll duck your slugs today, but go ahead and throw them if it makes you feel better.”
I’m no punching bag, but, if I took everyone’s opinion of me more seriously than my own self-assessment, I’d be in quite a bit of misery. Here’s to doing enough good in the world, being courageous and strong enough, that I keep pissing people off.
“i can be changed by what happens to me. but i refuse to be reduced by it.” — Maya Angelou
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” — Mark Twain